If there’s one thing you learn from listening to a lot of prog/rock/fusion music, it’s that lightning-fast guitar players are a dime a dozen. Listeners are generally impressed the first couple of times they hear a nimble fingered axeman set their fretboard on fire, but after you realize that there’s a ton of similar guitarists out there cutting CDs you begin to get a bit jaded. This causes the listener to begin looking for traits other than speed to set guitar players apart. The reason I’m bring this up is because when I first fired up Jeff Kollman’s latest CD, 'Shedding Skin', I thought to myself, “Great, another amphetamine-fingered guitarist with an entire hour to kill noodling pointlessly with his instrument.” However, after listening to the first few tracks I realized that Jeff Kollman is a shredder with “the difference” – that difference being that he can actually write a catchy tune and gets enough variance in his guitar sound to keep things interesting through most of 'Shedding Skin.'
Kollman’s latest release teams him up with master drummer Shane Gaalaas, and a host of guest musicians filling bass and piano duties. The album starts off with a nice acoustic riff introducing the title cut, but before long you realize you’re in for more of a heavy metal ride as Kollman kicks in the overdrive and begins a frantic sonic journey that has he, Gaalaas, and bassist Ray Reindeau tearing through Dream Theater-esque metal runs as if there was no tomorrow. Reindeau contributes some spine tingling bass licks, and Gaalaas establishes early on that he’s a drumming force to be reckoned with.
The middle of the album features a diverse selection of styles including Fripp-like soundscapes on “The Subconscience", a tribute to metal prog stawarts Kings X called “The X Factor” (you’ll swear that’s Ty Tabor on the rhythm parts), and a beautiful acoustic piece in “Intimate Portrait.” The metal-tinged “Sheer Drama” has Kollman serving up some wicked sounds from his axe as Gaalaas bashes away at the skins with reckless abandon, complete with some Slayer-esque double bass drum fills. “My Soul Deep Inside” is a very soothing jazzy piece with some excellent and tastefully done piano work performed by Dale Grisa. However, the track that steals the show on 'Shedding Skin' has got to be “Journey Through Life”, which features a seriously mellow California-style groove coupled with Kollman’s laying down of some of the most incredibly melodic solos I’ve heard in quite some time. Kollman really gives an emotional and very effective performance on this track.
Overall, 'Shedding Skin' is a very solid piece of instrumental metal-fusion. Kollman – more so than most of his counterparts – really knows how to write a pleasant melody when he sets his mind to it, and that fact coupled with his excellent drumming partner Shane Gaalaas warrants this release a serious look from the metal and fusion community. ~ Michael Askounes
Re-Mastered by Borislav Dimitrov at HiZ Productions
JEFF KOLLMAN solo discography:
Hills of Granada (2014)
Silence In The Corridor (2012)
Guitar Screams Live! (2006)
Shedding Skin (1999)
Into The Unknown (1995)
The word on Jeff:
"Kollman is the musical equivalent of an acetylene torch."
- Jude Gold, Guitar Player
"Kollman has got to have the coolest axe vocabulary on the planet."
- Martin Popoff, Brave Words
"Kollman blew my socks off. Imagine the Jeff Beck of prog music; well, that’s him."
- John Payne [Asia, Roger Daltrey]
"Be it known that Kollman is up to any old challenge; he’s got the magic fingers and, more important, the ear and the imagination."
- Greg Burk, MetalJazz.com
"Jeff Kollman once again shows why he is one of the most important guitar players that you SHOULD BE listening to!"
- Butch Jones, Sea Of Tranquility.org