|Artist: Glen Drover
Release Date: April 5, 2011
With the release of his solo debut, Metalusion, guitarist Glen Dover, best known for his precision and power playing with headbanger stalwarts Megadeth and Eidolon, blends the technically demanding musicianship that typified the classic jazz-rock genre with the venom and attack of modern metal.
The instrumental, 10-track Metalusion, featuring five original compositions and metallic- edged interpretations of material composed by rock and jazz-rock giants Frank Zappa, Al DiMeola and Jean-Luc Ponty, melds the robust properties of distinct sonic strains that reveals a new and mysterious element on the periodic table of musical genres.
“What’s on the record isn’t metal, exactly, but that very important musical ingredient is certainly present on Metalusion,” says Drover. “The aggressive and metallic tones are everywhere, but there are moments of exploratory fusion and even ambient prog that I think come together very nicely on the record.”
Metalusion presents a side of Drover’s musical identity that the metal community has rarely witnessed, while boasting diverse yet highly cohesive tracks. “Each song should sound as though it was meant to be included on the record,” says Drover. “Nothing should seem as though it’s out of place.”
Assisting Drover with forging a perfect musical balance is Canadian multi-instrumentalist and bassist Paul Yee (who co-engineered the record), drummer Chris Sutherland (Kim Mitchell), Saga’s Jim Gilmour on keyboards and a number of special guests, including Nevermore’s power metal/prog metal guitarist Jeff Loomis, Opeth’s and Talisman’s ass-kicking axe man Fredrik Åkesson, veteran Steve Smyth of the Bay Area’s rejuvenated Forbidden, Ohm’s guitar maven and erstwhile Megadeth genius Chris Poland and classical metal master Vinnie Moore of UFO.
“As was the case for many of the guests who appear on Metalusion, I simply asked the guys if they would be interested in playing on the record, ripping a solo or two, and everyone was into it,” says Drover. “I love collaborating with other musicians, jamming, trading files, and this record is a testament to that.”
While each guitarist guest poured his own distinct playing style into the molten mixture of metal-fusion, Drover was molding and guiding the overall construction of these massively heavy tracks from their inception. Drover wrote or co-wrote nearly all of the original compositions on the record (with the exception of “Frozen Dream,” credited to Saga’s Gilmour and featuring Smyth on co-lead guitar), including the soaring “Colors of Infinity,” the dark, multi-sectional “Illusion of Starlight,” the meditative “Ascension,” and the adrenaline-soaked and lightly Spanish-flavored opener, “Ground Zero” (featuring skyrocketing solos by Chris Poland and Vinnie Moore).
“Chris [Poland] was always my favorite Megadeth guitarist by far; he’s just from another planet,” says Drover. “Vinnie Moore’s playing I’ve always loved, ever since his first album [Mind’s Eye on the Shrapnel label] came out in 1986. It’s amazing to have these two guys appear on the record.”
Metalusion is certainly packed to the gills with talent and Drover garners the best from himself and others. Drover is particular about the overall impact of these often spiraling and fiery instrumental compositions, but the guitarist says he didn’t dissect every note he played on Metalusion. “I’m an ad lib kind of guy,” says Drover, who mixed, mastered and co-engineered the album. “That’s where the best stuff comes from, anyway.”
The need to let it fly was pervasive throughout these recording sessions. Led by this project’s relative looseness, Drover was inspired to record daring interpretations of highly revered material by jazz-rock electric violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, guitar master Al DiMeola (solo, Return to Forever) and one of the most confounding musical minds of the 20th Century, Frank Zappa. Hearing the results of these recorded versions, Drover and crew reinforced the theme that reverberates throughout Metalusion.
“We didn’t set out to make a covers record,” says Drover. “Metalusion really isn’t. One of the greatest aspects of recording this album was that we’d throw out these tunes, just to see if the band was gelling, and then hit the record button. As it turns out, these versions were fantastic. So, we kept them and built upon them. These covers really helped to give the record a direction and underscore the point about this being a metal-fusion album.”
Drover modifies and metalifies these fusion classics as heard in the tour de force performances of Zappa’s “Filthy Habits” and DiMeola’s exotic and globe-hopping show-stopper “Egyptian Danza.” In addition, Drover launches Ponty’s cosmic classics “Mirage” (from 1977’s Enigmatic Ocean) and “Don’t Let the World Pass You By” (1978’s Cosmic Messenger) into hyperspace.
“Certainly some of the versions that we do are more aggressive than the originals, but the basic structure of these tunes are still very decipherable,” Drover says. “In some cases, such as with the DiMeola tune, they were very challenging to play and offered a great opportunity to showcase members of the band and guests I brought in.”
The Ponty material is especially brazen and impressive. With stellar performances by axe-grinder guests and Drover’s own arpeggio-laced style, these modern versions capture the trance-inducing, dual-soloing atmosphere of Ponty’s peak fusion period, and provide the perfect platform for Drover and crew’s technical prowess.
“The Ponty cover tunes are really focused on trade-off solos,” says Drover. “I swap solos with Jeff Loomis on ‘Mirage’ and Fredrik Åkesson on ‘Don’t Let the World Pass You By.’ The original material operated the same way and we really stress showmanship on these tunes.”
Metalusion is a bold artistic statement and a step in a new creative direction from Drover, who formed the Canadian-based power metal act Eidolon with his brother, drummer Shawn, in 1993 and joined the master of metal drama, King Diamond, later in the 1990s. By the early 21st Century, Drover had gained worldwide acclaim as the guitarist for Megadeth, having appeared in four DVDs with the band and on one studio album, 2007’s Billboard-charting, gold-certified United Abominations.
