Vitalij Kuprij - Neoclassical keys and guitars - Ukraine rocker - " aka Eclectic Earwig Reviews Music and More for You!"
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Ferrigno - Leal - Kuprij: Promised Land
2001, Lion Music, LMC 071

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
Keyboards Vitalij Kuprij
Bass Philip Bynoe
Drums Jon Doman
1) Promised Land
2) The Prisoner
3) Death and Illusions
4) Inner
5) Ethiopia
6) Eternal
7) Vigilance
8) The Prophecy

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


Vitalij Kuprij: VK3
1999, Shrapnel Records

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 ~ ~

Vitalij Kuprij: Extreme Measures
1998, Shrapnel Records

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 ~ ~

Vitalij Kuprij: High Definition
1997, Shrapnel Records

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 ~ ~




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