Steve N. Mavronis
They call him the “Shredlord” for good reason. No, this isn’t a review of the Guardians Of The Galaxy sequel with a new character on-board. But as the Universe spawns more Guitar Gods, he’s right up there next to the royal thrones currently occupied by his influences; Yngwie Malmsteen, Ritchie Blackmore, and the late Gary Moore. Like the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus giving mankind the forbidden fire of knowledge, in a very real way Joe Stump does the same with the students who study from him, and devoted fans alike. He’s an Associate Professor of Guitar at Berklee Music College in Boston, Massachusetts. His musical career spans over 20 years with 13 solo albums and projects with other bands like Reign Of Terror and HolyHell. His newest solo album features 11 instrumental tracks running just over 1 hour, 6 minutes.
01. Hostile Takeover - A mighty pick slide introduces this aggressively played song with a pulsing main riff that reminds me of playing the 3D shooter game Doom. That’s how it makes me feel - like I’ve been ravaged by hordes of Zombie Soldiers, fire throwing Imps, and one-eyed Cacodemons! It’s pretty intense and in your face. The melody lines and arpeggios are quite interesting and his guitar solo totally rocks. Lion Music released the full song on YouTube at https://youtu.be/Qf7hc-U_jxc so take a listen.
02. Stratomaster - Joe’s inner-Blackmore comes out in this song, with a ‘Double Penetration’ vinaigrette blending of classic rock and neoclassic elements. This makes for a tasty musical tossed salad indeed. Straight to the point, this is a rocking song that Shreds throughout. There is also a cool spooky rising and falling rhythmic interlude section towards the end that I really like too.
03. Out For Blood - This song is looking to exact some revenge and isn’t looking for any redemption for sins committed in the past. Scalar runs, galloping palm mute rhythm chords, neoclassic melodies and pedal tones, drum matching staccato, harmony parts, fast articulated arpeggios… Joe’s taking no prisoners so you’d better listen or get out of the way!
04. The Black Knight Returns - An erie eastern feeling is in the air. I’m not sure how Joe’s getting an almost Indian Sitar-like sound. Maybe he’s using a delay and octave pedal effect with volume knob swells? But whatever, it’s a unique recording on this album. The Blackmore vibe and driving rhythm serves to intensify the musical journey you’re being taken on. That’s what good songs do. Checkmate.
05. Tortured Soul - Joe lays off the accelerator a bit for what must be a Gary Moore inspired piece. Lesser notes in this case translates into musical expression that’s packed with plenty of feeling and emotion, very much like one of my earlier favorites of his called The Beacon. This song is literally crying out with pain and anguish wanting to be released. Gary, we still miss you. Rest in peace bro.
06. The Dark Lord’s Allegro - Niccolò Paganini always left his audiences spellbound too. I mean, how can any human possibly play that stuff? Joe has completely mastered the style that Yngwie had reinvented centuries later that we now know as Neoclassic Rock. This song captures the essence of what Paganini passed onto us. Malmsteen will always be our Neoclassic King. Stump earned the right to be called Shredlord.
07. Staring Into The Abyss - You lean over the steep precipice, your heart pounding out of your chest, adrenaline pumping to prepare you for what’s next. Do you jump in? This song features tremolo picking, flanging, choral effects, pinch harmonics, heavy Maiden-esque sounding riffs, and some really great neoclassic soloing. There’s a lot going on here. What more could you ask for?
08. Concerto No.2 In B Flat Minor - As the name implies this short piece is a very classically oriented song. It’s in a key that I really love and reminds me of a philharmonic symphony orchestra performance for 2 electric guitars playing together in perfect harmony with each other. It’s a keeper.
09. Neo-Classical Shredfest No.4 - After a series of arpeggios segue into a little evil sounding motif, this song suddenly breaks into a uplifting theme that seems to harken the spirit of the late Randy Rhoads. I really like how the bass lines compliment the Shredlord’s playing too. His speedy neoclassic solo takes you Beyond the Sun and back again into a heavy riff progression that ends with a climatic cadenza of Shred Fury.
10. Battle Tested - This is the Heavy Shred anthem of the album. It packs a punch and won’t let up. Joe’s phrasing is very melodic and musical, yet the song has all the power of an exploding volcano. Hot neoclassic lava flows down its flanks, forging a Guitar Axe like a hardened steel weapon fit for a Shredlord of his caliber. This is one of my favorites.
11. Brothers In Shred (Bonus Track) - For the first time in history Joe Stump features 2 guest guitarists on this special bonus track. Dean Cascione (2:41) shows off his Paganini inspired soloing mastery of the neoclassic style along with his signature arpeggios and pedal tones. David Shankle (3:11) solos so much faster than humanly possible it should be illegal. All 3 of them have a distinctive style all their own. The overall song has classic Shredlord signature riffs and neoclassic styled composition.