Released: 2011, Enigmatic Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Paul Wardingham is an Australian guitar virtuoso who’s been building a name for himself through production and session work, and has recently released his debut solo album ASSIMILATE REGENERATE. While instrumental shred albums aren’t necessarily in short supply, Wardingham applies a distinctively metal spin to his approach that helps to set it apart from like minded artists. By combining elements of industrial metal, euro thrash, and progressive minded structure, ASSIMILATE REGENERATE succeeds as a solidly heavy, riff centric affair.
If I was a betting man, I’d wager that Wardingham has spent a lot of time listening to Fear Factory. The dense rhythmic backdrop throughout the album sounds like it was directly lifted from some of Dino Cazares’ outtakes. The opening strains of the title track sound distinctly similar to the Factory’s “Shock,” but Wardingham’s smooth licks and catchy melody lines quickly pull your attention away from any “hmmm, wait a sec” moments. Which is a key reason why the album works as well as it does; shred without substance is just shred. The songs aren’t an excuse for Wardingham to pile in a few more runs, but rather his amazing fretwork serves to enhance and accent the songs themselves. It’s the reason why guys like Vai and Satch are as big as they are, and I think Wardingham gets that.
Though most of the album rests on a backdrop of mechanized, pulsating rhythms blended with slick solo passages, Wardingham’s at his best when he breaks that mold. “Ghost in the Machine” carries some emotive harmony and synth work that shines through, though “Fields of Utopia” was my personal favorite on the album. A more pensive tune with some Petrucci-esque phrasing, Wardingham’s riffs sing on the track better than any vocalist could. “Clones” uses sci-fi atmospherics and some whacked out time signatures that creates a sense of controlled chaos that could go wrong at any second but never does. “Black Hole Device” blends flavors of In Flames/Soilwork/et al into the schematics and is probably the most prototypically “metal” track of the 11 featured here.
Wardingham handles all of the instruments on the album, as well as all songwriting and programming credits. There’s some great video on his website of him laying down tracks for the album, and you quickly realize how intensely personal this album is. The only thing that soured ASSIMILATE REGENERATE for me was that he tends to use the “Cazares rhythms” as a safety net. When Wardingham’s elbow deep in a riff, the songs bear distinct identities, but many of the backing tracks sound almost interchangeable with each other. The guy’s obviously super talented and knows his way around a melody, so I’d love to hear what he could do in a broader musical context. ASSIMILATE REGENERATE is definitely worth investigating for fans of guitar driven metal, the dude’s got technique for days. A catchy album with more pros than cons, check out Paul Wardingham’s website for more info on ASSIMILATE REGENERATE.