March 13, 2008

CD Review: Bushwhack - Bushwhack

It has been awhile since I have listened to an all-instrumental album that wasn't a soundtrack. It has been even longer since I have listened to one that wasn't from an artist such as Steve Vai or Joe Satriani, or even a side-project like Liquid Tension Experiment. Now along comes Bushwhack, a Connecticut based quartet that has chosen to take on the challenge of instrumental progressive rock. It is an arena where there is no safety net and a long shot at gaining any type of mainstream popularity. This has to make you wonder why they chose this particular path when they were forming and deciding on what music they wanted to play. Those thoughts disappear the moment you start up the disk. This is impressive music, by the time you realize that no one is singing it won't matter.

The four piece is made up of Jamie van Dyck on guitars, Frank Sacramone on keyboards, Brandon Green on bass, and Ben Shanbrom, on drums. Together they have brought numerous influences to the table and forged a sound that is instantly familiar and welcoming and fiercely original. What makes their achievement even more surprising is that they are all between 18 and 19 years old! It is not that age should really have anything to do with it, I have heard amazing young musicians before, but it always seems to be more the exception than the rule. As for these teens, the music they are making sounds like the work of artists much older. It is clear that they are well on their way towards making a name for themselves and becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Frankly, when the album arrived in my mailbox I was unsure of what was going to greet me when I pressed play. The name Bushwhack conjures up a certain image, and for me it was certainly not prog metal. I had these audible images of something a bit more chaotic and out of control. It was an image that disappeared as soon as the opening notes of "In Solitude" made their way from my speakers. The more I listened, the more was revealed. The music did have a sort of controlled chaos to it, but it was very finely structured and arranged. It has a structure that i would like to call structured organics, meaning that even though you know each song was carefully planned out, there is a touch of the jam band sensibility at work. You really need to hear it to understand what I am saying.

One of the first things that struck me, after the fact that the songs are just really good, was the production. This is a debut album that the band is releasing independently, not generally the ideal arena for strong production values. One listen to Bushwhack's self titled debut will have you thinking this is a major label release. The sound is crisp, clear, and perfectly balanced. The sound that stands out the most is the guitar, it has a raw feel as it stands apart from the very clean sounds of the keyboards and bass. All of the elements fit together in such a way that the slick and the raw come together in a perfect harmony. Very impressive for an independent production.

The songs run from all out rockers, to Dream Theater style compositions, to quiet ballad types. Each of the four get their moments to shine, but it is not about getting noticed or being flashy. All of them are adept at playing their instruments and each one enters into each song with the mindset of what is bes for the song. This allows for a nice balance. I am sure you have all heard bands where the guitarist takes charge and overshadows the rest to the detriment of the song, you will see none of that here. They may be young, but the approach and resulting creations come across as being mature beyond their years.

Bottomline. If you are a fan of instrumental or progressive rock and metal, do yourself a favor and seek out this album, you will not be disappointed. Throughout the thirteen song collection, they never repeat themselves and each song has a distinct sound. This is one of those pleasant discoveries that will leave you beaming long after the last note has faded away.

Highly Recommended.


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