Album Review: Ol Drake - 'Old Rake'.
Formerly a member of Huddersfield thrash metal revivalists Evile, Ol Drake is a guitarist of notable capability. A consummate musician, the classically trained and technically stunning player has left the greasy thrash world behind for the cleaner, if nerdier world of instrumental guitar music. Following the well-worn fretboards of the likes of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, ‘Old Rake’, is his debut solo album, cut from the same aesthetic; guitar wizardry with speed and melody, with no room for vocals. Although some might shudder to think of such a perceived muso widdle fest, ‘Old Rake’ is a joyous romp from start to finish.
In the light years since Satriani set the solo guitar genre ablaze with ‘Surfing With The Alien’ - the first instrumental rock album to reach the Billboard Top 40 chart in America - over saturation and an abundance of more and more advanced guitar wizards have diluted the genre to the extent that an album such as this these days is in real danger of getting lost among the throng. However, what makes ‘Old Rake’ stand out from the crowd is its sense of fun, and more importantly, its tunefulness. In the press release that accompanies the album, Rake states that; “I'm a big fan of shredders, but I'm a much bigger fan of blues licks and unconventional notes/approaches. I'd take Dimebag over Petrucci any day." And it shows, as pleasingly, this album never substitutes needless over the top trickery where melodious licks will suffice.
Opening with the self-explanatory ‘Han Valen’, a knowing hybrid of Van Halen’s ‘Eruption’ and ‘Hot For Teacher’, from its tapped phrasing to its kicking drum patterns courtesy of current Fear Factory sticksman Mike Heller, there’s an explosion of genial energy from the off. Although Eddie Van Halen may be the focal point here, there are nods to the likes of former Megadeth jazz-fusion enthusiast Chris Poland, and the aforementioned Vai in Rake’s style. This is apparent too in the grooving ‘Onions’ which follows, and the fantastically titled ‘Spaceship Janitor’, which is appropriately, the most obviously Satriani-esque track on the album.
Although bursting with fast paced rockers, it’s not all one sided, and there are of less obvious tracks where Rake gets to stretch his boundaries, such as on the atmospheric far-eastern flavoured ‘Emperor’, the haunting ‘An Absence’ and the acoustic, folky Rory Gallagher-esque ‘Karma’. The latter offers the album’s biggest surprise; with its medieval beat and minimalist approach, and is among its highlights.
Meanwhile, normal service continues with the again punningly titled ‘I’ll Be Bach (Get It)’; a neo-classical speed masterpiece which is just over one minute long, and first single ‘Guitarists Playing Guitars’, which features guest appearances from Slayer / Exodus guitarist Gary Holt, James Murphy (Death, Testament, Obituary) and Josh Middleton of Sylosis. The guest spots may add credence and attract interest, however the album is more than capable of standing on its own two feet without them.
‘Old Rake’ is a cracking debut, and a fine introduction to the wider skills of the phonetical oronynm Ol Drake. A real labour of love, the guitarist has also transcribed the entire thing for the simultaneous release of a special two-hundred and forty-two page tablature book. Long time Evile fans may hanker after something harder, but with its release on the Earache label, and cover artwork that could have graced any classic thrash release, it’s good to see that some things still remain. A thoroughly enjoyable slice of fun.
First published on uberrock.co.uk, 12 June 2015.