Review Summary: Shred, groove, funk, jazz, virtuosity, and melody blend into one.
7 for 4 is the brain child of Virtuoso guitarist Wolfgang Zenk (no medals for those who figure out the country of origin), who is better known as the former guitarist for German progressive metal band Sieges Even and with 7 for 4 he has decided to explore jazz fusion territory.
Jazz fusion bands are renowned for their instrumentalist’s musicianship and virtuosity and there’s certainly no shortage of that throughout this album. Wolfgang has found himself a stellar group of musicians who’re equally adept at playing complex melodies, jam oriented sections and melodic passages, as they delve into a wide array of genre’s during the various twists and turns of the rolleroaster ride that is Contact
. A special mention needs to be made to the solid rhythm section whose exceptional and diverse performance never seems contrived while effortlessly bringing the groove on, and constantly leaving a smile on the face.
The music can be overwhelming upon first listen as it feels much too congested, busy and cluttered with nothing making much sense, as is usually the case with this band. Granted there is a lot of shredding and complex sections with multiple time signature changes on offer, however as with most good albums the numerous elements present in the music are better appreciated and digested after multiple listens. That being said there is quite a bit of wankery on display with the main perpetrator being the band leader, so those who don’t enjoy that aspect of progressive music might be turned off by a reasonable amount of this album. Wolfgang’s presence is very obvious with a lot of the music being guitar oriented, with a lot (and I mean a lot) of guitar solos and leads, which can get exhausting in the long run, but every member is given enough room to shine and show boat as they please.
One word was constantly in my mind throughout most of the album, energy, and a lot of it at that. It’s commendable how the music seemlessy shifts through different styles and time signatures at such a brisk pace, while still making sense. The music feels like a child who has had 5 coke cans and a bowl of candy beans for dinner who can’t seem to sit down for more than 5 seconds. That’s not to say that there aren't soothing calm passages, there are quite a few but at the end of the album the virtuostic sections of the music seem to be remembered the most. Wolfgang can shred with the best of them and the remaining band members certainly can keep up, as the band treads through a wide array of styles including shred, jazz, blues, hard rock, progressive rock, funk, and psychedelia, and for the most part it isn’t as hemorrhage inducing as it seems.
All of the songs are instrumentals bar one “Catking”, which has guest vocals from Greg Keller, who reminds me of Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings fame, and has some infectious melodies and a good vocal performance. There's some great interplay between the instruments over the course of the album, with good unisons, which are often played at a very rapid pace. The bass handles the lows with aplomb with Markus G using quite a few techniques and a handful of tasty tones.
Unfortunately the vigour of the music is one of the aspects which eventually frustrated me the most. At times I just want the band to calm down and elaborate on some of the melodies as opposed to continually shifting from one time signature to another 20 odd times within one song. The production is good but still could be a little better, especially when it comes to the keyboards and clean guitar tones, with both having their fair share of primitive sounding tones without enough character. The distorted guitar tones and bass tones on the other hand are absolutely fantastic, this duo reminds me of Steve Morse and Dave LaRue, and that’s definitely a good thing. Mix wise the album fare’s well for the most part with all of the instruments receiving a good amount of room to breath, unfortunately the keyboards suffer the most and a little more presence, mix wise and composition wise, would give the album a much more balanced feel. At times the mix can feel slightly congested though, especially when there are numerous guitar layers.
That being said this is a really good debut effort by an underrated group of musicians who I definitely want to hear more from, as should you if you’re a fan of complex instrumental compositions with predominantly jazz and progressive elements.