Review Summary: Instrumental guitarist expands his vocabulary with "21".
Burton Wagner's "A Sentinel's Eyes" was an amateur masterpiece. A sprawling epic journey split into two thirty minute tracks, it was a completely instrumental and emotional recording. "21" on the other hand has decided to take a more conventional approach to its delivery. Instead of subtle progressions and an extreme post rock influence, "21" is a more developed orchestration that is clearly showing Burton's variety of musical taste as well as his simpler songwriting side. The fluid introduction of the album with the beautiful track, "November 25th, 2006" would make previous fans believe that "21" will possess the same level of gorgeous melodies transposed against a wall of epic crescendos, but "21" is certainly not Burton's same old method recycled yet again. Tracks like the ominous "July 4th, 2007" and the vocal performance on "July 16th, 2007" show that Burton is gracefully expanding his musical vocabulary and while he may be incorporating various new techniques, his signature melancholy style is present through out the various tracks on "21".
One of the noted improvements on "21" is Burton's use of "noise". Tracks like "August 3rd, 2007" and "May 26th, 2007" have implications of samples and droning sounds that help create a much more tension-soaked album. Another noted improvement is Burton's always improving guitar techniques. More effects are used on this album, and more importantly they are used to assist the music greatly. Sections in "February 27th 2007" echo Burton's first release "In the Realms of the Unreal", only the improvement is undeniable. The crescendos are sharper, the guitar lines more interesting, and most of all the performance is just much more intelligent. Nowhere is this notion more impressively shown than the instrumental, "May 31st, 2007", beginning with a quietly tremolo intro that quickly develops into a slinky guitar line reminiscent of Off Minor's "Cadaveric", and finally breaking into a recycled version of the original motif that has been improved with another slight tweak. The song is probably Burton's finest composition yet and clearly shows his ability to not fall into the trap of songs that just rely on crescendos and epic ups and downs. This subtlety is found everywhere on "21" and is clearly the most brilliant part of the album.
All issues aside, "21" is a great album and a worthy follow up to last years "A Sentinel's Eyes". While there are some minor issues regarding clipping and other amateur mistakes on the record, it hardly interferes with the enjoyment one can receive from listening to this record. "21" is yet another worthy release in the trio of Burton Wagner albums. Amateur in nature but certainly not amateur in ideas, Burton Wagner is in my eyes one of the best kept secrets in the realm of guitar today.