It has been ten years since Tony MacAlpine's last studio album, Chromaticity, came out. After that album, he toured extensively, mostly with Steve Vai, and was busy with both Planet X and a bunch of other stuff. Now with his self-titled solo album, he returns to exploring the perfect combination of instrumental virtuosity with cerebral compositions while utilizing his eight-string guitar work to diversify his craft.
Starting with the heavy "Serpens Cauda," the album is filled with corrosive riffing placed on top of fluid synth lines (also played by MacAlpine) climaxing with blistering solos and thunderous drumming. Not all of the album is heavy and shred-intensive, though. On "Oludeniz," (which is a wonderful holiday town in southwestern Turkey) he marries his classical leaning with thunderous bass lines and immediate standout melodies. Songs like "Dream Mechanism" and "Ten Seconds to Mercury" harken back to the more fusion-laden compositions on Chromaticity with added experimentation, especially during the middle part of the latter. "Flowers for Monday" involves acoustic guitars played in sync with a slow piano motif while the intro of "Summer Palace" is so groovy during its intro it feels like it was attached to the rest of the song as an afterthought. Also present are the more modern-sounding pieces like "Angel of Twilight," complete with processed guitar sounds and industrial-tinged synths.
The result is a varied album with some really strong material and some less than stellar tracks. Still, this album is well worth your attention, and a solo album in the true sense. MacAlpine plays all the instruments from seven- and eight-string guitars to keyboards to bass (and he also programmed the drums). The lineup behind him is equally impressive. Drum gods Virgil Donati and Marco Minnemann share the duties adding groove and rhythm when necessary.
(If you enjoy this, you must hear Brett Garsed's new disc, Dark Matter, as well. It is so far the best instrumental album of the year for me.)