Toby Knapp – Blizzard Archer (Moribund Rockers!)Sunday, 27th January 2019
Touted as “the greatest instrumental rock guitar album in decades,” Toby Knapp’s seventh solo album, Blizzard Archer, may not hit that unattainable target, but it does reaffirm his status as one of metal’s more unsung axe-slingers. His work with short-lived power metal troupe Onward and his capable black metal alter ego Waxen is also of worth, but here, there are seemingly no limits to his shred. Blizzard Archer, questionable cover art and all, is like one endless guitar solo that you actually don’t mind.
One of the minor knocks on Knapp and Waxen is his need to use a drum machine, which, as expected, is in full force here. Even as Knapp solos and solos and solos and solos, the pitter-patter of the drum machine is evident and, at times, distracting. Shame, since Knapp’s melodic, fretboard-dominating playing doesn’t possess the same wear-and-tear of Yngwie or Chris Impellitteri. Instead, he routinely showcases himself as a classy player — just check out the harmony attack on “Midnight in Guyana.” In a sense, this is a power metal album just with a lead guitar serving as the guide, so, when the tempo takes off on “Bear 141,” it’s not beyond one’s imagination to picture a full-throated rafter-reacher out front.
While there is a small, segmented market for this sort of thing, the fact Knapp continues to churn out quality releases without the benefit of a proper backing band or, it would seem, studio, speaks largely to his abilities. There’s a lot that could immediately turn off potential listeners on Blizzard Archer. Let’s hope that a few minutes of hearing Knapp race all over the fretboard will give him the attention he obviously deserves.