Well, this was a surprise. I had never heard of Paul Wardingham
until I received a recommendation from someone to check this record out; and I'm glad I did, because this is one of the best albums of the year and a stunning debut from a very impressive musician.
The whole album is just very solid. There isn't any discernible filler, and that is made even more impressive by the fact that this record is nearly an hour long. Quite lengthy for an instrumental guitar virtuoso album, to be sure, but this is such a dense, layered, and detailed release that the long running time is fitting. And, perhaps even more importantly, the album never gets boring. The soloing is absolutely fantastic throughout, and the cerebral use of synths across the album add to it immensely; they not only contribute to the "space-y" atmosphere of the record, but also aren't too over the top or cheesy at any point, which can sometimes happen. Furthermore, the drums have a great sound to them (whether they were programmed or not I don't know,) and the guitar tone on here is incredible.
Another thing I like about this album is the fact that Wardingham knows when to show restraint. Not every second of every song is filled with lightning-speed sweeping and arpeggios; he uses his skill skillfully. In particular, "Fields of Utopia" and "Orbital Decay" really demonstrate this. He doesn't use his phenomenal guitar playing skills to cover up poor songwriting, he uses them to enhance the piece whenever they fit. Plus, since the guitar shredding isn't used too frequently, it makes it all the more sweet when it does
show up. The CD also has a high replay value: you'll want
to come back and listen to this again and again.
From the masterful songwriting and playing, to the atmosphere the album gives off, to the replayability, to the great production, everything about "Assimilate Regenerate" is pretty much right on the money. Other than a couple of fairly unnoteworthy spots, this album is extremely solid from beginning to end, and is definitely one of the best records of the year so far. Check this out: you won't regret it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to listen to it again.