Kenny McCormick – Alien

Alien Album Cover Art

Kenny McCormick – Alien
Self-Released
Release Date: 04/04/2021
Running Time: 57:01
Review by Martin Bennewith
8.5/10

Hello earthlings. It has been a while, but I finally decided to come back down to earth to listen to some new music. I was hoping that “Alien” by Kenny McCormick would help me settle down with the familiar sound of progressive instrumental metal and swirling guitars over percussive, but haunting, backdrops. I wasn’t disappointed, as my ears were filled with rhythm and guitars, with stabs and syncopated beats that cross over into the realms of djent.

Given the names and order of tracks, this seems like an attempt at a concept album, so I will try to take you on my journey and invade you with my thoughts on where it leads me.

We start the journey with ‘Contact’. Fittingly, an eerie start, but leads up to a mixed feeling of anticipation as well as hope and despair. It keeps the tension of progression, but with positive overtones and a backdrop of a syncopated kick drum rhythm that successfully sets the scene for the journey ahead.

The title track, ‘Alien’ brings impending doom. A heavy rhythmic feel, that makes way for softer melodic arpeggiated chords, but building up again to bring a notion of fear that uses a tribal feel, both rhythmically and with the use of vocal chants that is more terrestrial than extra-terrestrial.

Now we can admire the ‘Monolith’, with a brief dark clean guitar intro, it emerges from the shadows into an energetic rhythm with a tense motif, with time signature changes and clear transitions from low to high energy, along with an unexpected regression to soft and harmonic, but it returns to show its true form once more.

We then have ‘Close Encounters Of The 5th Kind’ A non-standard 7 beat time signature but with 4/4 passages, transitioning to dark sections with repeating basslines, muted guitar rhythms and eerie solos, tempered with high energy guitar and leads. There is a satisfying progressive feel to the track and an enjoyable change in guitar texture for the outro solo.

Next up is, ‘Paradigm Shift’. It begins with energetic guitar and rhythm with an ambiguous beat cutting in over the brief spoken word intro, and progresses with percussive, highly syncopated, rhythmic bass and guitar stabs highly effective guitar, firstly repeating motifs, then letting rip. It has a tense modal/minor feel throughout, again with some softer parts to break the energy, albeit satisfyingly.

‘Silent Observer’ is next beginning with muted guitars and soft leads, cutting through a highly syncopated and ambiguous rhythm. In true form to the progressive nature of this album, it builds up to a more familiar rhythm, with swirling solos and full overdrive, only to calm back down to the soft ambiguity of the start!

‘The Shadow Out Of Time’ begins with a tribal beat, building up to a wall of guitar sound, with a repetitive progression filled with slow legato lead, and some impressive guitar work. A very rocky number, with bags of energy. Towards the end, it breaks down to the tribal roots, and builds up again until the outro guitar motif finishes off the number.

Next, on to ‘Type Omega-Minus’. This is heavy and loud for the most part. The beat is in your face, the kick is constant, and the guitar is fast. The lead is highly effected with swirling, phased, overdriven melodies that transition between fast tapped solos and smoother legato playing. The softer parts are sufficient to keep the progressive feel.

Now we open the ‘Star Atlas’ with a satisfyingly soft melodic beginning, rising to an aggressive rhythm guitar over some heavy bass and drums, which breaks down to the clean guitar chord notes with legato overlaid. The track continues to ebb and flow before climaxing with some intricate lead guitar.

On to ‘Metaphor’ which is very Nu Metal to start with. Lovely modal minor aggressive muted chord stabs with a synth sound and background radio communication noise builds up to a more percussive and aggressive theme. The modal feel remains as it builds up to some more impressive soloing.

Metaphor fades out and introduces track 11 (with a title resembling binary code) which is short and stays with the minor modal feel, finishing the journey with synthesised sounds including what sounds like a theremin accompanied by tribal beats. Any idea what the title means? Me neither!

I enjoyed the album. I did get a loose sense that the tracks are best listened to in the correct order, but this may just be because I am going along with what was intended. As progressive instrumental metal goes, this album is not ground-breaking, although with just one man creating a metal/djent fest, Kenny’s level of musicianship is to be appreciated, and it will be something I will listen to again to satisfy my need for the sound of pure unadulterated overdriven guitar.

‘Close Encounters Of The Fifth Kind’ (Audio)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Contact
02. Alien
03. Monolith
04. Close Encounters Of The Fifth Kind
05. Paradigm Shift
06. Silent Observer
07. The Shadow Out Of Time
08. Type Omega-Minus
09. Star Atlas
10. Metaphor
11. 0100000101001100010010010100010101001110

LINE-UP:

Kenny McCormick

LINKS:

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