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VAN ALEN - String Theory

Release date Sept 27/19 (C&P Mars Music)

Not usually one for guitar god instrumental releases, finding them excessively histrionic and generally just not consummable, I happened across Ecliptica member Van Alen's solo debut. Gotta say I was pleasantly surprised, the five-track, twenty-minute mini-album unexpectedly grabbing my attention and retaining same even after multiple listens.

What makes this work is that Alen has obviously spent time concentrating on the songs, each track built upon a different interesting premise over which he then can lay waste with his axework (as was expected). The title track opener sets the tone early, its main riff a laidback rocker, while "A Walk With Dante" gets down to a little bit more of a hard rockin' proposition, and finale "Ishtar (Of Love & War)" sports an exotic Middle Eastern vibe. The diversity in the underlying material ends up offsetting the guitar overload that often occurs on these sorts of records.

Speaking of guitar, Van Alen proves himself quite the axe expert, sporting a clean style that evokes images of Steve Morse (Deep Purple) and Joe Satriani. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you liked Deep Purple's latest disc (Infinite), you'll likely gravitate to this one as well. Full of taste, restraint and emotion, this is one impressive instrumental rock release.

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