Joe Stump

Speed Metal Messiah

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If people thought Alvin Lee was fast on "I'm Going Home" from the Woodstock movie, Joe Stump will make the leftovers from that generation wonder what Lee wrought -- the word wrought being a good one, meaning "shaped by hammering with tools. Used chiefly of metals or metalwork. Made delicately or elaborately." See if a Tony Bennett fan can figure out where the title track ends and "The Red Priest" begins. Stump gets down to business slamming and churning out metallic flakes so perfect and in such succession that it almost stops being music and sounds like the product of one of Ray Kurzweil's computers from his classic 2000 book The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. In that non-fiction tome Kurzweil feeds information into a computer and lets it write its own poetry -- and who's to say Stump isn't some program from the films The Matrix or The Terminator grinding out the mayhem that prevails over the eight-plus minutes of "Eastern Beast"? There is absolutely no letup from song to song, seven and a half minutes of "Reflection" melting into the nearly seven minutes of "The Killer Instinct." Certainly these sounds could find their way into a movie soundtrack for 60 seconds or so, but a steady diet could prove much even for the most ardent admirers of this improvisational journeyman. "Dragon's Den" is almost four minutes of Stump playing by and with himself. At the end of the day the proficiency becomes so extreme that Lou Reed's epic Metal Machine Music says more with its random chaos than this incessant Texas chainsaw massacre. Titles like "Retroactivity," "Psycho Shred Suite 1st Movement," and "Psycho 2nd Movement (Presto)" don't have the language Jimi Hendrix injected into "Room Full of Mirrors" or anything on his The Cry of Love album, which is what you sometimes have to measure these things by. The final track, "Chamber Maid," actually has some drama and presence, and if Stump could have stretched this kind of anticipation and thoughtful presentation across Speed Metal Messiah, the album might find itself getting played a lot more. The artist doesn't realize that by track two the listener gets it -- he's a Speed Metal Messiah, but he's talking so loud and so fast that the message is no fun to translate.

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