Review Summary: Instrumental Rock albums still exist? Apparently so. Is this one revolutionary? Nope. Does it have a barrage of technical wizardry? No. Is it still a fun and gratifying listen? You bet it is.
Veteran Pakistani Rock guitarist Asad Ahmed started his career in the 80s and then went on to have successful stints in the commercially popular pop group Awaz & his own Alternative Rock band Karavan, along with being a session musician in projects including the renowned Coke Studio. Despite such a lengthy career he had never worked on solo guitar album, until 2017s Rebirth
. This album sees Asad inject Instrumental Rock ingredients whose aesthetic resembles the likes of Joe Satriani, AC/DC, and Eric Johnson. There are a handful of fun short rockers that have simple juicy riffs and catchy licks. Tracks including the bluesy & uptempo “Maximum Throttle,” “The Grand Design” with its slew of melodic licks & tastefully implemented horn section, and the almost grandiose “Strip and Strut” display Asad at his most vibrant. They also possess the best solos, displaying some of his most pleasant phrasing in possibly 15 years. The disposition of the longer tracks is more laid back and atmospheric, especially demonstrated by “Into the Vortex” with its spacey atmosphere & groovy basslines, and the title track which is the most lush track on Rebirth
. The inclusion of songs with varying tempos and lengths aids in bringing some variety to the album.
In the production department up until a few years ago Pakistan lagged behind the West quite a bit, but now thanks to the easy accessibility of modern audio software & equipment, Pakistani music production is more or less up to universal standards. This album is evidence of that. Sure it’s no “Dark Side of the Moon,” but thankfully the production team allowed all of the instruments to sound dynamic, especially the guitars where Asad’s chunky distorted tone & array of lead tones shine, and the drum skins & cymbals sound effervescent due to the airy production doubled with the expansive mix.
For the most part the songs follow the standard verse-chorus-bridge/solo formula, and the downside to this is that the songs can feel slightly predictable. The melodies are still enjoyable but some variation in the song structures would have been welcome. As an example, even having some “verses” with just the riffs carrying them would have altered the song dynamic, even if a little. Additional complexity in the riffs & rhythms, and a more significant keyboard & horn section presence would have also added extra textures to make the songs even more interesting. To play Devil’s Advocate though, it’s understandable why Asad might have wanted to keep his songwriting focused for his first ever solo album. As is referenced by the album title, Rebirth
is a reinvention of sorts for him. A return to releasing his own music after a lengthy time of mainly doing session gigs for 10 years. Sure it’s not ground-breaking, but it’s an admirable debut with an efficient execution of Melodic Rock music, and if it’s a sign of things to come then there’s more on the horizon to be enthusiastic about.
1. The Grand Design
3. Maximum Throttle
4. Strip and Strut
5. Bittersweet Love
Asad Ahmed’s Spotify page:
1. Rebirth [MUSIC VIDEO] [4:32]:
2. Maximum Throttle [3:16]:
3. The Grand Design [3:40]: