"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Paul Kleff - "Machined" (CD)

Paul Kleff - "Machined" CD cover image

"Machined" track listing:

1. Grind
2. Last Stand
3. Dead Line
4. As If...

Reviewed by on June 16, 2010

"Simply put, there are better shred albums out there. However, it’s a veteran of the genre doing what he does best, and there’s always something admirable about that."

Shred guitar is a polarizing playing style – you love it or hate it. Regardless, the abilities of the guitar players are not to be disputed. In shred guitar, Yngwie Malmsteen brings the fire, Tony MacAlpine brings the melody, Jeff Loomis is the riff machine, Steve Vai brings the oddball weirdness, James Murphy made shred dark and scary, and Michael Angelo Batio brings a four-necked guitar. Where does virtuoso Paul Kleff fit in? He’s a talented player and rolls out a good chunk of fret board movement on “Machined,” but does it hold a candle to the greats? With an album of only four songs, two of which are instrumentals centered on Paul’s guitar playing, you could say he’s trying to make a statement.

The tricks of the trade, from dive-bombs to layered guitar solos and extensive use of the whammy bar, are in full effect. There’s no problem in using these tried and true tricks, but the 1980s came and went. Paul seems to be writing songs from the hair metal days, and without the catchiness or excitement of the 80s. Vocalist Jerry Keyzer sings on two of the songs with a voice like that of cross between Bruce Dickinson (of Iron Maiden) and Damian Wilson (Threshold, Ayreon).

Jerry holds his own and gives Kleff’s songs the legitimate old school heavy metal feel, but the songs suffer from technical excess. So much attention is paid to the guitar that important things like the annoying drum machine and production value received little thought. The drum tracks are clearly programmed and sound like MIDI, and the bass is barely noticeable. If you can get past these things, what you have on this album is some decent shred guitar.

The first song, “Grind,” has some good moments where one can almost imagine Symphony X wrote these riffs. The guitar solos on this track are the highlight of the album, similar to and rivaling those of guitarist Marco Sfogli (see James Labrie’s solo album, “Elements of Persuasion”). If your face isn’t melted by the end of the track, “Last Stand” will bring you some more fun. This song gallops into what a Winger and Dethklok bastard son of a song would sound like and builds up to silky-smooth guitar solo. “Dead Line” leans more towards a shred guitar Motley Crue-type song, but don’t expect any craziness outside of the solos. The final song, “As If…” is one long drawn-out faux-dramatic (piano backed) guitar solo.

I’m not saying this is a bad album, but an album can only be so good when it’s centered on one man’s solos. Simply put, there are better shred albums out there. However, it’s a veteran of the genre doing what he does best, and there’s always something admirable about that. I’d be excited to hear what Paul does with a better band and better production.

Highs: Paul’s solo guitar tone is smooth and strong and the technicality is expert.

Lows: The programmed drums are annoyingly unmixed, the songs aren’t memorable, and the record sounds like hair metal glory days without the excitement.

Bottom line: Obviously a talented player, Paul Kleff can do better. This is shred guitar, and the only good things are the solos. Luckily, there's a lot of them on 'Machined.'

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
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)