ARZ - Serai

Year of Release: 2005
Label: ARZmusic
Catalog Number: ARZ0001
Format: CD
Total Time: 54:19:00

A lot - and I'm being nice here - a lot of guitar based progressive rock music is fairly devoid of melodic content, structurally hollow and generally just plain boring. That, happily enough, is not the case here. ARZ (simple, memorable, and most of all, not previously copyrighted) is the band name of Portland, Oregon guitarist Steve Adams. With the help of a Korg 01/wave keyboard, Steve sounds like a four piece band, producing pretty convincing drum and bass tracks as well as some lush keyboard backing. Adams plays a bevy of guitars both acoustic and electric and is a frequent practitioner of some fairly unique alternative tunings that not only provide new, distinct chord voicings, but also lend themselves to new melodic possibilities, possibilities that Adams explores on several tunes found on Serai, the first release by ARZ.

Featuring eleven cuts, Serai starts a bit stronger than it finishes, and my choice for the two best songs presented here are tracks two and four. Number two, "The Strange Experiment Of Dr. Trent," keeps reminding me for some odd reason of Steve Hackett's, "A Tower Struck Down," though the songs share little in their melodic structure. It is a kind of overall vibe that strikes me as so similar, I guess. On track four, the title track, Adams seamlessly blends blistering, dissonant acoustic and electric guitars and spits out some brutal patterns set amidst gentle washes of digital strings.

On most of this release the ARZ sound develops its own paradigm with odd rhythm patterns and skittering flamenco style acoustic guitar accenting Steve's liquid legato electric guitar style, a style which brings names like Steve Hackett and Robert Fripp to mind.

Adams has seen that a number of styles are well represented on Serai, with tracks three and seven, "Spindlshank" and "Dandelion Wine" two impressive works of solo acoustic guitar and track ten, "Stomp," a platform for Adams to take on some syncopated country guitar picking.

Considering that this is progressive rock then, there is a pretty strong groove going through much of this material. It rocks, it swings, and sometimes it just lays back and lets the music whisper. For all this though, it is Steve's acoustic guitar playing that impresses most, and the man has style and technique to spare. Whether copping Leo Kottke's fingerstyle on "Spindleshank" or just burning up the frets, ala Al DiMeola, Adams acoustic guitar brings out his best and most thrilling fretwork.

Serai does sports a couple of less than satisfying cuts, the heavily Joe Satriani influenced "Jjinn" and "Trance," but the album is still an overall success, moody and veiled at some times and bursting with fiery energy at others. It would be nice to have some other musicians involved in future releases though, which would certainly thicken the creative stew and broaden the scope of the music.

Despite a few moments of weakness and parochialism, Serai is a good listen and Steve Adams will take most fans of guitar led progressive rock on an exciting and fulfilling journey.

Jjinn / The Strange Experiment Of Dr. Trent / Spindlshank / Serai / Trance / Crimson Passage / Dandelion Wine / Fortress/Siege / Hexen / Stomp / Clovus

Steve Adams - guitars, keyboards, electronic percussion

Serai (2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: November 29th 2005
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Artist website:
Hits: 1145
Language: english


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