Firewind founder and guitarist Gus G. is quoted from a recent interview as saying of his new album, Quantum Leap, that he “didn’t make it with the intention of it being the next one in the cycle of solo albums. It was more of a case of, ‘What else is there?’ I needed the creative outlet.” One of so many albums created during the downtime forced on acts by the COVID-19 pandemic, audiences will be glad that he crafted the album regardless. That is due in large part to its general presentation, which will be discussed shortly. While the album’s general presentation makes the record a strong new offering, the recording is not perfect. The production in the live content detracts from the presentation to a point. This will be discussed a little later. Speaking of production, the production of the album’s first half offsets the impact of the production in the album’s second half and makes the album that much more enjoyable. The end result of this is that the album in whole proves to be one more of the year’s top new rock and hard rock/metal albums.
Gus G.’s new solo album, Quantum Leap is a mostly successful new presentation from the veteran guitarist. That is due in large part to its general presentation. The general presentation finds the 18-song record divided into two separate discs. The first disc is composed of 11 original new songs that the guitarist (formally known as Konstantinos Karamitroudis) crafted during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The second disc is composed of seven live tracks, at least two of which are covers (one a Thin Lizzy cover, the other a Dire Straits work). The live songs were all from a concert that Karamitroudis held in 2018 in Budapest. Two of the songs – ‘Fearless’ and ‘Cold Sweat’ – were featured in his 2019 digital-only EP, Live in Budapest. The other five songs are other performances featured in the concert, but just not in the EP. Ironically, the other two songs from the EP are not featured among the live songs in this bonus live material. Sure, it would have been nice for audiences to have had those songs, for a total count of nine live performances, but at least audiences get seven. To that end, audiences cannot complain too much.
Getting back to the topic of the main record, the material that makes up its body is both new and archived material that Karamitroudis had stored away unfinished from however long ago. Karamitroudis composed and recorded most of the instrumentation in this record, save for the drums. He was joined by drummer Vincent Velasco for the recording. Velasco’s work is solid throughout and offers just the right musical “spice,” too. Just as interesting is that Karamitroudis was quoted during an interview promoting the album, that he had to step back from his typical approach (IE lots of extensive guitar solos and work, really in-depth arrangements). Instead, he allowed himself to write and create more freely. The result is wonderful. There are songs that fit just as well here on any Firewind album (E.g. ‘Demon Stomp,’ and ‘Enigma of Life’) as would fit on one of Joe Satriani’s albums. The more Satriani work comes in the form of the album’s opener, ‘Leap Into The Unknown’ and ‘Not Forgotten.’ There is even some hint of influence from fellow guitar virtuoso Marty Friedman peppered in through songs, such as ‘Force Majure’ and ‘Exosphere.’ As if all of that is not enough, the sort of “new agey” approach and sound of ‘Night Driver’ with its keyboards, is a throwback to that familiar hair metal sound of the 80s. It will appeal to specific audiences in its own right. Simply put, the works crafted for the album’s main body are diverse and unique from one another throughout its run. The wide appeal that it will certainly generate couples with the appeal from the record’s companion live material to make for even more engagement and entertainment. In other words, audiences get the best of both worlds here in the best way possible. They get a new, impressive studio recording, and a healthy compliment of live material in lien of a live performance, since the COVID-19 pandemic put Karamitroudis’ live plans on hold. Keeping all of this in mind, the album’s general presentation creates a strong, solid foundation for the record. Of course while the album’s general presentation is undeniably important to its appeal, the album is not perfect. There is a slight issue raised as a result of the live material’s production.
The production is slightly problematic because of the lack of balance in the instrumentation and vocals. The vocals in the live show were performed by Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69, Unisonic). Maybe it is just this critic’s own hearing, but it seems throughout the songs with vocals, Ward’s performance is washed out by Gus G.’s work and that of drummer Johan Nunez (Firewind, ex-Kamelot). Ward’s vocals sound so distant, as if his mic was not turned on. Whether that was accidental is anyone’s guess. Regardless, it forces audiences to turn up the volume and listen closely to be able to hear Ward. This is disappointing, but is not enough of a dent to make the live material a failure. That is because not every song has vocals. To that end, the album’s live material still helps play into the album’s success, despite the one noted concern.
Considering that the production in the album’s live material is not enough to doom the record, there is at least one more item to note here to the record’s positive. That item is the production of the album’s primary content. As noted already, Karamitroudis admitted in an interview promoting his new album, that he had to take a new, unfamiliar approach to composing and performing in Quantum Leap. That approach included not only taking different approaches in the songs, but also making sure that each part works well with each other. That is because so much is still going on in each song. Ward, who also mixed and mastered the album, deserves his own share of applause. He clearly paid painstaking attention to each instrument’s place within each arrangement. He made sure that every part complimented the others and balanced each song in whole. That work and that of Karamistroudis came together and made the album in whole just as successful for its aesthetics as for its content. When this and the album’s content are considered together, the whole makes Quantum Leap another impressive offering from Gus G. that is among the best of not only the year’s new rock albums, but hard rock and metal albums, too.
Gus G.’s recently released album, Quantum Leap is an impressive presentation that will appeal equally to his fans, those of Firewind, and rock and hard rock fans alike. The record’s success is due in large part to its general presentation. The general presentation gives audiences the best of both worlds with a new studio album and live recording in one. The studio recording gives audiences a new studio presentation while the new live recording gives audiences a nice concert experience in lieu of a live, in-person show from Gus G. as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The general presentation gives the record a strong start, but the production in the live recording detracts from the presentation to a point. The production proves problematic because there is an obvious problem with the balance between the instrumentation and vocals in the tracks that feature vocals. Thankfully it is not enough to make the record in whole a failure or even the record’s live half. The production of the record’s primary body makes up for the concerns raised through the production of the live content. It ensures every instrument balances expertly with one another. The result is that the studio content is fully engaging and entertaining from start to end. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s overall presentation. All things considered, the album proves a mostly successful presentation.
Quantum Leap is available now through AFM Records. More information on the album is available along with all of Gus G.’s latest news at:
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