It's that time once again for our 12th monthly local CD review, and this month, we're dipping into the local metal vaults! Seeing as he recently brought his solo show back to the local concert stage, this month's review is all about the debut album from Sault Ontario's own Tym Morrison! Entitled "Solo Project", it was self-produced and released in February 2006 through Morrison Studio Productions, not long before Tym moved to Calgary to further his musical career. As this is a solo album, Tym handles all of the instruments, including vocals, guitar, and bass, along with programmed drums and effects. Now back in Sault Ste. Marie, Tym continues to play live and sell this record, and you can find copies of it at The Rad Zone, as well as at Tym's band Caveman Morrison's concerts, if I'm not mistaken. If you want to buy Tym's CD online, many sites have you covered, notably at CDBaby, where you can buy the CD for just $11.97 (or $9.99 for the mp3s.) It's also available on Amazon, Napster, Bitmunk, iTunes, and many more internet locations for similar prices. Click the above links for ordering details, and maybe if you're lucky, Caveman Morrison will play a song or two from this album at one of their shows! (Updated on September 28th, 2012)
Remember, I'm not a professional reviewer, so if I state anything wrong or lacking of musical terms, my apologies! With 10 songs clocking over 45 minutes of music, let's begin the review!
Firstly, the album kicks off with "Battle Love", which definitely isn't what you might be expecting as the album opener, as it has a distinct atmospheric progressive rock tone throughout. It's a love song, with Tym seemingly reflecting on the woman he loves and troubles he goes through in the process, the "battle" the title refers to. He sings well, if you needed proof of his singing voice, he has a nice tone and melody throughout! The song has a kind of plucky beat that gives the sound a dreamlike quality that's unique, though slightly repetitive. The guitar solo sounds pretty good, though with heavier stuff to come, he has much faster and more technical stuff coming! However, for the album opener, it gave me sort of an empty feeling, it definitely didn't have the heaviness to come on later songs. I would have moved to a different spot in the track listing, but it's still a good progressive song that has a nice mellow vibe to it, and if that's your thing, you'll like "Battle Love"!
Second on the album is "Cry", which also features lyrics with a personal tone, telling the story of watching a woman struggling with relationships and loneliness. Though heavier than "Battle Love", it's still got a lot of passion and emotion to it that contrasts well with some heavy riffing! The chorus is actually the softest part of the song, with the rest being a nice mid-tempo heavy metal song with soft singing throughout. Despite the differences musically and vocally, I like the song better than "Battle Love" for the heaviness and the decreased repitition! The guitar solos (yes, there's two) are great too, particularly the first one, which has more speed and variance!
"Cry" has a definite improvement in style and heaviness, but track 3, "Drug Dealers", sets a new bar early for the CD! The drums are the striking thing at first, I love the drum track, if only there was real drumming! The song, which is against drug dealers, not for them, is easily the fastest and heaviest song so far! Tym uses his heavier vocals here for the first time, which actually remind me of a couple of power metal singers in tone, particularly when he hits the falsetto before the guitar solo! The riffing is very catchy and not standard, and the solo is awesome, very fast and very well played! He's playing the hell out of the guitar on this one, and it shows! The majority of the chorus seems a bit tired compared to the song's energy, but the song is a complete winner, the best of the album so far, and if you've been wanting a rocking metal tune, this should work! Following that is "Our Evil Ways", another good heavy song! The song's about human nature and society's impact, and follows more of a standard song structure. I like Tym's singing here a lot, he sings with a lot of energy and pulls off some nice falsettos in the chorus to boot! The musical aspect isn't as strong as on "Drug Dealers", it doesn't feel as original or catchy, but it has a constant high energy and it's a great song to rock out to! The solo is also lacking to me, it feels like he's not playing at his best and most creative, but the song still works and is one of the album's standouts!
Fifth is a ballad named "Grama", which is about the love and memories Tym had for his grandma. This is easily the slowest song on the album, and you can really feel the emotion in Tym's voice as he reminisces on his grandma. There's even a bit of an orchestral element to the song at points, which adds to the atmosphere of the song! In it's own way, the song works as a tender memorial, and it shows off Tym's skill beyond simply playing metal, though it had repetitive moments. I'm surprised Tym doesn't play this more often at his unplugged shows! If you're looking for wall to wall metal, this ain't the song, but if you wanna chill out and listen to his heartfelt memories put to music, you'll appreciate it all the more!
After that, we have "Hypocrisy", the sixth of the album's songs, a fast tempo metal song that reminds me of Iron Maiden with it's galloping riffs and speedy pace! However, the vocals feel like they're from a completely different song. Tym sounds so subdued when he sings here, he should have sang at a higher key. "Hypocrisy" probably has the strongest lyrics on the album, which are about how Hell and Satan are forced into are consciousness, and his belief that they can't exist because God wouldn't allow them to. Interesting concept there! The song is fantastic musically, the song is great to mosh along with, the guitar work is great, and it also has Tym's fastest and best solo yet, though it could have stood to be longer. His guitar work makes this song one of "Solo Project's" best, but the vocals are a detraction. Seventh is "Only Linux", a song about the Linux computer operating system! Odd topic, but Tym punches up the lyrics to make it seem like an impressive force on the attack, and once you get into it, the topic doesn't wreck the song at all! It has an industrial feel beneath the riffing, mostly from the drum effects. The song reminds me of "Drug Dealers" in ways, though with a techno sort of flavour! The solo kinda lags at parts, but it's another very good song that has enough originality and heaviness to make it work very well! It's probably the heaviest song on the disc!
