Review Summary: A very solid effort that represents Frusciante's sound well, from his all too busy year of 2004.
I do believe that it’s safe to say that John Frusciante may have been the busiest musician of the year 2004. During that climactic year for Frusciante, he wrote six different albums, and released five, with the sixth one coming out in February of 2005. Under those circumstances, most musicians would have been way in over their head with taking on so many projects seemingly at once. It would almost seem inevitable that there would be some low quality music mixed in somewhere. But John Frusciante is no ordinary musician. His sense of melody, endless flow of creative ideas, and superb songwriting make him a cut above the rest. The Red Hot Chili Pepper guitarist had a lot to take on in 2004, but amazingly he made six extremely solid albums, and “The Will To Death” is one of my favorite of John Frusciante solo works.
The key elements to Frusciante’s sound are all trademarks of his style. Many tracks on the album feature clean, or slightly distorted electric guitar playing, with his unique chord progressions. Frusciante’s voice is truly diverse, going from an almost Elliott Smith like somber tone, to a soaring falsetto that is full of soul and passion. However, Frusciante gets an opportunity to feature some electronic sounds on the track “An Exercise”, and some piano melodies on “Far Away”, and “The Mirror”. There are just enough shifts from the typical Frusciante sound to make it unique, while Frusciante still remains true to his trademark sounds, and uses them effectively.
Tracks “Unchanging”, “A Loop”, and “The Days Have Turned”, all carry the signature styled chord progressions, and vocals of Frusciante. Each track exemplifies solid songwriting well enough, with “Unchanging” sporting very philosophical lyrics “And we will show that wherever you are/That this is where time starts/It is a pleasure to die/A pleasure to be gone/Into the sky we move on.” With all the drug addictions, and trouble that was previously in Frusciante’s life, he seems to laugh life and death both in the face, just accepting who he is, and to let fate take its course. Though this is the only time on the record I hear Frusciante directly singing about life and death, the record still seems deeply personal in this sense, and shows that Frusciante still had something to say that ties his days of being a junkie, his reckless lifestyle, and his newfound spirituality together.
The rest of the album fills out nicely. Tracks such as “Helical”, “Wishing”, and “Time Runs Out” are nothing to write home about, but can be enjoyed in the moment as much as most other songs on this release. The signature chord progressions and vocals are all there, it’s just a matter of Frusciante rearranging them a bit different each time to fit the song. Again, this is enjoyable, but listening to it too many times can wear thin when considering originality. In fact, this element is what probably stops the record from being a truly amazing album, but as I mentioned in the beginning, Frusciante was a busy man in 2004, for better and for worse.
“A Will To Death” is certainly an album that any fan of John Frusciante’s solo work should pick up. His insights on life and death, and his songwriting can both be greatly appreciated and enjoyed by just about anyone. Some generic elements of Frusicante’s style are too present throughout the disc. But these issues can be overlooked, and you can enjoy a great solo effort from John Frusciante’s extremely busy year of 2004.