Stealphish - No Road To Shadesmar

Kev Rowland, Stealphish - No Road To Shadesmar

It has been quite a while since we last heard from Stealphish, probably due to a combination of Covid and guitarist Josh Barker busy recording an EP with Café Fistfight, but this time around we have a 3-track EP instead of just a single. He is again joined by his brother Dan who wrote and arranged the drums, while pianist Caitlyn Abbott again makes an appearance on one track. Josh is known as a seven-string shredder, adding bite and complexity to CF, and while he also lets rip in his own project when he decides the time is right there are also plenty of times when there is much more concentration on atmosphere and the power of the arrangements.

Involving Dan means the drums have a far more organic feel in nature, driving the music along as opposed to just setting a beat, which can often happen within one-man projects. Also, Josh does not rely just on his guitar throughout but also brings in layers of keyboards to create a soundscape which always has direction as opposed to just meandering along. This is instrumental music with a purpose, and although he has a fine Meshuggah-like crunch when he needs it, for the most part he keeps it in abeyance which means it has far more impact when he does let rip. According to the notes, “This music is best enjoyed while listening through headphones and pondering the limitless abstractions of infinite reality while watering your favorite house plant.” While I am not sure how to relate to the last part of that sentence (I must have a favourite?), I do concur that the only way to really optimize this release is by playing it on headphones, preferably when not being distracted by anything else.

There is a depth within this, with complex arrangements that can also be quite simplistic in nature at times, all combining to create something quite special indeed. The dynamics and contrast within this are intense and we can change from something almost balladic in nature to something which is bombastic and massively over the top within a bar, yet it is always controlled and polished and never as aggressive as one knows it could be. With one song at 6 minutes in length, another at 5, we are being led to Shadesmar which in more than 9, but it passes by very quickly indeed. This is a wonderfully intriguing release from Stealphish is captivating and thoroughly enjoyable on first play while repeated listenings helps to fully understand the depths and layers within.

MLWZ album na 15-lecie