MARK STANLEY - AXE ROCK - GUITAR MADNESS - plays with fusion - " aka Eclectic Earwig Reviews Music and More for You!"
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Mark Stanley: Insect Warriors
2002, Sir Eel Records

Mark Stanley ventures into the far reaches of space to dream up the premise for his progressive fusion effort, Insect Warriors. The album is centered around the premise of giant insects that humans must battle for survival after human chemical biproducts have caused insects to evolve into enormous, mortal enemies. Though this premise is a little out there, the theme is done somewhat tongue-in-cheek with a wink at the listener because Stanley has a host of serious musicians backing up his talented fusion guitar chops. This all-star lineup includes premiere fusion drummers Dennis Chambers of CAB and Sean Rickman who has been know to slap the skins with the likes of Shawn Lane. Stanley has also brought Mark Egan and Mark Smoot into his ensemble on bass.

Stanley sets out in the earlier parts of the album to demonstrate his abilities with aggressive fusion with an emphasis on the rock side of fusion. Later in the album, he diverges into a more abstract jazz twist on fusion to prove that he can delve into this cultural faction of fusion with equal talent. The breadth that his style spans will surely strike a resonance with fans of fusion at all point in the spectrum that he spans.

Putting the awe of the lineup aside, Stanley delivers a stunning performance on guitar that traverses his amazing progressive, fusionistic compositions with remarkable technique and captivating musical vision. In the earlier tracks on the album, the driving tempos fuel Stanley's aggressive guitar riffing, shredding, and melodic domination. Stanley's playing is at times more raw and less exacting in his articulation when he is grooving to this more energized form of fusion. But, the raw energy works towards a good effect in this case and any lack of precision has more to do with perfection of finesse in dealing with energized tones while getting caught up in the spirit of the passages, rather than anything more serious that might be of detriment to the musical precision. So, Stanley is well within the boundaries of raw fusion in these regards (and I think the rawness works in a cool way). In addition to his aggressive fusion traits, Stanley has a superb sense for balancing outside harmonization with well-stated, melodic themes that he is quick to dismiss with towering runs.

Besides Mark Stanley's guitar prowess that is the focal point of the album, his supporting entourage provides a solid backing, notably Chambers and Rickman's percussionry provide a subtle distraction throughout their appearances. Both impart a deft element of class to the effort with their rhythms that constantly evolve with innovative variations around the central beat and tempo. The bass efforts of Mark Egan and Mark Smoot provide fine support for and interplay with Stanley's cavalcade of fusionistic fireworks.

All in all, Insect Warriors from Mark Stanley covers such a broad range of fusion with good results, that this album should find a good home in the ear of most fusion fans. Stanley not only understands the aggressive side of fusion, but he also has a grasp on the dark side of fusion... abstraction, outside harmonization, and inter-galactic exploration. The net sum for the listener is a digestible auditory buffet with the intellectual satisfaction of technical depth rolled in. On the scale of "into it", I rate this one a thumbs up for Mark Stanley's Insect Warriors!


Mark Stanley Guitars
Mark Egan Bass
Dennis Chambers Drums
Sean Rickman Drums
Mark Smoot Bass
Kyle Coughlin Sax
Andy Milne Synth
Megan Stanley Vocals
Mike Gordon Voals
1) Our Mission
2) Worms
3) Niphila
4) Smarty p-ants
5) Crickets and Moths
6) Giant Ants
7) Angeldust
8) Blookfluke
9) Marigold
10) The Beetles
11) Garantula
12) We Have Won

~ Christopher Ruel ~ ~ ~ October 2003





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