Andy James : Self Titled

They Say :- For some time, he was widely regarded as one of the U.K.’s rising stars in the world of Shred & Metal guitar. With the arrival of 2011, Andy James has undeniably earned himself a place among the best in the world. Not since John Petrucci did we expect to see another world class guitarist dare to step up and deliver such astounding displays of skill and creativity all at once. Now, the long-awaited solo album has arrived.

It’s inescapable, it’s a tapestry of skilled writing and musicianship, of dynamic creativity and spirit; it’s all we hoped for and more.

It’s a masterpiece.

It’s Instru-Metal.

We Say :- Ooohhh, instrumental albums by “virtuoso” musicians, now there’s a recipe for over-indulgent wankery if ever there was one. “ooohhh, look how good I am, look how fast I can move my fingers, BOW DOWN AND WORSHIP MY GENIUS”, you know the sort of thing. There’s no point in releasing a 50 minute masterclass in technical proficiency if it lacks any sort of soul, and even worse if there are no decent tunes to capture the attention. Almost every month there is another “next big thing” guitar hero in waiting, but not many of them can produce a purely instrumental album that you’d actually want to listen to again and again. Joe Satriani has done it though, so has Stevie Vai..

Now, so has Andy James….

The first time I saw Andy live it was at last years Sonisphere festival doing his “day job” with Sacred Mother Tongue. In the review of that set we said “special mention has to be made of the performance of guitarist Andy James, who shredded like a demon throughout the set”. Fast forward a year and in between touring and recording with his SMT buddies Andy has managed to put together his latest solo release, and it’s more than just a bit good.

The thing about this album is that although the shred guitar is without equal the tracks all stand up as, for want of a better word, songs rather than just the unabashed showing off of technique where Andy weaves a complicated tapestry where you can go in as deep as you want. On one level you can listen in detail to (and marvel at) his incredible talent, but at another you can tune in on a different level and just enjoy an extremely well written Heavy Metal album, plain and simple. Things are kept interesting too with tracks like Bullet In The Head and What Lies Beneath showing that it doesn’t all have to be done at 100MPH either.If there’s a story being told here there is no vocalist to explain to you what it is so you have to draw your own conclusions.

The fact that you can (if you want) ignore all of the technical mastery going on in the background and just enjoy this as being a great Metal album, rather than a virtuoso exercise, is what I like most about it. Can a virtuoso guitarist produce an album that doesn’t just end up sounding like a self indulgent ego trip.

Well, clearly yes….

I’d never have predicted that an instrumental release would have a sniff of being in my top 10 for the year, but it will take some special stuff coming out in the next 5 months to displace this from the list. PR companies have a habit of exaggerating, in fact that’s their job 😉 but when they say that that Andy James is amongst the best guitarist in the world it’s difficult to argue.