Guitar wizard Toby Knapp returns with both furious speed and pinpoint precision on his fourth full length album, The Campaign, on Shredguy Records; ready to shred the flesh from your bones. Handling all the instrumental duties, Knapp has delivered a powerful record that pushes the envelope of what extreme music can be…
Four of the nine tracks on The Campaign are instrumental, my favorite being ‘Plutonium Race’, a track that was originally released in ’96 on Wild Rags Records. The guitar’s tight and diverse rhythmic work, won me over to the point I barely noticed the guitar leads, which may sound ridiculous if you have ever heard Knapp’s skills. The music on The Campaign is certainly flashy but not to the point where it comes off as pretentious. Instead of masturbatory guitar solo after guitar solo, the listener is subjected to pounding double bass beating spliced with diabolus in musica chord progressions, such as in ‘Conspire’ featuring the operatic vocals of Dean Sternberg of Onward, a previous group Knapp was involved in. Although the vocals on this track are just a touch too much for my ears, I was impressed. I mean, come on, I can’t sing that good and chances are good that you, or anyone you know, can’t either.
Towards Power Unimagined lets loose a storm of galloping guitar pedaling, parallel third guitar solos and bluesy string bends that reach far into the night sky before closing out with an atmospheric Black Metal assault. The Crowley quote found within the liner notes may be a companion piece to this instrumental, possibly shedding some light on Knapp’s ‘spiritual guidepost’. We Are Legion, featuring a vocal contribution from Godless Rising’s Jeff Gruslin, continues the assault with vomited vocals and enough palm-muted ‘chugging’ to snap your neck.
The dance-able and ever-so-catchy Wicked really caught my ear, easily the most memorable song on the album. I purposely avoid ‘pop’ music but I know it when I hear it and can’t help but to like this song. The guitar rhythm takes a backseat to the vocal harmony in the hook but still manages to congeal as one big fat chorus that sticks to your brain like crazy-glue. Wicked is a good example of what corporate radio would sound like if it played music that involved talent, vision and innovation.
With an abrupt shifting of the gears, The Campaign turns down a dark path with Reanimation, featuring vocals from none other than Attila Csihar of the notorious Mayhem. Black Metal until it’s dying breath, Reanimation smothers with its dark spell and tortures with its grinding and syncopated kick drum/guitar wrath. Nearly seven minutes in length, the lyrically cryptic Reanimation makes its mark dark and deep with it’s epic progression and chilling emotion.
The Campaign is certainly a breath of fresh air for extreme music, reminding us that talent and ability need not be viewed with disdain in this genre that is far too overrun with ‘raw’ and ‘trve’ copycats who refuse to tune their instruments. Toby Knapp has a well deserved reputation for his sonic capacity, no matter what musical mold one tries to squeeze him into. Give The Campaign a good, long listen soon!