Review Summary: This combination of strangeness and simplicity is difficult to pull off, highlighting what a talented individual Mattias IA Eklundh truly is.
Guitar instrumental albums are easily criticized. There are many that dismiss artists such as Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, claiming that they undoubtedly possess vastly impressive playing chops, but have achieved this through ignoring the more essential facet of the guitar, which is song writing ability. As Michael Amott of Arch Enemy once stated concerning the aforementioned Vai, ‘I can’t think of one great riff he’s written. I don’t give a *** if he can make his guitar sound like a car. I’d rather listen to Kerry King. ‘Reign In Blood’ is just one great riff after another’
Mattias Ia Eklundh may seem like he falls into this same category, but I would argue that his work in ‘The Road Less Travelled’ contains both enough six string prowess and song writing proficiency to mean that it achieves far more than being just an redundant shred-fest. The opening, and title track comes in with a smooth section of jazzy chord work before hitting us with an instantly memorable lead melody that drives the song throughout. Indeed, for all the albums quirkiness, it is pleasing to hear that the melodic focus is never mislaid. Songs such as ‘There’s No Money In Jazz’, introduces itself with a series of rapid chromatic runs (recalling a Eighties arcade game theme), which is fun, yet it is not long before Mattias halts the chaotic leads and injects a stop-start segment that is just as catchy as it is unorthodox. ‘Print This’, although, is the most brilliant example of the album eccentricity. Mimicking the sound of his home printer, Mattias manages to take the most mundane of everyday noises, and create a track that, utilizing a simple, heavy groove, is remarkably unconventional yet also undemanding and enjoyable.
But where the melodious sensibilities really do begin to shine are in the acoustic tracks. The gorgeous ‘Father’ is a relaxing piece which is carried by a sublime guitar line, and whilst the song still takes too many twists and turns to be labelled as straightforward (there is an excellent acoustic solo, which is breezed through with astonishing speed), its acts as a pleasant stop gap between the shred lunacy. ‘Happy Hour’, on the other hand, the only song on the album to contain vocals, is a standard pop rock tune, with Mattias demonstrating his vocal ability with a simple sing along chorus and his know how of how to build a song with a standard structure.
‘The Road Less Travelled’ is an undisputedly fun listen. The distinctive guitar work shy’s away from the typical tap/sweep formula that is present is so many instrumental albums, and although there are a glut of guitar solos, it never seems as though the songs are built around the opportunity to shred. The inventive and off the wall attitude of the songs, coupled with a continued spotlight on hooks, in whatever form they might take, means that the tracks, for all their odd traits, are fundamentally good tracks. This combination of strangeness and simplicity is difficult to pull off, highlighting what a talented individual Mattias IA Eklundh truly is.