|Musical Style: Instrumental Hard Rock||Produced By: Pastor Brad|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website: Pastor Brad|
|Tracks: 14||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 54:46|
Shredded Sweet, the third instrumental hard rock release from Altoona, Pennsylvania based minister Pastor Brad, continues where his very fine 2007 offering Reshredded leaves off. The album, for example, heads in an instrumental guitar (i.e.: “shred”) based direction certain to appeal to fans of Joe Satriani (Surfing With The Alien), Steve Vai (Passion And Warfare), David Chastain (Within The Heat & Elegant Seduction), Joey Tafolla (Out Of The Sun), James Byrd (Son Of Man) and Fourth Estate (Finesse And Fury & See What I See). Musically, I would describe Shredded Sweet as another work allowing the artist to put his abundant soloing abilities on full display. This is best exhibited on up-tempo pieces “Childlike Sweetness” – a real showstopper of a track – and the metal edged “Sacred Aggression”. The trend is maintained on the bluesy (if not ethereal) sounds of “Bed Of Roses” in addition to the acoustic and anthemic flavorings characteristic to “Sinai Daydreams”. “Chunky Monkey”, a mid-tempo number distinguished by its fast bass line, and the more tranquil “Memory Lane” make effective use of acoustic guitar as well. The albums diverse title track almost comes across experimental in feel (this one delivers an abundance of time changes).
At this point it must be noted that Shredded Sweet actually goes under the heading Pastor Brad AND Friends; and nothing could be more fitting when taking into consideration the talented guest guitarists appearing on it: Jim Griffin, Sonny Lombardozzi, Matt Eltringham, Art Kalenda, Joe Nardulli and Andy England. Sonny Lombardozzi showcases his pyrotechnical soloing on the catchy “Rolling Thunder” and “Dr. Philgood”, a hard rocking “play on words” that breaks for a cool jazz flavored guitar interlude. Art Kalenda, a shredder in the truest sense of the word, spices up “Soul Of Life” while the same can be said for Matt Eltringham’s work on the all out metal of “Fire And Ice”. “Wolfgang’s Breath”, another track standing out with a pronounced bass line, and “Go Irish” – Pastor Brad is a big Notre Dame football fan – find Jim Griffin and Joe Nardulli in top form respectively. Finally, closing out Shredded Sweet is “Flooded”, a creative composition combining the heavy duty riffing of Andy England with medieval flavored Gregorian chanting.
In the review of Reshredded I put together last year, I described the album as “song orientated instrumental hard rock”. And the same holds true here in that the artist has again struck the near perfect balance of quality musicianship and memorable songwriting. I have a few too many instrumental guitar albums in my collection, for instance, whose express purpose, as far as I can tell, is to showcase the musicianship of the artists involved. While one cannot necessarily find fault with that, what we often wind up with is non-stop jam session after jam session with the end result being that the songs can take a secondary role to the musicianship. Not so on Shredded Sweet. What Pastor Brad has put together is another group of songs characterized by distinct melodies and harmonies that, at the same time, allows the musicians involved – himself included – to display their abilities without overdoing it. That, if anything, is what I mean by “song orientated instrumental hard rock”.
Shredded Sweet maintains the same strong production values found on Reshredded: the lead work stands out cleanly in the mix as does the bass guitar; the rhythm guitar holds its own as well. Drums are mostly programmed again. Not that that is a bad thing (the drum sound here is quite good; you cannot tell they were programmed); that said, what can get lost in the process is the human element – and the feeling and emotion that goes along with it – a live drummer can bring to a recording. Just a thought.
One area of improvement worth noting is the albums packaging, which consists of a single page insert with a black and white photo on the front and track listing on the back. Liner notes, however, are available at the artist’s website. Now, I understand that packaging does not come cheap – or ultimately makes or breaks my enjoyment of an album – but I would like to encourage the artist to put together a “mini booklet” with any project he records in the future.
“Shredded Sweet” opens to narration stating “And now for something completely different”. And that would be the best way to describe the albums title track- different but in a good sense. What stands out most about the song is its time changes galore, alternating between quieter passages in which a softly played guitar and keyboards add a highlighting touch and others moving at a faster clip in which PB showcases his melodic style of playing. A pronounced bass line makes its presence felt as well.
“Sacred Aggression” immediately jumps out of the gate fast and heavy to a blend of pounding drums and muscle laden riffing. Energetic, upbeat and driven, the song proves its “aggression” as PB lays down a weighty rhythm guitar sound and backs it with more of his emotionally charged soloing. Jim Griffin makes his first appearance of the album in handling bass guitar duties.
“Bed Of Roses”, conversely, slows things down to a plodding and almost bluesy tempo. The song moves ahead as fluidly mixed lead work is reinforced by a thick sounding bass line, not picking up in pace until its final minute as a passage is procured in which the rhythm guitar plays the more prominent role.
