Spastic Ink - _Ink Compatible_
by: Brian Meloon (
Spastic Ink's second release comes seven years after their debut, _Ink
Complete_. While the core of their sound -- ultra-technical, quirky,
fusion-inspired, instrumental progressive thrash -- has remained intact,
this album shows Ink's mastermind Ron Jarzombek branching out into new
directions. Unlike their previous work, which was simply a collection
of songs focused around individual themes, this is mostly a concept
album focusing on computers. Musically, the first major change that
you'll notice is the inclusion of vocals, courtesy of Jason McMaster.
Unfortunately, his vocals are hit-or-miss: sometimes he sounds fine,
and other times he's atonal or flat. In addition to vocals, this album
also includes a few samples. But while some of them are amusing, others
fall flat and are pretty pointless. Luckily, the vocals and samples are
a small part of the album, as most of the songs have long instrumental
sections which are clearly the focus and the strength of the album.Another change from _Ink Complete_ is that this album features
contributions from numerous guest musicians, including Marty Friedman,
Jens Johansson, Michael Manring, Doug Keyser, and many more. While these
contributions don't dilute the level of musicianship on display, they do
tend to dilute the distinctive sound that Ink is known for. It's usually
pretty obvious when a guitar solo is being done by one of the guest
musicians, since nobody else tries to mimic Ron's phrasing. This is
perhaps not too surprising, as Ink's standard style is very different
from what other bands are doing, and trying to mesh with it can't be an
easy thing. But this difficulty seems to lead to the inclusion of some
jazz-lite sections which sound like they are there only as vehicles for
bass solos. While these sections are actually quite well done, they don't
feel very well motivated in the context of their songs. In fact, I get
this impression from other parts of the music as well. While the songs on
Ink's first album were very tightly focused, the songs on this disc more
resemble those on Ron's solo work -- less focused and frequently changing.
Although the songs are all in the 4-12 minute range, some of them could
be broken into smaller pieces that represent more cohesive song units.Ultimately, even with all of these complaints, this is still a very
good album. The sheer level of technicality on display is amazing,
and the fact that their music is so very unique is a testament to Ron's
vision and dedication. No one else in the metal world is mixing these
kinds of tonalities with this level of complexity in the way that Ink has
been doing for over a decade. Fans of technical and instrumental metal
should find plenty here to enjoy. However, as an album, _Ink Compatible_
falls a little short of their previous release.
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