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NorthWest Shred Fest - "NorthWest Shred Fest 2008" (CD)

NorthWest Shred Fest - "NorthWest Shred Fest 2008" CD cover image

"NorthWest Shred Fest 2008" track listing:

1. Mindstorm (5:35)
2. King Lerxst (3:46)
3. Aftermath (3:41)
4. Charlie Parker Goes Heavy Metal (3:00)
5. Blast (4:45)
6. The Voyage (3:31)
7. Adrenaline Rush (4:07)
8. Clearwater Roadtrip (5:28)
9. Ground & Pound (3:31)
10. Futuristika (5:05)
11. Aggressive Exstacy (3:36)
12. Blue Angel (4:39)
13. Stepping Stones (4:09)
14. Out of Time (4:23)

Reviewed by on August 13, 2008

"Dropping all but the most bare bones of accompanying instruments for rhythm purposes, the album explores the intricacies of fast paced lead guitars."

The guitar is an amazingly versatile instrument, capable of crooning out emotional and heart tugging riffs one moment and then crushing distorted mayhem that demands violent head banging the next. The “Northwest Shred Fest 2008” album puts together the best of the best, having fourteen of the most ridiculously talented but relatively unknown guitar shredders show off what sort of sounds the guitar is truly capable of producing. Dropping all but the most bare bones of accompanying instruments for rhythm purposes, the album explores the intricacies of fast paced lead guitars. As would be expected of an all lead guitar album, there are a few parts where the ideas get a little stale and the steam starts to run out, but the energy and amazing talent of the guitar players keep it chugging along enjoyably until the end.

All fourteen of the tracks focus exclusively on flamboyant guitar acrobatics, with occasional drums or rhythm guitars to give a point of reference. The opening track, “Mindstorm,” is a fast and furious sweeping epic with a serious sense of the theatrical, sounding a good deal like a Children of Bodom track that has had the vocals removed. This guitarist clearly knows his instrument back and forth, being able to make his instrument purr like a kitten one moment and then roar like a lion the next. The next few songs go for a very different approach, starting out heavy and thick sounding before moving into a soft rock ballad and then back to the faster or more distorted parts. There are several instances throughout the album of long lonely sounding riffs that could easily find their way into eighties love songs, but they never stick around for too long, as the musicians recall that they are supposed to be shredding and making people bang their heads. The album always stays within the boundaries of metal, but the way in which the individual musicians are showing off their skill leads to mostly upbeat material, with none of the dark or furious aspects that would be typical of the average metal album.

Each guitarist’s style is generally distinguishable from the rest, but as many of these musicians have the same influences, several of the songs run together or start to sound like re-imaginings of famous rock songs driven by guitar. The main issue with an entire album of amazing guitar parts is that the guitars become lost without a unifying theme or anchoring point. Each segment is amazing on its own, but without the other instruments to guide the guitars and no central premise that would be apparent on an album made by a single band it becomes hard to listen to the entire thing through in one sitting. While one or two tracks will give a good fill of masterful guitar playing, hearing all of the songs together feels a bit like listening to someone playing scales over and over, albeit at extremely rapid speeds.

The “Northwest Shred Fest 2008” showcases some of the most talented up and comers in the guitar world, and hopefully their appearance here will lead them all on to bigger and better things. While the album may not be worth listening to in its entirety without a break, a song or two at a time will definitely keep guitar enthusiasts happy, and maybe even inspire them to pick up an instrument of their own and try to emulate these masters of the craft.

Highs: Guitar masters showing off their lead guitar chops

Lows: Hard to sit to all the way through as it’s really meant for bite sized listens

Bottom line: Great listen for serious lead guitar enthusiasts, but lacks pull for the average music fan

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)