Theodore Ziras - Grecian neoclassical riffgae - " aka Eclectic Earwig Reviews Music and More for You!"
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Theodore Ziras: Virtual Virtuosity
2003, Secret Port Records, SPR 0009

Theodore Ziras answers the challenge to follow up his world class debut with a comparable sequel on his latest release, Virtual Virtuosity. Ziras unleashes a fury of relentless, aggressive neoclassical fireworks on the first track, "Terminus Ad Quem", blazing a trail of fiery fretwork that sets the frantic pace for the album that seems impossible to maintain, though remarkably, it is. Notably on this effort, Ziras has made improvements on production and integration relative to his phenomenal first release, Trained To Play, though he also maintains his devotion to purist neoclassical philosophy that is characterized by original themes, catchy motifs, mesmerizing patterns, breath-taking sequences, and awe-inspiring arrangements. The compositions are comprised of intensive guitar lines that intracately weave the complex themes, sequences, and passages into cohesive arrangements that dazzle the listener with the individual musical ideas while exhilarating them with the overall musical vision and driving direction that is formed from these constituent elements.

Once again, as on his first release, Ziras has fused a combination of inspired themes with intense development and virtuoso guitar work that established his trademark sound on Trained To Play. His arrangements strike a tenuous balance between the enigmatic, involved technique, arrangement, and structuring, and the musical ideas that they project. These contending elements in the compositional fiber of the music heighten the intensity of the listening experience in a manner that will surely attract the attention of a technical audience while Ziras' attention to accessible thematic development should keep the interest of a much wider listening audience. Followers of Kuprij, Bellas, Becker, and the other devout neoclassical technician / composers will revel in the resurgence of neoclassical extremism that Ziras has achieved with regard to these forementioned elements on Virtual Virtuosity.

It is easily apparent that Ziras has put much effort into developing new and original material on Virtual Virtuosity that distinguishes his guitar playing and compositional ingenuity from the pre-existing volumes of neoclassical virtuosity.Fans of the purist neoclassical school of listening and guitar virtuosity will want to add this release to the top shelf of their collection. Theodore Ziras has put forth another monumental effort that has resulted his second masterpiece of epic scale and colossal proportions. The intensive material on this CD makes for satisfying absorption upon each subsequent listening that only gets better upon each successive exposure.

Guitars, Rhythm Programming Theodore Ziras
1) Terminus Ad Quem
2) Dark Valley
3) Depression
4) Air-To-Air
5) The Edge
6) Virtual Virtuosity
7) Fictitious Rhapsody
8) Your Majesty
9) Evermore...
10) The Boring Machine
11) Liquidity

~ Christopher Ruel ~ ~ ~ Chris Ruel's Monthly Spotlight

Theodore Ziras: Trained To Play
2001, Steel Gallery Records, SGR CD-006

Theodore Ziras. Now this is what I am talking about. Superb composition, amazing technique, 
staggering speed, breathtaking feeling, enthralling emotional content, carefully balanced 
dynamics, and polished finesse; it is all there. Theodore Ziras has driven a stake into the ground 
at the world class neoclassical arena with Trained To Play that has established him as one of the 
premiere axemen in that arena, ready to fend off all doubters at the peril of their own lives... 
well, at least their reputations. In a single word: INTENSE. I am now making the official 
proclamation: Theodore Ziras of Greece is the real deal. He is undoubtedly a virtuoso six string 
slinger of world class caliber.

Theodore Ziras is a musician who will appreciate the criteria that I have measured my reviews 
against. Ziras lists his influences who all possess these qualities. These influences show in Ziras' 
playing and compositional style. What I like about Ziras is his attention to and careful execution 
of balance. There is balance in speed and slower, well-fealt melodies (and there is no shortage of 
speed here, if that is what you like); balance in dynamics; balance in tonal contrast; as well as 
balance in the guitar techniques and contrapuntal phrasings orchestrated. There is thematic 
development, exploration, and unexpected changes to keep the short attention span of 
hyperactive minds, like mine, involved. Did I mention that Ziras uses some really unusual 
instrumentation in spots... is that a harp I hear? It sure sounds good once you get over the shock 
of hearing it with that restless guitar. And, the technique... the fluid, blazing sweeps like a 
match set to a trail of gasoline; the blindingly fast scales like a zipper pulled evenly up a jacket; 
the smoking fast pedal tones like a lark in mating season, only ten times faster; the crystal clear 
picking as clear as a symbol in an anechoic chamber; the inspired string bending, vibrato, and 
control; let's not even get into any of that!

