Andy James: Exodus
Release Date: 05/05/2017
Guitar virtuoso Andy James is no stranger in the guitar playing community.
The virtuoso guitar player from the UK came to my attention when he did an entry for the Greg Howe contest back in 2008 and I’ve been a fan ever since.
After my discovery of him I decided to look in to Andy’s music and to my pleasant surprise he has been actively making music since 1999.
I thought to myself that he is one of the best Rock and Metal virtuoso's that I had never heard of before the Youtube wave.
I am excited to dive into Andy James’s recent offering ‘Exodus’.
01. Ever After
02. Made of Stone
03. Days Gone By
05. From the Dark
06. A World Once Lost
08. Never Back Down
10. Exit Through Ashes
It has certainly been a while since the release of the previous self-titled record that came out in 2011.
With Exodus Andy has conquered new grounds and revisited some of the older ones. Right from the starting of this album when we begin listening to ‘Ever After’, the message is loud and clear.
It has to be aggressive while also remaining subtle and there has to be a lot of melody.
Andy really knows how to write riffs that are heavy and catchy and that can clearly be heard in ‘Made Of Stone’, the intro captivates you instantly and the entire track is filled with amazing hooks and face melting shredding sequences like the one at (1:48).
What I really love about this album is the balance that the album possesses.
‘3 Days Gone By’ is a power ballad done instrumentally. Andy really shines as a writer here. The soaring melodies and the nice big chunky harmonically sweet sounding distorted chords really set the atmosphere. You are forced to wave your head to the rhythm; it’s a great example of Andy’s strong sense of writing without compromising on any of his technical chops.
The next track has this mystical aura about it right from the beginning. It’s setting the mood for something truly spectacular and that’s exactly what it is! ‘Hurricane’ is an incredible powerhouse of a track. At (0:36) an intricate picking section comes in that really projects the melody of the intro even further. I found Andy’s phrasing to be quite different from his previous works. The phrasing here to me seems to have been inspired by the phenomenal Jason Becker and Marty Friedman duo Cacophony.
There is this eastern/oriental touch to the main melody, which really screams Marty Friedman and Jason Becker to me. The track has some of the most tasteful and complex shredding, added to that we have a very catchy melody. It’s a recipe for an extremely strong metal instrumental.
The next track is ‘From The Dark’ and this one has these really tight distorted syncopated rhythms with some chords on the clean channel with a bit of reverb and chorus being played in the background. This to me is a modern take on Progressive metal by Andy James.
It’s a little new in my view when it comes to Andy’s style. While the guitar isn’t tuned down to the point where it could create a hole in the space-time continuum, there certainly is a vibe taken from the ‘Djent’ movement. I really love the change in key during the chorus of this track. I personally really enjoyed this track, loved that modern progressive metal take with the Andy James touch. To top it off there is a stellar guest guitar solo by Sims Cashion. Sims is a young guitar virtuoso from South Carolina, USA.
Moving forward we get in to ‘A World Once Lost’. This track has a beautiful melody that will be stuck in your head for a long time to come. A World Once Lost definitely has classic metal riffs melding with the melodic metal style; there are definitely traces here from the previous album. This track could have easily fit on the self-titled record and felt right at home there.
There is a jaw dropping tapping guitar lick that will inspire any guitar player that has the will to learn and expand their knowledge of the instrument too. There are incredible sweeps on this track combined with Andy’s polished alternate picking sequences that are memorable.
Close your eyes, sit back and relax for the track that’s coming up.
‘Gone’ is an excellent breather after the intensity of ‘A World Once Lost’. With beautiful chords in the background, soaring lead melodies that you could sing, a display of fierce picking sequences, a vibrato extremely expressive and perfectly intonated bends; this is Andy James at his very best.
Andy is extremely expressive and melodic on this track. If fans of Andy loved ‘What Lies Beneath’ from the previous album, then this track will take over their hearts and souls.
Moving along we delve into the track called ‘Never Back Down’. This track really projects the feelings of someone who needs motivation, who has a lot of obstacles to face, this individual eventually overcomes those obstacles and starts striving towards his/her goals. The energy on this track is intense and as a listener it made me imagine an entire scenario that I explained above. Very few musicians and tracks have the power to do that.
I really love the sequence of Exodus; the tracks are extremely well placed. It really feels like an entire soundtrack to some epic story that you would be forced to conjure in your head.
‘Victory’ comes right after ‘Never Back Down’ and this is where I feel the individual has finally achieved his/her goals. There is a positive vibe throughout this track. The track has some of the most fun yet complex guitar sequences that I’ve heard from Andy James.
The phenomenal UK virtuoso Rick Graham is also featured on this track. The musical combination of Andy James and Rick Graham is strong enough to bring a person back to life. I really enjoyed the exchanges of ideas between both of them; you can hear the joy in this track and that’s what makes it so wonderful.
We’re finally at our last and final track, ‘Exit Through Ashes’. After all the notes that were played, after all the soaring melodies, and face melting shred passages, this track is the perfect closer to the album. It’s Andy James, his guitar, and in the background a keyboard is being used to play chord vamps. It’s very soothing. Andy does not forget to show his technical prowess here either but as always it’s done tastefully and is extremely enjoyable.
I definitely think that this is an incredible solo album by Andy James. With every listen it gets better and more enjoyable. Andy’s writing on this album is some of the most mature writing I have seen from him, the solos are beautifully composed and executed and there is a ton of balance on this album. There is no shortage of shredding but it’s not over excessive. Each instrumental feels like a proper song. The production is extremely clean and even at loud volumes you won’t feel any ear fatigue.
Andy James is one of the few guitar virtuoso's that has the ability to make instrumentals that are memorable and technically challenging. On Exodus he shines in every department and I highly recommend this album to all the music lovers out there.
This record is a benchmark on how to write killer guitar instrumentals in the metal/shred guitar realm.