CLARK COLBORN - “Obscurotica”

By Dark Starr

In the interest of full disclosure, CLARK COLBORN is a friend, and I've done PR for him in the past. I suppose that means I'm biased. But, and I mean no disrespect to other local musicians - I know and respect many people in the scene - he might well be the most talented musician in the Rockford, Illinois area. This new album showcases that fact.

There is a good range of sounds and styles here. Most of the songs are instrumental, but a few have vocals. The guitar playing is exceptional throughout, but when it comes to COLBORN you really can't expect anything else. In a fair world, COLBORN's name would be as familiar to music fans as names like Malmsteen, Vai and Satriani. Maybe this album will be the one that does it.

The disc appropriately begins with "Descent Into Madness." Weird ambient textures with a backwards spoken vocal bring it into being. Crunch guitar joins and the number works out from there with style and power. This groove really screams. Yet there are proggy things over the top of the mix. There are some intriguing shifts and turns. This really has a lot of pure metal and thrash built into it. Yet, it also has an almost DREAM THEATER crazed prog angle. This instrumental is a strong opener.

Screaming hot prog starts "Closer." As it shifts to the song proper it takes on more of an AOR vibe. The verse has plenty of hard-edged prog styling. Yet the chorus bring the crunch, taking it into more metallic zones. The balance here works well. To some degree I'm reminded of the proggier side of IRON MAIDEN on this number.

"21st Century Stomp" is well-titled because it really does stomp. There is a driving metal edge to the instrumental. Yet it has proggy shifts and turns. COLBORN seriously shreds on the guitar work. The thing is, it's feels more like a song than just an excuse for a guitar solo. That's a good thing.

I love the smoking hot metal edge to "Fading Away." It's another that has vocals. It's a screamer. There is a dropped back section later that gives way to a short slow moving metal grind. I dig "Resignation" a lot. It's quite dynamic with mellower proggy stuff alternated with screaming metallic fury at other parts of the piece.

Now, the prog elements are really on display on "Transition." It still has plenty of smoking hot guitar work, but the angles of sound built around it are pure prog. This instrumental does make for a good transition. It turns to a full-on psychedelic rock exploration mid-track.

"3 Minute Funk" really lives up to its name. Well, technically it's seven seconds over three-minutes, but close enough. This has a real Joe Satriani or Steve Vai meets PARLIAMENT kind of vibe to it. As the vocals join, I'm definitely reminded of Frank Zappa.

Wow! "Pertricosum Incursus" is fierce and furious. It's metallic and proggy. It's a screaming hot instrumental. Neo-classical music merges with heavy metal guitar on "Passacaglia." It is reminiscent of the kind of thing YNGWIE MALMSTEEN is known for. The closing instrumental ("Star Gazy Eyes") is another fierce one with shredding guitar. It's more on the metal side, but has enough of a prog angle to some of the shifts and changes.