|Musical Style: Instrumental Hard Rock||Produced By: Pastor Brad|
|Record Label: Roxx Productions||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2011||Artist Website: Pastor Brad|
|Tracks: 14||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 54:24|
The “shred” in Back To The Shredder, the most recent album from Altoona, Pennsylvania based guitarist Pastor Brad Windlan, refers to the artist returning to his instrumental hard rock and metal roots. Released in the summer of 2011, Back To The Shredder is the fifth in a series of instrumental guitar “shred” albums from Pastor Brad that began in 2006 with Shred but also includes Reshredded from a year later and two more in 2008, Shredded Sweet and Heavenly Shred. After going the “all star” vocal route on his 2010 release Break Out, in which he recruited some of the best known vocalists in the Christian metal scene, both past and present, Pastor Brad decided it was time to get “back” to doing what he does best: And that is heading in an instrumental “shred” metal and hard rock direction.
Aficionados of Joe Satriani (Surfing With the Alien) and Steve Vai (Passion And Warfare) - not to mention Joey Tafolla (Out Of The Sun), David Chastain (Within The Heat) and James Byrd (Son Of Man) - will be certain to find a lot to like in Pastor Brad. But if into instrumental artists arising from within the Christian hard music scene, including Jeff Scheetz (Woodpecker Stomp), Fourth Estate (Finesse And Fury & See What I See) and Tony Palacios (Epic Tales Of Whoa!), then I can see the artist being of interest as well. Of course, if you like Pastor Brad’s previous instrumental efforts then I am certain Back To The Shredder will also be right up your alley.
When listening to an instrumental hard rock album, a high level of musicianship is expected- and that is exactly what we have in Back To The Shredder. Pastor Brad, as always, delivers the goods guitar wise. His trademark licks, chops and harmonies abound throughout the album, ranging from the mega-tight melodic (“Fish”) to fast paced bordering on speed metal (“Control”) to reflecting an eighties touch (“Sometimes We Fall”) to blues driven (“Trust”) to all out heaviness (“Rock Your Face Off”). Ever the underrated soloist, the artist knows when to complement each song with a well timed stretch of “shredding” lead guitar, as can be found on “Tempted” and “Carry The Stone” (blistering touch to his playing), “Tested” & “Pop Cycles” (lighter and more even feel) and “When The Saints Go Marching In” and “Disciplined” (highlighting some fusion flavorings).
As with past Pastor Brad releases, guest appearances abound (several of his previous instrumental albums went under the heading Pastor Brad AND Friends). Back To the Shredder proves no exception in that it also features its share of guest musicians, including guitarists Mario Barisic (7 songs), Jim Griffin (2 songs), John Huldt, Angel Zamora and Derek Corzine (all one song each). Mario Barisic is the standout of the group, showcasing a style that walks a fine line between the speed of Dee Harrington (Saint) and flair of Toni Palacios (Guardian). Another impressive performer is Angel Zamora and his flashy mode of playing that hints of CJ Grimmark (Narnia) and Slav Simanic. Jim Griffin, a veteran of past Pastor Brad releases, brings a fast fingered form of playing that reminds me somewhat of Chris Impellitteri.
Now, no matter how skilled the musicianship on an instrumental album, it is all for naught if the songwriting is not up to par, right? And this is where the artist excels in that he effectively crafts what I like to refer to as “song orientated instrumental hard rock”. What I mean here is that Back To The Shredder features 14 good songs in which each brings the maturity to highlight not only the musicianship involved but also the catchy hooks, melodies and riffs to remain with you for some time. This reviewer, for instance, has a few too many instrumental guitar albums in his collection in which the songs seem to take a secondary role to the musicianship- almost to the extent I am hardly ever inclined to listen to them. Not so with Back To The Shredder (and the artists other instrumental releases) in that the near perfect balance between quality musicianship and well crafted songwriting has been struck.
Some of you might be expressing concern over the album being a bit long winded in featuring 14 songs. Yes, 14 is on the high side of things - and those that suggest the artist might be better going with his 10 to 11 best tracks have a point - but it also must be reinforced that Back To The Shredder comes in at a very efficient 54 minutes. And besides, put yourself in the artist’s shoes: If you had this many good songs in your possession you would be tempted to record them all as well!
