Cedric Vassal – Inner Kingdom (Self-Released)

Friday, 5th January 2024
Rating: 8 / 10

Since the age of 12, French guitarist Cedric Vassal has been on a journey to develop his metal skills. Performing in bands such as Veil of Mist, Denied, and Morpheus, he has now set out on a solo career – working with session musicians Kevin Paradis (of Benighted) on drums and Jean-Baptiste Frichet on bass for this debut EP Inner Kingdom. This is a progressive-oriented instrumental effort, combining a lot of influences from the 1990’s period of axe heroes like Joe Satriani, Vinnie Moore, and Tony MacAlpine along with some of the skilled guitarists of the heavier variety a la Jeff Loomis.

Opener “Awakening” contains some sick tapping maneuvers underneath a heavier power/melodic death foundation, Kevin laying down some sick double kick / fill sequences. Cedric knows how to layer his rhythm / lead break passages with the right hook to shred capacities, squeezing in the best melodic refrains in certain spots before the next whirlwind passage assaults your senses. Listeners will love the slower, groovier tempo change in the mid-section of “Order in Chaos”, where aspects of In Flames collide into classic Sepultura pushed into a progressive, shredding context. The floating, circular runs throughout “Endless” make this a centerpiece highlight, where all three musicians garner their own spotlight moments, the keyboard underpinning provides an alluring dynamic twist to the otherwise progressive interplay. When Cedric wants to get a little more controlled in a melodic hard rock feel, that’s where his Satriani-esque lens comes forth for “Superheroes”, featuring a highway-oriented main riff which gains momentum in dive bomb or bluesy meets shred-oriented work, the rhythm section complimenting the various emotions professionally. The longest cut “Eye of the Storm” finishes the record, an almost six-minute adventure into some low-tuned modern progressive metal action, the bass/guitar synchronization set to stun mode.

Cedric probably has more appeal with axe maestros than the general public for Inner Kingdom – but there are plenty of metalheads that will enjoy this instrumental outing, and it should be interesting to hear what the follow-up outing explores.

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