|Ferrigno - Leal - Kuprij: Promised Land|
|2001, Lion Music, LMC 071|
|CyberHome: http://www.LionMusic.com http://www.VitalijKuprij.com|
Neoclassical master Vitalij Kuprij, and progressive metal veterans Jon Doman and Philip Byrnoe team up with a pair of hot young guitarists, Marco Ferrigno and Javier Leal for a neoclassically influenced shred fest. The style of music is triangulated somewhere between Kuprij's towering neoclassical solo material, the Artension compositional format, and shred exhibitionism. Shred fans pay attention, Ferrigno and Leal understand only two speeds: warp 10 and the pause between compositions... ;) ... and they can really tear it up with aggression, precision, clarity, speed, speed, and more unrelenting speed!
Ferrigno and Leal trade off with Kuprij with their style of hyperdriven shred that combines blazing scale traversals with blinding sweeps, intensive patterns, legato runs, and utterly stifling, precise speed. The composition seems to take a back seat to the guitar and keyboard pyrotechnics and technicianry that provide the drive, though the arrangements have a Kuprij touch to them with his trademark twists and turns that makes them better than most. The composition is a little looser than Kuprij's solo works with Greg Howe, George Bellas, and Tony MacAlpine. And, the uncontainable, shredding guitar work is undoubtedly the dominant force that drives this effort. Though, the sweep picking of arpeggiated chords, scale ripping, and diatonic tonality does become redundant at times, the composition and soloing explore some outsize harmonization on some tracks in a demonstration of depth of musical knowledge and proficiency in their abilities to play outside at blistering speeds with great affect. The arrangements would benefit from more diversity in the lead guitar dynamics, sweep picking patterns, neoclassical patterns, guitar technique, and tonality, especially more outside harmonization. Although the speedy fretwork is the prevalent force throughout the album, there are also some original melodic and harmonic themes that provide contrast and relief from the onslaught of 1/32 notes. The contributions of each of the three primary players, Ferrigno, Leal, and Kuprij, are all impressive and all contribute in a positive manner that shapes an epic effort that builds to a climax in the finale, "The Prophecy", which is probably the best and most intensive composition on the CD.
For fans of Vitalij Kuprij, this is a no brainer. Kuprij is solid as always. Fans of neoclassical should also check this CD out, though they should be forewarned about the balance of shredding to composition has the scales tipping toward shred. But still, the composition should be within a palatable range for even neoclassical purists. Masters and students of guitar technique should also check out this CD for the fine caliber that newcomers, Leal and Ferrigno, have achieved in their virtuoso skills. Though the two new guitar slingers take up many established areas of guitar technique, they have attained an impressive level of proficiency in their playing and put the technique together in a coherent, unique, and slap-you-in-the-face manner that is worth checking out.
Newcomers, Leal and Ferrigno show some promising talent that progressive instrumental guitar fans will want to check out. Though the pair of guitar slingers has left some room for growth, they have established themselves as significant talent, as is obvious by the interest of veteran progressive instrumentalists Kuprij, Doman, and Bynoe.
|Guitar||Marco Ferrigno, Javier Leal|
|1) Promised Land|
|2) The Prisoner|
|3) Death and Illusions|
|8) The Prophecy|
~ Christopher Ruel~ www.ChrisRuel.com ~ Chris@ChrisRuel.com ~ Chris Ruel's Monthly Spotlight
Vitalij Kuprij: VK3 1999, Shrapnel Records CyberHome: http://www.VitalijKuprij.com Tony Macalpine steps up to the plate on guitar with Vitalij Kuprij on his third outing on the mound, VK3. I was curious to see what would happen in this effort because both Tony and Vitalij are virtuoso keyboardists with a mutual interest in Chopin. And, Tony MacAlpine is one of the premiere guitarists in the neoclassical arena, so I really had high expectations when I had learned that the two were teaming up for this release. VK3 is different from Kuprij's previous two efforts. The composition covers a broader range and is not characterized by the same raw drive that the previous two efforts had. This is not to say that the music is without drive, but it seems as though the drive takes on a different nature in VK3. Maybe it is just that Bellas' presence was so stunning on Extreme Measures that it was just difficult to follow. The high level of composition and sophistication delivered in the previous two CDs is maintained in VK3. The album follows a format that seems to be emerging in the Kuprij releases where the first two tracks build up to the centerpiece which is the third track. My inclination for Chopin makes "Alternate Diversion", the third track on the album, my favorite. "Alternate Diversion" is based upon a Chopin prelude that Kuprij then decides to develop in his own way into a more involved composition. "Alternate Diversion" remains true to its namesake and goes in the directions unexpected, even though we are expecting it from the title. The opening theme, taken verbatim from Chopin, is MacAlpine's finest moment on the CD. The Chopin theme is played with an overpowering, haunting feel that