Eighth is "Souls of Serenity", the only instrumental on the album, and probably the best song to gauge Tym's guitar playing, as that's front and center on this track! The song plays like a 5 minute guitar solo at it's core, with some nice time singatures and lots of unexpected tempo changes! With the guitar as the focus of this song, the other instruments take a backing, dreamlike quality that both set a tone and allow Tym to do his thing on the instrument he's best known for! It's a very progressive song, and the general melody is really pleasant, then the solos kick in and I couldn't help but be impressed! When it's fast, it's horn-raising awesome, and when it's slow, it's just a treat musically. Sometimes, a song doesn't need vocals, and this is a great example, only needing 10 fingers to do all the talking!
The album's penultimate song is "Void Within My Heart", which is the final "slow" song on the album, and another where the lyrical focus is love, and how the song's subject filled the void in Tym's heart, hence the title. It doesn't have the emotional power of "Grama", but Tym still lets his feelings come through here! The vocals actually seem mixed kind of low, they sound kind of foggy amidst the music, which is well played but kind of dreary. It has sort of an epic feel to it in some respects also, like with the orchestral backing effects. However, the song left me hanging, it ended kind of abruptly, and there was no guitar solo either, but maybe it wouldn't fit well if there was. If you're into the slower stuff, you'll like this track, though I wouldn't rate it as highly as the earlier ballads. Closing the album on a heavy note is "We Are Damned", a short politically charged song where Tym speaks out against our justice system and how it controls and represses us. I love the instrumentation of this song, the time signatures totally work and the riffing is some of the album's best! The solo is one of my favourites, Tym outdoes himself here in both speed and ability! The vocals are, like on "Hypocrisy", a detraction, as Tym is singing in a lower subdued key that doesn't suit the song's speed and heaviness. For a song with such critical lyrics, some angrier vocals would really add to the song! Even still, this is a great capper to the album, it gets the message across quickly and shows off Tym's abilities very well here as a musician! Excellent stuff!
So how do I sum up Tym Morrison's solo album? Well first, I have to commend him for recording and releasing an album completely by himself! Even without real drumming, it takes a very talented musician to do all that, and Tym definitely has the goods! The absolute highlight of "Solo Project" is the guitar work, which Tym is rightfully best known for, and he shows off his impressive range of skills and genres in each song! From the excellence of "Souls of Serenity" to the slow emotional playing of "Grama", he definitely shows off some impressive playing with lots of awesome solos, tempo changes, and cool time signatures! His own style comes through in each song too! I can't complain about the guitar work at all, he's definitely one of the Sault's best guitarists! His work on bass is good, but it's not very audible on most songs. I can see why he'd want the guitar to be the focus, but it'd be nice to hear it clearer and more prominently, cause he has definite bass talent! His singing is good, he can definitely carry a tune, and his range is also nice, the falsettos show that nicely. But sometimes, it seems like his singing doesn't go with some songs, and there's many cases where he's singing too softly or low for a song that needs heavier vocals. But his singing carries a lot of feeling, and when applied well, he knocks it out of the park, I just wish it was more consistent to match each song better.
Tym Morrison describes the music on "Solo Project" as Megadeth, Joe Satriani, and Metallica combined, but there's definitely more Satch than thrash on this CD. In fact, it stands up on it's own so well that I really shouldn't compare it to other bands at all, cause this is it's own animal, and it works! It's a shame that Tym doesn't play these songs more often (either solo or with Caveman Morrison), cause he's a talented songwriter, even with some instances of repetitive lyrics. Being a heavy metal lover, I tend to like songs like "Drug Dealers" and "Only Linux" the most, which are standout songs, but musically, nothing tops "Souls of Serenity", and there's lots of songs which show off a tender emotional side that will get your lighter raised! For a debut album AND a completely solo effort, Tym Morrison's solo album is a success, and with some better production, real drums, and better matched singing, a second album would be something really special if it ever came along! Buy "Solo Project" today!
So there is June's album review, hope you guys enjoyed it! Next month is our 13th monthly album review, and which one will we look at? I honestly don't know yet, but here's what I'm planning. We know that Garden of Bedlam, Lion Ride, Sense of Truth, and Sykotyk Rampage all have albums in progress or with imminent release dates, right? Well, if any of them happen to officially release their new album in July, then that album will be reviewed! If there's two, the first one out will be reviewed next month, and the second one will be early August. And if none come out, I'll try to tie an older CD review in with an upcoming concert, possibly a Sault Michigan album if nothing new is released. Stay tuned to the SMS for news on the next review, which will be between July 23rd and 29th if nothing new comes out before!
That's all for today, stay tuned to the SMS for a review of TONIGHT'S Ultraviolence concert at Coch's Corner, a recap from The Big Four at Galaxy Cinema, a LOCAL CONCERT ALERT, and possibly more! Plus, expect my newest profiles on out of town bands with local members by next Wednesday! Stay tuned!