Solomon’s Key2008

Tracklist: Almadel (4:33), Babylon (8:23), Saracen (7:30), India (5:10), Lemegaton (13:41), Jester’s Court (3:56), Burning Bush (7:11), Solomon’s Key (18:26)

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Original review written by Mark Hughes for Dutch Progressive Rock Page at

Steve Adams, under his progressive moniker of ARZ, releases his first album since the 2005 twin releases of Serai and The Magi. This time round the album is available as a digital download only, through the usual digital distribution outlets. The previous albums were entirely solo efforts with Adams composing and playing everything. On this latest release Adams is joined by drummer Merrill Hale who also contributed to the composition of the last two tracks on the album. Notably heavier than either Serai or The Magi, the album flirts with progressive metal in places but is saved from over-indulgence in that genre by comprehensive use of different styles and guitar sounds. Once more influences from around the globe are evident with, on the title track in particular, Middle Eastern overtones present.

There is no doubt that Adams is a very versatile guitar player, his use of the full range of the six-string instrument shows that he is no slouch as a master of the instrument, and the contrapuntal elements throughout his music are often sublime. However, opening tracks Almadel and Babylon display the heavier direction of the music, with grinding guitars and incessant riffs. This is a theme throughout the album, but fortunately there are plenty of other aspects to the album that lift it above the usual grind. For instance, on Saracen we get a tabla and sitar introduction, a tubular bells solo plus electric and acoustic guitar solos. India offers a contrast, with a very authentic Indian classical music derived introduction. The track continues in a relatively sedate manner with a nice blend of Eastern and Western music.

The first of the two large scale compositions on the album, Lemegaton, is a diverse and interesting piece of music, more in line with the style of the earlier albums. Again, the jazz-inflected rock of early Al Di Meola is brought to mind throughout. The mixture of acoustic and sitar guitar on Jester’s Court is lovely with these two instruments performing a soothing duet that is a calm before the electric maelstrom of Burning Bush. Hale’s writing input on this number is obvious from the inventive and engaging drum patterns throughout, whether backing the passages of frantic electric soloing or guiding the rhythm of the acoustic sections, it all sets the scene for the epic title track. An eighteen and a half minute track of predominantly guitar and percussion could be a recipe for overload and over-indulgence. Fortunately, Adams and Hale are skilful enough musicians to avoid going over the top or repeating themselves. Once again it is the various textures provided by the different guitars employed throughout, the changes in tempo, the stylistic variations and the quality of the playing that provides the overwhelming redeeming features of this track and, indeed, the whole CD.

I have to confess that a lot, if not all, of metal-type music leaves me cold and I find some of the more frantic numbers rather pointless. There are times throughout this album when I wish that the really heavy elements could have been missed off or toned down and the focus more concentrated on the more diverse, aspects of the album. However, having said that, there is more than enough diversity for the metal aspects to be considered as simply part of the palette of compositional tools employed in the creation of the overall work. The quality of the compositions and performance is easily the equal of the earlier ARZ releases and if those albums were to your fancy then Solomon’s Key will be as well.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10