The lone complaint revolves around production. Since what we have is an instrumental guitar album, both rhythm and lead guitar, as one would expect, sound fine. The programmed drums, however, can come across mechanical and lacking in emotion while not enough room is always left for the bass to breath in the mix.
Track By Track
Things get underway to “Fish”, a high energy Satriani influenced piece characterized by its blazing guitar lead work and gripping guitar harmonies. Barisic steps forward at the halfway point for a stretch of technical soloing.
“Bubble Buster” heads in the heavier and slower direction. More tight guitar harmonies abound (you will find an almost Boston-like feel to some of the riffs here) while Barisic again wows with his intricate lead guitar abilities.
A touch of the blues can be found in “Trust”. With its gritty and raw flavorings, the song slows the tempo in bordering on the laid back in capacity. Of note, John Huldt pulls out all the stops with a minute of emotional soloing.
The aptly entitled “Rock Your Face Off” rates with the albums heavier material. This one finds a pronounced low end leading the way, aligning with a full on rhythm guitar sound and Jim Griffin’s dynamic soloing.
“Sometimes We Fall” is distinguished by its eighties influenced guitar riffs. The shortest piece here at just 2:25, the song highlights quite the decisive guitar driven momentum along with Barisic’s all out shredding covering the final half.
The pace slows for “Tested” and its lushly done guitar harmony emphasis. A return to a bluesy direction can also be found here, along with Pastor Brad and Barisic trading off throughout the song with their complementary blues driven playing.
“When The Saints Go Marching In” represents this reviewer’s choice track. The song stays true to the spirit of the original but allows the artist to improvise, contributing a bass guitar solo in addition to breaking for the “When The Saints Go Marching In” refrain at the halfway point (with Pastor Brad handling vocals over an acoustic guitar).
“Called”, the albums fastest and most up-tempo, drifts between passages carried by screaming guitars and others in which exquisite melodies play the prevailing role. Soloing duties this time are ably handled by Derek Corzine.
“Pop Cycle” slows things with its relaxed and easy going feel. A bountiful melody prevails - this is one of the catchiest pieces ever put together by the artist - while Barisic’s heartfelt soloing joins with the serene environs at hand.
“Disciplined” exemplifies the albums “shred” theme in no uncertain terms. Credit Angel Zamora, who accents the song with his blistering licks and chops while Pastor Brad proves he is no pushover in the soloing department either.
“Hooked” brings a furious mentality, determined and staunchly driven while interwoven with blistering leads courtesy of Barisic. Interestingly, the song briefly comes to a near standstill and heads in the more tempered direction with just under a minute left only to just as quickly regain the lost momentum.
With its mid-paced proclivity, “Tempted” slugs it out its distance to a chugging low end and resounding guitar heaviness. Jim Griffin steps to the plate with a lengthy stretch of melodic soloing.
“Control” proves a three minute energy explosion, highlighted by mercurial guitar riffs in abundance and a forthright tempo approaching speed metal. Joining everything together is an unwavering bass line.
“Carry The Stone” jumps out of the gate fixed and firm, storming ahead in full force only to abruptly decelerate for a quieter passage carried by a gentle rhythm guitar. Things return to a steadfast direction only to again slacken to a near standstill.
Back To The Shredder adds up to another good “shred” instrumental guitar album form Pastor Brad. If you like the artist’s previous instrumental releases then, once more, there is a very good chance you will also enjoy Back To the Shredder. The numerous guest appearances, at the same time, round out an album characterized by its balanced joining of consistent songwriting and able musicianship. Yes, a few production misgivings but Back To The Shredder still comes with a strong recommendation in that the strengths here more than overshadow any weaknesses.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Fish” (3:15), “Bubble Buster” (2:54), “Trust” (4:04), “Rock Your Face Off” (3:41), “Sometimes We Fall” (2:25), “Tested” (4:15), “When The Saints Go Marching In” (5:24), “Called” (4:17), “Pop Cycle” (3:36), “Disciplined” (3:10), “Hooked” (2:50), “Tempted” (3:27), “Control” (2:44), “Carry The Stone” (4:18)