Monday, September 13, 2010

Chris Poland - Return To Metalopolis Live '07 (Album Review)

Chris Poland's 1990 guitar album "Return To Metalopolis" is, without a doubt, one of my favorite albums of all time. Its sound continues to be the much-needed blast of refreshment to the ears of the guitar world today as much as it had been upon its release. Basically, I could sit here and talk for about seventy fucking years about how awesome this album is, and I'd still have plenty to say in its favor.

The reason I'm telling you how much I love this album is so you can understand just how much I've been dying for a live recording of the songs from RTM. It's been on my why-the-fuck-doesn't-this-exist list for years. The problem was the Chris Poland didn't seem to give much of a fuck about the material, and as such no live recordings worth a damn ever surfaced.

Fast forward to 2007. HOLY SHIT. A live version of Metalopolis!!! My brain had about a million guitar-orgasms as soon as the news of its release hit. The problem, though, is that Poland still doesn't seem to give much of a fuck about the material. Some of the most important melodies are gone, with him playing the riff that served as a backing track to the melody. Now seriously... why in the hell. The riffs are totally just regular riffs. The incredible, original-as-all-fuck melodies are part of what made RTM the album it was. So why, why, WHY play those backing riffs instead of the melodies? It makes no sense to me.

Then there's the part that there are only three songs from the album on the live recording. THREE! When you see something like "Return To Metalopolis Live", you assume you're gonna get the album in all of its splendor, except it's gonna be a live recording. Nope. You get the tracks "Return To Metalopolis", "Khazad Dum", and "Theatre Of The Damned". You also get a bunch of stuff that isn't as good as the material on the album, and a completely uninspired rendition of Megadeth's "Wake Up Dead", one of the songs from Poland's tenure in the Mustaine camp. It sounds like some guys going "I don't wanna play this at all, but the crowd will dig it so here we go".

There are plenty of other problems with the live album. His tone is weak. It sounded like he used his OHM setup for the gig; that set-up sounds great for OHM, but it doesn't do this material justice. The thrash tone gave a needed edge to the dreamy quality of the guitar lines, and without it they fall a little flat. His (usually infinite) sustain isn't there, leaving notes fading long before you know they were intended to. These aren't the only sticking points with me, but they are the most glaring.

One positive thing I can say for this album is that his solos are on fire. Even if the rest of any given track is lackluster, the leads sound as if he's really having some fun. Perhaps this is because he feels like he should stay true to the riffs and melodies, but lets himself free to ad-lib a bit with the solos. I obviously don't know if this is the case, but it sounds very probable given what's coming out of the speakers.

So there you have it. It came, it shredded, and it kinda disappointed. Now, maybe my strong desire all these years for a live recording of this stuff had my standards set too high. I've seen other reviews saying that the recording is great. That may be. There's no accounting for taste. My tastes, however, are for things better than this. I'm glad Chris has OHM going, because that's clearly where his heart is at. They sound great, were great live, and you can tell he's really enjoying himself with it. Here's to hoping he sticks to that rather than lazily reliving what should remain the glory days of yesteryear.