|Musical Style: Instrumental Hard Rock||Produced By: Pastor Brad|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website: Pastor Brad|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 43:52|
Pastor Brad (Windlan) remains one of the hardest working guitarists in all of metal and hard rock. A full time minister from Altoona, Pennsylvania, the artist released two albums in 2004 (Get Real and Rock You Up), three more in 2005 (Out Of The Hellhole, Telecaster and The King Has Come) and one in 2006 (Shred). His aptly entitled lone offering from 2007, Reshredded, preceded the early 2008 effort Shredded Sweet. The latter half of 2008 finds PB presenting with Heavenly Shred, his ninth album overall (in five years!) and fourth to head in instrumental guitar based territory.
As with the artists previous instrumental outings, Heavenly Shred is certain to appeal to fans of Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Joey Tafolla, David Chastain, James Byrd and a host of others within the same genre. Those into Fourth Estate, Jeff Scheetz, Slav Simanic and Jon Hooper should find a lot to like here as well.
What makes Heavenly Shred unique is that it brings a “holiday theme” in that half its compositions draw their inspiration from many of the popular Christmas carols of the past. Now, there is no reason to be concerned in that PB proves ingenious in conceiving an instrumental hard rock song that, at the same time, is interwoven with a well known Christmas carol melody. In other words, what we have is a project capturing the spirit of Christmas without coming across, well, too “Christmasy”. To understand my point, check out “Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem”, “O Come O Come Emmanuel”, “Deck The Halls” and “Joy To The World”, up-tempo pieces that, for a lack of better words, just plain shred. Mid-paced numbers “Silent Night” and “Carol Of The Bells” might slow things down a bit but deliver their share of flair as well.
The remaining material on Heavenly Shred, while shedding the Christmas theme, proves equally deft. “I’ll Fly Away” and “Oh How I Love Jesus” bring tons of energy and acoustic laced “Nothing But The Blood” and palatial “Holy Holy Holy” a heading on the more laid back side of things. “Psalm 33:3” proves a gritty rocker while “Christian Metal Realm”, a track in which seven guitarists and five vocalists make guest appearances, is an all out slugfest of metal riffs and blazing lead guitar.
PB, as always, makes his presence felt with his abundant guitar harmonies, as is aptly demonstrated on “Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem”, “O Come O Come Emmanuel”, “Nothing But The Blood” and “Holy Holy Holy”. And he proves no slouch in the soloing department either- just give “O Come O Come Emmanuel”, “Deck The Halls” and “Christian Metal Realm” several listens to understand my point.
As with many of the artists previous releases, Heavenly Shred goes under the heading Pastor Brad AND Friends. The friends in question, of course, are the numerous guest musicians appearing on the project, including guitarists Mario Barasic, Jeff Garner, Jim Griffin (Griffin-X), David Wallimann, Don Webster (Neon Cross) and Jon Hooper (Unforsaken). Jim Griffin and Dee Harrington (Saint), at the same time, capably fill in on bass.
“Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem” proves a three minute explosion of non-stop energy. The song starts to several seconds of open air guitar before moving on to a stretch of bluesy soloing- which is immediately followed by the trademark Christmas melody we are all familiar with. “Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem” races its remaining distance with mega-tight guitar harmony, a drum solo and more hi-octane soloing leading the way.
“O Come O Come Emmanuel” maintains the upbeat tempo but with more of a bluesy edge. The song begins in gritty fashion before transitioning to a run of the albums most exciting lead work (real neo-classical feel to the playing). As “O Come O Come Emmanuel” moves forward, more radiant lead guitar highlights the backdrop, only decelerating for a punchy bass solo and occasionally passages upheld by a steadfast rhythm guitar.
The all out metal of “Deck The Halls” brings quite the resounding low end- the bass guitar is thick, weighty and right up front in the mix (the way it should be). If anything, the song moves at the slight reduced tempo in comparison to the previous two, standing out with the bluesy mentality of its lead work and changeovers to moments in which a bass guitar solo mimics the trademark “Deck The Halls” melody.
“Silent Night” heads in a more tempered musical direction. Laid back and relaxed in feel, the song smoothly flows ahead to melodic guitar harmony backed by occasional traces of the acoustic. After several minutes, however, “Silent Night” abruptly picks up in pace as some ripping guitar leads take over- only to just as suddenly decelerate back to the earlier more moderate flavorings.
“Joy To The World” gets underway to a drum solo prior to bouncing ahead at a mirthful tempo. The beautiful “Joy To The World” melody stands out as the song advances, briefly slowing to some open air guitar only to make a transition to an unleashing of blazing lead guitar- backed by occasionally eruptions of roaring guitar feedback. A brief bass solo, appropriately, closes out one of the albums better numbers.
