Chimp Spanner is an instrumental project from the mind of multi-instrumentalist Paul Ortiz, where he gets to push chugging riffs – played on seven stringed guitars – to extremes while mixing metal, progressive tendencies and a touch of jazz-rock fusion. The results are technical and complex, but often, there’s an unexpected melodic counterpart which can be enjoyed by listeners who really aren’t inspired by the general muso-ness of it all. Chimp’s previous release, 2010’s ‘At The Dream’s Edge’ featured some superb tunes and jaw-dropping musicianship; 2012’s ‘All Roads Lead Here’ effectively extends the musical themes of that release, creating something equally intense and twisted, but strangely magical.
‘Dark Edge of Technology’ throws the listener in at the deep end, ploughing through a fantastic off-kilter rhythm delivered in a sledgehammer manner – full-on chug, maximum downtuning – over which the lead guitars have a classic clean tone. In Chimp Spanner style, that clean tone helps lighten the mood somewhat even though the main thrust of the tune remains as intense as ever. There are some moments of multi-tracked guitars which are a nice touch, but these soon get swept away under another really uncompromising riff. Following a very brief interlude of atmospheric keys and trippiness, it’s a return to the main riff with its heady tech-metal approach. A fantastic start, for sure, but there are better musical thrills just over the horizon.
‘Engrams’ brings a haunting mellow melody played with a clean tone over soft drones. At just under two minutes it serves as a very effective introduction for the EP’s main feature – ‘Mobius’, a musical suite in three parts. As you may expect, ‘Mobius’ brings back the levels of intensity which are present in most of Chimp’s best works – but it’s the third section in particular which serves as the EP’s high point with regards to metal. The bass drum sounds provide pneumatic qualities, over which Ortiz’s brief bursts of tapping are hugely entertaining. Pulled together by a blanket of keyboards in a Devin Townsend style, overall it’s a superb example of tech/progressive metal, bringing nearly fifteen minutes’ worth of already enjoyable music to a suitable climax.
For listeners who like things a little gentler, the EP’s closer ‘Cloud City’ showcases more of Ortiz’s jazz rock chops. Following a few bell-like chords, the main riff crashes in (again with a heavy edge), before quickly falling away to allow the lead guitar to take centre stage. Here, Ortiz plays some beautiful, mostly clean toned notes – with plenty of vibrato – sounding like a cross between Jeff Beck and Steve Lukather. He’s certainly no slouch with bass either, as a percussive and funky bassline brings a superb accompaniment. Despite beginning with a jazz-rock mood, being a Chimp Spanner release, Ortiz can’t resist bringing things back to familiar tech-metal territory: the track closes with those great vibrating lead guitar lines played over a hugely downtuned and hugely heavy riff. Once again, this is kept interesting by way of a quirky time signature [Actually, quirky doesn’t even come close to describing this!]. For the parts of the second half, there’s so much bottom end, it begs to be heard on a decent stereo; there’s literally no point in experiencing this through your mp3 player’s earphones – it would be a waste of your time and a dreadful waste of Chimp Spanner’s talent. [Also, if you like this, chances are, parts of Glen Drover’s ‘Metalusion’ will possibly also float your boat].
Following ‘At The Dream’s Edge’ was always going to be tough, but this EP does everything you’d hope for from another Chimp Spanner release. If you’re already aware of Chimp Spanner, you know you want this too.