Two Louder Music
The EssenEss Project
Some weeks ago I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the brand-new
solo album by guitarist Steve Smyth. This effort was named 'The
EssenEss Project', it is a collaboration between guitarist Steve
Smyth, bass player Steve Hoffman and drummer Atma Anur (Cacophony, Jason
Becker, Greg Howe, Ritchie Kotzen, Tony MacAlpine). Steve became widely
known after joining the metalband Nevermore, among others. Steve's
career started back in 1996 when he joined the Bay Area powermetal band
Vicious Rumors. Steve stayed with V.R. until 1999 and participated on
the albums 'Something Burning' and 'Cyberchrist'. Steve then moved on to
play with Testament as a tour guitarist and he worked with Eric Peterson
on their black metal project Dragonlord. Steve contributed on both the
Dragonlord albums 'Rapture' (2001) and 'Black Wings of Destiny' (2005).
In 2004 Steve joined progressive metallers Nevermore on their European
tour in support of their 'Enemies of Reality' album. Soon after this
tour had come to an end, Nevermore commenced the writing of their next
album entitled 'This Godless Endeavor'. By this time, Steve had become a
permanent member of Nevermore and so he took part in the writing process.
The future was looking bright, the album was received well by fans and
the press and an extensive tour followed. However, in 2006 fate struck
as Steve was diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure. Unfortunately,
these healthproblems forced Steve to put his work with Nevermore on hold.
Today, Steve has recovered of a kidney transplant. Due to personal and
professional reasons he decided to leave Nevermore in August 2007.
In the past years Steve has been working on and off on this first solo
album which was released on November 5 2007 via Two Louder Music. To
start with, I can tell you this: this instrumental album is a
seventy-minute journey by three extremely talented musicians. Their
sound can be described as a mix of rock, jazz, fusion and metal, but
above all this it is progressive and laden with experimental breaks,
blending all elements into a solid opus. The opening track entitled "The
Afterlife" is a progressive rock song with impressive axework and catchy
riffs. The following track "Sphere" is a milder composition which has
something of a spiritual feel to it. "Only Time Will Tell" sounds like a
rock 'n roll classic with progressive elements and bombastic passages.
The album is packed with melodic solo's, progressive riffs, heavy guitar
shredding, fine, jazzy/fusion-like basslines by Steve Hoffman and
sublime drumworkby Atma Anur in songs such as "Reflection, Redemption,
Rebirth". The songs sound intelligent and carefully composed, listen to
the magical "Strands of Fascia". The track entitled "It's All In Your
Mind" is very jazzy but country influences can also be distinguished.
"Just When You Think" is an uptempo composition in which Mister Smyth
truly rips it up, metal influences are overtly present. Halfway through
the song, however, a complex turn takes place and it all ends in a
beautiful acoustic solo.
The eight-minute track "Can You See What I Hear?" and jazzy, funky "XIV"
are a testimony of the class and style of the three musicians on this
album. The other eight minute, epic-sounding track "In God's Hands"
serves as the grand finale on the album. Acoustic an electric parts are
alternated while heavy riffs and spheric melodies merge.
After listening to this album a couple of times, I can only conclude
that Steve Smyth has proven that he is up there with masters such as
Marty Friedman and Jason Becker. Still, what makes this album classic
material is definitely the synergy of three truly qualified musicians.
For fans of varied instrumental progressive axework by artists such as
the aforementioned Friedman, Becker or Scott Henderson, this is
manditory material! The EssEness Project was produced by Steve himself,
the album was mixed by Kent Matcke (Metallica, Joe Satriani, Sammy Hagar)
in the Pro Music Studios and it was mastered by the one and only John
Cuniberti (Joe Satriani, George Lynch, Michael Manring) in the Plant
Studios. The artwork by Asgeir Mickelson (who also drew for bands such
as Borknagar, Vintersorg and Conception) looks sublime.
More info on Steve and The EssenEss Project can be found at The Esseness
01. The Afterlife
03. Only Time Will Tell
05. Reflection, Redemption, Rebirth
06. Strands Of Fascia
01. It's All In Your Mind!
02. Learning To Swim
03. Just When You Think...
04. Can You See What I Hear?
06. In God's Hands
The EssenEss Project is:
Steve Smyth – Guitar
Steve Hoffman – Bass
Atma Anur – Drums