Devil's Slingshot - Clinophobia
Mascot Records
Instrumental Heavy Rock
9 songs (40.07)
Release year: 2007
Devil's Slingshot, Mascot Records
Reviewed by Aleksie
I was very excited when this particular promo hit my door step from Mascot Records. Devil’s Slingshot is a trio comprised of drum wizard Virgil Donati, all-around instrumental-badass Tony Macalpine and bass player extraordinaire Billy Sheehan, playing all instrumental throughout this record. Two thirds of the awesome fusion team of Planet X together with one of my favourite bassist’s of all time – what on earth could go wrong?

Well, I’m not exactly sure about that, but something doesn’t click with this record. Looking at the vrew of players one could immediately expect material along the lines of Planet X, or at least virtuocity without as much jazz as Macalpine and Donati had done with Derek Sherinian. I’d say the latter goes pretty close. The overall vibe of the record leans towards a heavy, modern take on a proggy rock format. The progressivness comes out more in the melodic lines and tempo tricks than in epicness or actual length. The opening chuggernaut Nederland clocks in at just over six minutes, and it is the only one crossing the five-minute mark. The playing overall is impeccable as one could imagine, but the songs themselves are lacking, well, hooks and memorable passages.

Quite many of these songs seem bafflingly “chuggy” so to speak, not quite going Pantera with the riffs but not going that far away. This style produces little to remember and I was even surprised how straight-forward and bland these parts were. It’s good that they didn’t aim to simply impress the listener with their skills, as I don’t think anyone can top Planet X’s quality in that department. The straight-ahead riff-moments on this album feel like they have been jammed together on the spot but I just can’t find the juice and energy that I’m sure the band felt.

Whenever the band lets the heaviness go a bit and groove on in a more laid-back manner, the whole package feels much better. The slightly relaxing Ballade De Bastille is a great example of this. Macalpine’s solos display great emotion and the melodies stick to you. I’d say even the moments where they go nuts with the skillz, the vibes improve greatly. The frolicking rocker Def Bitch Blues has a fabulous solo section where Macalpine and Sheehan harmonize the widdling passages perfectly in line with each other, clearly envoking memories of the great dual solos Sheehan and Paul Gilbert executed together in Mr. Big. The final two songs, Hourglass and Aerial Perspective, combine progressive twitches with excellent melodic works (not that far from the better moments of Dream Theater in style), resulting in a very high note for the record to end on. It’s a real shame that the rest of the songs don’t possess as much catchiness as these mentioned ones.

Another letdown overall is the production on the album. It isn’t bad but very rough and uneven in many spots, most oddly different between songs. The guitars feel a bit muddy and weak until then in the last two songs they beef up like they should have been the whole time – really weird. And even though I like my drum porn as audible as the next instru-wanker, the drums are much too much on the top here. They take away some power from the bass, which is never a good thing.

I’d really like to know if the guys have recorded this album straight onto tape during extended jam sessions, as both the songs and production job indicate that not much polishing has gone into the craft here. An organic approach like this can work, but for this particular album, I think a beefier production would have done a lot of good. Fans of these players can still find much to enjoy on Clinophobia, but I would lie if my admittedly high expectations were not met at all.

Killing Songs :
Ballade De Bastille, Def Bitch Blues, Hourglass & Aerial Perspective
Aleksie quoted 66 / 100
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