ReviewsVictor Smolski – Guitar Force (Massacre Records)

Victor Smolski – Guitar Force (Massacre Records)

Always intriguing to spread creative endeavors into broader horizons, Victor Smolski established himself through his work as a guitarist/keyboardist in Rage and Almanac over the past few decades. Deciding to compile some previous ideas across those two acts plus inject his love of Johann Sebastian Bach in new interpretations, Guitar Force develops as a ten-track instrumental record. This effort may on the surface seem tailor made for the axe master / schooled musician set, but surprisingly contains enough memorable moments to garner appeasement from natural music lovers across the board.

The title track opens the proceedings, a wealth of tricks in Victor’s bag as far as energetic, progressive heavy/power riffs, logical twists, supplementary layers of axe coloring as bassist Tim Rashid and drummer Kevin Knott prop up the play in a groove meets fluid shape shifting manner. It’s a ten-minute window into the kaleidoscope of neoclassical, metal, plus fusion-oriented expressions that can make for intriguing, exhilarating moments – be it shred runs, tapping, or just exotic/melodic sequences which make you tap your feet, shake your head, allowing you to go about your day that much happier. Victor incorporates sitar, cello, piano, orchestration also when necessary – beyond the numerous special guests that include Peavy of Rage, ex/current Almanac members, plus friends in the scene – ensuring a wide array of personalized nuances that bring emotional connectivity to these non-vocal arrangements. Jazzier interpretations of Bach compositions like “Bouree (Suite 2)” or the atmospheric, dreamy acoustic/orchestral syncopation for the follow-up “Menuet (Suite 2)” showcase the diverse, innovative abilities Victor and his fellow musicians undertake – always adding those little aggressive or metal flavors when appropriate. The record closes with a 7:20 version of “Unity” – the chasing keyboard/piano sequences against the natural distortion guitar gallops giving the track more of a modern slant, while the drum / bass flourishes take the chord progressions / transitions into Dream Theater-esque territory.

Back in the 80’s/90’s, guitar-oriented instrumental records started to gain favor beyond the Berklee students into a bit of mainstream respect/admiration. Victor Smolski deserves that same attention, Guitar Force an example of taking neoclassical oriented instrumental metal into jazzy, progressive, power, and exotic universes that provide massive payoffs to the listener’s benefit.

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8 / 10