Album Title: Pictures From A Time Traveller
Label: Lion Music
Year of Release: 2013
When was the last time you actually enjoyed an instrumental rock or metal album? For me, the answer is probably never or, at best, very rarely. In fact, as I type, I am struggling to think of a noteworthy example of the genre. Nope, I give up….or should I say ‘I had nearly given up’? Because here is probably the first instrumental metal album that hand-on-heart, I can say that I like and thoroughly enjoy listening to.
Having never been much of a fan of Royal Hunt, Marcus Jidell was not a musician with which I was overly familiar in my formative metal-loving years. However, in 2010, the six-string maestro joined the band that I still consider to be my all-time favourite, Evergrey. From that moment, the name of Marcus Jidell has necessarily become an important one.
And, despite featuring as a guest musician with a number of other bands throughout his career (most notably Candlemass), “Pictures From A Time Traveller” is Marcus’s first attempt at a solo album. This makes it even more impressive in my opinion and I only hope that Marcus gets the success and the plaudits that this album richly deserves.
Marcus cites a number of influences on his website, from B.B. King to Yngwie Malmsteen, from Miles Davis to Ritchie Blackmore. It is an eclectic mix of styles but one that has helped to shape him into the fascinating and original guitarist that this record clearly and unequivocally reveals him to be.
“Pictures From A Time Traveller” consists of just seven tracks and a running time of a little over half an hour. Many may baulk at such a brief album but in many ways I think that this has helped to avoid those criticisms that are often levelled at such recordings, that they are boring, long-winded or overly self-indulgent. That’s not the case here, with the focus very much on creating music that makes an impact, creates moods for the listener and showcases the talents of the main man without ever outstaying its welcome. Three tracks clock in at over six minutes in length but never seem too drawn out or contrived. The songs are simply that long for a reason.
For me to go into the minutiae of Marcus’ technique and style would be a disaster. I am not a guitarist. I have a guitar; in fact I have two. I even have a couple of amps, a distortion pedal and a few picks lying around. However, this does not make me a guitarist and I don’t really have the first clue about many of the intricacies at play here. What I do know though, is what I like and what impresses me.
On that score, there is much to talk about with “Pictures From A Time Traveller”. Firstly, Marcus comes across as such an intelligent and expressive guitarist, showing soft and deft touches one minute before unleashing something much more aggressive in the blink of an eye. It is this ability to create light and shade that helps to create rich visual tapestries in the mind’s eye and maintain my attention throughout. The solos are superb – fast, intricate and soaring. Opener “Arctica” builds slowly, the lead-work subtle yet captivating. It transforms into something not too dissimilar to mid-era Evergrey with fast leads and a strong rhythm before unleashing arguably the best solo on the entire record.
However, the most positive aspect is the way in which Marcus can get his guitar to sing. Without a vocalist, the music itself needs to provide that extra dimension and inject those emotive nuances in order to transform the piece of music into a song. It is here that Marcus excels. The very final track with its mix of acoustic and bluesy electric guitar is the very epitome of what I am trying to get at. It is a truly beautiful piece of music.
Away from the guitar-playing of Marcus himself, the other strengths of this record are numerous. The man himself also takes on the roles of bassist, keyboardist, cellist, pianist and percussionist. However the album also benefits from guest performances from some of Marcus’ friends, such as drummer Hannes Van Dahl (Evergrey), bassist Johan Niemann (Evergrey) and keyboardist Andre Andersen (Royal Hunt). Strong as they are, these guest performances never get in the way of the focal point of the songs and the album as a whole.
Then there’s also the song writing itself which is great throughout, blending a number of styles together seamlessly, from the more out-and-out metallic groove of “Space Dog” to the 70s hard rock undertones of “Huldra (Ruler Of The Forest)”, all brought together via the common thread of great melodies, infectious hooks and a tangible ‘joie-de-vivre’.
For the first time, I find myself in the position of being able to recommend an instrumental metal album to you. Congratulations Marcus Jidell, it has been a long time coming.
The Score of Much Metal:
Take a listen to a sampler of “Pictures From A Time Traveller” here.