I’m a sucker for a good opening track. It’s gotta be ear-catching, and it’s gotta give an indication of what you’re getting yourself in for across the rest of the CD. That’s why Bullets, the first track on Patrick Vega’s ’8 Bullets,’ kicks so much ass. Heavy drums, amazing guitar tones, cool panning effects – as soon as you step through the door into this album, there’s no turning back! Patrick’s playing, on this track and throughout, has enough of a shreddy element to appeal to fans of players like Richie Kotzen, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, but there’s a rhythmic swing that reminds me of Dimebag’s uncanny ability to combine metal intent with bluesy spirit. And there’s a deliciously Hendrixy edge where he’s not afraid to grab a note and shake the life out of it.
So that’s track 1, but what of the rest of the album? Let’s look track-by-track. Words Of Power has anthemic delayed guitar tones, in-the-pocket rhythm playing and a monstrous wah tone that practically jumps out of the speakers and shoots across the room. Can’t Make Up My Mind combines some soulful phrasing with a slightly John Frusciante-eque tone and a cruisy, relaxed summer vibe, before turning more Satriani in the middle. Hear My Train A Comin’ has a great metal groove and, once again, awesome hi-fi distorted guitar tones and lots of ear candy (seriously, there’s some great production stuff happening here). Alice’s Nitemare has a propulsive groove underneath almost vocal-like stacked guitars. Oceans In Between Us is more restrained, melodic and majestic, with lots of space and atmosphere, and some very cool overbends. Halfway through though, it gets all Passion & Warfare on us, to great effect. Washed Away starts with an ambient sound collage before launching into some breathtakingly clear, clean guitar tones which provide a bed for more intricate harmony. And Novocaine has one of the best guitar tones of the whole album, a huge chorusy, delay-drenched wah sound riding over crashing rhythm guitars. The middle breakdown features a crushing, chunky chord interlude that just kicks ass before the lead guitars come back in.
There’s also a cool bonus track, a remix of No Surrender from Vega’s previous album, Freefall Faith Firestorm, which shows off more of that great compressed Stratty tone and some gorgeous textural rhythm/lead hybrid playing – y’know, the kind of stuff Stevie Ray did so well.
The sheer number of enviable guitar sounds on 8 Bullets would be enough to make this album an essential purchase, but even the coolest tones wouldn’t mean anything if the songs weren’t there. Vega’s writing is confident and powerful, yet his playing is intricate and subtle. It’s a combination that invites repeated listenings – you can focus on the songs, or the phrasing, or the tones, or the production, and take something new and cool away with you each time.