In the world of heavy metal, the guitar virtuoso has always been a staple of the genre more than in any other form of popular music. Whether it was the old guard of Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore, and Jimi Hendrix or the flashy players of the 80’s such as Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Randy Rhoads, guitarists have always made their mark as the unsung heroes of metal. In 1980, guitarist/producer Mike Varney formed Shrapnel Records, a label that showcased and shined a spotlight on the hottest, flashiest, and most accomplished up and coming shredders of the day such as Malmsteen (Steeler), Marty Friedman, Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, Racer X, Tony MacAlpine, Vinnie Moore, Greg Howe, Richie Kotzen, John5 and many others. Varney and Shrapnel Records made it cool to listen to an instrumental album where the guitarist was the main attraction.
Flash-forward to 2017 and that tradition of technical and talented instrumental guitar albums is being kept alive on the first solo release from guitarist Joey Concepcion (Dead By Wednesday, Armageddon, The Absence) titled Alignment. For those who are unfamiliar with Concepcion, he is an upcoming rock guitarist from Orange, Connecticut USA. For such a young player, Concepcion is a throwback to the shredders of the 1980’s, combining flashy guitar shredding, melodic sensibilities, and heavy riffs, his skills reach beyond his years.
For those who are unfamiliar with Concepcion, a little history, in 2008, Michael Vescera (vocalist for Yngwie Malmsteen, Loudness, and Obsession) asked Joey to make a guest appearance on his latest solo album released in 2008. Then only 17 years old, the guitar solos Joey provided on the album Sign of things to come proved to critics that he is force to be reckoned with in the rock guitar arena. Other musicians on the album include Joe Stump (Holy Hell), Mats Oluassen (Yngwie Malmsteen), “Metal” Mike Chasiak (Halford, Pain Museum, Sebastian Bach), Chris McCarvill (Dokken, House of Lords, Jeff Scott Soto, Obsession), and Jimi Bell (House of Lords). The project captured rave reviews from around the world.
Joey was asked in 2013 by Legendary Guitarist Christopher Amott formerly of the renowned Arch Enemy to join the band Armageddon. In the Summer of 2014 Joey was asked by Hardcore metalers Dead By Wednesday to do an American tour with legendary metal group Shadows Fall , a tour that took them all over the United States. That brings us to the present day and the release of Concepcion’s first solo album, Alignment. In the tradition of Shrapnel artists of the past, Alignment is a pure guitar focused instrumental album but with a leaning to the progressive end of the musical spectrum instead of just flashy shredding.
I am definitely not a guitarist, so I can’t speak to Concepcion’s techniques, but I recognize talent and I can say that the music is a hybrid of heavy progressive and thrash bands such as Nevermore, Animals As Leaders, Lamb of God, and Testament, and the shred guitarists previously mentioned. The songwriting is focused modern metal, grooving in places, fast when the song calls for it, and heavy as hell with brilliant technical and melodic solos. From the modern metal of lead single Across the Skies to the thrash metal Testament-esque The Architect, and the groove-laden ultra melodic Sirens which also features a bluesy solo mid-song reminiscent of George Lynch. Falling is a nice classical guitar piece that serves as an intro to Forces of Nature, a headbanging mid-tempo track with a gorgeously phrased guitar melody line to end the song.
Each song on Alignment has an identity and unique quality that shows off Concepcion’s varied influences of Jeff Loomis, Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman, and so many others. There is even a piano interlude (Concerto To A Dream) that shows Concepcion to be a multi-faceted composer and that leads into the albums final song; the Nevermore influenced Shards of Stars. Alignment features 11 tracks of hard hitting melodic metal that will appeal to any fan of progressive heavy metal, especially guitar enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy Alignment. I predict big things on the horizon for Joey Concepcion.
purchase Alignment on Joey Concepcion’s Bandcamp page here
Stream the album on Spotify here