But as Drover’s involvement with Megadeth was winding down, he began formulating ideas to record his solo debut. From 2008 through 2010, in between maintaining his studio, being tapped for session work and hitting the road twice with Testament (filling in for Alex Skolnick in 2008 and again in 2010), Drover searched for the magical chemistry and right balance between metal, jazz-rock fusion, and band personnel. With Metalusion, he’s achieved it.
“Some people might be shocked that I’m not playing in Megadeth Part II or something,” says Drover. “I can understand where they’re coming from: metal is all I’ve ever done, from Megadeth to King Diamond, Eidolon and Testament. But I love the fusion stuff. That’s a side of me I wanted to showcase on Metalusion. I just decided, ‘Let’s take a little musical detour here.’ I’m glad I did.”
DROVER’S MUSINGS ON METALUSION:
A track by track dissection
“Ground Zero” (featuring Chris Poland of Ohm and UFO’s Vinnie Moore)
“I really wanted to capture the vibe of the harder-egded fusion stuff with Metalusion, and that’s where this original composition, co-written by Saga’s Jim Gilmour, comes from. What’s so important to remember about the classic fusion stuff is, no matter how technical it is or was, there was a kind of melodic story being told in those songs. ‘Ground Zero’ is split into roughly two parts: a metal and a prog-like section. But we leave enough space for solos. I trade off with Chris Poland, and in the second round of solos, Vinnie Moore launches one into space with his distinctive classical approach. I follow his solo with one of my own.”
“Frozen Dream” (featuring Saga’s Jim Gilmour and Steve Smyth of Forbidden)
“I think Jim’s icy keyboard tones are perfect for the song. Then again they should be: he wrote it. The title was just meant to be temporary until we thought of another one. But, as time went on, it just fit and even inspired us. It captured a certain feeling and I think it helped to give the song an identity. Everyone played stellar and Steve Smyth plays a great guest solo on this one.”
“This was one of the first cover tunes we chose and one of the first songs we recorded as a band for this record. It’s a killer songs and a real bi*^& to play. It also appears on one of my all-time favorite albums: Al DiMeola’s Casino. You’ll hear people do “Race With Devil on Spanish Highway” from Elegant Gypsy but not usually something like “Egyptian Danza.” As we’d done for other tracks on this album, we started to play it to see if the musicians involved could gel. They did. After we recorded the song and it was mixed, I could hear the potential of where the whole record was going.”
“Colors of Infinity”
“This song is a good example of a real melodic tune that makes its point and is not too busy. The middle section is a little atmospheric and overall it’s a bit of a slow burner. The title suggests all of the possible musical avenues you could travel, and I like to think that was my approach with the song and, really, the entire record. I try to mix things up and, yet, at the same time make an album that’s a coherent musical statement.”
“Illusions of Starlight”
“I had the dark, dreamy riff that opens the track since we’d first started recording inn 2008. The aggressive riff that crops up later in the tune was written by the bass player, Paul Yee. It’s just another example of how valuable the band was and how layered some of these songs are.”
“Don’t Let the World Pass You By” (featuring Opeth’s Fredrik Akesson on co-lead guitar)
“I’ve always liked this Jean-Luc Ponty tune so we decided to jam on it and see if anything gelled. The original has a driving, hypnotic rhythm and I wanted to play off that and add a metal element. The original song had two guitarists – Peter Maunu and Joaquin Lievano. We tried to capture the same vibe: Fredrik and I really dig into the repetitive qualities of the original while throwing metal into the musical soup.
“Mirage” (featuring Nevermore’s Jeff Loomis on co-lead guitar)
“Even though we had done a Ponty song, I was really struck by our version of “Mirage.” I didn’t know which one I should choose. I really like the tempo in ‘Don’t Let the World Pass You By’ but the soaring solos are happening in ‘Mirage,’ which were originally done on electric violin. I was talking with Chris Sutherland, the drummer, and he said, ‘Why don’t we do both of them and if they both turn out really good, we can use a cross fading technique to link them. Even though the songs are listed separately on the CD, they intertwine. Our version starts out pretty close to the original and then it takes off. Ponty used to use phase shifting effects on his electric violin back in the day and I tried to emulate that feel with a vibrato bar and a modulation effect.”
“This song harks back to the more hypnotic, melodic stuff that appears earlier on the album. The song has an almost spiritual vocal quality, and I actually imagined someone singing the lead melody. Of course, it’s entirely instrumental – there are no vocals on the record. But I had the mind that this was going to be a very lyrical song, so I played it as such.
“The Purple Lagoon”
“I’m a Zappa freak, so I asked, ‘OK. What Zappa tune doesn’t get covered very often?’ We took the main riff from a live in Philly recording Zappa did with a short-lived band lineup. I thought this song could sound really heavy if we used dirty, metallic tones at a pace slower than the original. It’s only about a minute long but it really sets up the last tune, another Zappa cover called ‘Filthy Habits.’
“Our version is certainly a little weirder and spacier than Zappa’s. Recording this track came about same as all the others: we just went for it and listened to the results. If it sucked we wouldn’t use it. What I really like about the Zappa material is that there’s a lot of wicked drumming on it. It really turns people’s heads. Unlike other songs on the record, I handle all the soloing. It’s all me on there!”