Review Summary: Something old and something new.
While he hasn’t always had a diehard group of fans salivating over everything Cloudkicker
, Ben Sharp has been setting his own personal bar with every subsequent release since 2008’s The Discovery
. Those who have been with him since the beginning have seen a dramatic change in his overall sound. The days of being compared to Meshuggah are long gone. Indeed, if one simply skipped over Sharp’s five other releases (discounting Loop), he would sound almost completely unrecognizable. 2010’s Beacons
was the peak of his progressive-metal phase, in that he took every loose end that needed fixing and brought everything together. It was a breathtaking experience that put Sharp’s name on the map, but it was also the end of the sound he had been working so hard to refine. 2011’s Let Yourself Be Huge
was a complete and total departure from Beacons
, making use of minimalism and gentle acoustic guitars. Despite not matching the overall effectiveness of its predecessor, it somehow managed to satisfy even the longest of his listeners. 2012’s Fade
represents another change in sound, but it’s also a combination of everything Sharp has produced since his pre-Cloudkicker days.
The most obvious and immediate difference from Sharp’s past releases is that the bass is no longer hiding in the guitar’s shadow, making for a fuller and more complete sound. The chemistry between the instruments (while being notable before) has never been more evident, with twinkling guitar leads twisting and bouncing off each other above Sharp’s steady drumming. Some riffs, including the winding introduction to “Garage Show”, are up there with the most creative he’s come up with over the years. Though there are moments of sheer heaviness, they are unfortunately few and far between and that has to disappoint fans of his early releases. Whereas Beacons
contained several jaw-dropping moments, Fade
is less immediate and demands multiple listens to find a similar level of appreciation. One example of this is in the final minute-and-a-half of “Our Crazy Night”, where Sharp incorporates the main acoustic riff of “This isn’t” from Let Yourself Be Huge
into an all-out jam session to finish the album.
doesn’t quite live up to the majesty of Beacons
, it’s still among his most enjoyable releases and serves as a solid addition to a very consistent discography. Sharp’s greatest appeal as an artist stems from his lack of self-promotion, allowing others to spread the word while offering all of his work for free. At the end of the day, he’s just a normal man with a normal life who happens to be quite the musician. Despite the success and notoriety that have become a part of his life, he hasn’t seemed to have changed a bit.