Over the last few years, instrumental releases within the progressive rock/metal genre have been on the rise, and like with everything else, the quality of the releases vary from hit-and-miss to some absolutely amazing gems. Guamskyy, based in Houston, Texas, is a project of Christian San Agustin, a composer and guitarist who has been releasing music for a few years. Seven Parallels is a full-length debut by Guamsky. Scheduled for the December 20th release, it can be said that this album is definitely one of the latest releases to find its place in the AOTY lists for 2016.
Well composed, arranged and wonderfully performed, Seven Parallels is an ambitious piece of largely instrumental prog metal, with more than enough epic ideas to keep a listener engaged and attentive. Suffice to say, there is more than enough of a variety to keep the music from sounding stale or rehashed. Although Agustin’s true calling lies in melody-driven progressive metal guitar, the stylistic curveballs here are fully-realized and sound great. “All In Spite,” the album’s opener, is an excellent example of Agustin’s skill as a multi-faceted composer. And this skill just keeps on improving throughout the nine-track release. “Shellfish” features a guest performance by guitarist Dean Murphy, who performs an engaging solo, adding yet another layer to the already multilayered piece. Song structures seem arranged to cater to a string of individually satisfying moments, as opposed to the ideas all contributing to the overall whole of a composition. Even in the most ambitious progressive rock/metal moments, I tend to look for some of the same qualities found in conventionally good songwriting.
Obviously, much of the spotlight here is placed on Agustin’s prodigious grasp of the electric guitar. Although the album’s djenty side doesn’t stand any bit above what we’ve already heard from that corner of prog metal, Agustin makes himself out to be an absolutely brilliant fusion guitarist, possibly one of the best I’ve heard in recent years. “Hyper Beam” might be my favourite track on the album for this very reason; Agustin’s marriage of keen instrumental wandering and tight melodic passages is gorgeous.
Seven Parallels is an album packed with instrumental inventiveness and technical proficiency. Christian San Agustin excels here both as a composer and musician.
Pre-order ‘Seven Parallels’ on Bandcamp here.