One has to give credit to Alex Skolnick. At a time when every single metal guitarist was dying to showcase their shredding talents as the opportunity for a solo album arose, Alex Skolnick took the opposite route. At the height of his popularity, he quit Testament and decided to go to music school to learn more about jazz never releasing a self-indulging solo album. Instead, he formed the Alex Skolnick Trio.
Starting with his first release, Goodbye to Romance, Skolnick set new standards to his playing. The debut album (which is still my favourite) featured jazzified versions of rock and metal classics from Black Sabbath to KISS to The Who to Aerosmith and Scorpions as well as two of his own songs. He managed to make each cover his own rearranging them into a jazz-based form. Though perfectly capable, none of the songs highlighted his dexterous, flashy playing because the 'new' songs didn't need that. This continued with his following two releases, Transformation and Last Day in Paradise.
Veritas (meaning 'truth' in Roman mythology) sees Alex Skolnick's playing and songwriting growing to a darker realm showcasing nine original tracks out of the eleven. The only cover track is Metallica's "Fade to Black," cleverly put at the centre of the album so as to anchor the Indian-inspired tracks with the more jazz-funk combo of the others. The song fits the flow of the album perfectly save for the obvious familiar theme or melody here and there. This is a fantastic rendition of the original piece, featuring a very clean acoustic guitar played on top of trance-inducing percussion and drum work by Matt Zebroski.
This may be the most varied album by the trio. It successfully marries the subtle Indian sounds of "Panna" and the more groovy side of "Bollywood Jam" (a remix of which is also included on this album) into a cohesive whole. "Song of the Open Road" revists the more jazz-driven form of their compositions only with more upbeat melodies while the title track strikes the perfect balance between modern and vintage sounds. Skolnick's sparse, finger-picked notes are placed on top of a solid bass and drum foundation with beautiful cymbal splashes at every turn. "99/09" is full-on funk, complete with deep-in-the-pocket rhythms and snaky jazz licks weaving in and out of the whole thing. That said, all of these pieces are deeply rooted in the classic AST sound, which makes Veritas a winner.
Fans of John Scofield, Pat Metheny, and Wes Montgomery are all advised to check this album out, or Skolnick fans may check these artists out if they haven't already. My love for Pat Metheny's music grew tremendously after acquainting myself with rock-turned-jazz thanks to their first album.
By the way, the production is fantastic. Alex Skolnick must be proud of his work.
- Bollywood Jam
- Song of the Open Road
- Fade to Black
- Alone in Brooklyn
- Path of Least Resistance
- The River Lethe
- Bollywood Jam - Club Remix Version