Friday, April 27, 2012

Danny Grawbarger - Deep In Space (2012)

Sooner or later, it will come time for the old guard to step aside and let the next generation of guitarists into the spotlight. At the young age of 21, Canadian progressive metal guitarist Danny Grawbarger is already standing, stage right, waiting for his turn. With influences ranging from traditional metal to classical and jazz, he has garnered a lot of attention for someone who only has five years under his belt on the instrument. But as the eight tracks on his debut album, "Deep In Space," prove, time is all relative.

A surprising burst of synths and strngs opens "Apollo Opus," a rarity for a very guitar driven album to be bookended by something other than a solo or opening riff. The immediate use of layered melody shows the song writing ability at work. But before long, Grawbarger cuts through it all with powerful, yet cohesive riffs. The beauty of his style is that is can play both sides of the genre, as an instrumental or as the backing for a vocalist (though that second option isn't tested here). The power metal atmosphere on display is invigorating, to say the least, and not wasted on lazy string work. On that same note, "Collision Course" once again sees a great deal of thought put into the synth and percussion portion. Flashes of guitar excellence come and go, with some portions more successful than others, though part of the issue lies in the mix rather than the playing itself.  Grawbarger seems to have an intuitive style, playing what feels right, rather than cramming too much into a tight space.

As things slow down, "Rising," fades into existence. This is, by no means, a sappy guitar ballad. His guitars squeals with harmonics at every turn, with a tone that would make Zakk Wydle proud. Atmospheric keyboards and synths only aid in building the mood, one that is the most restrained on the album. The melody is smooth, without being overly so. Instead, the classical influence comes through loud and clear. The first guest appearance, courtesy of UK guitarist Ben Wilshire, comes on "Conspiracy Theory." The track takes on a deeper sound, in both scope and octave. And while the rhythm section keeps it tight and to the point, the solo work takes a giant leap forward, with a wailing solo stealing the spotlight not once, but twice. The dueling guitar work is solid, with each taking a lead. The melody here may be the most catchy, running up and down the scales. And while a soft, clean guitar opens "Secret Endeavor," it isn't long before you hit the symphonic wall. With keys, synths, strings and horns all coming together in a wall of orchestrated sounds, that leaves the mix ready for a expertly crafted bit of lead work. Grawbarger gives you exactly what you need, with an almost bluesy bit of shredding that seems to fly by.

As the title track, "Deep In Space" has some lofty expectations attached to it. Serene strings welcome you to the fold, then are joined by a twisting guitar solo. The switch is flipped, and distortion comes from all angles. A rolling double kick drum pounds away with Grawbarger soars over the top of it all in true virtuoso fashion. What you end up with is a symphonic metal attack that many bands would love to achieve, with a guitar player that many would be envious of. With a little help from former Megadeth guitarist Glen Drover, "Home Bound" proves to be a space age wonder. Darting keys accompany the two axemen as they weave their notes in and out of one another amidst a wave of synthesizers. Each has their own sound, standing apart from one another, while simultaneously coming together to form an army of notes and chords. The finale, "Treasure Chest," is exactly what the name implies. A veritable bounty of flowing riffs and melodies awaits, in what could only be described as a three minute public service announcement for following your dreams.

It is so easy to look at Danny Grawbarger, and his age in particular, and think that this will just be a throwaway album. After all, what could a 21 year old kid possibly have to offer a world of aging metal guitar Gods? Well, a simple question deserves a simple answer. "Deep In Space" isn't the work of a child. Grawbarger has a talent that comes naturally to few, one that will only get better with age. He didn't record this in his garage, as a way to show off his friends or get laid. Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to think about passing the torch. And Danny Grawbarger may just be the right man for the job.


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