Released: 2015, Killer Metal Records
Call me wary anytime I run across a band named after their guitarist. More often than not, their albums are self-indulgent and endless runs through scales. Ultimately they end up being long on technique and short on song craft. So, when the kick ass title track burst from the gate, I was more than pleasantly surprised. For those unfamiliar with Maxxwell Carlisle, his main gig is as the guitarist for Hellion along with fitness and body building. Ya know, I just knew that eventually someone would come along that was inspired equally by Kane Roberts and Yngwie Malmsteen. Cheers, Maxwell Carlisle. Currently based in Los Angeles, his new solo album is a modern take on classic metal combined with the speed of US Power Metal.
The title track is simply ripping, and features a lot of fast, sweep picking passages from Carlisle. From there everything is up tempo, particularly on “The Power Of Metal Compels Me”, a sly play on a line from the film THE EXORCIST. “Marching With The Dragons” is one of the few mid-tempo chugs, a brief but welcome respite from the fast pace of most of the album. Carlisle rips through all of his solos with speed and dexterity that recalls Dragonforce. As good as he is, the band nearly matches him, especially in the piston-like hammering of drummer Dave Chedrick. Vocalist Michael Yancy capably covers most songs, though female vocals are included courtesy of Melody Schoenfeld. Shoenfeld offers a nice change of pace, competent but also unremarkable.
Around the half-way point of the album fatigue ultimately began to set in. The song tempos offered little variety on close inspection, each running into the other with little distinction. “Thunder Fortress” is a noisy instrumental of pointless guitar wankery, custom packaged for Michael Angelo Batio fans (who makes an appearance on “Axis Accelerator”) while the rest of us watch the paint dry with the same level of enjoyment. The album concludes with another guitar shredding instrumental in “Speed Force”, technically impressive, but rudderless song-wise.
VISIONS OF SPEED AND THUNDER ultimately proved to be what I feared; frameworks disguised as songs to set the stage for endless soloing. Obviously, for fans of guitar virtuosos and shredders this album should definitely be one to seek out. Carlisle is the real deal, a gifted and fearsome axe slinger. The production is massively heavy and man those drums really almost blasted me out of my seat. Fans of Yngwie, Michael Angelo Batio, neoclassical shredders, and the guitar tandem of Totman and Li will find Carlisle a welcome listen.