By Derek Malone
Some musicians arrive at the blues and other roots styles via a circuitous route. There’s a childhood fascination with the showboat exuberance heard in pop-metal guitarists; the great shredders like Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai. The speed and virtuosity of the soloing, the plethora of pedal effects, combined with the high volume, cast a magical spell on a certain kind of impressionable young musician, enveloping the listener in a fantasy world, one that will evolve over time, but never go away.
Eventually, tastes change, and all this starts to yield to an appreciation of artists like Stevie Ray Vaughn, and to the study of earlier masters like Albert King, some jazz influences like Wes Montgomery, and so on. A certain maturity of taste is eventually arrived at, but the young player still remains essentially a metal kid on some elemental level, while attaining fluency in a second language, if you will.
German-born guitarist-vocalist, Dan Hunter, (nè Daniel Hinte) is cut from just this cloth, and his tattooed young trio specialize in a versatile riff-driven new blues-rock, a kind of modern incarnation of classic 60’s triads such as The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream. Their 12-track debut, the self-released album, “Angels & Dust” was released on February 10th, 2017.
Were it not for Hunter’s effects-laden vocals, which are adequate but clearly secondary to his far greater proficiency as a guitarist, I would say that some of the music is not unlike that of Israeli wunderkind Oz Noy, in that it is often centered on ambitious, complex guitar-leads and flashy solos in original compositions that traverse an eclectic range of styles and influences. The songs also carry a patina of alternative rock, which is probably inescapable given the ages of the players.
To my ears, Hunters’ biggest influence of all seems to be Stevie Ray Vaughn, so perhaps the up-tempo, Vaughn-inspired instrumental track, “Overload,” showcases the trio in its essence, with its muscular main riff that is punctuated with lightning-fast asides, funky slap bass by Mike Holland, and a driving rhythm by drummer Dirk Sengotta, who sounds like a progressive player that’s holding back a bit so as not to step on things too much.
“Digital World” is one of the more ambitious pieces, and has a few tricky transitions between sections that are informed by jazz composition, and soloing that recalls Hunter’s early exposure to 80’s metal virtuosos.
A smoother, cleaner sound is explored in the ballad, “Rise,” beginning with the pre-recorded sound of ocean waves and fading out in the same manner. It might strike some as somewhat saccharine, but it happens to accord with an undeniable aspect of my taste, so I took a forgiving attitude towards it.
Another ballad, “Let me Go,” rooted in Skynyrd-esque southern rock, is a duet with female vocalist Kemi Cee, who has a lovely voice, accompanied by Hunter at his more earnest-sounding.
If anything approaches an anthem or statement of Hunter’s personal ethos it would have to be, “Self-Seeker,” a hard-rocking ode to needing to be “left alone.” I was somehow reminded of the late Greta Garbo. Lyrically, it’s a bit on-the-nose, but if English is a second language to him, then some of his vocalizing strikes my American ears as having a certain charm in its directness, perhaps unintentionally.
Overall, the album is a mixed bag. It has its peaks and valleys, but it is an ambitious effort by an up-and-coming young band that has some considerable talent. Guitar aficionados will want to take notice. Never underestimate what a heavy-metal kid can do.
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