Monday, February 6, 2012

Stéphan Forté - The Shadows Compendium

Stéphan Forté
The Shadows Compendium
Listenable Records

Over the last ten years, Stéphan Forté has been forging a reputation as a formidable guitarist in the French progressive/symphonic metal act Adagio. But with Adagio enjoying some downtime since the release of ‘Archangels In Black’ (2009), Forté has seized the opportunity to branch out on his own, with ‘The Shadows Compendium’ Forté’s long awaited solo release.
Those familiar with Forté’s work within Adagio will have some idea of what to expect here, albeit in instrumental form. For those unaware, Forté’s specialty lies within the progressive/neoclassical metal/shred realm, with influential greats such as Joe Satriani, Yngwie J. Malmsteen and Jason Becker evident in the album’s eight tracks.
The opening title track ‘The Shadows Compendium’ (Which features Adagio’s Franck Hermanny on bass) is a perfect example of Forté skills and talents on the guitar, with the mid-paced number boasting plenty of shredding guitar work and intertwining riffs that will have budding guitarists frothing at the mouth. But what really stands out more than anything else is his ability to craft a guitar instrumental that really works as a song in its own right, which is a real testament to Forté’s song writing. Ex-Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis provides some guest guitar work on this track, but given that his style blends seamlessly alongside Forté’s own playing, it’s hard to pinpoint who does what and when. Under normal circumstances, that could well be an issue. But with a song as strong as ‘The Shadows Compendium’, it’s a perfect match of both style and sound.
The clash of styles between Forté and guest guitarist Matthias IA Eklundh (Freak Kitchen) is far more noticeable on the follow-up track ‘De Praestigiis Daemonum’, and works at providing some real fireworks on the faster paced shredding metallic number, while on ‘Duat’, ex-Eidolon/Megadeth guitarist Glen Drover puts in a stunning performance in tandem with Forté to produce one of the album’s real standouts.
Elsewhere, both Forté and Derek Taylor delve into more melodic progressive territory on the memorable ‘Sorrowful Centruroides’, while Daniele Gottardo rip it up in heavier fashion on the darker and complex ‘I Think There’s Someone In The Kitchen’.
But while the album does have several guests, it’s not all about the guests, with Forté proving that he can deliver the goods on his own on tracks such as oriental/neoclassical based ‘Spiritual Bliss’, the lightning paced/shredding ‘Prophecies Of Loki XXI’ (Which features some great classical piano work) and the album’s closing reinterpretation of Beethoven’s ‘Improvisation On Sonata No. 14, C # minor – Op. 27, No 2’.
Despite his growing status within guitarist’s circles, Forté has confined his talents within Adagio over the last decade. But with ‘The Shadows Compendium’, Forté has successfully managed to step out of Adagio’s shadow, and thrust himself into the spotlight with his reputation as a guitar great and a first class songwriter firmly intact.

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© Justin Donnelly