The name Constantine brings to mind the ancient Roman emperor who first adopted Christianity, but that’s not what we’ve got here. This Constantine is a young Greek guitar hero, and Aftermath is his second album (his first, Shredcore, came out almost ten years ago). Citing influences from Yngwie Malmsteen to Joe Satriani and more, we can expect some serious guitar fireworks on Aftermath. But amazing axemen are a dime a dozen, and blazing through tapping-arpeggio solos doesn’t always equate to great music: one has to be able to write good songs, not just good solos. That will be the test for young Constantine on this eight-song platter: can the songs keep up with the fretwork?
Constantine isn’t a singer, and he knows it. Here on Aftermath he enlists the help of a half-dozen vocalists, to varying degrees of success. First up to the mic is Bjorn Strid for the faux-heavy “Hellfire Club.” Note that this is Soilwork Bjorn, and not Night Flight Orchestra Bjorn. The guttural harshes and chugging riffs, along with the forced chorus, result in a forgettable tune. Ralph Scheepers (Primal Fear) presses on in “Press on Regardless,” a by-the-numbers metal song, and Apollo Papathanasio (Spiritual Beggars) sings not one but two songs here, neither of which stand out or drag the album down. The best vocal performances come from Chris Clancy (Mutiny Within, Wearing Scars) on the catchy but formulaic hard rock number “Holding on ‘til the End,” and Schmier (Destruction) on the excellent thrash metal bonus track1 “War & Pain.”
Aftermath is Constantine’s attempt to display his guitar prowess across a wide range of metal, as evinced above. In that regard, he succeeds: he’s a gifted guitarist, and we don’t need to look any further than the opening track, the instrumental “Bushido.” Lightning fast riffs and solos blaze through in under four minutes, and any of the man’s idols would be proud of this song. Elsewhere, Constantine shows a deft hand when it comes to guitar tone, riffs, and arranging solos that are appropriate for the style of song he’s going for. He covers the gamut of metal here: hard rock, progressive instrumental, thrash, and even symphonic metal (the silly “Deliver Us,” with Papathanasio being forced to sing in a key that is just above his comfort zone) all have their moment.
Unfortunately, the weaknesses come in everything but the guitar playing. While none of the songs are horrible, at the same time aside from “Bushido” and “War & Pain” the songs are unmemorable, and safe to a fault. The arrangements adhere strictly to whatever flavor of metal Constantine is aiming for in each song, with no twists or turns to capture our attention. There’s no credit given for a drummer here, so we have to assume either Constantine or production partner/bass player Bill Manthos programmed the drums, and chose the most generic samples they could find. Speaking of Manthos, he also sings one song here–“Elegy”–and should not have done so. Singing is not his forte.
There’s some engaging guitar playing on Aftermath; we certainly can’t deny the fact that Constantine is in possession of some serious chops. The bookend tracks “Bushido” and “War & Pain” are worthy additions to any playlist. But they can’t save the other six songs from mediocrity. For someone with clear talent, the unwillingness to break any sort of songwriting mold is a failure. If you’re a guitar ingenue, the last thing you should do is play it safe. With better songwriting collaborations, I’m certain Constantine’s talents would truly shine through.