is absolutely captivating. "Forever" is another good track that can be characterized as having a feel of appealing resignation to it. On a scale from 1 to 10, I would give VK3 an 8 overall, which is good enough to put it into my permanent rotation with the others by Kuprij. VK3 did not live up to my expectations of Maximum Security meets High Definition that I had anticipated was going to be the best Kuprij release to date. Tony's guitar work seemed to me to be lacking in the characteristic melody-centric style that I have come to like so much about MacAlpine. VK3 is still an awesome CD and maybe my assessment is a little tarnished by my high expectations for the album that I just felt were not delivered. With the common interest that Kuprij and MacAlpine share in Chopin, I thought there would be more chemistry and synergy, but apparently Kuprij had more synergy with Bellas on guitar, in my mind anyway! VK3 is still better than most neoclassical stuff out there. Keyboards and Piano Vitalij Kuprij Guitars Tony MacAlpine Bass Dave Naccarelli Drums Jon Doman 1) Break Through 2) Estimation 3) Alternate Diversion 4) Infusion 5) Forever 6) Game Of Power 7) Reflections ~ Christopher Ruel ~ www.ChrisRuel.com ~ Chris@ChrisRuel.com Vitalij Kuprij: Extreme Measures 1998, Shrapnel Records CyberHome: http://www.VitalijKuprij.com When Extreme Measures was first released, I was skeptical that it could maintain the level of excellence set by Vitalij Kuprij and Greg Howe in High Definition. Boy was I wrong. George Bellas picks up right where Greg Howe left off, bringing with him a different feel that is a little more raw and openly aggressive, closer to an Yngwie feel in its raw energy. The composition on Extreme Measures demonstrates a depth and indominatable character that will not be limited by any bounds as Vitalij Kuprij does what no other neoclassical virtuoso has been able to do before him... follow up his debut album with a second effort that is comparable to the debut and in this case possibly exceeds it. Extreme Measures opens with "Prologue", a slow, contemplative prelude with a longing melody that sets the backdrop to provide a drastic contrast for the fiery keyboard work and singeing guitar melodies and runs that are about to ensue with "Destination". When the transition from "Prologue" to "Destination" occurs, you will know what you are in for this time. Kuprij is not going spend as much time toying around with you at the beginning as he did on High Definition. But though it is impressive on its own, "Destination" is really just another prelude of sorts to the real scorcher that is to follow. "Extreme Measures", the title track, pulls out all the stops as Bellas asserts his abilities, demonstrating that he is truly a world class player, along with his Kuprij-predecessor, Greg Howe, as well as his obvious influence Yngwie Malmsteen. And, Vitalik Kuprij, well, his virtuoso talents are just assumed at this point after High Definition. But, unlike some predecessors, Kuprij has been able to maintain a comparable level of composition and proficiency to his debut release, on this, his second effort. Anyway, the title track, "Extreme Measures" is a driving, vibrant instrumental that is carefully orchestrated and features some really scorching guitar work by George Bellas. I had heard George Bellas' solo material (which is pretty good on its own) prior to this release, but even then, I was not prepared for his playing on Extreme Measures. Bellas' guitar work on the track "Extreme Measures" is so conspicuously incredible that this single track will make you need to reevaluate his capabilities altogether. The sweeps are so smooth, fluid, and fast they are surreal, transcending the mechanics. The feeling is both inspiring, mesmerizing, and haunting at the same time. The precision and cleanness are staggering. The arrangement of the sophisticated, guitar-intensive runs and sweeps is brilliant. And, the emotional content that Bellas imparts to his playing is so clearly stated that he probably could not get it across better if he were to state it in words. Did I mention how amazing Bellas' sweep picking is? OK. I just didn't want you to miss this point! And, though I am primarily pointing out Bellas' contribution on this track because I think it is probably the biggest feather in his career hat to date (though he is building a headset that rivals an Indian chief), it should also be understood that Kuprij is right there taking it to him the whole way and that he is not in the background in a secondary role. But, Bellas presence on "Extreme Measures" is noteworthy because it was a surprise to me (but maybe not to his many students around Chicago), even though I was already aware of his capabilities to some extent. Vitalij Kuprij sets a new type of standard with his heart-wrenching ballade "Crying In The Shadows". Kuprij has really blurried some lines that were previously clear between classical, neoclassical, and world music on this track. He demonstrates a strength in his personal character by bringing a composition that is obviously so sentimental to the aggressive neoclassical genre. However, this may not be so unusual for a musician of European origin. But, you probably will be surprised the first time you hear it. The slow melodies in "Crying In The Shadows" prove that there is more to being a great musician than merely possessing the capacity for speedy playing. Kuprij has composed a captivating