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Spastic Ink: Ink Compatible

Interested in doing an empirical study on whether it's possible to have too much chops? This release from Spastic Ink (featuring Ron Jarzombek, Bobby Jarzombek and a host of other players, including Michael Manring, Ray Riendeau, Sean Malone and Jens Johansson) may give you a good sample to begin with. In typical Jarzombek style, the music proves restless, a dense and fascinating stew designed for the mathletes that side with the guitar whiz in his battle against normalcy.

Instrumentally solid and loaded with plenty of "hilarious" soundbytes, the disc's one real weakness is the vocal tracks. Jason McMaster (who handles no less than two of the tracks) and Bill Dawson (who handles no less than one) seem more at home in blues-based arena rock screaming sessions than over the tumultuous climate of Jarzombek's work. The vocals don't entirely derail proceedings but the first few times through, the opening "Aquanet" proved hard-going.

Spastic Ink doesn't seem a likely candidate for more than cult status: Jarzombek's music demands that you sit up and take notice with each and every listen and that's not a task all are up for. If you are one of those who can endure the rigors of highly technical guitar-oriented music that at times makes Yngwie Malmsteen's playing seem like B.B. King slowed down, then you probably want to break into the Spastic Ink well.

Track Listing:
1. Aquanet (8:10)
2. Just A Little Bit (4:42)
3. Words For Nerds (5:22)
4. Melissa's Friend (7:08)
5. Read Me (4:16)
6. Multi-Masking (8:11)
7. In Memory Of ... (6:50)
8. A Chaotic Realization Of Nothing Yet Misunderstood (12:11)
9. The Cereal Mouse (1: 20)
Total Time: 58:10

Added: September 25th 2005
Reviewer: Jedd Beaudoin
Related Link: More Information
Hits: 4056
Language: english

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Spastic Ink: Ink Compatible
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-09-25 05:33:45
My Score:

Ink Compatible is the second Spastic Ink release and it differs from the debut in some significant aspects. First of all, unlike the first disc, this one is not all instrumental. Watchtower singer Jason McCaster sings on five tracks and Pain of Salvation vocalist Daniel Gildenlow also appears on one song as a guest. In addition, besides the core members, there are several other guest contributors to this disc. They range from Jens Johansson on keys to Sean Malone and Michael Manring on bass to Jeff Eber and David Penna on drums, and to Marty Friedman on guitars, just to name a few.

The music being written entirely by Ron Jarzombek and with Jason McMaster lending his vocals to more than half of the songs, it is quite safe to say that some of the heaviness of Watchtower is carried over to this album. Ron's second solo album, Solitarily Speaking of Theoretical Confinement, also seems to have had an impact on this release. McMaster's vocals may take a little time to adjust to if you expect to hear the vocal stylings of bands like Zero Hour and Spiral Architect. I've never been a great fan of McMaster's voice, but it gets better every time I listen to it and he does a fairly good job overall. The first track, "Aquanet", exemplifies his tough delivery but it gradually becomes euphonious in the following songs. Speaking of "Aquanet", this is a very interesting piece as it begins with the sound of a modem connecting, and this is not some kind of sample or anything, but actually played by Ron on guitars. Jens Johansson plays a frenzied synth solo in the middle part before Ron goes back to his whacky guitar shredding.

"Words for Nerds" reveals the main theme of Ink Compatible. Throughout the album, Ron explores humanity's interaction with computers and technology. One little complaint, not just for this particular tune but all of them in general, is that there are some spoken segments on some tracks (usually by a woman and a man respectively), and while they seem interesting first, after months of listening to this disc, it seems the segments Ron sandwiched right in the middle of the tunes may seem a bit out of place, especially when they tend to pop out during contrasting key and guitar solos. They do serve their purpose right when they are introduced in the beginning and ending of the songs though. The apex of the song is when Attention Deficit bassist Michael Manring honours this disc with a killer fretless bass solo. What a jawdropping performance indeed. "Melissa's Friend" is one of my favourite songs on the album; it features Daniel Gildenlow on vocals (Ron should have done the entire disc with him!) and Daniel literally graces this tune with a stunning vocal delivery similar to his singing on the One Hour by the Concrete Lake disc. It's a song about computer viruses where Daniel utters a number of virus names, if I'm not mistaken. Riot's Pete Perez plays funky bass figures engulfed in brief acoustic guitars that greatly contrast Ron's frenzied lead guitar work. Note the drumming here (listen to it with headphones) -- perhaps the best drumming on this disc.

"Multi-Masking" is another interesting track (with Jason McMaster back on vocals) that should be noted. It begins with an indiscernible vocal intro before Ron goes into fusion territory. I read that the intro was recorded backwards on purpose and if you play it in reverse order you can hear the clear lyrics. I don't have the means to hear them in that order, but I know Ron posted a link to the song a while back on his website. Jens Johansson once again lays down a quick synth solo before he disappears suddenly. "In Memory of..." has Sean Malone on bass and the second the song kicks in you'll notice this song is much more toned down than the earlier tracks and is trademarked by Malone's unique touch. It was planned to use more of Malone's playing on the disc, but unfortunately things didn't work out. More fusion-jazz lines are employed thanks to Sean Malone's killer fretless bass and an added acoustic guitar melody. The tone, choice of notes and overall sound of this song bring Gordian Knot to mind which is Sean Malone's solo project with tons of guest musicians. The 12-minute tech-metal epic "ACRONYM" delves into a heavy, aggressive and scary musical platform and features Marty Freedman playing a cerebral guitar solo. Dysrhytmia drummer Jeff Eber works the drums with ferocity and accuracy, whilst Ron Jarzombek cuts it totally loose on his electric guitar. This is perhaps the heaviest Ink song of them all. This album certainly isn't for everyone, and even some tech-metal fans, but it certainly accomplishes its goals offering meticulous musicianship, though you may find yourself wondering what's going on in the music, and even why, during some moments.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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