(Sony Music Entertainment)
Ask anyone who semi-regularly subscribes to my critique diarrhea, and they will almost assuredly speak of my unrequited love of 'shred' guitarists. With my dalliances with Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen already documented ad nuaseum, I find myself with few obvious options (particularly as it pertains to domestic or US-based artists). This, however, was before I became aware of Japanese prodigy Li-sa-X. Born in February 2005 in Kanagawa, Japan, she started playing the guitar at the almost unthinkable age of five (!). At the age of seven, she began posting performance clips on YouTube, including a deftly-executed cover cover of the Mr. Big classic “Green Tinted 60's Mind”. Recognizing her indisputable level of talent, Gilbert offered her a scholarship to his Artistworks-based Rock Guitar School, furthering her talents. Now, at the age of thirteen, the lightning-fast six-string prodigy has at last unleashed her full-length debut WILL to an unsuspecting world-wide audience.
On the oft-brilliant WILL (2018), an expertly assembled eight track collection of shred-laden instrumental Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the refreshingly enthusiastic YOYO duet “Little Wings” and the time signature-defying gem “Pale Pink Monster” immediately command the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners, myself most definitely included. Initially exposed via the woefully-unsung Serendipity EP (2017), the guitarist drives home each key focal point with the unabashed intensities of the previously-mentioned videos (e.g. incendiary takes on “Gray Stone Gateway” from ex-Angra and Megadeth guitarist Kiko Loureiro and “Scarified” from Racer X). Proving that some artists do actually improve with age, the ensuing onslaughts posses a tangible veteran presence that, while frequently defying logic, distinguish her from the crème de la crème of the genre's would-be prime without adopting an egotistical air of self importance.
Continuing with the full-throttle--and self-explanatory--tirade “P.R.O.” and the playful, quasi-soulful delight “Hammock”, the guitarist is accompanied throughout by a tastefully understated combination of bass, drums and keys of unknown origin. Almost single-handedly reviving, or so it would seem, domestic interest in the Shred genre, much of the fist-pumping, mosh-inducing insanity that defined it's origins remain entirely intact. The initial sonic excursions, while not necessarily groundbreaking or revolutionary despite her age and locale (the 'she's great for her age' argument simply cannot be applied), are worthy of the highest of critical accolades. Maintaining a precarious balance between vitrosic dominance and the redundant auditory wankeries that have plagued lesser imaginative composers, the guitarist succeeds by repeatedly subjecting the proverbial average listener, e.g. you, the truly faithful subscriber, to a painstakingly assembled quintessence of her modus operandi.
Co-Produced, Mixed and arranged by the acclaimed Issei Ambo and Mastered by the legendary Mitsuyasu Abe (Takashi Kako, Ling Tosite Sigure, Zebrahead) at Sony Music Studios Tokyo, other standouts, including the curiously-titled--yet highly-effective--Funk and Prog-tinged exercise“Fragment Of Cake” and the equally impressive closer “World Football Anthem”, offer a veritable wealth of further sonic evidence in support of the guitarist's fleet-fingered ingenuities. Reminiscent of the now defunct Mike Vescera and Chris Impellitteri-fueled Animetal USA and, to a lesser extent, Fret' No Tized' (1994) era Dave Uhrich, the mighty WILL effectively establishes the guitarist as a bona fide creative and, in select territories, commercial, force not to be ignored. An undeniably triumphant debut that offers both a fresh, sorely-missed sensibility and what can only be described as a transcendent technique, all but the most pessimistic of pursuists will find themselves basking in the promise
But what can you really expect? Even more of the guitar histrionics you presumably already know and love. With the majority--if not all--of the decidedly awe-inspiring wares contained herein are seemingly guaranteed to further bolster her legion of blood-thirsty constituents. Even if you somehow find yourself less than enthralled with her relative brief artistic genesis or find yourself overly-focused on the 'novelty' aspects of her career, one must, at the very least, sincerely admire the sheer magnitude of her technical abilities. Strategically poised to ascend to the dizzying heights of international acclaim, WILL represents the beginning of a long and fruitful career. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself in search of a thought-provoking alternative to the painfully mindless banalities that are so often the domestic Hard Rock and Heavy Metal genres, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane counterirritant for whatever ails you. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.
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