by Nick Martinelli 5/1/2004

Hess is back again with a vengeance with their sophomore release, Opus 2. After the success of the band's first CD, Opus 1, it was imminent that a second CD would be on the way. Opus 2 is a ferocious masterpiece of neoclassical guitar insanity that will stun anyone who dares to listen. Hess' guitarists, Tom Hess and Mike Walsh, blister through each piece effortlessly. Both players set fret boards on fire with their energetic and enthralling shred antics. Tom and Mike never back down from expressing the true meaning of extreme guitar playing. The songs are well orchestrated and written. All music fits together seamlessly. Hess took Opus 2 to a new level with more intense composition and, most importantly, soul. Heart and soul are things that critics always claim that the world of neoclassical and shred lack. Well, I'm here to say Hess breaks each stigma with every note that is born from the band's hands.

This triumphant guitar CD is packed with ten instrumental masterpieces of guitar magic. Let's take a look at some of the highlight tracks from the CD. 'Nexuses' opens the CD with intense guitar shredding. Hess sucks the life right out of you and won't even let you stop to catch your breath. I found the solos/harmonies to be very intriguing and I'm sure you'll feel the same. Beware of the haunting arpeggios!

'Kingdoms' is the shortest track on the CD but says so much. The song is the true essence of neoclassical shredding. I can hear the Bach and Chopin overtones throughout it. Many artists claim to be influenced by the classical masters, but Tom Hess truly lives it through his music.

'Into The Pinnacle' is an amazing mix of style, charisma, and subtle charm. Guitar harmonies dominate the focus of this track and the listener will be mystified by the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of it all. Hess and Walsh tear through some of their best lead work to date throughout this song. One thing you can't say is that it lacks melody. Hess has succeeded perfectly in composing a song that is very catchy and intense at the same time. 'The Cynic, The Sad, and The Fallen' is gut wrencher that will melt your face off! The song opens with demon-like riffing that segues into the deeper realms of shred guitar. The song's dark overtones will keep an active ear begging for more. Not only does Hess crank out some hot licks, but he also steps it down and slides through some melodic moods.

'What Could Have Been... And What Is Not' is a instrumental ballad masterpiece filled with amazing melodies that will tame any wild beast. The song's orchestration is amazing, each part flowing seamlessly into the next. Hess's songwriting skills surpass many of his industry counterparts easily. Keep your ears tuned for the clean-toned soloing throughout this track; it's very impressive.

'Through the Trials' is a neoclassical shred piece stuffed with plenty of speedy licks and harmonies. Hess doesn't fall short of writing perfect melodies full of soul in this one, either. Starting at 2:15, you'll be devastated with one of the longest arpeggio solos in instrumental history. Not only are the superbly clean, but he connects each one together like a match made in heaven! Tom is one of the few artists who can compose catchy melody lines with extreme arpeggios and for that I applaud him! This song is definitely one of the best Hess pieces ever written.

'Behold' brings back the heaviness for which Hess is known. I love the combination of chugging guitar lines and breakneck speed soloing. 'Stained' is an enigma of guitar insanity! The band merges odd riffing, different beats, and more 'out there' soloing. It's safe to say that Hess isn't afraid to take chances, using less conventional modes for their soloing tastes. So melodic yet so evil at the same time.

'Beyond The Brink' is a peaceful instrumental number that blends upbeat neoclassical themes with modern-day playing techniques. The song's harmonies truly stand out. I also loved the bands use of nylon guitars for many of the solo sections. This really added lots of texture to the songs keyboard ridden layers. To 'Waves of Far Reaching' brings the CD to a close with a huge bang. From the get-go, Hess build up a massive wall of sound of keyboards, guitar, and drums. The rhythm playing really stands out in this track and plays a key role in the success of the song's main vibe. Hess and Walsh then in turn soar through breathtaking solos that will leave any guitar player's jaw dropped.

Looking back, Opus 2 is amazing instrumental album that carries the flag for extreme instrumental shred guitar. Hess and Walsh are a great guitar team, complementing each other's playing. If you're wondering who's responsible for each solo, no fear, just open up the CD booklet for a time listing of each guitarist's solo time! Both guitarists (Hess and Walsh) burned up fret boards effortlessly and I know guitarists from all schools can and will enjoy the masterpiece that is Opus 2.

To find out more about Opus 2, hear samples of the tunes, and purchase, click here.

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