Rockenfield/Speer - Hells Canyon

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Rainstorm Records
Catalog Number: RS1233
Format: CD
Total Time: 45:38:00

Scott Rockenfield (l) and Paul SpeerHells Canyon is the "deepest gorge in North America," but it is also a very deep and sonically rich album by the duo of Rockenfield/Speer, who collaborated together previously on the Unipix/Miramar video album/CD TeleVoid in 1998 (which received a Grammy nomination).

The album begins with a thunderstorm as we enter the gorge, and then we're zipping our way along, the walls towering above us. Each track stands out and if the liner notes are any indication, a lot of thought went into these compositions as they are truly evocative of the scenery and mood they are trying to create. That alone makes this a successful album. Add in great performances and stellar production and you have album sure to top many top ten lists.

Rockenfield and Speer are Scott Rockenfield (Queensrÿche) on drums, percussion and keyboards and Paul Speer on guitar, bass guitar, and keyboards. And what a fine duo they make. Hells Canyon is a meaty release. There's so much I love about this album that I'm not sure where to start. I love Speer's searing leads that punctuate some of the tracks, shimmering guitar paints others, and Rockenfield keeps things pulsating with his drum attack. I especially love the sinewy guitar lines of "Snake Dance" which shimmer like water gently disturbed. The descriptive blurb that accompanies this track (written by Speer) states: "The Snake River slithers and writhes in the bottom of the canyon, the master of its serpentine domain. But after leaving the canyon sanctuary, the liquid reptile makes its way west to be swallowed whole by the Columbia River." The tattoo that Rockenfield plays only re-enforces this liquid migration. There is a guitar phrase here that made me think of The Church's "Reptile" (in that one, it's the opening refrain).

Speer provides historical commentary to accompany the music. In "Crossing To Freedom" it is the Nee-Me-Poo (Nez Perce) and the White Bird massacre that are told in music.

In "Coyote" there are moments here that are chillingly eerie ... evoking a crisp, cold, and silent night where the only sound is that made by the howl of a coyote. Underscoring this is some percussion, keeping the pulse going. In Nee-Me-Poo legend, it is Coyote who is said to have dug the canyon for the tribe. Pulsating is the best word to describe this track, as there is a bass-like tone, but I think it's keys rather than an actual bass. Perhaps both. Another great guitar phrase from Speer, with whom I was already familiar with prior to receiving this release. Speer is an award-winning producer and will probably win another one with album.

Each track is engaging, intriguing and worthy of a closer examination in their own right. "Red Torrent" churns like rapids, "River Of No Return" tumbles along, churning as well, as you are swept away by the current, the canyon walls whipping by, outcroppings narrowly missed. I can see some film producer co-opting this for footage of folks "shooting the rapids." These two are companion pieces, the latter of the two using The Salmon River, which flows into the Snake river "just below Hells Canyon," as its associated imagery. Of it, Speer says it is "the longest untamed river in the continental United States [...] it is wild beyond imagination. If you choose to go down, you will not return." Speer had visited Hells Canyon in his youth and this provided the inspiration for this work.

I've leave the rest for you discover - and discover you should, as this is a terrific release. -

Decent (0:33) / Seven Devils (3:41) / Chant Of The Fathers (3:09) / Snake Dance (4:37) / Crossing To Freedom (3:15) / Coyote (6:04) / Red Torrent (4:06) / River Of No Return (4:55) / China's Last Stand (4:44) / Buffalo Eddy (4:14) / Carved In Stone (6:13)

Paul Speer - guitar, bass guitar, keyboards
Scott Rockenfield - drums, percussion, keyboards

Paul Speer:

Collection 983: Spectral Voyages (1984)
Natural States (1985) (w/David Lanz)
Desert Vision (1987) (w/David Lanz)
Shades Of A Shadow (1990) (w/Leroy Quintana)
True North (1992) (var. artists, Speer is one)
Collection 983: Spectral Voyages (1983)
Collection 991: Music + Art (1992)
Bridge Of Dreams (1993) (w/David Lanz)
TeleVoid (1998) (w/Scott Rockenfield)
Quiet Thoughts (2000)
Hells Canyon (2000) (w/Rockenfield)
Stone Garden - Stone Garden (rec. 69s, rel. 1998/2001)
Wonders (w/Paul Lawler and Satine Orient) (2009)

Oculus (DVD) (2008)

Scott Rockenfield:

Queensr?che - Queensr?che (1983)
Queensr?che - The Warning (1984)
Queensr?che - Rage For Order (1986)
Queensr?che - Operation: Mindcrime (1988)
Queensr?che - Empire (1990)
Queensr?che - Operation: Livecrime (1991) Queensr?che - Promised Land (1994)
Queensr?che - Hear In The Now Frontier (1997)
TeleVoid (1998) (w/Paul Speer)
Queensr?che - Q2k (1999)
Queensr?che - Greatest Hits (2000)
Hells Canyon (2000) (w/Speer)
Queensr?che - Live Evolution (2001)
Slave To The System - Slave To The System (2001)
The X Chapters (2002)
Queensr?che - Classic Masters (2003)
Queensr?che - Tribe (2003)
Queensr?che - The Art Of Live (2004)
Queensr?che - Operation: Mindcrime II (2006)
Queensr?che - Mindcrime At The Moore (2007)
Queensr?che - Sign Of The Times (2007)
Queensr?che - Take Cover (2007)
Queensr?che - American Soldier (2009) Albino Farm (OST) (2009)

Genre: Other

Origin US

Added: September 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1555
Language: english


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