As stated by Vox MetalluM writer X.L.:
I have NEVER, EVER heard anything like this album. Usually, I don't read the promo material that comes with a pre-release until I've written the review, because I don't want to be influenced by it. But in the case of this album, I found I had to, because I wasn't really sure what is going on here.
I learned that guitarist Alex Gregory not only plays guitars, he invents them. He is responsible for the 7-string Fender and has also invented the piano guitar and the heavy metal mandolin, with which, he asserts, "even a moron can reach the sublime". He is an extensively trained classical musician (Conservatory of Milan - composition and violin), but it's apparent from this work that his first live is rock, the heavier the better.
Classical-style music played on a heavy metal guitar? It doesn't sound impossible, but to actually hear it is a startling experience. According to the accompanying notes, this album is a retelling of the legend of violinist and composer Nicolo Paganini. All I know about Paganini is that he was a victim of child abuse, by his mother and by a music teacher who punished mistakes by kicking him in the shin, leaving him with a permanent physical reflex reaction to musical errors. The notes say legend has it that he sold his soul to the devil (I’ll ask my classical music counterpart, David Styor to tell us more about this – I’m sending him this album with a request that he review it, also) and certainly the concept of this album bears this our, with pieces like “Dealer from Hell”, “Second Mortgage on Your Soul” and “Old Nick’s Boogie”. Many of the tracks on here are instrumentals, but they don’t need any words, so expressive with his guitar is Maestro Gregory (that’s an official title, by the way, bestowed by Queen Elizabeth). The lyrics, when they are there, are fiery and passionate and totally excellent. The best comparison I can make is that this album sounds like Queensryche with Steve Vai on guitar – but it would still not come near doing justice to its brilliant workmanship. (And indeed, Gregory might find it an insult – with the promo material is a cartoon drawing of him urinating on two tombstones, one marked with the initials “Y.M.” and the other with the initials “S.V.” – now just WHO could THEY be!?). Axl Rose would be killer on the vocals here, but vocalist Mark Boals does an absolutely incredible job of his own, singing with the skill of an operatic tenor blended with a raw intensity that is pure metal.
Gregory’s speed and skill leave you reeling, yet do not eclipse the rich, pounding accompaniment of bass, drums and an absolutely molten keyboard. Not only is the musicianship on this album awesome, the production quality is also excellent. The guitar is fast and clean where it has to be, and thick and heavy-handed where it’s needed.
The truth is, I feel too humbled by this remarkable work to even attempt to review it further. All I can tell you is that NONE of you – be you punks, moshers, of rockers – will be able to say it sucks and mean it. And those of you who love guitars fast and furious will be completely incapable of resisting it!
Five Skulls, no doubt about it.
Contributing artists: Mark Boals/vocals, Matt Bissonette/bass, Mischa Kopitman/keyboards and Doane Perry (Jethro Tull)/drums