Label: Orbital Productions
Review: Michael H
Thoughts: With a band name like The Inner Road, an album title of Ascension (2013), and an instrument credit on the back mentioning a sitar, I don't think it was unreasonable to expect a thoughtful album, full of drifting, meditative and dreamy passages! Instead, this instrumental disc is overloaded with the most excessive of electric guitar-playing, essentially 8 tracks dominated with endless guitar solos climaxing over and over again. It's perhaps the adult film equivalent of prog rock! Oh sure, there's brief bits of other instruments in between, but pretty quickly it's back to business, just what you paid for. All joking aside, The Inner Road have a very similar sound to Italian instrumentalists Il Giardino Onirico, although this has a more constantly heavy riffing backing, and of course is dominated by that electric guitar showboating mentioned above. It's not to say the album is poor, not in any way, it's just that it sells itself a bit short by focusing too much on one sound.
This two piece band are comprised of Jay Paramar on guitar and sitar, with multi-instrumentalist Steve Gresswell working with keyboards, bass, drums and arranging the orchestration. Despite opening with gentle flute over synth orchestration and choir, almost instantly chugging riffs enter just after the minute mark, followed soon after by the first rising electric guitar solo that will set the template for the rest of the disc, a busy John Petrucci-like technicality. `The Steel Sky' has some nice dirty chugging riffs over gleefully malevolent imperial synths and pounding intimidating drums, quite an addictive and relentless track, only let down by a baffling and sudden fade-out! Despite being constantly obliterated by histrionic guitar mangling, the grandly symphonic `Two Words...' has lovely cooking Hammond, slinky bass, sweeping Mellotron wisps and Rick Wakeman-esque Minimoog pomp. `Altered Reality' has lush synths and violins, truly a lovely and regal classic sophistication in addition to romantic Pendragon-like grand soloing throughout, but very quickly falls into the same pattern by dissolving into frantic, up-tempo shredding. Joe Satriani, Iron Maiden and Dream Theater fans will like those bits in this one, but it's frustrating to hear the other elements overpowered constantly.
`Troubled Memories' is another 7 minute guitar solo disguised as a proper track, so instead listen for the occasional nice Mellotron washes, murmuring bass and lovely crying female choir that wordlessly floats around the piece in an ethereal manner. `A Fleeting Dream' teases you with the opening promise of a pleasant respite of acoustic guitar around scratchy Hammond before mule-kicking you with more punchy guitar wailing for six minutes. `The Awakening' is bluesy dark grooving guitar soloing over a triumphant orchestral backing. `Flight Through Eternity' makes for a suitable climax by incorporating soothing female sighed harmonies, droning sitar strains and uplifting, joyful triumphant soloing on both synths and keyboards.
The biggest problem with Ascension (2013) is that that all the gorgeous synth playing and lush orchestrations are only given the briefest amount of time to be heard before being drowned out constantly throughout the entire disc. Most of these passages serve as little 30 second breathers before the guitars kick in over and over again. I don't like to come across like I'm criticising the album too much, as there's not a badly played note on the entire disc, and the arrangements all have sophisticated passages. It's just that I personally find it too much of the same thing, each track mostly following the same pattern, and I find my mind starts to wander constantly while listening to it. Honestly, despite what an exceptionally talented musician Jay Paramar is, this sort of guitar p*rnography is utterly bewildering and exhausting to me.
However, guitar aficionados will be in heaven with Ascension (2013) and would be well advised to look into this disc right away. Others who like a bit more variety and something more subtle should probably look elsewhere for instrumental thrills, and 2013 had simply so many other outstanding examples to choose from. But if you are curious, and possibly a fan of the bombastic approach to guitars and synths by projects like Ayreon, Dream Theater and Satriani/Vai, this might be just your thing.
Three stars for me, but guitar freaks should add a whole other star.
The band was included in our Podcast #31 and you can listen the song 'Ascension' HERE.