Dutchman Marcel Coenen made heads roll with his superb axework during his time with Lemur Voice, and he's doing the same with his new group, Sun Caged. It's a cardinal rule that players of exalted status release solo instrumental albums, so now it's time to punch Marcel's ticket. Guitar Talk serves up nine remastered tracks (this album was initially pressed roughly four years ago) and three new tracks that perfectly broadcast the guitarist's talent over a backdrop of programmed percussion, complementary basslines, and synth background fills. Nine tracks use rhythm-backup exclusively from a Boss DR-5 drum machine—the newer three were software-assisted—according to Marcel's liner notes, and the patterns range from basic to marginally creative—check out the "fills" on "Rebel," for instance, or the static bassline on "Move That Groove." "Fusion" makes use of some cheesy stock sounds, and doesn't exactly live up to its title, stylewise, but the lead smokes! And while "Inner Alchemy" is a nice, Vai-sy ballad with mucho verve, most of the disc roams crunch country, with no surprises. Since the G3 guys have embarked on another tour, we may as well mention Joe Satriani, whom Marcel cites as the primary inspiration for composing "Move That Groove"; slick and to the point, it's a catchy 4/4 r~g jam with a nice spacey part around three minutes in, but we've already heard all of Satch's tricks, and one JS is plenty.
"Race Against Time" is a typically breakneck shred job, similar in flavor to anything on the first half of Vinnie Moore's 1988 classic, Time Odyssey. "Fairy Tale" sounds like an old demo that just needs vocals, and sure enough, it's an older piece co-written with Franck Faber, Lemur Voice's old keyboard player. Some parts sound filled in with more guitar, to replace voids left where a lead vocalist would carry the melody. "The Wet Season" is a standout cut, with its retro feel, slightly dirty guitar tone, and laidback tempo. Of special note is "Anthem," a metalloid rendition of the Dutch national anthem which Marcel entered in the 1998 Dutch Guitar Championships—and he won first place, reports say!
The Drop D-tuning and multiple angular leads in "Shoreline" bring to mind Chris Poland and his Metalopomusic—top-notch.
Guitar Talk also shares another quality found in many recordings of its ilk: the burgeoning sterile cast that seeps into over-the-top precision. Only the most indulgent of metal guitar phreeks will drink repeatedly from this overflowing cup, the rest of us will only sip occasionally. Like other guitar gods, Marcel's playing sounds best in a full band context.