evolve_cover_layer5Being a guitarist can be a tough career choice. If you’re ambitious and dedicated, practise your chops every day and refine your technique to the point of where you rival John Petrucci, you might get lucky, join a band and be poached by bigger bands. You may be playing the style you love, but sometimes that doesn’t pay the bills so you turn to the path of a session musician… And if you’re really lucky, you end up hitting the big time… With Madonna?!?

Monte Pittman has been around for years, playing with Prong as well as backing up Adam Lambert BUT he is most known as the long-time axe man for Madonna. Surprising? Maybe… But look at Nuno Bettencourt who landed himself the Rhianna gig. It’s a secure post for long periods of time and plenty of exposure. Anyway, Monte has chalked up another release to join his back catalogue and to those who can’t grasp the idea of someone with big metal credentials playing for a perfect example of Icke’s lizard people conspiracy, especially with its title. Get your heads around this inversion and try not to tumble.

With a thrash paced opener in the form of “Panic Attack”, Pittman immediately shows his metal chops. Somewhere between Alter Bridge and Annihilator, it has the melody and the technical playing down to a tee. Rapid-fire riffs give way to sweeping and intricate lead lines delivered at breakneck pace. Vocally it’s not that strong but in saying that, the slightly raw sound to the vocals does have an odd melodic context to it.

“Arisen In Broad Daylight” follows on with more pseudo-thrash grooves rich in melody but this time it has a bit of an odd timing in places. Simplistic rhythmically, the verse which is filled with big chunky chug like riffs gives way to a bridge which mixes it up a little before it kicks in for the big chorus. Again, the technical elements are present but there seems to be a bigger emphasis on rhythm rather than ripping it up. “Giving It Up” follows this rhythm based focus with some pseudo-blasts. Drumming wise, its spot on and the chainsaw like guitars buzz away but the vocals don’t quite fit the darker sound this intro has. Going into the heavy, slow paced chugging briefly, it adds some kick to the track and this switching from blast to thundering chug proves an interesting mix. Shifting gears again, it adopts a real groove metal approach, bordering on the Pantera feel before going into an odd lead rich with effects to give it a slightly surreal edge before it crashes back with a vengeance.

With this much variety in the first three tracks alone, it is clear Pittman has some great ideas and the musical bag of tricks brings out another approach. “The Times Are Changing” is a straight up hard rock/metal styled number with a simple structure and delivery but what stands out about this are the poignant lyrics in parts and a real emotional solo which fits perfectly, balancing melodic and thoughtful composition with some great guitar chops. “Double Edged Sword” has a real heavy hitting low end to the bass and guitars, almost bordering on Nu Metal. It’s got the jarring approach, convoluted feel and lack of mids to certainly back it up, it just lacks the angsty lyrics and half arsed screamed vocals!

“Cadabra” is a haunting instrumental which has a real creepy but lovely sounding progression, showing some great work with the clean and acoustic approach Pittman shows here but the synths in the background really add the edge for this track which slowly begins to build in urgency. Sadly it doesn’t build to the next track, “Pride Comes Before A Fall” as it would have been really good for a smooth transition in. Big sounding guitars, captivating work from the drums and bass and a bit of weight to it overall, it has the hard rock attitude mixed with the metallic edge and a great vocal hook to boot, picking things back up for the second half of the album. “California” opens with a bass solo which works well and the captivating rhythm of the drums comes back, giving a real punchy feel metal number when the guitars kicking in. Big grooves for the verse, vocal hooks for the chorus and a real scathing sounding bassline throughout, it has all the makings of a great live track.

“Be Very Afraid” has that building feel to its intro, almost as if it was preparing you for something big to come at you and this follows into its opening verse which finally allows the big sounding chorus to come in which has plenty of emphasis on the vocal delivery. Picking up its pace, it’s another straight up metal number with some good groove and a pulse which has an infectious nature and again, this could be classed as one of those live powerhouse tracks with the energy which runs through it. “Obliterated” does just that with an explosive, harmonic laden frantic riff. The instrumental track carries on with some impressive tricks and licks, damn good melodic progressions and real flashy technical playing which acts as a refreshing break for the final run of tracks.

“Skeleton Key” is the penultimate track and it’s got a catchy vocal hook to it with a real infectious groove and progression behind it. It’s raw and loose feel really works its way into you and it is hard to resist the urge to move along, a real good track which could be great single material if released. Finally, closing the album is “New Blood Keeps Us Alive” which is a real curveball compared to the rest of the release. Stripped back to just an acoustic guitar, soft and clear vocals and some backing ambience in the form of raindrops for the first half, it’s sense of raw emotion hits hard before the dirt gets chucked on round the halfway point, giving it a real power ballad like quality before it gets a bit more rock friendly with a heavy hitting sequence before it finally subsides and rounds the album off nicely.

In all this is a good album. It’s got a decent balance of fretboard trickery to solid rhythms and it’s got plenty of melodic hooks to keep the listener engaged. Say what you will about a guitarist with metal chops playing with a pop idol… He knows how to write a good track and have it in your head!

(7/10 Fraggle)