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Stepanek; Pavel: The Clockwork Universe

Pavel Stepanek is a hell of a guitar player, his touch, tone and dexterity being of the highest calibre. That he chooses to illustrate it through a reasonably basic set of tracks which shred, shred and shred again, will undoubtedly limit his appeal. For much though I quite enjoy The Clockwork Universe and would happily do so again, when there are already so many talented, skilled individuals operating in this sphere, it's hard to work out exactly who will go out of their way to actually buy it. The budget is limited, leaving a decidedly flat drum sound to constantly battle against the guitars and a disappointing production to leave certain passages, such as a staccato section during "Touches" (which does tone things down somewhat) little short of grating… although the tracks where drum machine take over the percussion actually fare worse.

Glimpses of European Metal are revealed from time to time and also the odd hint of a pretty basic British Metal groove are alluded to and yet in the end Stepanek is simply too happy to find a good riff and widdle over the top of it, filling the vocal line at times, firing into out and out guitar solo exuberance as and when the mood takes him - check out "Far East" for proof. Suggesting that any of this album is substandard, or uninspired would be far too harsh and yet with such varied and eclectic offerings out there in guitar instrumental-land, it really is hard to come close to giving the impression that even the most ardent of shred fans will find something new here to get excited about.

"The Nymph" does decide that a different attack is in order, Saren Makovcova providing a beautiful breathy female vocal which is more spoken than sung; her influence seemingly calming the guitars long enough to build a suspenseful atmosphere lacking elsewhere. The vocals may only last for the first half of this nine minute excursion, but the restrained feel remains for its duration, conjuring the best from Stepanek as it does so. He doesn't always, even in this setting, keep things slow and smooth, but the results do feel immediately more cohesive.

Sometimes pure talent isn't enough, for while Pavel Stepanek can, within reason, stand toe to toe with the best guitarists out there, the one dimensional construction he creates keep him far too safely in check. The more over the top he gets, the less the impact. However, it is early days for this guitarist and if he can harness his skills into something more engaging, then his future may be bright. As it is, The Clockwork Universe is as predictable as tick, tick, tick.

Track Listing
1. Change Of Moods
2. Awakening
3. The Clockwork Universe
4. The Nymph
5. Touches
6. Far East
7. Insomnia
8. Victory
9. Good Night

Added: October 15th 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Pavel Stepanek online
Hits: 2649
Language: english

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