Rough Edge (USA)
by Christopher J. Kelter
Hess plays neo-classical fusion instrumentals that touch on orchestrated sounds and progressive metal as well. If that last sentence made you think of the late '80s Neo-classical fusion rage you wouldn't be too far off the mark. If I didn't know any better I would have thought that "Opus 1" was an all-but-forgotten gem from that era.
"Opus 1" contains twelve tracks that form a focused, cohesive stretch of music with a high emotional content - you can actually feel the music conveying a story. There are some unconventional moments in the music that don't stray too far from the Neo-progressive model, yet far enough to form an identity that Hess can call their own.
All the requisite Neo-classical influences in the vein of early Vinnie Moore, Tony MacAlpine, and a little touch of a subdued Yngwie J. Malmsteen can be heard. These influences are not copy-cat; rather, imagine someone making their own unique clothing from pre-printed cloth and you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about.
Hess show adept skills in playing moody pieces with the appropriate light touch as well as the heavier pieces which show off the band's dexterity. No single track really stands out from the others, but rather each piece works within the whole to form a cohesive story. From the aggressive progressive tendencies of "Exploration" to the lyrical "Modes Of Expression," from the dramatic "On The Brink" to the soothing lullaby of "Palette Of Shades," Hess creates a vibrant range of songs.
I'm not someone who puts a lot stock in artwork, but I can't help myself here. The cover features satin sheets rumpled ever so slightly. That's an apt physical representation of the music, too. Smooth as satin legato sounds amidst the peaks and valleys of a progressive, romantic landscape.
Fans of Dream Theater, Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore, Tony MacAlpine, Shawn Lane, David T. Chastain, and Jason Becker will love Hess' "Opus 1."
- Tom Hess on guitar, keyboards, and bass
- Mike Walsh on guitar
- Chris Dowgun on drums.