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Habic; Grega: Open Heart Surgery

Don't you just hate it when a perfectly good album is tainted by one or two complete stinkers? Well Open Heart Surgery, which is the fourth album from Slovenian guitar virtuoso Grega Habic undoubtedly falls into that trap. So what is the cardinal sin which Grega perpetuates? Rap - that's what! Now I know that sounds like a blanket, blinkered statement and actually, it may well be. I don't have much in the way of rap in my collection and neither do I intend to, however that doesn't mean that it is all rubbish (I can handle a bit of Run DMC, Cypress Hill, House Of Pain, Beastie Boys etc...), but when a better than decent guitar instrumental album is punctuated by two utterly awful rap numbers then for me that's a step too far. It's a real shame too as the rest of the album - and actually the music under the awful and I do mean AWFUL rapping from Jesse Adams - is universally excellent and wonderfully performed.

With the exception of the odd guest slot, the whole shebang is provided by Habic, whether that be bass, drums or keys, or of course the superb guitar work and it has to be said that he's pretty damn good at it all! As ever in this genre, there are hints of Satch glimpses of Vai and a smattering of Timmons, but Habic brings his own jazzy flavour to proceedings and shows both commendable restraint and captivating flair when the songs require it. The second of the two rap tracks "Fighting The Undertow", finds Habic absolutely blasting out a killer riff as Jesse Adams casually destroys the moody atmospheric passages that link the song together, while "Mirror" offers a more reflective (sorry...) feel, with a bluesy, jazzy overtone, showing Habic's deft touch and tone. The eclectic, springy "Irreversible Damage" goes all Satriani, while opener "Pig" is an absolutely steamrollering monster of a track.

Satisfyingly eclectic and breathtaking in its execution, Open Heart Surgery is an on the whole an excellent album, but those two aberrations are totally unforgivable, spoiling the mood flow and atmosphere of an otherwise excellent disc. Next time Grega, ditch the gimmicks and believe in the guitar!

Track Listing
1. Pig
2. Alyx
3. Mirror
4. 2 L8 4 Tears
5. Alchemist
6. Devil's Whisper
7. Tunnel Lights
8. Fighting The Undertow
9. Marionette
10. Irreversible Damage
11. Open Heart Surgery

Added: February 2nd 2012
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Grega Habic MySpace
Hits: 2336
Language: english

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Habic; Grega: Open Heart Surgery
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-02-02 10:25:08
My Score:

Though many 'guitar albums' tend to sound virtually indistinguishable from each other, Slovenia-based guitarist Grega Habic takes a different approach than your average shred guitarist. Open Heart Surgery borrows elements from progressive rock, metal, funk, jazz, and even rap into a unique blend of styles that, while still deriving from many guitar legends, is distinctly Habic's own. Though Habic delivers plenty of killer solos that will satisfy any guitar fanatic, the songwriting focuses more on eclecticism and memorability than you may expect. He clearly has a knack for crafting well-composed pieces of music centered around the guitar, and fans of tasteful yet technical instrumental music will find lots to love here. The rap sections are pretty terrible and a few other flaws do impact my overall impression of the album, but Open Heart Surgery still contains enough amazing moments to be worth a listen from the open-minded guitar fan.

On paper, the idea of putting rap-styled vocals on a guitar-based progressive rock album seems a bit out of place, and (unfortunately) this is also true on Open Heart Surgery. They just don't seem to fit within the context of the rest of the album, and in addition to being rather poorly executed, they damage the flow of the CD severely. My recommendation to Habic is to stick to his guns and ditch the half-assed rap vocals next time around, unless he can manage to make them work as an integral part of the music rather than a gimmicky effect. With that said, they thankfully don't appear too frequently, and the main focus of Open Heart Surgery is of course on Grega Habic's masterful guitar playing. The production is a bit underdeveloped, but this isn't much more than a minor blemish in the long run.

Open Heart Surgery is an adventurous and unique effort from Grega Habic, and while I wouldn't quite say that his artistic vision was fully realized this time around, this is still a recommendable purchase for fans of instrumental progressive rock, metal, and fusion. Although it's not faultless, this is a fun album that I've had a pleasure listening to recently. I'd say 3 stars are deserved, and I'll be curious to hear what Habic comes up with in the future.

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