August 10, 2005

CD Review: Mattias IA Eklundh - Freak Guitar: The Road Less Traveled

The other day a CD arrived on my doorstep. I didn't know what it was, who it was by, or what type of music to expect. I opened it up and found this album by Swedish guitar player Mattias IA Eklundh. I also found that it was on Steve Vai's label, Favored Nations, so that gave a little hint of what I could expect. Of course, i wouldn't know until I actually played it.

I popped the disk into the CD player, hit play, and was blown away. I found myself ear to speaker with a bold instrumental voice. It is nearly one hour of solid guitar virtuosity told in 23 parts, or songs if you will. Mattias Eklundh is one of most impressive guitar players I have heard in some time, and if you like instrumental shredding that crosses genres and simply has some fun with the instrument, this may be something you'll want to check out.

Each of the songs have a different feel and distinct sound, yet all can be identified as coming from the same voice. There are some heavy riffs, lightning fast runs, some mellow acoustic sounds, and even some humor.

I've listened to the album a few times now, and the only song I felt was weak was also the only one with lyrics, "Happy Hour." It works as a mellow interlude at roughly the halfway point through the album, a point to catch your breath and contemplate what has come before and pause in anticipation of what is yet to come.

Something that I found refreshing was the relative lack of effects. For as much as I love, and I do love, Steve Vai's work, he is much more experimental in his use of effects, Eklundh, by comparison, is pretty much just him and his axe. He has chops to spare, speed like no one else this side of Yngwie Malmsteen. It is refreshing to hear this, what I consider to be anyway, fresh new voice.

There a few songs that stand out. One of those songs is the opening title track, "The Road Less Traveled," a song with a strong groove and featuring some nice lead work. That is followed by a speed fest in "There's No Money in Jazz," has lines reminiscent of "Flight of the Bumblebee." To complete the opening trifecta is "Print This!" which combines a sample of, I guess, a printing press blended with a head bobbing heavy groove that you have to hear to believe. Later on we have a wild instrumental rendition of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water," it has to be heard to be believed. Finally we have the eight plus minute opus "The Woman in Seat 27A," a smooth acoustic flavored jam.

I can't go through all of them, I am sure you would get tired of reading about it. It is always exciting to discover great new music in unexpected places. When was the last time you found something that floored you?

Bottomline. Mattias Eklundh has an incredible sound, and is one of the best instrumentalists I have heard in some time. For fans of shredding guitar and an adventurous taste, go get this album, now! I am very happy that this landed on my doorstep. Again, I ask you: When have you listened to something that just blew you away?

Highly Recommended.

You can visit Mattias online at Freak Guitar.

Also at Blogcritics.


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