To be honest The RR is not one to offer up time for indulgence and music that ultimately is just showing off no matter the skill and undoubted talent on show. No matter the ability and sound guitar led instrument rock generally seems to end up long winded and over played to levels that has lost our focus long before. Now that is our preference and possible lost but that is how the land and personal taste lies. Just sometimes though to reinforce the ethic of still checking things out before assuming there is a release that steps away from past history to offer something different and intriguing. Such is the case with The Shadows Compendium from French guitar maestro Stéphan Forté. The album still steps into areas that push our limits but it is impossible to deny the stunning and impressive sounds and creativity within its vibrant walls.
Stéphan Forté first drew attention his way with his first instrumental demo Visions of 1997, the neoclassical-oriented sounds soon bringing him to the notice of the guitar community. The following year saw him opening for Yngwie Malmsteen and more sponsors, endorsements and industry attention accumulating. 2001 saw the first Adagio album, a band of musicians he recruited to help realise his compositions. Sanctus Ignis drew further acclaim in his homeland and further afield as did the following darker and orchestral/ choral powered Underworld of 2003. After a further two albums Dominate and Archangels In Black and well received concerts and tours, Forté decided to stretch and push his own musical limits which has become the solo project The Shadows Compendium. Three years in the making the album is an intense, diverse and deep exploration that is musically astonishing.
Forté takes influences ranging from Bartok to Meshuggah, twisting his play and sounds in ways and into shapes no lesser mortal can imagine let alone produce. It really is hard to state how powerful and uniquely distinct the music and ability within the compositions are; only the ear can give true representation. From the opening title track and its dark atmospheric intro the album never ventures into predictable even if at times the expected rears its lengthy head. With tower high riffs and melodies that scorch the ear Forté mesmerises with his string play and caresses with wonderful piano expertise. The piece buzzes around the ear at times constantly insistent and eager before making way for truly inspired work from the composer. An array of guests feature on the album with Jeff Loomis of Nevermore aiding here though for these ears which parts he or the others add elude against the mastery of Forté, and these are talented guys.
The aggressive intense metal fuelled elements connect the deepest with these tastes but there is no doubting there is plenty for rock fans of all preferences on The Shadows Compendium. Tracks like the senses twisting De Praestigiis Daemonu with guest Mattias IA Eklundh of Freak Kitchen and the provocative probing of Duat with Glen Drover of Megadeth leave the ear and beyond happy but exhausted. These are power driven though never are the intricacies and elaborate melodies and ideas left to the side. Spiritual Bliss and Prophecies Of Loki XXI dazzle with a lighter but no less staggering manipulation and control of notes, harmonies and any other musical aspect you can imagine from Forté.
The Shadows Compendium is immense and any musician and especially guitarists will have wet dreams over the album. Personal taste stops it being an album to return to often, at times parts are still overblown and overlong, and dare one say even Forté treads the fine line of indulgence. Then again should it not be that way, the man is a genius whom very few can touch, and it would be crazy to keep such flair and ability restrained. If you want to hear an artist make his guitar squeal and sing with a technique and skill that any woman would pay to feel then Stéphan Forté is your first destination.