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Jeff Loomis - "Zero Order Phase" (CD)

Jeff Loomis - "Zero Order Phase" CD cover image

"Zero Order Phase" track listing:

1. Shouting Fire At A Funeral
2. Opulent Maelstrom
3. Jato Unit
4. Azure Haze
5. Cashmere Shiv
6. Race Against Disaster
7. Sacristy
8. Devil Theory
9. Miles Of Machines
10. Departure

Reviewed by on August 14, 2009

"Though Loomis is perfectly confident in his ability to shred, I wish 'Opulent Maelstrom' and a couple other songs showed more confidence in his rhythm riffs. "

Usually, I hate it when guitarists put out solo albums — mostly because they're just that. They're solo albums, full of furious fretwork, but with no memorable melodies. The last great one I can remember was ex-Megadeth ax-slinger Chris Poland's "Return To Metalopolis" in 1990 - the last one until now, that is.

"Zero Order Phase" is almost everything you'd want — or expect, for that matter — from a Jeff Loomis solo record. Loomis, for those not in the know, is the guitarist for genre-bending metallers Nevermore, and he brings some of the same sense of musical adventure to this instrumental album.

The record begins with the powerful "Shouting Fire At A Funeral," with a thrashy power metal riff that, in addition to being a fine showcase for Loomis' guitar and bass-playing, also shows off what an asset drummer Mark Arrington is in terms of propelling the songs forward. The song segues well between fast and slow segments, with Loomis' shredding also carrying a sense of melody, along with the speed.

The next track, "Opulent Maelstrom," highlights one of the small issues I have with the disc. Though Loomis is perfectly confident in his ability to shred, I wish "Opulent Maelstrom" and a couple other songs showed more confidence in his rhythm riffs. Often, they're strong enough to stand on their own without immediately getting covered up with a solo — and Loomis occasionally lets them come to full life. But on this track, he doesn't allow any of the riffs to fully sink in before he shifts gears and starts another one or blasts through it with a solo.

In theory, it's a great idea to have guest guitarists show up and vary things up on a disc like this. In practice, though, it's a bit of a mixed bag. I only think I can tell where Loomis' playing stops and jazz soloist Michael Manring's starts on "Jato Unit." I can definitely tell where producer Neil Kernon's fretless guitar appears on "Cashmere Shiv," and that isn't a good thing (it sounds surprisingly amateurish on an album of this instrumental caliber). Ex-Nevermore and current Cannibal Corpse guitarist Pat O'Brien guests on "Race Against Disaster," and the two go together well — it helps that the song's among the fastest on the album, with a splendidly racing drum line.

Of the album's slower songs, my favorite is "Sacristy," which begins a guitar sound that almost sounds like someone picking notes out on a piano before the subdued electric guitar and drums come in. It's beautiful, and Loomis lets the clean, quiet guitars have plenty of space before the shredding sets in.

Regrettably, the album ends with a bit of a whimper on the aptly named "Departure," which is a slow, elegiac acoustic piece. The song is beautiful, but it shouldn't have been the last thing on the disc. Still, that's a pretty minor complaint when you've got symphonic stuff like "Devil Theory" and "Miles Of Machines" that effortlessly straddle the divide between slow, clean guitars and thrashy riffs.

It's usually not my style to recommend how and where you listen to a CD, but I have to say (from experience) that this disc is the perfect accompaniment to a long, leisurely drive on a freeway or highway.

With "Zero Order Phase," Jeff Loomis has created an excellent blend of sounds that will appeal to everyone from your everyday metalhead to guitar technique theorists.

Highs: The beautiful "Sacristy," the great shred-off between Loomis and Cannibal Corpse's Pat O'Brien on "Race Against Disaster."

Lows: "Cashmere Shiv" features the worst playing on the album, a fretless guitar part by producer Neil Kernon.

Bottom line: Whether you're looking to bang your head or carefully dissect guitar technique, this disc is for you.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 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)