Written By: Swordborn

Angel Vivaldi and I have had our brushes in the past, but despite his considerable back catalog, I’ve never found myself with the racing heart and flushed cheeks that many other younger instrumental/shred fans seem to exhibit when his name comes up. Perhaps it’s my general perception of his persona as egregiously narcissistic, or maybe it’s just that his works, while technically impressive, have never struck me as having much “heart” or consistency. As much a visual showman with his presentation as a fret-scorcher, Vivaldi has certainly built up Synapse to sound like an immensely personal album. As such, I reckoned that if the guy was ever going to impress me, this would be his shot.

Synapse is a hard-hitting, predominantly up-tempo piece of work. The name of the game here is, pure modern shred. Effects are heavily employed and with constancy – a behavior typical for Vivaldi, and sometimes polarizing for instrumental virtuoso fans, myself not generally included. Synapse is, at least nominally, a “concept” album. “Concept” in this case referring to a loose gathering of the names of a bunch of hormones and neuro-transmitters, thrown together in a somewhat disorganized heap with Vivaldi’s musical interpretation of the effects and behavior of each pervading its eponymous song. That seems as pretentious as marketing this as a full-length, frankly, though in the end, it’s probably just as well this is limited to nine relatively brief tracks running bare;y half an hour.

If there’s one thing I’d generally say that Angel gets right, it’s keeping track times down. Shred often walks a fine line between self-indulgence and memorability. While I find ripping opener “Adrenaline” and the subsequent refrain hooks of “G.A.B.A.” easy to follow and enjoyable, the almost ceaseless staccato chug-riffing results in a tendency to lose oneself amidst the songs. Embarrassingly, my next favorite track is a fifty second interlude: the chorus-laden, acoustic-electric arpeggio strains of “Noradrenaline.” Not because everything else sucks, mind you, but merely because Angel actually makes some different, pleasant sounds for about a minute.

I found myself at an indifferent middle ground with this whole affair, my appetite for tasty shred being only partially and irregularly sated. Between my love for heavy instrumental prog, the icons of shred and solo guitar, and even the cleaner, instrumental side of djent, I was starting to pump myself up for Synapse, as it reconciles elements of all three to a certain extent. But I ended up struggling to understand why this didn’t click. I finally realized that I’m supposed to be an Angry reviewer now, and so brooding was likely to be more effective than simple pondering. Sure enough, giving myself a case of the grumps got me rolling, and here’s the rub: this album feels extremely synthetic and detached – this is fine for djent, for example, but that’s not at all how the album is marketed, nor what I’ve come to expect from master guitar virtuosos who perform at Vivaldi’s level. Heck, even when I don’t like them that much, I find Satch’s studio albums to be wildly varying, bleeding-heart exposés. Vivaldi, on the other hand, has about two speed settings and two rhythmic approaches that lie beneath his multitude of frenetic solo antics – and honestly, a lot of those techniques are repeated song after song with different formulas. I’m really rather bothered that there’s not more to sink my teeth into with all of the talent on display. I can only say I’m captivated by a few minutes of the two lead tunes, as well as a few scraps of “Dopamine” and the title track.

Synapse just furthers my impression of Angel Vivaldi as being too self-contained within his own songwriting limits and ego. It’s a technically superb but holistically lacking album that’s too redundant to be enjoyed as prog, too stoic and structurally bland to measure up to many solo guitar contemporaries, and…not djent (which I only keep bringing up because other, less musicologically-inclined listeners and reviewers seem to think this album goes in that direction). I’d classify it as closest to the music from Jeff Loomis’ solo work, Abolish The Echelon, and perhaps Scale The Summit, but without the same kind of variety and hefty emotional clout. Unless you’re a devoted fan of Angel’s or really keen on the idea of some fast, distilled shred, sit this one out.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Seek and Strike
Websites: facebook.com/angelvivaldi
Releases Worldwide: October 6th, 2017

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  • Brutalist_Receptacle

    NO.

    • You’re not the Director of AMG.

      • Brutalist_Receptacle

        But he has such lovely frosted tips. Why does he dye his roots black? You, after all, are the Chief Cosmetologist and Hairdresser of AMG, no?

        • Yes, and I also make all the costumes. We aim to blind the competition with glamor.

          • Brutalist_Receptacle

            Bloody wigmaster!

  • Angel needs a vocalist. It really is that simple. On a personal note. I had a friend who used to take guitar lessons from him too (or at least claimed he did). Apparently, he is a very nice chap though.

    • Swordborn

      Agreed. I feel like this could be great with some solid vocal hooks.

