Paul Adrian Villarreal reviews Francis Dunnery – Frankenstein Monster for Lady Obscure
American singer Paul Adrian Villarreal is the vocalist/lyricist for Dutch progressive metal band Sun Caged. His work with the band includes their two most recent albums, Artemisia (2007) and The Lotus Effect (2011), released by Lion Music. Paul has also appeared as a guest on Marcel Coenen’s (Lemur Voice, Sun Caged) solo album, Colour Journey; on Roel van Helden’s (Powerwolf, My Favorite Scar) solo album, RvH; was a featured singer on “AIRS: A Rock Opera” by Brockmann/Andrade; and also sings two songs on an upcoming release from The Barstool Philosophers. He was also a member of “The Phoenix Project feat. John Macaluso,” which was a vehicle to showcase the music from various stages of the illustrious drummer’s career (including songs from TNT, ARK, Riot, Starbreaker, Yngwie Malmsteen & James LaBrie).
Without further ado, over to him…
I just received my pre-order of the new Francis Dunnery album, “Frankenstein Monster,” in the mail and it is sounding SO good! This really unique album definitely has that early seventies vibe (which I love!) but is also laden with note-perfect & blistering guitar! It almost sounds like a cross between early British Blues-Rock (e.g. Free, Trapeze, & even a little Black Sabbath) and early prog.
For those who don’t know. This album is a tribute to Francis’ late brother. All the recordings are new, but most of the songs come from his brother’s old band, Necromandus. They never made it big, but apparently they were highly regarded locally. So, there’s a reason it sounds vintage: it legitimately is! Francis even used his brother’s old guitar (an item he had been forbidden to even touch as a kid).
It’s not necessarily “proggy” in the sense of synthesizers, esoteric lyrics and those trappings, but somewhat proggy in terms of time signatures and interesting song structures. However, it remains very accessible. These are really FUN jams and not music that takes a lot of study to “get”.
The rhythm guitars have that choppy & jangly groove almost reminiscent of early Rush or Yes. The guitar solos, on the other hand, are a wonderful combination of that blues-rock vibe and Dunnery’s patented virtuosic shred (He refers to his brother, Baz, as “The Best Guitarist in the World” — so you can assume Francis really puts his all into the guitar parts here…and that’s saying something!).
The sound is awesome (engineered by Echolyn‘s Brett Kull!). The story about the taboo guitar, as well as a lot of other background about Baz & the project in general are told in a cool series of videos about the the making of this album. If you’re interested in that kind of thing, check out the website.
One more note: The opening and title track is not at all representative of the sound of the album that follows. It’s sort of a prologue about what the album is, but the sound is totally different. That said, it’s a little odd that that is the song chosen to promote the album on the main page of the website. I like the song, but it’s much more of a modern Dunnery sound. So, if you watch that video and it’s not sounding anything like what I wrote above, now you know why.
I’m a big fan of Dunnery. I like his singer-songwriter stuff as well as his earlier, more rocking albums. (his appearances with Steve Hackett on “Revisiting Genesis” are also remarkable!) I was never one of those guys complaining that he doesn’t wail away on the electric guitar like he used to. That said, I was excited to hear that he was going electric again, and it does not disappoint. So, if you ARE one of those people who wish he would give the Peace & Love acoustic stuff a little rest, do not hesitate to check out this album. It is possibly the hardest rocking outing I’ve yet heard from him.
p.s. I originally wrote this as I was spinning the album for my first time. Upon MANY more listens, I stand by everything I said. This album really grooves, the band is super tight and the guitar playing SO tasty!