Thursday, May 2, 2013

Julia Kosterova - Springs Of Time (EP) (2013)

The entire concept of a solo album from a shredding guitarist was once an exercise in the the skills of a braggart. The songs would like structure, or they would abandon it all together. But over the last few years, this became a feasible strategy again, one that came to our attention thanks to the work of Project Masquerade mainman Nood Smeets and former Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis. They took the lead in their respective bands, without dominating the mix. Both released albums that were guitar driven, but not guitar-centric. For Julia Kosterova, the Russian born guitar wizard who blew the lid off the NAMM main stage earlier this year, there is never a conflict of style over substance; she embodies both. Hertalents have earned her features in Guitar World, and afforded her the chance to have a veritable all-star line-up on her debut EP. With music legends like Brian Tichy, Marco Minneman, and former Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian in tow, Kosterova works her fingers in ways that boggle the mind, all while keeping "Springs Of Time" as well rounded as you've heard.

The opening, which is also the title track, is an immediate assault on your ears. What becomes immediately evident is not only how precisely Kosterova plays, but her songwriting talent matches her deft hands. There is a flow to the track, one that would be lost with mindless shredding. Thanks to the work of Minneman and Sherinian, her riffs are taken to levels far beyond the norm. With every fluttering passage, she tugs in your innermost air guitar junkie, begging you to fret along with her. This isn't an accident or dumb luck; it stands as a testament to her talents. If more convincing is needed, "The Wave Of Luck" is sure to put any doubts to bed. Her groove is undeniable, but there is something more important to note. This may be a "solo" EP bearing her name, but Kosterova makes her mark while still showing her band mentality. Every riff has a place, and every back beat and bass line shine right alongside it. The cohesiveness is the biggest selling point here, and it adds greatly to the air of triumph on "Stranger." Aside from being the shortest track on the EP, it might also be the most catchy. With Tichy taking over behind the kit, there is also a change in drum patterns, a signature sound that matches perfectly with the tone of the track. Needless to say "Hi Power" is exactly that: an adrenaline fueled ride from start to finish. Each bending string or screeching harmonic puts another signature stamp on the album. As she and Sherinian trade off in a duel, it only secures her spot as a rising star.

Much like Smeets and Loomis, Kosterova takes great care in making her solo work more rich and dense than the guitar shredding albums of years gone by. By operating in that group mentality, she only strengthens her cause. And in doing so, she tears down the walls of a genre that is still widely considered to be a "boys club." There is no room for sexist jargon here; it would be an insult for anyone to say that she plays well and follow it up with that old faithful putdown "for a girl." It is just too easy for narrow minded people across the world to dismiss her as another pretty face. She works wonders on that fretboard, and does it with the grace and style of some of the greatest guitarists I have witnessed in a live setting. But the substance is all that matters, especially when you have an album to sell. And the inner workings on "Springs Of Time" are as impressive as her skill set. If she were to join forces with this group of musicians for a full length effort or a tour, we could be in trouble. Not sure the world would be able to handle it.


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