Occasionally albums, or in this case, E.P.’s come along that are just that extra bit special ‘All Roads Lead Here‘ by Chimp Spanner definitely falls into this category. This brilliant instrumental Progressive Metal EP from 26 year old UK musician, composer and 7 and 8 string guitar virtuoso Paul Antonio Ortiz is, I believe, composed, produced, programmed and played by just Paul himself and no other musicians which makes this release even more incredible. For live shows Paul teams up with Jim Hughes on Guitar, Adam Swan on Bass and Boris Le Gal on Drums. This is how Paul describes the music of Chimp Spanner, “It’s soundtrack metal, progressive retro-futurism, a polymetric space opera, music for hover-boarding championships…but most people just say it’s kinda ‘chimpy’“. I couldn’t put it better myself. Hearing this album reminded me of when I heard Goldie’s ‘Timeless‘ for the first time in the mid 90′s and feeling like you have just had a new musical avenue introduced to you that you never knew existed. When I usually talk about the albums I review on Guitar Noize I generally hone in on the guitar playing itself and the virtuosity and technique displayed but with this E.P., despite all of those things, Paul makes me totally forget about the fantastic guitar playing and makes me listen to the E.P. as a continuously flowing composition. “Polymetric Space Opera”, yep that sums ‘All Roads Lead Here‘ perfectly.
“I always write as though I’m composing to a brief as it helps give the arrangements purpose/meaning.”
There is a 3 part epic called ‘Mobius‘ which is worth the price of this E.P. alone, it has recurring Rhythmic and melodic motifs intertwined cleverly throughout much like a Classical composer would do, but all of the 6 tracks are beautifully textured and layered with interesting chord progressions that transcend the obvious patterns used so often in Metal. The opening track for instance ‘Dark Age of Technology‘ and final track ‘Cloud City‘ (Star Wars fan?) have jazzy bass lines and swirling Keyboard pads that would be just as at home in a Drum ‘n Bass record but also melodies that could have been written by Frank Gambale or Steve Lukather and yet have all of the tracks have underlying heavy guitar rhythms that accentuate the drums and funky bass lines while creating genre bending Jazz Fusion Metal. Ortiz’s guitar playing is flawless, many of his tracks use two handed tapping to create complex multi-octave spanning riffs, his melodies are well composed and not overplayed and he switches from the “Djenty” heavy tones to pristine clean and also crunchy bluesy tones to add to the sonic palette from time to time. I wouldn’t call any of the lead guitar parts solos as such as they are really melodies but my favourite track ‘Cloud City‘ does have what some would probably consider a guitar solo with Jazz Fusion riffs a la Guthrie Govan over a funky bass and rhythm guitar riff, many guitarists would have trouble playing with so much restraint but Paul instinctively knows what will enhance his music rather than just showing off his technical prowess.
I have listened to this EP about 10 times in the past 24 hours, I keep coming back to it because it is the most refreshing and exciting instrumental album I have heard in years.
Check out this live performance of ‘Cloud City’ recorded in Paris: