Review Summary: Even two decades later, Jason Becker seems to inspire perpetually through this amazing music and story
If you're a guitar geek of sorts, chances are you are very aware of who Jason Becker is. Even if you've simply heard of him, you've probably heard people, myself included, describe his playing as something akin to the second coming of Christ. But for the uninitiated, Jason Becker is a world-renown guitar virtuoso has recorded and toured the world with neo-classical metal act Cacophony
throughout the late 80's as well as replacing Steve Vai as lead guitarist in the David Lee Roth
band. Unfortunately his career was very short-lived as Jason was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS, or more commonly, Lou Gehrig's Disease and over the years has crippled all but his eyes which is now what he miraculously uses to communicate as well as compose music.
At the time of Jason's first solo release, Perpetual Burn
, he was still very capable of playing though. Actually around the time of the release of Cacophony's Go Off!
and Perpetual Burn
, Jason was probably at his peak in terms of technicality. And it's very evident all throughout the 8 song long shred-filled opus, although shred isn't probably the best word used to describe his playing. When I hear the word shred I usually associate it with the guitar playing of very sterile and emotionless solos played at breakneck speeds void of any feel or creativity whatsoever, and I really don't feel that is the case with Becker though every song on this album is filled with unbelievable guitar acrobatics. The title track "Perpetual Burn" as well as "Temple of the Absurd" probably most epitomize Jason's neo-classical guitar wizardry, but the rest of the album's music is a bit deeper and unorthodox.
The opening track "Altitudes" proves this right from the get go and is easily one of the most moving pieces on the album, especially the arpeggio section around the two minute mark. One thing you'll notice on this album in particular is the abundance of arpeggios and a lot of times guitarists, especially shredders I've noticed, seems to just boringly use them as a crutch when they fail to write something more compelling, but on Perpetual Burn
I don't think there's a single moment where they feel excessive or anything less than smartly written.
Another big highlight of the album is "Mabel's Fatal Fable," 3rd in line of your trek throughout Perpetual Burn
. It opens up with these two guitars whammy-ing about abstractly and then after a quick burst of some tense diminished arpeggios the song kicks in. Some of the playing is so unorthodox sounding Buckethead might even be scratching his head after giving the song a listen.
If you were to think of Perpetual Burn
as a story, the 4th track of the album, "Air," would easily be its climax and marks the pinnacle of Jason's excellence. It's a classical song played on an electric guitar on clean settings that Jason wrote when he was inspired by Mozart. The song starts out slow with some synth orchestrations and tame guitar leads that gradually builds up momentum to the song's chaotic 2 final minutes filled with some of the most beautiful neo-classical guitar work you'll hear. "Air" is one of those songs that when you hear it you then have a clear understanding of what makes Jason the great musician that he is.
One thing that took me by surprise after listening to this album is how compelling every second of music on here was. I've listened to a few solo albums from shredders and usually the songs begin to feel very tedious and are there just to showcase the artists' abilities. Jason's songs clearly highlight his great guitar playing, but there is also genuinely good songwriting making each of the pieces on Perpetual Burn
tick. The only stale moment I could pinpoint is the first two and a half minutes of "Eleven Blue Egyptians" which pales in comparison to its neo-classical take on blues soloing that leads the song to its close. Other than that, I'd have to say this album has some of the tightest song writing and most hooks out of any instrumental albums I've heard.
Really when you are a guitarist at the level of virtuosos like Yngwie Malmsteen, Jason Becker, or Rusty Cooley, it's no longer about how technical your playing is or how fast you are. You have all the tools you'll ever need, and what it comes down to is who can make the best music. In that respect, Jason Becker comes out on top. His music is so fiendishly creative and powerful that it's hard to not believe the hype that surrounds this guy. The so-called greats of today like Herman Li and Sam Totman should take some notes because not those guys, but instead Jason Becker, should be considered the real guitar hero of today.
"Mabel's Fatal Fable"