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Flying Beyond The 9
Released: 2001, Lion Music
James Byrd is a name I had not heard before even though he has been releasing albums for a number of years and has at least 5 previous releases including OCTOGLOMERATE and ATLANTIS RISING. I guess you can put him in the guitar virtuoso category as he was on Shrapnel records and from what I can tell from the few clips I have heard from his previous works he was pretty handy with the ax. Well Mr. Byrd is back with what is essentially a solo CD. He is joined by vocalist Michael James Flatters and engineer/multi-instrumentalist Brian Hutchinson. Byrd felt that he needed to reevaluate his musical direction so on this release he takes the bull by the horns and goes back to his roots taking a cue from late 70s metal and reinventing his sound. What he does is lay only one guitar track for the whole cd yet he fills the sound with up to 60 tracks of symphonic orchestration . The sound he creates is unique with a 70s flavour.
The S/T track kicks off the Cd with one of the better songs on the disc. Flatters proves that he is a capable vocalist and fits this style of music perfectly. "Dark Heart" is a slow and plodding track which features lots of interesting guitar work by Byrd. You can really hear many of the symphonic elements of the Cd much more clearly on this track and feel the atmosphere that they create. These symphonic arrangements are much different than those of Rhapsody or Thy Majestie in that they are not bombastic at all and are used more as colouring within the song. "W.T.O. (We Took Over)" is as close to bombastic as this Cd gets with Byrd showing off his chops with some short lived shredding. Byrd throws a curve ball with "Nevermore" which sounds like it came right out of a Broadway Play! Interesting track. "All of Me" is a Pink Floydish ballad which fits in which Byrds 70s philosophy nicely. Byrd closes out the disc with an instrumental called "Avianti Suite Op.1 No. 63". This is a classically influenced piece that Byrd plays on electric guitar.
This Cd certainly doesn’t sound a hell of a lot like anything else out there right now. That being said it suffers from a selection of songs that begin to sound the same as they are played one after the other. Byrd can obviously rip on the guitar so I wonder why he didn’t let go on this Cd on at least a couple of tracks. It would have helped to break up the mid tempo pace of the disc. As it is Byrd does succeed in making a unique sounding Cd that pays homage to the sounds of the 70s.