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(46:08; Michel Heroux)
TRACK LIST: 1. Dirt Road 3:21 2. Inukshuk 3:26 3. Now 3:44 4. Yama 4:11 5. Kurt 5:23 6. Unravel 4:46 7. Trial and Error 3:55 8. Boats 3:52 9. Tabasco Jam 3:43 10. Berceuse (Revisited) 3:00 11. Rain 4:42 12. Epilogue 2:05 LINEUP: Miche Hewroux - guitars, effects Vincent Yelle - bass Francis Fillion - drums, percussion
Prolusion. Montreal based composer, guitarist and guitar teacher Michel HEROUX has been a part of the Canadian scene for more than 20 years. Initially most well known for forming progressive metal band Bacchus back in the early 1990's, for the last decade or so Heroux have focused more extensively on creating and releasing solo albums. "Now" is his fourth and most recent production, and was self released at the start of 2019.
Analysis. Heroux, despite his past in progressive metal, is actually more well known for specializing in jazz, and his vocation as a guitar teacher also focus on this genre. I understand most of his previous solo albums have also honed in on jazz as far as musical style is concerned. As such, his most recent album is something of a departure, both in terms of his distant past as well as his more recent one. If I should tag this album with anything specific, I rather suspect instrumental rock would be most appropriate. The compositions on "Now" by and large revolve around a more traditional rock music expression. The changes and alterations in arrangements and structure aren't really of the kind that would make me hone in on a progressive rock description in general. In addition, you wouldn't be able to guess his past as a member of a progressive metal band by listening to this album. His more recent specialty in jazz does feature here and there though, albeit not in a dominant manner nor in a way that defines this total album experience. This is instrumental rock. Well made, and with some degrees of sophistication to it, but no more and nothing else. That being said, this isn't a negative thing in itself. As a matter of fact, I do find this album to be truly enjoyable, with few if any weak spots as such. This due to multiple reasons. Variety is a key word here, as we get everything from mellow, ambient-oriented mood pieces to more energetic rockers along the way, including a couple of partial detours into jazz. We do get the occasional nod in the direction of progressive rock too, with several songs sporting themes that develop or transform, on occasion also going full circle by concluding with the opening motif repeated. In addition Heroux appears to be fond of various forms of psychedelic guitar expressions, and various floating textures and drones are used to good effect throughout as well. I can't tell if those are produced by the guitar or are added effects though. Still, they do function well throughout. Wandering acoustic guitars, melodic guitar overlays, rhythm guitars and atmospheric laden guitar solo runs mix and alternate throughout this album, supported by a crafty and skilled rhythm section. Some blues-tinged details will thrown in here and there, alongside the aforementioned nods in the direction of jazz and the rather more prevalent psychedelic rock details. But style and execution isn't what makes this album an enjoyable one, nor the compelling and at times striking melodies explored. The attention to details, however, is what makes this production a rather memorable one as far as I'm concerned. A good example of this can be found on the track 'Rain', where at some point there are at least five different layers of guitars that create quite the detailed tapestry of sounds. An arguably better example is the concluding piece 'Epilogue'. This latter composition is, at heart, a rather bog standard acoustic guitar piece, a 2 minute wandering melancholic affair of the kind that can be found on oh so many albums from all across the genre spectrum. The greater majority of them being pleasant but not all that impressive affairs. On this occasion however, we can hear how a skilled guitarist can add tension and subtle nuances to such a creation by alternating between softer and firmer notes, which creates a much more nuanced experience with subtle details that makes this track a really enjoyable experience for the attentive listener. Kind of comparable, I guess, to a technically good pianist and a good pianist. The former being precise with notes, tempo and flow, the latter mastering the art of using different points of pressure to create a more organic flow and subtle dramatic highs and lows.
Conclusion. While "Now" isn't an album that I would categorize as a progressive rock oriented album, it is a well made and really enjoyable example of instrumental rock. An album made with careful attention to details, and featuring components that will interest many fans of progressive rock in general I surmise. With well developed arrangements featuring at times a vast array of subtle details to enjoy, and featuring material that is made with a band rather than just the guitarist in mind too. Those who have a tendency to enjoy well crafted and well executed instrumental rock should take note of this album, and especially those who enjoy psychedelic rock details and the occasional nod towards jazz in this type of music.
Progmessor: August 17th 2019
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