  • Master of Muppets

    I liked the overall tone and objective assessment throughout this review, strong work. May the promo bin demons grant you blessings of trvth, and may your assignments ever be free of Enzo.

    • Swordborn

      Thanks Mr. Muppet. Not my first time at the rodeo. I reserve the questionable privilege to lavish unreasonable praise on flower metal promos, however. ;)

      • Master of Muppets

        That’s legally binding as far as I’m concerned.

  • Philip Pledger

    Hmm. I guess I just have a higher tolerance to instrumental metal than most reviewers on this site. I have my earbuds in almost every waking second, so I appreciate metal that doesn’t dominate my attention. I get that that’s a strike against bands for most people, but sometimes I just need guitar-driven background music, and this seems to fit the bill nicely.

    • Swordborn

      Hey Philip – I’m actually a big fan of a lot of solo guitar stuff (Eric Johnson, Satriani, Vai, many instrumental rock/metal acts) – I think my frustration here is that this is SO energetic and yet SO unremarkable/unvaried. It is definitely not unpleasant, but not at all something I’ll be coming back to.

      • Name’s Dalton

        Have you heard Korekyojinn? Instrumental power trio featuring the drummer of Ruins (the long-running Japanese band). Serious chops and really good songs.

        • Philip Pledger

          I’ll definitely have to check them out, that sounds great.

          • Name’s Dalton

            Also, you may wanna have a hearsee at the new Yowie album. It’s not too metal, but it kicks instrumental ass like a more mathy The Magic Band.

          • Philip Pledger

            Checking it out now, and REALLY liking what I’m hearing. Thanks!

          • Name’s Dalton

            Very cool. Glad to know!

      • Philip Pledger

        That’s fair. I haven’t checked out the rest of the album, so I suppose I just haven’t encountered the lack of variation that put you off. My comment was more aimed at the site in general.

        I guess it just feels like the instrumental album scores here land in the 2.5 to 3.0 range if they’re lucky (or 4.0 if they’re both lucky and a black metal variant). If I’m not mistaken, the last time an instrumental album (shred or otherwise) got a 4.5 was back in 2014. Do you guys just not get sent promos for the good stuff?

        • Swordborn

          It would be presumptuous for me to speak for AMG as a whole, since this is literally my first review for the site (I’ve been writing for and running other review sites for nigh on ten years now). Personally, however, I have enjoyed a number of more recent releases in this style.

          I get the impression that not many of the staffers here are particularly into instrumental/shred, so I think it likely that I may be one of the first in line for those future releases (hence why I snagged Angel Vivaldi out of the promo pool when it had been passed over by other writers).

          This behavior extends into the realms of power and prog as well. I am likely to be an interesting counterpoint to the AMG “norm” of preferring trad/heavy and extreme metal variants. ;)

  • The Unicorn
    • Mollusc

      Whatever he’s doing to that guitar he needs to stop. And not just because of all the smoke coming out.

  • For the modern shredders out there, I can’t get enough of Paul Wardingham, Keith Merrow and Loomis but that’s about it.

    • Swordborn

      Wardingham melts my face.

    • Goldicot

      Mendel bij de Leij, who also plays in Aborted, is solid (and incredibly fast.)

    • Apple Tree

      tosin. abasi.

  • defjam

    Angry Shred Metal Guy

  • Nukenado

    When it comes to guitars, I share Dr. Fisting’s unhealthy love for Cobbet.
    When I’m in the mood for instrumentals… I usually just play some JRPG soundtracks.

    • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

      John Cobbet’s an unsung wizard.

      • Nukenado

        To be fair, he is Hammers of Misfortune’s vocalist :3

      • Nukenado

        Vhöl is excellent.

  • sir_c

    Between all the notes… where’s the fucken song?

  • David

    Hay AMG, have you heard Plini, can you review his album?

  • 1 Screaming Dizbuster

    For some cool new instrumental metal check out Shroud Ritual on bandcamp. A one man progressive metal project, and its school of Opeth prog metal not school of DT. Very impressive

    • Swordborn

      This is cool, and made immeasurably better than Opeth purely by being instrumental.

      …did I say that out loud?

  • Tofu muncher

    I’m more interested in the drumming in that embedded track…

  • Tofu muncher

    Sounds more like Satch’s IMHO. Now I want to know more about Nita Strauss.

    • therealtidus

      Haven’t listen to Satch so can’t say :P But i’m gonna trust you on that ^^

      Yeah, she’s good!

      • Tofu muncher

        er… I was referring to Joe Satriani ;-)

        • therealtidus

          Yeah i know. I still haven’t listened to his works. Instrumental music isn’t really my style of music. But i give it a go sometimes