Monday, April 11, 2011

Bruce Arnold's "Heavy Mental" Guitar

We've been looking at a couple of albums by guitarist Bruce Arnold in the last several weeks. Here now is a third, Heavy Mental (Muse Eek 156).

It's a flat-out dash, a cranked guitar, fused power trio outing with a distant cousinship to Allan Holdsworth and Terje Rypdal's forays into this territory, and it's a good go of it to boot.

Bruce is joined by Andy Galore, bass, and Kirk Driscoll, drums for the thrust of fused rock with the sophisticated harmonies and melodic invention of jazz. The bass-drum team are right where they need to be, but it's pretty much Mr. Arnold's guitar that makes it all elevate to those extra level notches above just good. Bruce has shown us he can be accomplished in avant-avant and also avant-mainstream playing. Now he shows equal comfort with and facility in the more electric zone.

The first thing you notice on listening is Bruce's beautiful tone. It is highly electric but rich and velvety, almost silken, charged with sustain, made three-dimensional via resort to finger vibrato at certain points in the melody curve. His chording and note-conjuring are ahead of the pack and well executed, with chops to spare. Mention should also be made of Galore's solid bass ensemble work and his effective solo spots. Mr. Driscoll has a busy driving style that does not rest content with the backbeat stance; he's all over the place and rightfully so.

Bruce does the compositions here and they stay in a good place, without recourse to fusion cliche whatsoever.

It's a terrific outing that will please those who like the drive of rock with intelligent playing and arranging. Mr. Arnold should find plenty of eager converts to his brand of axe wielding with this disk. Give it a good listen and you could well be one of them!

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