GUS G
"Quantum Leap"

(AFM)

01. Into the Unknown
02. Exosphere
03. Quantum Leap
04. Chronesthesia
05. Enigma Of Life
06. Judgement Day
07. Fierce
08. Demon Stomp
09. Night Driver
10. Not Forgotten
11. Force Majeure

RATING: 7.5/10

At the risk of stating the obvious, GUS G is really, really good at playing the guitar. He shares that quality with the majority of those who release records like "Quantum Leap": instrumental, shred-heavy affairs that, with all due respect, are aimed squarely at other people who also want to be able to play with the same degree of virtuoso flair. Fortunately, Gus G. is also a gifted songwriter, and so while this undoubtedly conforms to many of the same tropes and tricks that will delight fans of balls-out shred, it's also an album that has melody and memorable ideas in plentiful supply. Much like Marty Friedman's instrumental work, the Greek's instincts are always to create something enduring, rather than just assault listeners with technical showmanship. You can hear that vividly in opener "Into the Unknown", wherein the guitarist can hardly be accused of reining in his dazzling abilities, and yet its dizzying five minutes are as easy to whistle along to as any of the power metal anthems he has written as a member of FIREWIND (nine albums and counting!).

"Quantum Leap" is an album that promises to thrill those who worship STEVE VAI's "Passion and Warfare" and JOE SATRIANI's "Surfing with the Alien", such is the way it skitters across a spectrum of melodic metal styles while still delivering hooks galore. But Gus G. is also a metalhead to his bones, and so even when surfing on a wave of gleaming AOR ("Quantum Leap") or drifting serenely along in mellifluous prog mode on "Enigma Of Life", these songs are always underpinned by muscular ensemble performances and a sense of vibrant, plugged-in bravado.

The album's finest moments are wonderfully elegant demonstrations of prowess: "Judgement Day" is a rugged, lurching squall of murderous riffs with a killer, tear-jerker chorus; "Demon Stomp" is a steroidal glam metal beat-'em-up with some insane soloing from the man himself; "Force Majeure" is half power metal hurricane, half RUSH-saluting throwdown. And, as if to prove that "Quantum Leap" is both smarter than the average shred record and firmly at the cutting edge of things, "Night Driver" hops onto the downtempo synthwave bandwagon with genuinely blissful and cinematic results. The gleefully overwrought balladry of "Not Forgotten" is also, in spite of itself, weirdly compelling.

He can really play, this guy. Three-dimensional shred: it's the way forward.

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