Stéphan Forté – The Shadows Compendium
France’s Stéphan Forté is, of course, best known for his neo-classical influences and shredding with progressive metal monsters Adagio. For some time, I’ve known about and have been anticipating his solo release, expecting it to be a dark instrumental piece reminiscent of Adagio’s work on Dominate and Archangels In Black. Almost spot on, this is what we’ve got in The Shadows Compendium, a swirling vortex of sheer black musical energy that drifts among pale greys and slams forcefully into the listener as a gale of dark matter.
As one familiar with Adagio’s work, as well as being an experienced neo-classical/shred listener, the similarities to the former are immediate and apparent. Yet The Shadows Compendium is a much broader stroke of Forté’s brush, indicating what he is capable of when cut loose. Precious few solo artists are capable of maintaining my attention full time with an instrumental album, but Forté manages to ensnare me quite firmly for the eight track duration of his work. The blistering title track and the scorching “De Praestigiis Daemonum” have precisely the kind of energy that is necessary to hook listeners, but Forté has the presence of mind to cut back and allow things to simmer.
“Spiritual Bliss” and “Duat” both take their time building, all the while providing very syllabic melodies that recur often enough to enable the listener to take hold of them and process them into a complete and memorable experience. My personal favorite track is the stellar “Prophecies Of Loki XXI”, with its sinister introduction, slamming riffs, cyclonic solos, and excellent feature of piano, but the raging and almost sludgy “I Think There’s Someone In The Kitchen” also provides a great musical image of an overreactive imagination conjuring up a nocturnal butcher. The last track on the album is a soft classical improvisation on Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” (No. 14 in c# minor). Generally these bore me a bit, but after the colossal energy of the rest of the record, it was a very pleasant listen. Occasionally, like any instrumental album, this can tend to get long-winded, and the absence of vocals hurts its memorability a bit as well, make no mistake- this is a superb album.
With The Shadows Compendium, Stéphan Forté has proved himself more than just an exceptionally skilled guitarist, but also a well-balanced musician and composer. Few solo albums meet or exceed the work of an artist’s main band, and fewer still are instrumental solo albums (actually, off the top of my head, I can’t think of one). Still, I find myself enjoying The Shadows Compendium as much or even more than some Adagio. Excellent, Mr. Forté, please bring me some more!
Dan’s Rating: 4.25 out of 5