Shred Zone (USA)
Hess's "Opus 1" is simply smashing. Nothing but pure talent, articulation, skill, and soul. Tom Hess's guitar playing is killer. He is defiantly a shredder to watch out for! The one thing about this CD is that it is very infectious. I listened to it all the way trough and didn't take it all in on the first try. So after a few more listens I could really appreciate the skill this man has. Tom executes arpeggios with the greatest of ease. Honestly he could do them in his sleep. This is a total shred CD, it has it all, fast guitars, cool backing rhythms, and plenty of taste. Oh, and I forgot to mention Harmonies galore!
Tom has a very cool way of writing songs. They often have repeating guitar lines, which is a major plus in the instrumental guitar department. His playing is super clean, no fudged recordings here. As far as the other instruments go there all good, I can't complain at all about them. Everything sounds very tight and well rehearsed.
"Exploration" (track 1) is a very cool song to start with great beginning guitar lines. Tons of shred! Backing rhythm has a cool chug type feel to it, it jams. At 02:28 the song gets mellow. Tom does some leads in a clean tone, very tasteful. Lots of feeling put into them. This part of the song really gives the song some atmosphere. The song continues one with a mellower backing, keyboards are a great accent, to the mood.
"Homage" (track 2) rocks! Classical feel to it without a doubt. Cool line at 00:29 and the passage ends with a killer arpeggio onslaught. Then it goes into killer classical pedal lines at 01:14. This song gives you that mysterious kind of feeling, Medieval if you will. Again Tom at 02:40 with a massive arpeggio phrase, my favorite on the CD. I really like the repeating guitar line in this song, very catchy!
"Phoenix Rising" (track 3) is very smooth. I really like the intro guitar riff. Leads in this song are slower paced. Lots of guitar harmonies. Very tastefully put together track.
"Empire" (track 4) starts of rocking from the start, total classical feel. Arpeggios and pedals. Harmonized I might add! Even the keyboard backing is playing along with the harmony! Then the song slows a bit and Tom really shows off his soul work. he can real set a mood. Then comes the arpeggio patrol at 01:25, its insane! Tom really displays his super fast chops in this track, and no they are not Tremolo picking! You can really tell how his classical influences effect his playing in this song. Lots of Bachish lines.
"Modes of Expression" (track 5) is another mid tempo tune. Very well done, good song structure. Hess really can change from fast to slow with no jerks, its incredible. Lots of great harmonies in this song. There are even some killer progressive metal moments in this song as well. Check out the harmonized run at 01:13, flawless! Then in the middle comes a cool nylon string guitar backing lines, very smooth and graceful. Tom showcases his moody leads here as well.
"Lydian Speaks" (track 6) is my favorite song on the whole disc. It's a slower song. The opening lines are just great, clean and all. Then Tom breaks out a great repeating guitar line. Very catchy and has tons of feel to it. That what makes this song so great, there is so much feel put into it. Cool line at 01:21. Tom can even through in some fast shred lines within the means of this song, and he does! He has a great ability to go from slow to shred and back again flawlessly. It really takes a lot of talent to put parts like that together with out making them sound to distant and opposite. This song really makes this album go over very well. Good song to wake up to, and start off that day on the right note! Per say...
"Imperial" (track 7) is a heavy hitter. It fools you with the Bach like piano intro, but then comes the chug! 00:30 slides in the shred line from hell. Its one massive beast. The backing guitar tracks are very powerful and really setup a wall of sound for Tom to go nuts over. Again as always Hess mixes it up with slow to medium guitar lines. Very cool track. It'll make you go break out that metronome for sure! Lots of cool guitar harmonies, some nylon string backings as well and a piano shred line pops up every so often.
"Through Space and Time" (track 8) gives you that alien landing feeling! Mars is attacking and dude those mothers are mean! Cool guitar line starting at 00:23 almost Racer X ish. This song has lots of layers to it. Keys really give it a great feel. Cool climb like line at 01:28. Again some clean nylon accents to the song. Lots of mood changes during this song, slow to mid-tempo to fast and so on. Very well put together! Oh, we can't forget the shred fest from hell at 02:56, I got nightmares from it!. Take cover there coming for us all. Scully get over here now we got some problems!
"Golden Colloseum" (track 9) jams. Smoking guitar line at 00:25. 00:56 will leave you breathless. This songs lead are just massive. Move over Yngwie, Hess is in town. I think we might have a new arpeggios king! I just can't get over the skill Hess has. Rocking harmony at 01:53, will leave you senseless. So much backbone is through into this song its not even funny.
"On the Brink" (track 10), starts of will a killer metal guitar riff. Get those horns up in the air. Then comes in guitar assault! On the Brink is a understatement! It should be called "Over the Brink" because that's what this song does. He pushes all the limits here. At 01:35 a really cool guitar line kicks in very different, I've never heard any phrasing like that before. Some nice harmonies are an added bonus too. Great double bass drum work in this song to. Great mood change at 03:02. Clean on a nylon string guitar over a synth then over a distorted guitar. Very well done. This track times in at 08:48 being the longest song on the disc, and it doesn't hurt it at all.
"Queen of Me" (track 11) is the most mellowest track one the CD. Has great keys backing the whole way through, adding lots of atmosphere and dimension to the song. Tom uses a nylon guitar for this song. He is very clean with this playing, never hearing a fret buzz anywhere. Very smooth and flowing, every note leads into the next. He even slides in some tasteful distorted leads as well.
"Palette of Shades" (track 12) wind instrument intro, very different. Give that Medieval feeling once again. Then comes in the very airy synths. Very full of tone. Later enters in the nylon guitar work again, very clean and smooth. The tone is very soft and soothing. Hess adds some flavor with distorted leads as well. So you get a big variety in this track. Lots of parts, but the movements flow together great. Wonderful pedal part at 03:02.
So looking, back Opus 1, is a great 1st release for Hess. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next. Please grab this disc it will really open your ears and mind to song movements. Outside of the pure techniques that Tom Hess displays, his movements are incredible. If your a fan of shred guitar or atmospheric music you'll love this CD. Tom can really set a mood with this disc. Its very relaxing at times, and smooth to the ears. Mixing and sound quality sounds pretty good. It doesn't hurt the guitars in any way. His lead tone can sometimes be over bearing, meaning that it has lots of mids and treble to it, and does get very high at times. They could be fine tuned a little more, to give that less "hot" feel. He must use some super high output pickups and the bridge one a lot. Other than that I really can't find anything wrong with it. Its a very well structured release, lots of time was spent writing these songs. On a scale from 1 to 10 I give this release about a 9. It really is a great source for inspiration, when you dry up with your own playing. Tom Hess covers so much ground with his playing. I'm telling you, this guy can do arpeggios like nobody's fool. His runs are so clean, you can hear every note at all times. Tom Hess is a shredder to keep your eyes on!