Review Summary: What every guitar-hero album should be like.1 of 1 thought this review was well written
My introduction to Chris Impelliteri’s music was, at once, incidental and fortuitous. The american axe-slinger was one of those names I kept reading about, but never had any big impression of, not being a huge fano f hyperspeed neo-classical power-wank metal myself. However, one day I saw one of his albums for sale at a mere 1 Euro (about 2 bucks for you Yanks) and absolutely couldn’t pass on it.
Taking it home, I had a very pleasant surprise: here was a guitar hero that wasn’t like every other guitar hero. Sure, he had a band named after him, worked with big-name vocalists (Graham Bonnet on that album) and showed off distinctly above-average chops. But none of his songs lent themselves to the sort of 10-minute-solos wankery a certain Mr. Yngwie Malmsteen has become infamous for. In fact, most of his solos were paradoxically shorter
than those performed by some “real”, non-guitar-hero-vehicle bands. And he had some really good tunes, as well.
After this pleasant introduction, I naturally hunted down some more of his albums, using the well of resources folks call the Internet. And that’s where I found one of the best hard’n’heavy records I have ever heard, Impelliteri’s own Answer to The Master
Seriously, this album is awesome
. It instantly entered my list, slipping in right behind Highway to Hell
quintessential hard rock record) and proudly siding up alongside such luminaries as Hey Stoopid
, Down To Earth
or Open Up and Say…Aah!
. And that’s meant as a compliment!
Answer To The Master
was actually released in 1994, at a time when grunge was dying along with Kurt Cobain and alt-rock and pop-punk looked poised to take over the charts. Snotty brats like Green Day and Blink 182 were just hitting puberty, and boring, sullen faux-rockers like Soul Asylum were conquering the hearts of Valley Girls and soccer moms everywhere. Me? I was eight years old – going on nine - and Bon Jovi and Nirvana topped my chart. It would be a few months until I would receive a life-affirming record by the name of ’74 Jailbreak
, but my rock career was slowly but surely taking its first incipient steps.
It’s a shame, then, that I didn’t discover this record back then, because it would certainly have changed my life. Maybe it would even have made Impelliteri, rather than AC/DC or Nirvana, into my first favorite band. However, it was natural for me not to have access to the album – metal and hard rock were very much underground at the time, and very few records reached European shores. Those who did came with a hefty price tag, prohibitive to a nine-year-old’s pockets. Fifteen years later, though, it’s time to correct that situation and unleash this beast upon the world.
The first thing you notice about Answer To The Master
are the riffs. They’re plenty, and they’re absolutely huge
. They’re the kind that gets your horns up and your foot firmly tapping – so much so that I got laughed at by a little girl who caught me tapping along to my headphones in public. I didn’t mind, though, because with riffs like these, who can resist it?!
The second thing you notice is that this guy is a definite team player. There’s no shortage of proficient guitaring on this album – what there is not much of is aggro-tecchy wankery. Chris’ solos are short and to the point, and while the guitarist makes good use of every second under the spotlight, he always puts the song first and the virtuoso displays second. Soundwise, he is a sort of cross between Malmsteen and Eddie Van Halen, with a bigger leaning toward the later. He has an excellent grasp on tapping techniques, and doesn’t shy away from inserting weird sound effects (The King Is Rising
) or classical scales (I’ll Wait
) into otherwise standard hard’n’heavy songs. However, these few displays of wankery are always done in under a minute, and quickly give way to another infectious riff or chorus. The exception is Hungry Days
, where the guitar line is basically one huge solo playing behind the vocals.
Impelliteri’s supporting players are also not bad. Chuck Wright’s bass is more felt than heard, but it does come through in the mix sometimes, and it’s competently played. The drummer doesn’t get much of a chance to shine, but he shows his skills at several different tempos, from fast and rockin’ to mid-tempo to leisurely ballad. As for Rob Rock, he is a confident singer, never pushing it too much, but always lending a pleasant vibe to the songs.
The songwriting department itself is another area where the guitarist avoids a common pratfall – his songs are more than just a big chorus and a tecchy solo sorrounded by some meaningless fluff. The songs’ lyrics actually have something to say, and most tracks boast a full set of lyrics, comprised of two/three verses, three or four choruses, and maybe even a sung bridge to wrap things up. And while the overtly spiritual topics may make some frown, they’re never so overtly preachy as to make you balk. Still, “Christian Rock” (one of FIVE genres these tracks appear under on Media Player) seems to be an adequate description, even if some tracks focus on issues other than God (doom predictions on The Future is Black
or a rockin’ auto-biography on Hungry Days
Another very important trait in this album’s favour is that it doesn’t waste its bullets in the first round. In fact, standouts are pretty evenly distributed throughout the album, with one near the beginning, one smack in the middle and another right at the end. And while they’re the kind of standouts that leap out at you at very first listen, the tracks surrounding them are more than mere padding, constituting a strong set of songs with very few, if any, weak points.
And what standouts are these? The most obvious one is Warrior
, simply one of the top five hard’n’heavy songs I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard a few. Although it follows a more simplistic structure, this track works in every possible way, and must certainly be a live favourite for Impelliteri. It’s a rocking mid-tempo with a huge chorus,undescribable riffing and solid soloing to top it all off. Next in line is the title track itself, a fast-paced, rippin’-roarin’ track that offers up another good chorus, although much less impressive than Warrior
. Bringing up the rear – tracklist-wise – is The King Is Rising
, a song that falls just short of supplanting Warrior
, but that nonetheless offers another top-notch hard rock riff, good chorus, and a solo where the aforementioned weird-ass sounds add a little spice.
Backing up these tracks are solid offerings such as opener The Future Is Black
, power-ballad I’ll Wait
or Hold The Line
. Even the less successful moments – Something’s Wrong With The World
, Fly Away
– always have some point of interest, be it the good opening riff of the former or the quasi-rapped vocals in the latter. Also noteworthy, for the “negatives” column, are the few moments where the band piles on the cheese, a trend well exemplified by the chorus of Fly Away
or the backing vocals on Answer to The Master
Still, this is a damn good album. A DAMN
good album. It’s not a 5/5, because 5/5’s are for God and Nevermind
. But it’s as close as it gets for an artist not called Nirvana, AC/DC, or Metallica. Highly, highly recommended.
Answer To The Master
The King Is Rising
Final Score: 4.75/5