'Ink Compatible' - Spastic Ink (8/10)
With Spastic Ink's 1997 debut 'Ink Complete', brothers Jarzombek and bassist Pete Perez left quite a mark on the tech metal scene. Being able to charge their viciously impressive playing with intelligent and complex composition, Spastic Ink immediately set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd, leaving a dedicated fanbase hungry for more. Seven years later, a few things changed with the band's sound on the second record 'Ink Compatible', but the tongue-in-cheek nature of the album coupled with its technical brilliance make it nothing short of a great follow-up to the original.
'Ink Compatible' shows the sound and direction of Spastic Ink growing more mature, although the eccentric charm of guitarist Ron Jarzombek is still here, through quirky guitar solos and odd voiceovers. To one as yet uninitiated with the music of Spastic Ink, the band takes progressive metal to very technical heights, and features incredibly complex arrangements, albeit at the sacrifice of well-rounded music. Although I was always impressed by the arrangements of Spastic's msuci the first time around, it always felt as if the compositions lacked cohesion as complete pieces. On 'Ink Compatible', there has definitely been a marked improvement on that front. Instead of the songs feeling like individual collections of jaw-dropping riffs and musical ideas, 'Ink Compatible' has pieces that take the form of actual songs; all to the band's benefit.
In most ways, 'Ink Compatible' is an improvement over its predecessor, although it certainly takes some extra time to grow in light of the added complexities to composition structure. However, I do not necessarily choose this album over the first. The biggest reason for this is certainly the use of singers here, which as one may have expected from a band as technical as Spastic Ink, does not work in the band's favour. Although there are some great singers like Daniel Gildenlow (of progressive metal titans Pain of Salvation) at work here, the vocal melodies never sound inspired, and instead tend to distract from the real delight here, being the excellent instrumentation. Some of the voiceovers wear thin quickly as well; one can only hear interludes about hillbillies' views towards personal computers so many times before deigning to skip over it!
Perhaps there isn't as much of the same charm this time around for Spastic Ink, but the album is certainly a step above 'Ink Complete' in terms of its writing and- in some cases- musicianship itself. Spastic Ink finally sounds like a full band effort here as opposed to the debut, which sounded closer to being a Ron Jarzombek solo album. An excellent album by any stretch, although it is more hit-and-miss than what I've previously heard from Spastic Ink.