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Counter World Experience: Pulsar

Jazz-rock and fusion are no new things, but when I read of Counter World Experience billing themselves as Jazz/Metal, I did wonder if I might be letting myself in for something completely different. Well, when I say different, this is album number six for the German outfit, five releases setting their scene between 2002 and 2012.

So what is jazz-metal I hear you whisper? The truth is, I'm not sure I know. For other than a few jazzy breakdowns, most of which appear during the tracks "Bellatrix" and "Merak", what Pulsar appears to be is a hybrid between Joe Satriani instrumental songsmithery, the sort of synth play the likes of Klaus Schulze would usually specialise in and guitar shred. So yes, this is challenging, expansive stuff, but where the jazz fits in isn't so easy to hear. That in itself is no bad thing and while there are comparisons to draw with Satch, Michael Lee Firkins, or maybe even Guthrie Govan (or Jarre and Schulze even), it has to be said that Pulsar are cut of reasonably individual cloth. Factor on top of that musicianship from the trio of Benjamin Schwenen (guitar), Sebastian Hoffman (bass) and Thorsten Harnitz (drums), that's as strong as you'll find in any genre, and Pulsar quickly becomes a progressive instrumental delight.

Featuring the trumpet of Christian Meyers, "Bellatrix" is the most obviously jazzy selection, the lazy Sunday (but sharp as a tack) brass bouncing gleefully against some gargantuan riffs. It's massively impressive and yet there's an argument that the guitar and trumpet don't always quite see eye to eye, the discordant nature sure to attract as many as it turns away. "Helios" then sits somewhere squarely between prog metal and out and out shred, Fountainhead showing up to add his virtuosic guitar weight to what is already a hefty slab of fretwork. Guitarist Steve Di Giorgio (Testament, Sadu, ex-Death) appears to infuse "Alpha Serpentis", one of the most overtly heavy pieces on show, while Hannes Grossmann of Blotted Science, Alkaloid and ex-Obcsura brings his talents to the more poised "Cygnus".

That said, these guest slots are mere decoration, the key three more than capable of impressively mastering the brooding "Sirius", darting title track or pensive and moody "Europa". All meaning that through stunning musicianship, tight compositional skills and the ability to always add more and more virtuosity, without ever overcooking the pot, Pulsar and their Pulsar combine to make a rare and impressive beast.

Track Listing
1. Pulsar
2. Bellatrix
3. Helios
4. Merak
5. Elektra
6. Nebula
7. Alpha Serpentis
8. Zaurak
9. Europa
10. Cygnus
11. Sirius

Added: August 20th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Counter World Experience Facebook page
Hits: 2361
Language: english

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