Steve Walsh

Shadowman

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Say this for Steve Walsh and his career outside of Kansas: it's not predictable. Well, that, and that he's been intent on rocking much harder on his solo records than he did in Kansas, a band that always favored elaborate dramatics. That was the case with his 1980 arena rock solo debut, Schemer-Dreamer, and that's the case a quarter of a century later with Shadowman, which rockets off with a bracing blast of speed metal riffs and pounding double bass drums. To that sonic assault Walsh marries a heavy dose of prog theatrics and socially conscious lyrics. It's a weird hybrid of big, slick '80s album rock, '70s arena pomp, modern metal, and '90s D.I.Y., all tied together with washes of art rock synths. It's not just heavy, it's bludgeoning, letting up only on the brooding acoustic "Pages of Old" and elegiac closer "The River." So, those expecting a mellow album from this 54-year-old -- a bunch of "Dust in the Wind," perhaps -- should just forget it, because this is an idiosyncratic heavy rock album with heavy drama and heavy issues. Since each track plays like a multi-part epic even when it lacks multiple parts, this can be a bit exhausting to hear. While this may not be easy to listen to -- it's not just too deliberately heavy, but it's too insular, with little breathing room for the listener -- Shadowman is almost admirable: say what you will, Walsh is pursuing his own muse, labels and audiences be damned. There may not be many who want to follow him, but at least he's following his own path.

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