Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Album Review - Paul Kleff "Machined"

Paul Kleff is a rock/metal guitarist based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, and has over 20 years of experience as a musician, instructor, composer and performer. He was originally inspired by artists like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and The Who, which got him started on acoustic guitar, learning some chords, songs and the basics of guitar playing.

Paul was soon drawn to the fire, expression and speed of artists like Edward Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, George Lynch and Yngwie Malmsteen. He then set out to learn the styles of his heroes and began practicing and developing a lead guitar style based on both blues-influenced rock and the neoclassical shred styles of his newer influences.

Paul was featured on the 2008 compilation CD, “Guitars from the Shadows,” along with 12 other musicians from all over the world.

In mid September 2008, Paul will be participating in a seven city instructional clinic tour through the Midwest USA, along with six other guitarists and international touring and recording artist Tom Hess. The clinics will be held at Guitar Center and local music stores in each city.

Paul teaches private lessons at his studio in Grand Rapids. Having successfully helped hundreds of students, he continues to develop specialized programs of study for each individual student based directly on their musical goals. Paul has also featured as an instructor on cyberfret.com and shredknowledge.com, and will be featured on additional guitar instructional websites in the future. He is also developing new instructional products set to be released in late 2008. A full-length CD is also planned for release in 2009.

Paul’s debut solo release is a four-song EP called “Machined”. It was written during late spring and summer 2008 and recorded during July 2008. The CD is made up of two instrumental songs and two songs featuring guest vocalist Jerry Keyzer.

The songs cover elements of rock, metal and shred. All the tracks are melodic, but what I find most pleasing is Paul’s ability do drop an unexpected twist into his riffs and leads.

All music was composed and performed by Paul and all lyrics were written and performed by Jerry Keyzer. The CD was mastered by Rob Perez.

Looking at the individual tracks:

The first track, “Grind”, has one of the best verse riffs I’ve ever heard. Heavy, driving, and mean, with some trademark Kleff twists. The solos are great compositions in their own right and, while showcasing Paul’s awesome chops, they remain fresh and melodic. “Grind” is a great opener to the CD.

Track two, “Last Stand”, is the first of two vocal tracks featuring vocals by Jerry Keyzer. I hear a lot of Iron Maiden and old Queensryche in both the vocals and guitars in the chorus section. The solo is great and fits the song well, as opposed to being a gratuitous flash of skill, and it remains tasteful and nothing sounds forced.

The third track, “Dead Line”, is the second vocal track. Building from just a clean guitar and vocals, it morphs into a mid-tempo metal anthem, bridging the gap between an air punching epic and a metal ballad. Keyzer’s delivery is powerful, emotional and raw. The fast linier runs, pedal-point ideas and swept arpeggios, combined with Paul’s excellent vibrato create another melodic mini-composition for the solo section.

The opening guitar phrase to the fourth track (and second instrumental) “As If…”, is so cool I immediately picked up my own guitar and learnt it. It floats over a piano-based rhythm section which eases off as the lead guitar builds for the chorus. The melody over the opening and verse sections has a vocal-like quality in both the tone and phrasing. The bridge and outro section show a great use of vibrato and harmonized lines to express a great deal of emotion. The song is essentially a hard-rock ballad and it ends the CD off well.

As a whole, the production is clear and balanced, while Paul’s melodic sensibility is fresh and often unexpected. I can’t wait for a full album.

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