Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kenziner - Timescape (1998)

Kenziner was a fairly interesting collaboration between a number of musicians on the progressive/shred scene that have all sadly gone neglected for various periods, each of which is far too long when you consider the amount of talent they bring to a recording. Founder and brainchild Jarno Keskinen (also of Virtuocity) is joined by drummer Dennish Lesh (Trouble, Stygian, Chastain) and the vocals of Stephen Fredrick (ex-Firewind, Spike, etc). Of course, the David T. Chastain connections don't end there, because the underrated US guitar god is also responsible for some of the lyrics and melodies found on this record, and he gave it a home on his Leviathan Records imprint, through which he released most of the classic, excellent Chastain records, among others.

David is not only a grand guitarist himself in both the instrumental and traditional metal fields, but he's also got quite an ear for picking out fresh potential among the myriad demo wielding hopefuls out there stalking the back isles of Guitar Centers or skulking in their home studios, and Keskinen is quite impressive here, taking center stage even among his worthy counterparts. His expertise is to craft the architecture of shred into some pretty stock progressive/power metal. It often manifests in a similar fashion to his well known countrymen Stratovarius, despite the huskier presence of Fredrick which is far more Coverdale, Lande or Gillan than Kotipelto. But there is no firm restriction here to playing predictably plotted, shred-heavy metal composition a la Yngwie J. Malmsteen, so the band will often veer off into other influences, like the morose balladry of "In the Silence" or the intro to "Dreamer" which remind me heavily of late 80s/early 90s Fates Warning, Fredrick exploring his upper register in a manner not unlike a Ray Alder.

There are also various 'jamming' sections found in tracks, like the bridge of "Seasons" around 5:30 which summon up comparisons to Dream Theater and flock, generally well enough executed so as not to interrupt the interplay of vocals, guitars and synthesizers, the last also performed here by Keskinen with all the subtlety of a Janne Warman or Jens Johansson, but little of the actual key shredding. But the centerpiece is almost always Keskinen's ability to fuse bland rhythms and melodies with more interesting fills and leads than your stock Euro power metal troupe, as you'll hear in "Future Signs", classically inspired "Timescape", bluesy "Walking in the Rain" and among the brooding twists and turns of "Thru the End".

Lesh and Fredrick are merely icing on the cake, with the former's steady time keeping perfect pace with the young Finnish upstart, and Fredrick completing the puzzle with the final piece it requires, a soaring and slight emotional inclination backed with the measured power of a veteran. This guy can sing the balls off lesser men, and if you've ever wished to hear a fusion of Stratovarius and Deep Purple, you've found it. Timescape is hardly an outstanding album through the entire playtime, but it succeeds with a taut, professional grace that was seemingly years beyond its creator. Unfortunately, this power/progressive realm is not one commonly explored by the oozeling masses of extreme metal hangers-on, metalcore mall-clingers or retro nubs, but anyone who appreciates a helping of Stratovarius, later Angel Dust, At Vance, Evergrey, Kamelot or Yngwie Malmsteen might find a warm welcome here that they would not regret.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10] (and the curtains are drawn)

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