The low key “Nothing But The Blood” also brings its share of quality. The song proves another collected piece (sort of like “Silent Night”) in moving its distance in composes fashion, a joining of catchy guitar harmony, acoustic guitar and brisk soloing sustaining the placid setting. Things do gain a bit of momentum at the minute and a half mark, however, as a shift is made to a stretch of ardent lead guitar.
“Holy, Holy, Holy” puts in place a stately – almost dignified – environs. The Gregorian vocals at the start of the song give way to a drum solo and screaming guitar feedback. “Holy Holy Holy” proceeds to groove the rest of its way at a lively tempo, the albums crystal clear production showcased in the plethora of scorching lead guitar – courtesy of Jeff Garner – allowed to fluidly rise above the mix.
“I’ll Fly Away” might be one of the albums shorter pieces (2:39) but certainly is not lacking in energy. A towering bass line gets the song going before it plows ahead to a determined guitar riff, the excited initiative preserved as a variety of lead work – from neo-classical to all out fiery – carries things to their close.
With a name like “Oh How I Love Jesus”, you would think this might be one of the albums mellower pieces. But not so. Combining a plethora of tight sounding rhythm guitar and melodic lead guitar, the song establishes an upbeat atmosphere its brief (2:22) but rollicking distance. The aggressive feel to the drums only adds to the mirthful scene.
“Carol Of The Bells”, the last of the Christmas themed pieces, presents with a flowing mid-paced milieu. Certain to pull you in with its familiar bouncing melody, the song drives its lengthy to a sturdy guitar riff underscored by a pronounced low end (nice bass guitar solo on this one). All the while PB decorates things with his adeptly done lead guitar.
“Christian Metal Realm”, of course, derives its moniker from the well known forum of the same name. The song opens to a charging bass line as the rhythm guitar crashes in and out of the mix. From there on, “Christian Metal Realm” stays true to form by plowing ahead with an abundance of muscle-laden momentum- the lead work throughout is over the top (you can tell the artist – and all the guest musicians appearing on the track - had a great deal of fun putting this one together). A BIG chorus with backing vocals loudly exclaiming “C-M-R” along with an extended keyboard solo (with a cool 70’s feel) tops things off.
Closing out Heavenly Shred is the straightforward rocker “Psalm 33:3”. Gritty and edgy, the song determinedly drives from front to back to a near militant guitar riff, making an excursion at its halfway point to an interesting fusion based span of lead guitar. I also enjoy how the bass guitar churns up the low end on this one as well- not to mention the distorted guitar feedback at its end.
What we have in Heavenly Shred is another quality instrumental hard rock album from Pastor Brad. If you enjoy the previous projects from the artist – or instrumental hard rock in general – then by all means check this out. The Christmas theme to half the songs here only adds to the albums appeal- as do the numerous guest musicians appearing on it.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem” (2:51), “O Come O Come Emmanuel” (4:07), “Deck The Halls” (3:15), “Silent Night” (3:41), “Joy To The World” (3:39), “Nothing But The Blood” (4:28), “Holy Holy Holy” (4:02), “I’ll Fly Away” (2:39), “Oh How I Love Jesus” (2:22), “Carol Of The Bells” (4:05), “Christian Metal Realm” (4:41), Psalm 33:3” (4:03)
Pastor Brad – Guitars, Bass & Keyboards
Mario Barasic, Jeff Garner, Jim Griffin & David Wallimann – Guitars
Jim Griffin & Dee Harrington – Bass
Guest Musicians – “Christian Metal Realm”
Raymond "Woe to you" Christie, Guymon (OK) - Vocals On Chorus, Guitar Solo (0:33 - 0:42)
Lou "Louder" Lizyness (Detroit, MI) - Vocals On Chorus, Guitar Solo (1:23 - 1:33)
Don "Donw35" Webster (El Segundo, CA) - Guitar Solo (1:34 - 1:44)
Richard "Ascension" Rutledge (Birmingham AL ) - Guitar Solo (1:46 - 1:58)
Andy "GTR1963" England (Leeds, AL) - Guitar Solo (2:23 - 2:34)
Jon "Hoops" Hooper (Millbrook, Ontario, Canada) - Guitar Solo (2:47 - 2:59)
John "BigTink" Tink (Palm Springs, CA) - Vocals On Chorus, Guitar Solo (3:25 - 3:35)
Joe "Valediction" Magnitude (Alexandria, VA) - Vocals On Chorus, Keyboard Solo (3:37 - 4:01)
Cindy "CinFlames" Gilkey (Orange County, CA) - Vocals On Chorus
Pastor Brad--Solos In All Other Spaces