Sage’s Recital – Sage’s Recital
Sage’s Recital – Sage’s Recital (2013)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Even as a recent devotee of the John West school of metal singing, Sage’s Recital never made it onto my radar in 2013. After diving into this project, it’s not really a surprise, as John seems to be entirely a studio presence (the band relies on singer Jonathan Arnesen for live shows). Regardless, Sage’s Recital is first and foremost a creative outlet for guitarist and composer Niels Vejlyt (Infinity Overture), as a project intended to “create the most intense over the top Neo Classical and Symphonic metal featuring a myriad of guitars and orchestrations”.
How do you spell ambitious? Never mind, I just did. Anyway, the nature of Sage’s Recital is pretty darn clear from the opening moments, and it sounds more or less how Niels wants the band to be marketed. This is very clearly masterminded and composed by a guitarist, as the Malmsteen-esque arpeggios and whirling sequences quickly make clear that shredding is the band’s number one priority. While technically showy, the rhythm work isn’t anything to write home about – it exists almost purely to support the wall of lead guitar and the vocal chorus that occasionally creeps in.
I might sound like I’m simplifying this album, and I suppose I kind of am. West puts on a pretty good performance across the album, but there is certainly a limited presence of memorable vocals. Opener “The Power Within” is a good indication of this in particular. Sooner or later, however, I perceive all of the songs as pitching into the neoclassical guitar maelstrom typical of Malmsteen and his ilk, and herein Sage’s Recital succumbs to the trap of sounding more like a project for the instrumentalist’s sake, and not for the listener’s. Let me provide a comparison for those familiar with Stephan Forte’s solo album, The Shadows Compendium: aside from being completely instrumental, that album was largely structured in the same way: plenty of shred sections, but a dedicated portion of structure that allowed for chorus-like refrains, which helped solidifying the memorability of the piece. Put simply, Sage’s Recital features as much of the shredding and free-wheeling guitar antics, but lacks the distinct pull and memorability that said album features. Mostly, this is because the album’s concept, while supposedly one of epic fantasy, really just sounds like “another neoclassical metal project”, to my ears.
Now there are some perfectly lovely soft acoustic moments, some very lyrical, tasteful guitar solos, and the discussed vocal talents of West, but the album as a whole lacks identity and simply fails to grip me. One listen-through, and I would pretty much have summed this up simplistically as “a solo guitar album with John West on vocals” (which, I guess, is kind of what I’ve done anyway). The bottom line is this: I like solo/shred guitar music, and I like neoclassical metal when done right (Adagio, Mythodea, Dark Moor, etc.). I require good emotive, intuitive songwriting to be a vehicle for the former, however, and I do not think that Niels Vejlyt has translated his want for a guitar-focused metal album very effectively into the realm of song-based vocal metal.
Despite this, Sage’s Recital is a very capable album. I would only really recommend it to those who enjoy shred guitar and big fans of John West who want to hear his singing outside of familiar projects (though beware that he’s a secondary feature here). The concept and lyricism strike me as very secondary, and I’d prefer a better-rounded compositional offering the next time around.
3.0 // 5