Imagine the instrumental sounds of Dream Theater, Symphony X, Jason Becker, George Bellas, Yngwie Malmsteen, The Lord of the Rings movie soundtrack and 19th century classical music. Now imagine a great band with not one, but two guitar virtuosos - each with his own innovative style and tone. This is the concept behind the instrumental outfit led by guitarist Tom Hess and ably backed up by his drummer brother Scott Hess, joint guitar soloist Mike Walsh and bassist Mark Carozza.
Opus 2 was composed in the three year period between 1999 and 2002. Despite the long period of time it took to write the music, many of the most “magical” musical moments and ideas that formed Opus 2 originated while in Europe (mainly in Krakow, Poland) during the summers of 1999 and 2001. Recording began in January of 2002 and was completed in August of 2003. Mixing and mastering occurred in September and October of 2003. The pieces that form Opus 2 are autobiographical in their expression of personal thoughts, emotions, ideals, events, regrets and desires. The compositions are like journal entries of a diary. This idea began with Opus 1 and are greatly expanded upon here.
10 tracks of pure guitar blazing are going to be hard going for the majority of music fans out there but those that do have the tolerance levels are going to find a lot to offer here. There is absolutely no question that both Tom Hess and Mike Walsh know how to play guitar, but what goes deeper through this release is that fact that they manage to make bold musical statements and are not afraid to combine 8 bars of positively demonic blistering shred followed by 8 bars of super melodic lead work, this gives the album a superb flow and adds depth and substance.
Opus 2 is basically a collection of solo trade offs, but as mentioned above the attention to detail, expression and sheer energy displayed throughout the 10 tracks is highly impressive. The production does suffer at times from "limited budget syndrome", as the cymbals do at times get eaten up a little in the mix. Rest assured that the guitars are clearly audible and the overall sound is totally listenable.
As stated above this album does have a strong progressive metal slant to, and does lean to that side more than neo-classical and this is likely to open a few more doors for the band. Fans of recent releases by Marcel Coenen (Sun Caged), Rusty Cooley and George Bellas will get an awful lot from this release.
Normally I do a track by track breakdown of albums, but occassionally an album does not need this as the quality of music stands alone as one, and this is the case with Opus 2.
Guitar fans, be sure to check this out. Non guitar fans - take a chance anyway.