JOE STUMP – Speed Metal Messiah

JOE STUMP - Speed Metal Messiah


Lion Music
Release date: November 16, 2004

User Review
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Joe Stump, aka the Shredmaster, aka the Ultimate Guitar Monster, is back! Speed Metal Messiah is his 7th instrumental album and, according to himself, the best one he has ever made. He has said that he has never made an album so close to his own vision and emotion … and technically he for sure hasn’t slipped one iota!

The title track, “Speed Metal Messiah,” kicks off the action, a composition divided across the two first tracks. Be sure to fasten your seat belts and don’t forget those safety goggles! As with the majority of the tracks on the album, this one is indeed in the neoclassical shade of the musical rainbow. Apparent also is his deep fascination for baroque music. Exit “Speed Metal Messiah,” enter “The Red Priest,” a heavier and more aggressive composition … and perhaps a little more melodic? His arpeggio movements in the main theme are so elegant and so fast, it’s gotta put a smile on your face …

The “Eastern Beast”‘ that appears in the 4th track is slower and more gracious. The all over oriental chord progression and scale movements justifies the “Eastern” part of the song title. The power and the size (i.e., the length) justifies including the word “Beast.” It’s a composition that might bring you back to the early years of the guitar shred genre, especially to a couple of albums by someone who once claimed he had never in his life seen a Swedish sunrise …

“Weapon of Choice” picks up where “The Red Priest” signed off. In fact, the opening phrase here is nearly identical to some of the phrases found towards the end of “The Red Priest.” It’s fast, it’s loud, and it’s pure power to your spirit … very nice, in spite of the dorky main theme.

“Reflection” gives you a chance to catch your breath. Its initial slow tempo and melody is in line with any other ballad, but the Shredmaster has a few tricks up his sleeve, and soon the notes are poured out, like necklace beads dropped on a table of glass. Actually, the slow tempo gives him a better chance to slide on the timing, thus making his playing more expressive and emotional. The melody line is only average, though, and the fade out at the end is a pity, as if a composer of this magnitude couldn’t find a way to end the song in a proper way.

“The Killer Instinct” toggles between half and full tempo with Joe Stump picking notes and arpeggios faster than a bartender picking up your generous tip. The last half of the song is again a trip to the East, but otherwise the song is mostly in the baroque landscape. Not at all a bad composition, but the end is partially ruined by the fade out.

The visit to the “Dragon’s Den” in track 8 is the best proof of Stump’s skills and the merging of technique and composition within this album. With a guitar run through a delay effect, he creates an image of a duet. Any guitarist will know how hard it is to play this kind of thing without getting stuck, or lost, or both! If you make just one mistake, it comes out doubled. Stump makes no mistake and leaves the den safe and sound.

There is really not much anger to be found in “Unleashing the Fury.” The song is devoted to the baroque tradition in Metal, and once again his scales and arpeggios are second to none. The melody, however, doesn’t reach out at first (due to a muffled sounding guitar) and doesn’t really offer much when it finally surfaces. Still, it’s guaranteed to get you stomping your foot, and after song is over, your 5 minutes of requisite exercise for today should be satisfied. Phew!

“Retroactivity” takes you back to times of long hair and flower power as its Hendrix groove carries forward the “jolliest” track on the album. Admittedly, the song is a little off at first, being way out of line with the other songs, but it really grows on you. Cool! The fade out here is almost forgivable too …

“Psycho Shred Suite 1st Movement” (track 11), along with its “2nd Movement” (track 13), and the in-between “Cadenza Diablo” (track 12), are the most progressive compositions on the album. They are all kept in a very strict neoclassical style, with the fugal (from ‘fuga’, an art by which the great composers and keyboard players of baroque times were measured) “Cadenza Diablo” shining as the definite highlight. The three appear to have a stronger focus on melody and harmony than the others, and that serves the album quite well! The subtle sound variations in the keyboards also add something to them — a kind of soul if you will — which is harder to find among the other tracks. A favorite trio, indeed!

This good feeling is certainly kept up in the nearly pure baroque “Chamber Maid,” which closes the “Speed Metal Messiah” show. A nice piece of music, allowing Stump to expose his more romantic side, accompanied by keyboards only.

The verdict? Well, Joe Stump keeps his alias alive … and sound and production-wise, as well as technically, it’s one heck of an album. There are also some compositions with good “classic” potential. Still, there is something missing. In this world of plastic-techno-dance-crap music, it’s indeed a vital injection, but where is the soul, man? Except for those tracks mentioned, it’s hard to let yourself get seduced by anything but an outstanding performance technically. If that’s enough for you, I doubt you would find any better album to buy. If not, stay clear.


  • Frode Leirvik

    Frode was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Norway. His headbanging experience started when his brother-in-law gave him Deep Purple’s Fireball at the age of ten. Since then, he has also been a fan of and active in several other musical genres, resulting in a deep and profound interest in music. Some of his favorites, among all of those who have somehow managed to tap into the universal force of Progressive Music are (in no particular order): Thule, Dream Theater, King Crimson,Pink Floyd, Rush, Spock’s Beard, Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, Ekseption, Focus, The Beatles, Deep Purple and Frank Zappa.

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