'I Am The Fire'
Release Date: 17th March 2014
Gus G Acquits Himself Quite Well But The Cameos Let Me Down...
Gus G backs off on the gain a bit, and goes solo with an album that would have played well in 1991 - it may have helped keep the grunge kids at bay, in fact.
This album sounds like it was made by a guy who had definite ideas when he was a kid, and now can afford to lay them down.
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Like many projects I hear these days, though, it suffers by the fact that it never really sounds like a band, even though every note is in tune, in time, and picture perfect. What I miss is hearing many ideas other than Gus's. He's a great player, and every great player needs a band.
Mats Leven rejoins Gus, singing on four tracks, and the ex-Yngwie Malmsteen/Therion frontman acquits himself quite well, reminding me very much of a slightly grittier Robin McAuley, whom I always thought served Michael Schenker very well in their days together. It's a very melodic style that goes great with any riff in E or A.
After the first two tracks get me pumped up, I'm deflated a bit by 'Devour The Day''s cameo - Blake Allison's vocal is fairly devoid of any true emotion, instead going for the faux anger that drove me away from the radio years ago. Lame lyrics put the knife in too far, and I move on to track four.
The instrumental 'Vengeance' is closer to Gus' normal fare, and he sounds more at home weaving his melodic shredding throughout, as Dave Ellefson brings some tasty bass to the track. If you want to know what Gus G.'s playing is like, this is it. Not a great writer, but a good writer, and a fabulous player.
Alexia Rodriguez (Eyes Set To Kill) brings what sounds like a healthy admiration for old Queensryche to 'Long Way Down' - again, it's somewhat run of the mill, and I would have liked to hear what Leven may have brought to what is a stellar sounding backing track. The melody on the vocal is just too damned predictable. Gus is fabulous from beginning to end, here, and I would love to hear him served better by a full time singer and band.
Terrified features the always wonderful Billy Sheehan, and listening to them riff together is pure bliss. This is Gus at his best again, and he's on point - this is what I want to hear from the guy, classy playing, a raging band, and no modern nu-angst hand wringing I'm getting from his guest vocalists.
Mats Leven is back for 'Eyes Wide Open', and it's sunny again - he can write something other than the ultra predictable melodies I've heard over the last few cuts, and I so wish he had written and sang the whole album. Slightly Eastern, Zep-ish twists and turns keep this interesting, and Gus is great and his solo burns.
Steel Panther's Michael Starr steps up, and he gets it - he fits perfect with the track, and we're back to classic rock nirvana. This track kicks serious ass, and I can't see anyone not loving it. Gus weaves acoustic fills in nicely in and out of the riffing, and he's off to the races with another shredding solo, this one being nicely drenched in wah. Good stuff this.
'Summer Days' features another Malmsteen alumni, and Jeff Scott Soto puts on his usual great showing - it seems the further back Gus goes in his music memory, the better it works. Not so much gloom and negativity in the subject matter, and I can hear it in G's playing. This makes me anxious to hear Scott Soto's new solo outing.
Gus G is a grand writer of melodic rock - 'Dreamkeeper' is a ballad well sung by Tom S Englund (Evergrey), and while it's not as strong as the best of the record, the backing track is stellar and worth sticking around for. If your guests don't keep up, get new guests. When Gus equals himself with singers, this is a blazing album, when he doesn't, it's only average.
Mats Leven returns for the closing, 'End Of The Line', and it's a strong ending. Leven sounds like he actually connects with the lyrical content, and he's the best thing on this record next to the guitar talents of Mr Karamitroudis.
In summation, I'd say what I say a lot - this record could have used a band, and a producer - still, I'd say that it's worth the purchase, because what's great is great, and Gus G shows himself to be a well rounded hard rocker when he leaves behind the radio ready nu-metal stuff. I now want to hear a whole record of him and Leven collaborating with a full time band and a producer. I ask for a lot, but not too much really.
01. My Will Be Done (feat. Mats Levén) (3:15)
02. Blame It On Me (feat. Mats Levén) (3:23)
03. I Am The Fire (feat. Devour The Day) (3:14)
04. Vengeance (feat. David Ellefson) (4:26)
05. Long Way Down (feat. Alexia Rodriguez) (3:02)
06. Just Can’t Let Go (feat. Jacob Bunton) (4:00)
07. Terrified (feat. Billy Sheehan) (3:14)
08. Eyes Wide Open (feat. Mats Levèn) (4:18)
09. Redemption (feat. Michael Starr) (4:15)
10. Summer Days (feat. Jeff Scott Soto) (3:49)
11. Dreamkeeoer (feat. Tom S. Englund) (4:45)
12. End Of The Line (feat.Mats Levèn) (4:59)