Shredding The Envelope is essentially the solo project of Berklee School of Music alumnus, Dave Reffett. I mean, it is not often I get to review an album described by Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden as “A must have album for guitar fans.”, but that is the lead quote included with the package I received. Hailing from Kentucky, but based in Boston, THE CALL OF THE FLAMES is Reffet’s tribute to his metal heroes of the 80s and an offering to metal fans looking for music that according to the promotional materials is not “dumbed down” and “comes from a place of truth and passion”. This is Dave’s way of saying this stuff is fast and technical as hell, which in some ways is ironic. It was these type of albums that led to the late 90s and early 00s “dumbing down” style of nu metal, and now the backlash against that movement has spawned the highly technical style coming into vogue once again. Dave enlisted many of his heroes to perform guest solos including George Lynch of Dokken fame, Chris Poland, Joe Stump, and Glen Drover to name a few. So what you get is exactly what you would expect; an album that features the guitar carving and slicing through all of the songs without apologies or regret.
THE CALL OF THE FLAMES is an album that combines the riff and vocal styles of Megadeth, with the speed and precision of Dragonforce, and then throws in some of the progressive elements of complicated Annihilator material. The opening title track demonstrates most of these elements with an up tempo rhythm chug and high pitched guitar fills running for the finish line, as Reffett\’s vocals channel Hetfield and Mustaine through the verses. The next two songs are minor variations on this template, until “Caravan of Cannibals” introduces something vaguely Junkyard-ish in the opening seconds until moving on to a faster pace. “I Just Want To Say Goodbye”, opens with a nice flamenco style run which transitions into a Dangerous Toys/Tora Tora style distorted riff. While this album does have many catchy riffs and styles, ultimately the songs are vehicles for showcasing the many guitar solos and technical proficiency of Reffett and friends.
The bottom line is that Reffett sticks with what he does best, which is to offer technical, complicated, and mind blowing virtuosity throughout the entire album. He holds his own with Lynch, Poland, and the other guys by putting on a display of inhuman technical brilliance. Sound wise, the album is a gem as engineer Jon Lammi and mixing master Mudrock have captured the purity and speed of this brand of metal with out sacrificing the articulation.
Make no mistake, there is much to admire here. I can appreciate the dexterous guitar manipulation of this album, but being more of a song guy, I doubt this is something that I would revisit from start to finish. However, there is definitely an audience for this style of music, namely guitarists and fans of guitar for guitar’s sake. Sure the compositional skills are lagging behind the musical ability, but sit back and enjoy this for the exhausting and jaw-dropping exercise in guitar that it is intended to be.
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