I’ve been having trouble getting into any new metal lately. I’ve been basically catching up on some back stuff people have recommended or some earlier albums of bands I really like. That’s why I haven’t reviewed anything. I’ve found a few things that have potential, but haven’t given them much time yet.
Yesterday there was a HeavyBlog post about the top 10 instrumentalists of the last 10 years. I expected a lot of what was in the list, but I was actually more interested in finding something unknown in the comments. Sure enough CHON was there with tons of upvotes and no downvotes.
I rushed over to their bandcamp and was instantly blown away. I’m not sure how anyone found this band, because they’ve tagged their bandcamp with hip-hop/rap, poopoo, and San Diego. That isn’t very helpful when they actually play technical progressive instrumental (no vocals) music with a bit of a smooth jazz flair to it. It sounds to me like a mix between Animals as Leaders and Exivious or vocal-free Cynic.
This album is as good as this genre gets. I really have to admit to being a little burned out on it though. Just like Animals as Leaders, the focus is on excellent virtuoso guitar soloing. The songs have some really interesting mixed meter and polyrhythm techniques. The overall feel is a little more laid back and jazzy than AAL.
Unfortunately for me, I just can’t take too much of this at a time. Even classic jazz albums that I love I can only take in small doses. When technical soloing (as in most jazz) is the focus, I start to take for granted that such brilliant playing is possible. It is sad, because it takes a great deal of skill to play this way, but it quickly becomes “mindless noodling.” I start thinking, “Eh, more arpeggios and scale patterns.”
I want to really emphasize that I’m not saying this as a slight to this album, but just as a reaction I have to this particular style in general. This reaction crosses all genres. It is why I prefer a symphony or string quartet to a concerto in classical music. That being said, this really has grabbed my attention. I’ve been listening to it nonstop since yesterday. It is absolutely great if you’re into this type of thing. I think I actually like it better than AAL, because the harmonic progressions are a bit more interesting in my opinion.
Another thing that saves this album is the fact that many songs have a subtle but perceivable melody. Sometimes we’re getting arpeggios and scale patterns just as soloistic fills, but more often the soloing is more like improvisational embellishments of some underlying melody. This definitely makes it more digestible on repeated listens and is almost a musical puzzle to tease out what the underlying ideas are.
Overall, I find it hard to think of this as breaking any new ground. I’ve heard this type of things many times (admittedly only from a small number of bands). It does seem to be an extremely high quality and worthwhile addition to the genre. I’ve almost worn it out for now, but in the future I’ll definitely come back to this when in the mood for this style before going back to some of the other similar albums I have.
I’ll give this an 8.5/10. Here’s a sample: