I love a good instrumental album. They always seem constructed and conceived in an entirely different manner than your standard lyrical record. It’s difficult to make an exciting instrumental album, though, because you need that “it” factor to keep things moving, interesting, and diverse. I believe Andy Gillion’s new solo album “Neverafter” has those things in spades, providing a riveting narrative through what is most assuredly a grand vision.
Andy Gillion is probably best known as the guitarist for Mors Principium Est, though he is also a soundtrack composer for video games, TV, and film. Exploring that a little bit, I wasn’t able to track down a full list of what he has scored, though I know he has worked with BBC, as he hails from the UK. He basically plays all the instruments on this album, and created all the orchestrations. He does have a few guests spots, though, being guitar solos by Jeff Loomis and Paul Wardingham, as well as vocals by Christina Marie on a single track. The drums are performed by 66Samus (Samus Paulicelli).
Andy’s music is a melodic, highly technical brand of instrumental progressive metal. Yes, there is tons of finger work, huge riffs, and fretboard fireworks. Yes, it flows quickly and intelligently. It is heavy and complex. However, what really sets the sound apart is Andy’s focus on melody. So, while the music is a mathematical marvel, the overall feeling of the album is like that of a mystical fairy tale, mysterious and cinematic in its presentation. Honestly, the album makes me what to watch 80s fantasy movies because it wouldn’t be out of place there at times. In my mind, I feel like Andy is akin to a more metal version of Australia’s Plini, mirroring the same ability to create purposeful, musical guitar licks that feel alive and colorful.
Somewhat rare for an instrumental album, the record feels like it is telling a story, a dark and fantastical one. This is where the cinematic portion comes in as Andy concisely and wondrously presents us with metal that feels fictional to its very core. Yes, it feels like literary metal, like it should go along with an exciting adventure book. And I’m sure there is a specific story here, though I’m not completely sure what that is.
“Neverafter” is an album that feels deep and secretive, like all the best fairy tales. There are several standout moments, pretty much on every track. For instance, “Skyless” features Jeff Loomis, and, as expected, his solo is tight and amazing. The song overall, though, is more than just that solo. Beautiful keys launch us into the story on this track, but the larger than life guitar soon takes over, with orchestrations taking it even further into the skies above. “Aria” features Christina on vocals, and though it is a shorter track, it is beautiful, almost reminding me of parts of Kamelot’s legendary “Epica” album. I feel like this track being roughly in the middle of the album is a good call by Andy, as it provides a break and also launching point for the second half.
My two favorite songs are “Black Lotus” and the title track. “Black Lotus” may very well end up on my list of favorite songs for the year, honestly. It is kinetic and burgeoning, and when the orchestrations hit, the song explodes into a righteous fury. Absolutely jaw-dropping. “Neverafter” ends the album, though, with a really strong story-telling vibe, complete with the thick, hanging aura to complete the effect. The gorgeous piano that starts that track feels like it is building to something epic, and then the cinematic guitars come spilling in to prove that inkling correct. The way this song ends the album feels perfect, almost like it is recounting what has happened and inviting us to become a permanent part of the world therein.
Andy Gillion’s “Neverafter” is one of those albums that speaks to your heart without using words. You can instantly feel waves of golden nostalgia washing over your mind, especially if you are a fan of fantasy. I find myself returning to the album again and again just to get a taste of those dark musical spirits. You’ll find yourself enchanted and entranced in no time at all.
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