instrumental love song (of lost love) that is built primarily around his mastery of the psychological effects of tonal relations and timing between notes, much like Chopin's and Mozart's melodies hinge upon. Kuprij works around his main theme with many variations that maintain the slow melody feel, but also arranges some very quick grace notes and seamlessly integrated faster runs within these melodies. "Crying In The Shadows" is one of the most moving and absorbing compositions I have ever heard, classical, neoclassical, movie soundtrack, or anything else. I would love to know what the inspiration for this composition was! Another notable track on Extreme Measures is "Track On Fire"... and the name is not misleading because this track is a-blazing fast and definitely ablaze with fire! Kuprij and Bellas trade off blistering fast lead work on "Track On Fire" as they reassert their prowess over their respective instruments. You are not going to believe Bellas' playing on this track as he fortifies his standing in the world class arena. And, again, Kuprij is right there taking it to him. On Extreme Measures, Kuprij ventures further into his straight classical recordings with coverage of two Chopin etudes, as well as coverage of LVB's "32 Variations In C Minor". This coverage of straight classical piano works clearly demonstrates Kuprij's capabilities as a performing concert pianist for traditional classical music. Kuprij executes these complex works with world class precision, timing, dynamics, and comprehension. For you younger listeners, this is a really good disc to trick your parents into taking a listen to neoclassical music. You can lure them in with these Chopin etudes, then let the CD just run into one of the neoclassical pieces, and watch their expressions while you sit back and grin. Extreme Measures is great fun for the whole family! ;) Just be sure to remind your parents that once musicians have mastered classical music like Chopin and Beethoven, that they move up to the next level of performance... neoclassical!!! ;) They will never be able to give you a hard time about blasting neoclassical on your stereo again. I have looked at Extreme Measures from a number of different angles since I originally purchased it when it was first released in 1998 and I have not been able to find anything bad to say about it since then. The production is first rate. The instrumentation and tones applied are perfect. The playing is simply unbelievable... state of the art. The composition is as good as anything that has ever been written. The thematic development, structuring, and counterpoint are enthralling. The rhythm section is outstanding... surprisingly, Jon Doman must have survived his first marathon sprint session in High Definition and was sadistic enough to try it again on Extreme Measures... John Onder probably just didn't know any better ;) but showed skill, composure, grit, and amazing drive to keep up with the blazing tempos. And, the overall impact and emotional projection from the music are devastating. Bellas has assimilated that Yngwie quality of drive and presence in his feel, that he may have exceeded even Yngwie in that Yngwie quality. ;) Extreme Measures has cemented a position in my permanent rotation with its display of dual virtuoso proficiency and superb composition. On a scale from 1 to 10, I give it a 10 without second consideration. Extreme Measures is world class and balances precariously at the pinnacle of modern Western music of any genre. Maybe Extreme Measures is as good as High Definition, but it is never quite the same after your first time, no matter how good it is! But, at least Extreme Measures does not come up short and that in itself is astounding. I will leave it up to the listeners to decide if Extreme Measures exceeds High Definition... We're onto you now Kuprij! Oh, and just in case you noticed those flames on the cover art, they are there for a reason... this CD will set your stereo on fire!!! Keyboards and Piano Vitalij Kuprij Guitars George Bellas Bass John Onder Drums Jon Doman 1) Prologue 2) Destination 3) Extreme Measures 4) Depression 5) Chopin Etude #11 in A Minor Opus 25 6) Crying In The Shadows 7) Track On Fire 8) Chopin Etude #12 In C Minor Opus 25 9) Intrigue 10) Ludgwig Van Beethoven 32 Variations In C Minor 11) Epilogue: Improvisation On A Theme By JS Bach ~ Christopher Ruel ~ www.ChrisRuel.com ~ Chris@ChrisRuel.com Vitalij Kuprij: High Definition 1997, Shrapnel Records CyberHome: http://www.VitalijKuprij.com High Definition is a monumental instrumental effort that sets the new high water mark in the neoclassical arena. High Definition has taken the neoclassical genre to an entirely new level that definitely rivals and may even exceed the traditional European predecessors of the neoclassical movement. This album is highlighted by the blistering fast, synchronized dual lead work and lead trading of Ukrainian-exported keyboard wizard and performing classical pianist, Vitalij Kuprij of Philadelphia, PA, on keyboards and his newly found neighbor and guitar slinger, Greg Howe of Easton, PA. Be prepared if you have not heard this one yet, because it will take you straight between the eyes. The composition is superb. The execution is unbelievable. The breadth and depth are staggering. This album is a nonstop cavalry charge from start to finish. Greg Howe, known mainly for his jazz fusion or really undefinable style, demonstrates that