01. Assimilate Regenerate
03. Ghost In The Machine
04. Brain Interactive Construct
05. Fields of Utopia
06. Enter the Metaverse
09. Cyber Warfare
10. Orbital Decay
11. Black Hole Device
It’s hard for me on a personal level to get into bands that I don’t already love nowadays. The itching for more music from my favorite bands triumphs scouring the interweb for a new band that will probably get a couple listens. There are very few new bands I’ve discovered in the past year or so that are getting frequent listens, so when I stumbled upon guitar wizard Paul Wardingham (whose career is seemingly nonexistent in the big picture) and his solo project going by the same name, I had zero intentions on expecting his debut, Assimilate Regenerate, to be good beyond a couple listens. Especially for a shreddy instrumental album. Lo and behold, here I am listening to it on repeat. All 60 minutes of it.
If a giant correlation could be drawn to one band in the music industry, it would be melo-death giants Scar Symmetry, mostly their Holographic Universe release. The inspiration and similarity is clear as day here: futuristic synths, chunky death metal riffs rotating between soaring cosmic leads/solos and varying levels of aggression, harmony and chaos. The difference here is that Paul Wardingham doesn’t need vocals as a fallback for sub par musicianship or blazing fret masturbation to mend abysmal writing. All the mechanical skill is here in its purest form, ready to be digested for many, many listens. Toss all cheap gimmicks out the window as well because Assimilate Regenerate uses its well-placed synths (though sounding sometimes like a direct copy of Holographic Universe‘s synths) to add depth and character to each song, further evoking the style and theme of the album, rather than a cover up for sloppy or unimpressive playing.
While the mechanical skill is most definitely prevalent, the real exuding of brilliance comes from the masterful songwriting. Each song feels hand crafted and well thought out, forming something that can appeal to many audiences. “Fields of Utopia” and “Ghost In The Machine” could easily have vocals on them, where as the title track and “Futureshock” contain all the essentials you’d come to expect from a solo shred album. The technical and compositional coming together as one entity is its greatest strength. Assimilate Regenerate rarely suffers from erratic passages any lightning-fingered guitarist could write. Even as a whole, no song devolves into pretentious tomfoolery. Instead, it takes this entity, gives it a bit of tranquilizer and uses it to form instrumental hooks that reel you in constantly like a gullible fish throughout this hour long sci-fi journey. For being only a debut, Paul’s ability to make music has elevated him to a level around the same esteemed veteran quality you’d expect from some of the universally acclaimed guitarists like Jeff Loomis (whose solo album isn’t as good as this, in my honest opinion).
Not only is the music here beyond great, it sounds good, too. Sure, the drums at times seem a little overbearing as a result of overproduction, but it’s never anything more than a minor complaint. Given the theme and style of the music being played here, I think it works in its favor. Ultimately, though, what counts is Paul’s weapon of choice: the guitar. Its crystal clear tone (with some light djent) makes the transcending sweeping and arpeggios all the more fitting, especially since its evenly split between both audio channels. While this is excellent and all, the most redeeming part on the production side is that it’s rich with life, color and emotion. Many metal bands today are losing their passion through the evil gateway of bad production. Sterility is not an issue here and is a big reason why you can relate Assimilate Regenerate to Scar Symmetry. Last but not least, there seems to be some minor feedback in the low end that is slowly sending me into a rage spiral. I’m just going to blame my headphones on this, though.
Paul Wardingham’s debut is easily the best of 2011 so far. That may not be saying much because of the lack of releases at the moment, but much like Piotrek Gruszka‘s Cosmogenesis of last year, Assimilate Regenerate‘s sleeper hit status will land it a high spot on my 2011 list for sure. I can’t promise other listeners will get the same 5-star joy out of this release as I did simply because this fits my palette. It cleans up a lot of issues I have with instrumental music as a whole as well and that is memorability. Assimilate Regenerate is chalk-full of structurally intelligent passages that stick to me like glue, while also retaining the high-skill virtuosity expected of a one-man showcase.
In summation, this is a refreshingly phenomenal futuristic-themed, shredtastic melo death debut and I am totally happy this man couldn’t elude my radar any longer. This is not new music bias, this is not living in denial because it didn’t live up to its self-issued hype. This lived up to what I wanted it to be and so much more.
Paul Wardingham – Assimilate Regenerate gets…