Spastic Ink - _Ink Compatible_
(Independent, 2004)
by: Brian Meloon (8 out of 10)
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.


(article published 23/9/2004)

8/12/1996 B Meloon Spastic Ink: Indelibly Inked
5/10/1996 B Meloon 5 Spastic Ink - Ink Complete
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