It has to be admitted that approaching The Power of Three, the new album from Monte Pittman there was more uncertainty and doubting expectations than intrigue nudging thoughts. Not having heard his previous solo albums but well aware of his work as long time guitarist for Madonna, encroaching fears wrongly but still with strong whispering made their suspicions known. The fact that the release was on Metal Blade Records allayed some of the dubiety but as always the proof is in the pudding and what a towering feast of adventure and heavyweight metal the release emerged to be. Unleashing obviously hearty and instinctive metallic tendencies aligned to a creative passion, the album is a storming blaze of multi-flavoured sinew driven rock, a magnificent triumph which employs the artist’s musical exploits in numerous styles into one enthused and rigorous explosive treat.
Hailing from Longview, Texas Pittman’s career can be said to have started its upward ascent once he left a local music store was working in after moving to Los Angeles to begin teaching guitar, though the band Myra Mains he was part of before leaving had already seen some success with their shows and two albums. His third student was British filmmaker Guy Ritchie who wanted lessons after receiving a guitar from then girlfriend Madonna. This led to the musician giving lessons to the lady too which was followed by an invitation to join her on stage at the David Letterman Show to promote her album, Music. Since then Pittman has played guitar on all of Madonna’s live tours, the first being the 2001 Drowned World Tour, and her albums as well as sharing writing credits on some of her songs. Adding to that the guitarist has also played with and co-wrote many songs on the Scorpio Rising and Power of the Damager albums from metallers Prong, as well as on their 100% Live release. Additionally working with the likes of Adam Lambert, Melanie C, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor it has to be said that Pittman has had a rather eclectic background leading up to the new album. In that time he also released two solo albums, acoustic solo The Deepest Dark of 2009 and acclaimed rock album Pain, Love & Destiny two years later, a Kickstarter funded release which raised $65,500 making him the top rock musician raising the most money on the crowd-funding platform at that time. Late 2012 saw the appearance of M.P.3: The Power Of Three, Pt. 1, an acoustic EP which marked the first union of a new working relationship with Danish producer Flemming Rasmussen (Master Of Puppets). Last year Pittman with drummer Kane Ritchotte and bassist Max Whipple travelled to Copenhagen to record the new album with Rasmussen producing, a record which now leaves passions lit and imagination ignited.
As soon as the opening song, A Dark Horse emerges from a strongly coaxing acoustic guitar lure within a crackling ambience, any previous concerns are sent flying. Rampaging riffs and equally rapacious rhythms are soon flying through the ear with adrenaline spewing from every note. Soon settling into a slightly calmer surge the excellent clean vocals of Pittman adds another dimension to the rampant heavy rock offering whilst a grunge air lays over the more restrained elements of the track, an Alice In Chains lilt soaking the melodic rock enterprise which seduces with every twist and sonic turn. Though arguably the track is not setting a ground-breaking endeavour it leaves senses and emotions breathless with a craft and enthralling energy which simply scintillates from start to finish.
The following Delusions of Grandeur takes intensity and heat up a few notches with a much more predatory and inciting air to its invasive and riveting breath. Bass and drums rap and snarl respectively with a near bestial rabidity but it is tempered by the impressive vocals and sonic seduction going on around their jaws. The band forge a contagious union of the dark and carnivorous tones of the song’s intent with its melodic beauty and creative flaming, the guitar play of Pittman as impressive and mouthwatering as the raptorial enterprise provided by his colleagues.
The immense start is easily met by firstly the addiction sculpting Everything’s Undone and the following Blood Hungry Thirst. The first of the two is a rock pop gem, a potent anthemic enticement which reaps the best essences of the Foo Fighters and QOTSA into its own fiery wind of invention and majesty. There is still a growl and sturdiness which intimidates and badgers welcomingly within the lighter yet heated master-class though helping to provide rock pop alchemy at its best and setting a new bar for the album which its successor sniffs at and rampages over with a heavier raptorial urgency and weight whilst simultaneously matching the impressive melodic infectiousness and invention of its predecessor.
Riding a delicious moody bassline, vocals and nagging riffs bring On My Mind to vibrant life, the song another virulently contagious slab of rock ‘n’ roll. In many ways the song and some of the album reminds of nineties UK rock band Skyscraper, both able to lay a web of hooks and melodic allurements which simply grip and linger with pure imagination. The song makes way for Away from Here, a track where returning almost carnal riffs and basslines gnaw away at the senses whilst melodic resourcefulness alongside thrilling toxic grooves and hooks reap even stronger allegiance to their calls.
After such a towering run maybe it was to be expected that a slight dip would ensue and despite moments of bordering on brutal riffery and corrosive bass snarling Before the Mourning Son with its dominate melodic croon does fail to ignite like the previous songs. It is still a track though which you can only welcome and constantly return to with its exploratory enterprise and stunning craft. End of the World which follows is the same, a melodically smouldering song which seduces and invites an emotive reflection through its warm embrace and though like the previous one is impressive and wholly persuasive it just had too tall an order to match up to.
After the again AIC sounding and richly satisfying Missing, the album closes with the thirteen minute All Is Fair in Love and War, an extensive and creatively intensive track with seemingly as many styles employed as the number of fingers working in a four man bobsleigh team. The song is an unrelenting landscape of unpredictability and absorbing emprise but a track which arguably offers too much never allowing the senses and imagination to settle in and fully absorb all of its mastery. At times the track is majestic but too often in its debatably over long length the switches and turns of the song do not flow or sit as comfortably alongside each other as you would wish, the guttural stretch of vocals which break lose mid-away an example and definitely a no-no for personal tastes.
The Power of Three is quite simply an extraordinary storm of imagination and artistic adventure which throws assumptions forcibly back in the face to provide one of the early rock pinnacles of the year.
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