Review Summary: In a climate saturated with artists boasting progressive metal chops, Paul Antonio Ortiz asserts himself as a leading man and publishes a lesson for the newcomers.
Technical metal bands are a dime a dozen these days. It just isn't hard to find a talented guitarist who can jump around the fretboard at lightspeed anymore - as a matter of fact, that annoying neighbor kid who always bothers you with his overt "apathy" is probably hammering away at his custom 8-string fretboard as you read this. But what separates those newcomers who can play scale after scale and Paul Antonio Ortiz, better known as Chimp Spanner is this: those kids (better known as seventy percent of newcomer technical metal groups) can't write an original, interesting song to save their lives, while Ortiz puts a great deal of thought and time into the creative process, successfully resulting in an engaging and dynamically interesting record.
For those unfamiliar with Chimp Spanner, All Roads Lead Here
, Ortiz's third release under the moniker, continues in a tradition of bright guitar leads, keyboards, and electronics focused around down-tuned polyrhythmic riffing and layered to create an atmospheric, science-fiction-y effect. If that sounds a bit too complex, think of it this way: take a sci-fi TV series opening theme, metal it up, speed it up to at least two or three times its original pace, and overlay some fast, intricate fretwork at a similar, but brighter tone of distortion. Take that concoction, chop it up, and space it out with some drawn out, atmospheric variations on that theme that focus on keyboards and synthesizers making those especially spacey
sounds and drop the guitars into a deeper, more relaxed lounge sound as they continue to guide the flow of the sound. That, in a nutshell is the sound of Chimp Spanner.
And for the most part, All Roads Lead Here
isn't too far off from 2009's At the Dream's Edge
stylistically. Both can be described as above, with minor variations, though At the Dream's Edge
focused more on the melodious aspects of Chimp Spanner's sound - the lead guitars and synthesizers - while All Roads Lead Here
sees Ortiz taking a more polarizing approach to the project. Tracks like "Dark Age of Technology" and "Cloud City" put more of a focus on these same melodious aspects, while the trilogy of "Mӧbius" songs take Chimp Spanner to a darker, more atmospheric place by focusing more on the distorted chugs and the resonating chords of the keyboard in the background layer of each track.
Pulling the two slightly different sounds together seems an effortless task for Ortiz, allowing the EP to flow easily from one passage to another with style and grace. Perhaps more importantly, though, the transitions from passage to passage come across as interesting and stylistically important. Essentially, it's clearly visible that Paul's creativity and attention to detail pay off where others would simply slap together riffs, cross their fingers, and slack off.
And in the end, that's how All Roads Lead Here
comes off: as a brief lesson in style, care, and work-ethic to genre newcomers. Of course that's all just subtext to the headline that, if nothing else, Chimp Spanner is still alive and having fun playing around with his sound to the listener's satisfaction.