By Dr. Abner Mality

Clark Colborn plays guitar. That simple statement sums up a lot. In fact, Clark doesn't merely play guitar, he attacks it, he soothes it, he coaxes all manner of sounds from it. The guy is a guitar virtuoso, but much more tasteful than a mere "shredder" who makes the instrument beg for mercy with endless neoclassical arpeggio blasts and brutal polyrhythms.

Colborn hails from my own hometown and on "Again", he's come up with a diverse collection of guitar-oriented tunes that are heavy enough to suit most metal heads while retaining accessible catchiness to attract more mainstream rock n' rollers. Joe Satriani is not a bad comparison to make, but Clark adds some of the hooks and even poppiness from bands like Rush, Cheap Trick, Van Halen and more. He sings as well, but take it from me, that's not the attraction to this disc and I doubt if even Colborn would disagree that his singing is no match for his guitar playing. Not to say his vocals spoil anything...they are pleasantly inoffensive...but they just don't knock your socks off.

The album really opens with its three best songs..."The Unexpected" is a power packed blast of progressive metal sounding like mid-period Rush mixed with Satriani. I'd say this is Clark at his best, changing riff and tempo with great ease and throwing in some flame-throwing solos on top. "An Imperfect Waltz" is another energetic and hard-rocking tune, a complete instrumental, and "Lie To Me" is a super-catchy example of heavy metal pop...thick guitar riffs combined with AOR-style vocal melodies and clever lyrics.

Not everything here is hard-rocking shred, as "The Harmonic Thing", "Lilacs and Cardinals" and "Into the Mist" show a more relaxed side to Colborn's playing. Each of these tunes, though, has its own identity. As nice as these are, his heart is really in brash heavy rockers such as "It's Your Life", "73" and "Stop Talking".

There are times when this sounds a little trite but overall, you can't help but be impressed by these tunes. Maybe "Again" won't reach the raging death metallers and Meshuggah-worshippers, but this is a very appealing example of the art of rock n' roll guitar.