Hess - Opus 1

Year of Release: 1999
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 66:59:00

There's a reason why this band his called Hess, and it isn't just because it's the last name of guitarist/bassist/keyboardist Tom Hess, though it has every reason to do with that as well. Hess is a guitar virtuoso, playing highly stylized and classically influenced leads. But it isn't just Hess, as this is that rare instrumental album that features two guitarists, the other being Mike Walsh. "On The Brink" is a good example of their intersecting guitar lines. "Queen Of Me," which comes at track eleven, is a mellower affair that for the first opening moments makes you think it is going to be an instrumental version of "Ooh Baby Baby" (a track most will associate with Linda Ronstadt). It isn't, but it is as mellow as that, even if it does have a slight Muzak feel about it. Delicate notes are picked out, which keyboard washes hum like strings, and drummer Dowgun turns in his best performance -- elsewhere he seems clumsy, where his drumming seems scattershot, sometimes too fast for the beat, some times to slow... and there doesn't seem to be enough oomph in the sound. That is, the guitars are sharp and crisp, the drums muddy and flat. Here on the balladic "Queen..." everyone is in sync. Guitars sing sweetly, emotively, high notes reaching for heavens. Hands down, the best overall track here. The album closes with the even gentler "Palette of Shades," where a minute long flute solo gives way to symphonic, church-like keyboards, which in turn give way to the low key plucking of guitar strings. Because it is a guitar album, it isn't too long before searing guitar leads rise to the fore.

Before all this classicism, Opus 1 gives us 10 tracks of progressive rock guitar, where leads are played and traded like the heaviest of the more well known prog-metal bands. At times you'll think of Dream Theater and at other times of Rush, if guitar were the main focus there (In other words, if you were to strip the guitar leads from parts of "Phoenix Rising," you have something very close to 80s Rush). Parts of "Homage" have a cheerfulness that seem more characteristic of neo-prog, though it is squarely prog-metal. "Empire" at times approaches the style of Symphony X; "Modes Of Expression" is just that, as it contains separate movements that have different emotional colours, melancholy at times, anxious at others, pensive and still others -- oddly, it ends abruptly. "Lydian Speaks" has an intro that makes you think that it will soon give way to a rich, deep voiced vocalist. Although the guitars are sharp and crisp and definitely metallic, there were moments where I thought of some of Italian prog rock; no one band specifically, but of a certain style. No vocals here of course, but the guitars do sing, and fill nicely that spot where otherwise vocals would be. The lyricism here puts this track in contention for one of the best of the album. "Imperial" is aggressive, powerful and, well, imperious.

Hess' own website, outside of the band site, is www.tomhess.net -ed.

Exploration (5:44) / Homage (4:40) / Phoenix Rising (6:12) / Empire (3:39) / Modes Of Expression (5:42) / Lydian Speaks (6:28) / Imperial (4:08) / Through Space And Time (4:20) / Golden Colloseum (2:55) / On The Brink (8:48) / Queen Of Me (6:25) / Palette Of Shades (7:58)

Tom Hess - guitars, bass, keyboards
Mike Walsh - guitars
Chris Dowgun - drums

Opus 1 (1999)
Opus 2 (2004)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: March 27th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.hess.4t.com/
Hits: 1172
Language: english


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