Joe Stump – Symphonic Onslaught
Label: Released 2019
Reviewer: Manos X
Ah the ‘80s!!!!!! Probably one of the best decades for metal. The sound was still fresh, featuring tons of experimentation, birth of new sub-genres and distinct musical identities. From Iron Maiden, Metallica, Ozzy, Slayer to Fates Warning, Helloween, Blind Guarding to Running Wild. The list is truly endless. Simple words like white, pop, black, death, grind, power, speed, thrash, epic became musical genres simply by adding the word metal in the end.
Out of this vibrant ocean of creativity some guy from Sweden wanted to combine his love for hard rock , Ritchie Blackmore (and his bands Deep Purple and Rainbow) with classical music. His name is Yngwie J. Malmsteen. Ok his vision wasn’t totally innovative but the amount of virtuosity he brought to guitar playing definitely was.
Malmsteen staggering playing soon influenced hundreds of guitar players and actually started what is now know the neoclassical genre. Meaning lightning fast and complex solos from screaming guitars (and sometimes singers) and pompous compositions with heavy influences from classical composers like Niccolo Paganini, Wagner, Mozart, Verdi etc. All under the prism of heavy metal of course.
Out of hundreds guitarists some names became well known even to non hardcore guitar purists. People like Jason Becker, Marty Friedman (both from Cacophony), Michael Angel Batio, Paul Gilbert (Racer X, Mister Big), Michael Romeo (Symphony X), Tony MacAlpine, Timo Tolkki (Stratovarius), Chris Impellitteri (Impellitteri) just to mention a few. However one of the names that always stood out for me was the name of an American guy called Joe Stump.
Having a thick tone similar to Garry Moore’s and at the same time combining some breathtaking guitar chops combining Malmsteen’s breathtaking fast lead work with a unique sense of melody similar to the likes of Randy Rhodes. Relentless is the word that comes to mind when listening to “Symphonic Onslaught” which is his 12thalbum as a solo artist. Putting aside some songs funny titles like “Demonic Trance” or “Facemelting Devastation” (really?? facemelting????!!!) the album is bursting with superb playing and beautiful melodies from start to finish.
One of the things I always loved about Joe Stump’s work was the fact that he never lost his sense for melody in favor of a displaying his technical skills. And trust me when saying this guy has some absolutely fucking serious guitar chops that would make the head of at least 95% of “great & accomplished” guitarists out there to spin at least 180degrees.
Performance of South Americans Hector Jaramillo (drums) and keyboard/bassist Francisco Palomo (Holy Hell) are of extreme high quality but let’s face Joe Stump’s guitar skills are the ones stealing the show here. Production and mixing of the album has provided a warm sound that places the guitar right in the centre of the mix leaving little doubt about what you’re hearing. The result is beautiful and straight to the point leaving no doubt about what type of music are you listening to.
One thing that has to be pointed out is that Joe Stump despite having the abilities to shred like an unstoppable merciless machine doesn’t neglect to slow down enough for the listener to understand and accumulate what he’s listening to. And that was more or less a problem with majority of musicians performing on this specific genre. Way too much technical stuff putting complexity above musicality and often sounding like an endless series of exercises instead of a musical piece. Not to mention that many times all these music skills contributed to a result that sounded as far from being considered heavy as possible.
SYMPHONIC ONSLAUGHT is an album that I definitely had fun listening to and without a doubt revisit many times in the future. If there are people feeling disappointed by Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s latest musical offerings then open your ears and definitely check out this album.