Ziras has absorbed and assimilated the styles of Malmsteen, Becker, Bellas, and several other 
notable neoclassical giants. He has put the resulting hybrid style into a packaging that has a 
style and feel that are all his own. The underlying feel and melodic invention is unique to Ziras 
as he applies many techniques and phrasings made famous by his predecessors. But, Ziras is no 
clone. These now standard techniques that Ziras integrates into his style are used as a 
foundation to build upon with his own unique compositional vision that breathes new life into 
these revived techniques. So, although I wouldn't say that Ziras is a pioneer in technique, I 
would say that he shows skill and promise as an artistic pioneer in the second generation (wave) 
of the neoclassical musicians that started with Kuprij and Bellas who are building upon the 
foundations laid by the first generation comprised of the legendary pioneers, such as Malmsteen, 
Becker, MacAlpine, and Vinnie Moore. 

Another aspect of Ziras' approach that I really like, is that he focuses on the clean, melodic, 
classical aspects of his influences. Ziras plays with clear, clean tone which really makes the 
fretwork apparent, as well as the technical proficiency involved. The tonal canvas that Ziras 
paints is pure in its colors and doesn't get muddied by any adolescent fantasies of rock-stardom 
that could otherwise result in compromise to the classical aspects of the music. This is music 
written and executed with a vision of its place in a broader historical context and hits its target 
in the listening audience of neoclassical purists who like instrumental music that is not saddled 
with trendy rock-isms. One listening to the opening theme (that is reminiscent of George Bellas 
immediately) will tell you what you are in for with Trained To Play. About the only weakness I 
might point out in Trained To Play is that it is so guitar-centric that the keyboards are relatively 
weak... but trust me, the guitar work is enough! You probably wouldn't even think to listen to 
the keyboards in that context if I hadn't pointed it out. Maybe Ziras should be the next guitarist 
to team up with Kuprij?... a frightening thought. Are you paying attention? He is that good!

As far as standouts go on Trained To Play, there aren't any. The entire album is absolutely 
amazing. You will not have a moment to catch your breath from the opening theme to the final 
note and at any time during the million notes that occur in between. Ziras takes you on a race, 
wire to wire, with an all out controlled frenzy of blistering guitar work that leaves the 
competition standing at the starting gate, deer-in-the-headlight eyes wide open and paralyzed 
with bewildered amazement. And, he does it with classy, well-felt melodies of his own design 
that taunt his detractors and rivals because he knows he has the speed to back them up. So, 
though I will refrain from singling out any tracks as standouts, I will say that those haunting 
melodies in "The Gush" sent chills down my spine and widened my eyes with attention.

Trained To Play has earned my awe and respect. I highly recommend it to neoclassical fans. 
This is the best new artist neoclassical album to be released since Vitalij Kuprij. Give it a couple 
of listenings to absorb it. Ziras is a very intelligent musician... and did I mention that he can tear 
it up and shred with the best of them? If you like neoclassical music, you are going to love 
Trained To Play. Or, if you are just a guitarist and what to see what the state of the art in 
neoclassical music is, you should pick this one up. Theodore Ziras is a classy player with a 
promising future. He is a guitarist's guitarist that is capable of composing music accessible to the 
masses. I can hardly wait to see what he does on his next release. My hat is off to you Theodore 

1) Future Memories 
2) Dash 
3) Common Transition 
4) The First Attempt 
5) The Vital Lead 
6) Confusing Check 
7) Mysterious Simplicity 
8) The Gush 
9) Missing God 
10) Never Breaking The Rules 
11) Symphonious Departure 

~ Christopher Ruel ~ ~ 




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