Courtesy: Couch Cat Records
Guitarist Michael Abdow is scheduled to release his latest studio recording Heart Signal Friday. The new, eight-song collection of songs is a presentation that Abdow’s fans will appreciate just as much as progressive rock and metal fans. That is proven in part through the arrangements that make up the body of the 43-minute record. Those arrangements will be discussed shortly. The sequencing of those arrangements adds even more strength to the album’s presentation, and will be discussed a little later. The record’s overall production puts the finishing touch to its presentation, and will also be addressed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Heart Signal. All things considered, they succeed in achieving Abdow’s goal of evoking a response from listeners; a positive response at that.
Michael Abdow’s new LP Heart Signal is a presentation that sends its own strong signal to audiences. The signal in question is that this record deserves as much attention from audiences as works from the likes of John Petrucci, Al Joseph and Joe Satriani. While the clearly prog rock/metal arrangements do lend themselves to comparisons to works from the noted counterparts to Abdow, audiences will be pleased to know that they still boast their own unique identities. The album’s 12-minute-plus opener ‘Weight of the World’ is just one example of the identity that the arrangements present. Yes, there are some distinct progressive elements here, but there are also some bluesy elements set alongside the more progressive elements. The work of Abdow’s fellow musician, bassist Tony Franklin adds its own touch to the song, as do the electronic elements, which create kind of a unique “spacey” vibe to the song. At the same time that all of that is going on, there is also a subtle Pink Floyd influence evidenced at one point in the song, adding even more interest to the composition. The balance of all of these noted elements throughout the song’s nearly 13-minute run time keeps the song’s energy stable throughout, and in turn keeps the engagement and entertainment just as solid. Abdow’s control of his own instrument throughout is just as noteworthy. He shows that he can shred and that he can play with a bit more finesse throughout, really presenting a rich view of his talents.
The arrangement at the center of ‘Synthetic Origins’ is another example of how this record’s arrangements make it such an intriguing new offering. The heaviness and precision in Abdow’s guitar work and that of Franklin, and the very experimental nature of the arrangement is in itself truly noteworthy here. The inclusion of the old school metal elements that are included so subtly adds a nice touch to the whole. Drummer Shawn Deneault’s ability to maintain the time keeping throughout the whole of the song is just as admirable in its own right. The collective talents of each musician and the overall sound and feel of this song serves to make it another example of how this record holds its own easily against any other solo guitarist’s record and even that of any other progressive rock act. It’s just one more way in which the arrangements prove their importance to the bigger picture of the album’s presentation. ‘Nature of Play,’ the record’s finale, is one more example of the importance of the record’s arrangements.
The arrangement at the center of ‘Nature of Play’ is important as it truly does evoke a certain sense of happiness. The harmonics that Abdow uses and the very interplay (pardon the pun) between Abdow, Franklin and Deneault evokes its own sense of playfulness. Everything is so precise, yet so light throughout the course of the song. It generates such a positive feeling in a person’s mind. Considering this, the thoughts and emotions evoked by the other discussed songs and the rest of the record’s arrangements, the whole of the record’s content provides listeners with something that is unique from start to end even with its similarities to other well-known solo guitarists’ works. That uniqueness (is that even a real word?) and the energies in each song ensures listeners’ engagement and enjoyment even more. Speaking of energies, the energies in each song are connected to the album’s sequencing – another of the album’s most important elements.
Heart Signal’s sequencing is important to the album’s whole because of the balance in the record’s energy that it exhibits. The album starts off in a nice, mysterious fashion in the opening bars of ‘Weight of the World.’ That vibe and sound soon after gives way though, to the song’s more aggressive tones and feeling. There are also some more contemplative moments added to the mix that are well-balanced in their own right. The album’s energy pulls back in its title track, which immediately follows ‘Weight of the World,’ keeping things interesting for listeners. The record goes in a decidedly different direction in its third track, ‘We Live Here.’ The energy is clearly on the rise throughout here thanks to the arrangement. One could argue that there is a certain manic energy here whereas the energy in the album’s first two songs was more controlled and focused. That is not a bad thing, though. It just means that once again, it gives listeners even more reason to remain engaged. The album’s energy and direction takes yet another turn as it progresses into ‘Heavy Drifter.’ The sound and the sense that the arrangement creates is something that can only be heard to fully comprehend, but it is unlike anything else on this record. The change in pace and feel doesn’t end in ‘Heavy Drifter.’ It continues in ‘The Hand That Takes.’ The arrangement’s energy is decidedly upbeat, but is also very focused and driving. This will in turn keep listeners focused, listening to every nuance in the song. It is just a good modern, prog-metal opus. Abdow and company really throw a wrench into the works as Heart Signal progresses from ‘The Hand That Takes’ into the album’s next song, ‘Cherry Blossom Descent.’ This song’s arrangement presents an energy that is more reserved than other works on the album, but not by too much. It creates an emotional impact through the approach here, that will keep listeners just as engaged as that of the album’s other works. The group doesn’t let things sit back for too long as the record makes its way into ‘Synthetic Origins.’ The energy is high in this song to say the least, and stays high throughout. Things ease off a little bit as the record enters its finale, ‘Nature of Play,’ but still leaves listeners feeling fulfilled in its own right. By the time the song (and album) ends, listeners can look back and know that from beginning to end, the energies in each song rise and fall and move in all of the right directions throughout, ensuring listeners’ engagement and entertainment even more. When this positive is considered along with the positive impact of the record’s content, the end result is a presentation that works just as well for its aesthetics as for its content.
Heart Signal gets a lot right in looking at its content and its sequencing. While those noted elements do a lot to make the record worth hearing. Those elements are not the record’s only important elements. Its overall production puts the finishing touch to its whole. As has already been pointed out twice over, there is a lot going on throughout this record, and that is just from three musicians. Considering the complexity of each song, that meant that a lot of attention had to be paid to the sound balance in each work and to making sure that the intended emotion was fully captured, by connection. Those behind the glass did just that, and did so expertly, too. Each musician gets his own time in the limelight so to speak. Whether in the balance between Abdow and Franklin’s parts in the manic ‘We Live Here’ (and the keyboards in the song, too), that of the frenetic performance of Abdow to Deneault’s time keeping in ‘Synthetic Origins’ or even the effect used on Abdow’s guitar and its balance with the guitars and bass in ‘Nature of Play,’ it is clear that a lot of time and work was put into making sure each song’s fullest effect was presented. That effort paid off all the way through the album, too. When this is considered along with the impact of the album’s content in general and that content’s sequencing, all three elements come together to make Heart Signal a record that has plenty of heart and sends its own strong signal to audiences and other rockers alike.
Michael Abdow’s fourth full-length solo record Heart Signal is a presentation that prog-rock and prog-metal fans alike will agree is worth at least one listen. It lends itself to comparisons to work from the likes of Liquid Tension Experiment, Dream Theater and even his Jason Kui. At the same time, the record’s arrangements still boast their own unique identity, giving reason in itself for audiences to take in this record. The record’s sequencing adds even more interest to its presentation, as it balances each song’s energy well against one another. The album’s production puts the finishing touch to its presentation, as noted. Each item addressed here is important in its own way to the whole of the record. All things considered, they make Heart Signal a work that is certain to appeal to any progressive music fan. The record is scheduled for release Friday through Couch Cat Records. More information on the record is available along with all of Michael Abdow’s latest news at:
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