Friday, July 11, 2008

Album Review - Nick Layton "Storming the Castle"

Nick Layton is a professional guitarist, composer and teacher living in Washington State. He has worked in a variety of professional music settings including teaching private and group lessons, as well as having been the Music Coordinator at both Chorus church in Southern California and Discovery church in Oregon.
Layton has also released a major instructional course called: Phrasing Concepts for Rock Lead Guitar Soloing-- a powerful new instructional course for guitarists who want to learn highly effective soloing concepts to help better express themselves.

In addition, Nick has co-authored the E-Book “The Next Step: Serious Improvement for the Developing Guitarist.” This book is for guitarists who want to learn to play better, faster, technically more efficient, and much more.

Nick has an endorsement with AMT Electronics and he is currently using the DT-2 Distortion Station.

Inspired by the great artists and virtuoso guitarists of the late 70's and 80's, including Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore, George Lynch , Michael Schenker, John Sykes, Dio, Queensryche, Savatage, TNT, Dream Theater, etc; Nick became obsessed with the guitar in 1987 and never looked back.

Layton's musical education includes advanced studies with virtuoso Tom Hess in his Music Careers Mentoring program as well as private studies with recording artists/virtuosos James Byrd, Slav Simanic and Howard Hart.

Nick graduated from George Fox University in 1998.

Lets dive in:

The opening track “Storming the Castle” is a hard rock track with an interesting opening melody based on the Japanese pentatonic scale. Nick says that the title of the song was inspired by a scene from the movie “The Chronicles of Narnia”, where a storming charge is lead by the Lion character, Aslan. Nicks solo’s are blazing right off the bat.

The second track “Fire” is one of two vocal tracks on the album. Both the lyrics and the vocal lines were contributed by Dave Cardwell. The song has a chilled out intro incorporating wind and chime sound effects. The rest of the song is all about the driving rhythm guitars and some great phrasing in the solo.

Track three, “Valiant One”, sees the influence that Nick draws from Yngwie Malmsteen. Nick is by no means a Yngwie clone, though he does have a good grip on his neo-classical styling’s.

“Daybreak” is based around the G# minor 9 chord. It’s extremely melodic and shows a hint of Vinnie Moore with a massive slice of Nick Layton. The solo is full of incredible ideas, probably my favourite on the album.

On to the fifth track “Snake Charmer”. Well, with a name like that, you’re expecting something with a Middle Eastern flavour and Nick’s Phrygian Dominant ideas deliver.

The other vocal track “Deceiver” sees all lyrics and vocals delivered superbly by Dave Cardwell again, as well as a guest solo by Paul Tauterouff. Nick says that Chris Oliva of Savatage came through as an influence on this track.

Track seven “B and Me” is dedicated to Nick’s friend Barb who always encouraged Nick to pursue a career in music. The song is very uplifting (well, to my ears at least) and Nick’s unique musical voice comes through strongly in this track.

“Tears of Gethsemane” is probably one of the most emotionally charged instrumental songs I’ve heard in a long while. According to Nick, the song follows the biblical account of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.

The sombre feel of the previous track is completely lifted by the ninth track “Alive Again”. Nick commented that he really likes the way the outro melody and improvised solo came out.

The final track “Palm 91” is different to all the other tracks in that there are no drum or bass lines, just a little synth. Nick explained that the biblical passage of the same name had helped him through some tough times in his personal life. A great ending to an album full of Nick Layton Signature licks.

Nick’s ability to express himself on his two Carvin DC’s is something that not many guitarists ever acquire. In short, he’s a great player and I’m sure you’ll like his music. 9/10.

Pre-Orders of the CD directly from Nick, made before July 21st will get FREE shipping. Pre-ordered CD's will ship no later than July 22nd, one full week before the official release date.In addition all pre-orders may request a free copy of the 16 track compilation album Chronicles: City of Sound.

As of 29 July, Storming the Castle, will be available at outlets such as CD Baby, I-Tunes, Guitar Nine, and several others in both hard copy and digital download versions.