The long awaited second album from Gordian Knot is finally here, and Emergent has been well worth the wait. Former Cynic bassist/Stick virtuoso Sean Malone has assembled a super band once again for this go-round, and the cast features none other than Steve Hackett, Bill Bruford, Jim Matheos, and former Cynic members Jason Gobel, Sean Reinert, and Paul Masvidal. This CD is chock full of chops, melody, and tight ensemble playing.
Malone's funky Jaco Pastorius inspired solo spot "Arsis" kicks things off, follwed by the hectic metallic fury of "Muttersprache." Over a heavy rhythm guitar attack and bubbling keyboards, Gobel and Hackett alternate wicked solo spots, and the former Genesis guitarists' tortured wailings are some of the most inspired he has recorded in quite a while. Malone's Stick work is quite unique sounding, as he moves away from the tone that you normally would here from Tony Levin or Trey Gunn and incorporates more of a keyboard/guitar sound to his solos on the instrument. "A Shaman's Whisper" is another heavy number with great drum work from Bruford and Reinert, plus speedy Stick lines from Malone. The back-to-back punch of Gobel and Masvidal on lead guitars here is quite nice, with Gobel tossing in a jazzy lead to start things off, then a flowing legato run from Masvidal, followed by a flamenco break from Gobel, then a closing shred attack from Masvidal. The group opts into jazzy territory on "Fisher's Gambit", featuring piano from Malone and great nylon string solo's from Fates Warning's Jim Matheos. After the amazing solo piece from Malone titled "Grace" (complete with Echoplex loops and wild Stick playing), the band settles into the crushing King Crimson meets Metallica of "Some Brighter Thing." Malone's ambitious Stick leads come across like a deranged Derek Sherinian, as he is sandwiched between two fiery exchanges from Gobel and Matheos. Bruford plays like a man possessed on this one as well, and it's quite possibly his best playing in years. Some inspiring interplay between Bruford and Malone follows on "The Brook The Ocean", and if you didn't believe my statement about his performance on the previous track, check Bill out on this tune. He and Malone trade off wicked lines at the outset, and I thought I was listening to Jaco Pastorius and Peter Erskine on an old Weather Report album. The last track is an atmospheric and moody number called "Singing Deep Mountain", and features great melodies and tasty guitar solos from Matheos, Gobel and Hackett. The interplay between the guitar lines and Malone's Stick and bass work is quite complex, and makes this a great way to finish this superb album.
Sean Malone is a tremendous talent, and Emergent an extremely enjoyable and fulfilling instrumental release. He has assembled a top-notch cast of musicians here to help put forth his musical visions, and it works on all cylinders.