he is a very capable candidate in the neoclassical arena. The composition contains all of the elements that I like to see: melody, harmonization, structure, time changes, catchy rhythms, unexpected changes of direction, and relentless drive. The playing has finesse, precision, feeling, and grasp that has never been known in the neoclassical sphere before this CD was released. Greg Howe delivers his brand of barely contained aggression with blinding speed that that is so refined that it is deft. The synchronized sections with Kuprij will have you scratching the sand off your jaw after it hits the ground - the speed and synchronization is that amazing. It is as fast as anything I have ever heard and it is musical and accessible at the same time! This level of sophistication coupled with playing this speedy and tight has never been seen before in any type of music. So, now if you have bought High Definition based on this review, you need to be prepared for the way that this CD unfolds. If you hate it when somebody tells you the plot to a movie you are going to see and don't like it when somebody ruins a surprise for you, then skip over this paragraph. Otherwise, you should be prepared for a slow opening that sort of an ominous prelude that is a build up to real punch. Vitalij and Greg are going to play with your heads on the first track, "Beyond Infinity", which merely hints at what is to follow. And, this build up continues into the second track "High Definition" for about three minutes, until it finally delivers the neoclassical punch melody that has been promised. And, then you know, if only for a brief time, that you are in for some serious @#@#. Now that you have been teased and tormented for two tracks, Vitalij and Greg are done messing with you and they are ready to pull out all of the stops. The ascending arpeggio theme lets you know that High Definition is coming on straight ahead for you with "Symphony V" into the neoclassical frenzy you have been promised. Listen closely for the synchronization of keyboard and guitar on "Symphony V". The synchronization is so tight that some people that I have played it for can not tell that it is two different instruments. That is how good it is. Well, after "Symphony V" you can expect this virtuoso level of musicianry and composition to continue for the remainder of the album. Every track on High Definition is exceptional and lends balance to the album in some way. The standout for me is "Opus I (Theme By Paganinni)". This single track really captures all of the positive elements of the synergy between these two great virtuosos, Kuprij and Howe, not to exclude the inspired and exceptional drumming of Jon Doman that sets the pace and drive of the entire effort. Jon Doman must have been ready to run a marathon after the exercise he got making this album. "Opus I" is loosely based around a theme by Nicolo Paganinni, the legendary violin virtuoso and composer that the two pay tribute to in this composition... or should I say the virtuoso that the two shamelessly outdo and relegate to the recesses of history for all time, leaving Paganinni only his compositional skills to distinguish him. Greg Howe clearly demonstrates that the electric guitar is the instrument of choice for modern virtuosos by enunciating the wide scope of technique, speed, tone, dynamics, and feel that is available in the electric guitar that can not be gotten out of the violin or any other instrument for that matter. But, Kuprij steadies our thinking by reminding us that the piano and keyboard with a talented player can keep up with just about anything Greg Howe can do on the guitar... except, arguably, the nuances that can only be gained by direct contact with the strings. (But, if you have any doubt about this, take a listen to "Sky Overture" by Uli Jon Roth and he will prove my point here... I'm sure I might get some disagreeable e-mail on this one though...) The music in High Definition is intense, driving, speedy, precise, inspiring, overwhelming, moving, enthralling, and will have you jumping out of your chair, frothing at the mouth like a wildman before you are through listening to it! On a scale from 1 to 10, High Definition is an 11. It is the single album that is the best of breed in the neoclassical genre and has not yet been topped. If you like or ever liked neoclassical, you must buy this one. Your life will be incomplete without having heard High Definition. If you are a neoclassical fanatic, High Definition will be the centerpiece of your collection. Truly World Class. For those of you who have undergone continual disappointment ever since Yngie's Rising Force album, this is the one that takes it to the next level and delivers what you have been wishing for... but maybe had given up on. So, if neoclassical depression has got you down, Dr. Chris prescribes a dose of High Definition to bring your heart back to life and get your pulse going once again. When you hear the speed and precision, you will understand why they named it High Definition ... they weren't kidding around with you now! Keyboards and Piano Vitalij Kuprij Guitars and Bass Greg Howe Drums Jon Doman 1) Beyond Infinity 2) High Definition 3) Symphony V 4) Divided World 5) Excerpt From Sonata In A Minor (Mozar) 6) Opus I (Theme By Paganinni) 7) Why? 8) Parallel In Time 9) Silent Destiny ~ Christopher Ruel ~ www.ChrisRuel.com ~ Chris@ChrisRuel.com
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