Introduced to several seconds of “jungle noises”, “Chunky Monkey” begins acoustically before a heavy duty guitar riff pushes things forward at a fixed mid-tempo clip. The song maintains the steadfast momentum throughout, occasionally tapering off for an acoustic based interlude that soon gives back to a steadfast mix of rhythm guitar. All the while PB decorates the scene with his stylish lead guitar work.
A short stretch of quietly played guitar gets “Rolling Thunder” underway prior things kicking into high gear. The song proceeds to rollick ahead to a catchy guitar riff until, just past the minute and a half mark, Sonny Lombardozzi steps forward with a run of intricate delivered soloing (the guy reminds me of Buckethead in terms of style). PB returns and showcases more of his ardent playing over the songs final minute and a half.
“Sinai Daydreams” begins its first minute acoustically. The song picks up in pace once the rhythm guitar cuts in, carrying things ahead in near anthem-like fashion only to decelerate back to an acoustic guitar as PB delivers a message detailing how God is in the people business and how He loves people (the narration is taken from an actual message he gave at his church). “Sinai Daydreams” maintains the acoustic direction as it slowly fades out over its final minutes.
The open air rhythm guitar at the start of “Childlike Sweetness” is soon joined by a melding of fixed bass lines and crisp sounding drums. The song takes on a hard rocking tone as it moves forward, PB applying his trademark fast fingered lead work – this is one in which he REALLY cuts loose – as quite the energetic setting is put into place. Melodic but spirited at the same time, “Childlike Sweetness” ranks with my favorite compositions off Shredded Sweet.
PB and Matt Eltringham trade off during “Fire And Ice”, a shorter (3:30) pieces that covers its distance to a metal laced guitar riff placed strategically in the mix. Eltringham comes in after a minute and cranks out some lead work that comes across almost biting in capacity (nice aggressive edge to his playing). In the end, “Fire And Ice” gives us a well rounded combination of the heavy and the melodic.
“Memory Lane” effectively slows the pace down, commencing to a bluesy uniting of acoustic and rhythm guitar that gives rise to an atmospheric feel. Once the acoustic guitar drops from the mix, the song maintains its calm disposition until the tempo abruptly explodes as the rhythm guitar returns and carries things to their close in commanding fashion.
The hard rocking “Wolfgang’s Breath” starts to a huge bass line that soon underscores a resilient expanse of lead guitar. As the song moves past its minute and a half mark, Jim Griffin makes his presence felt with a demonstration of his shredding abilities on lead guitar. PB returns during the songs final seconds and closes things out in the more smooth sounding manner.
“Dr. Philgood” – nice play on words here – gives us another duel between PB and Lombardozzi (you will find quite the contrast in terms of their respective styles). The song proves a mid-tempo rocker in which an abundance of rhythm guitar carries it from front to back- although I do enjoy the quieter passage at its halfway featuring a jazzy guitar interlude. But it is Lombardozzi’s flashy soloing that helps put things over the top, his blinding riffs and chops reflecting a level of ability obtained by only a select few.
A short stretch of open air guitar slowly sets “Soul Life” in motion before a metal edged rhythm guitar takes over. Shredmaster Art Kalenda cuts loose a minute into the song, his mercurial flavorings rivaling Lombardozzi in terms of technical prowess (if I were to invite a direct comparison it might be Barnabas axe man Brian Belew). Irregardless, he adds a riveting touch that makes a good song even better.
As you can tell from the title to “Go Irish”, PB is a big Notre Dame football fan. (The song even features a couple of radio broadcast interludes from an actual contest between the Fighting Irish and UCLA.) Musically, what we have in “Go Irish” is an almost fusion based piece – nice upbeat feel to this one – in which PB and Joe Nardulli give us a well performed lead guitar duel. All in all, you have to give the artist props for the creativity displayed here.
“Flooded” proves an interesting piece. The song opens serenely before a razor sharp rhythm guitar kicks in, impelling things ahead before an abrupt time change is made to several seconds of Gregorian chanting, which works to perfection. The chanting in question is later carried over the heavy duty riffing – creating quite the contrast in the process – of Andy England. Great way to close the album.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Shredded Sweet” (3:44), “Sacred Aggression” (3:42), “Bed Of Roses” (3:13), ”Chunky Monkey” (4:10), “Rolling Thunder” (4:26), “Sinai Daydreams” (5:02), “Childlike Sweetness” (3:48), “Fire And Ice” (3:30), “Memory Lane” (3:35), “Wolfgang’s Breath” (3:20), “Dr. Philgood” (3:43), “Soul Life” (4:26), “Go Irish” (4:39) & “Flooded” (3:28)
Pastor Brad – Guitars & Bass
Jim Griffin, Sonny Lombardozzi, Matt Eltringham, Art Kalenda, Joe Nardulli & Andy England – Guitars
Jim Griffin – Bass