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Album Reviews : James Norbert Ivanyi – Aphasia

By on December 18, 2013

Instrumental metal (which you are going to help me perpetuate as “instrumetal” from now on, ok?) is in an interesting place in 2013. We have seen the rise of the chug-and-shred type of instrumetal from the likes of Andy James and Paul Wardingham, modern progressive instrumetal from Animals as Leaders, Scale the Summit and their ilk and then the more exotic, experimetal from Steve Vai, David Maxim Micic et al. and so on.

I think what I love most about James Norbert Ivanyi‘s Aphasia is that it does not fit into any particular stylistic clique, but rather takes elements of each and produces an honest, diverse and exciting musical expression.

Some of you may be familiar with Ivanyi’s work with Paradigm, his demonstrations for Suhr guitars or MI Amplification or perhaps his ever-living social media presence. If you are then you will be well aware that Ivanyi is a technically astounding guitar player capable of holding his own across virtually any style and always in a highly creative manner. Nevertheless, an instrumental solo album is always an ambitious undertaking for even the very best musicians in terms of it being engaging for any listeners that do not happen to live in the composer’s head.

The biggest problem I have always found with instrumetal in general is that it is difficult to make a full album (or even an EP) that manages to be engaging and entertaining from start to finish. More often that not an artist has one idea or style that they just hammer out monotonously for an entire release. Even if that is a really cool idea it does become hard to endure after even a handful of tracks. I honestly think one of the best things I can say about Aphasia is that it does not suffer from this problem at all. The stylistic evolution across the album’s 40ish minutes is constantly surprising, and as such does not give way to tedium or mundanity for even a moment. The album is an ever-shifting vichyssoise of Western blues acoustic and slide guitars, The Faceless-inspired technical death metal, fluid lead playing and, of course, a sprinkling of shred.

The album opens with a slow, sparse and delicate acoustic guitar and violin duet which constantly hints at a dramatic climax but never quite eventuates. This leads to a sense of heightened anticipation by the time “Reawakened”, the only ‘solo-y’ track on the album, rolls around where we are treated to Ivanyi’s liquidy leads flowing over unconventional chords and rhythms (a breath of fresh air in a culture of endless power chords), with hints of Guthrie Govan, Alan Holdsworth and others swimming throughout. As we progress further, the musical contrasts only become more apparent; a slide guitar introduction (which sounds like it belongs in a space western theme song) gives way to mad shredding solos and soothing piano lines devolve into furious, technical death metal driven by the jaw-dropping drum work of David Horgan (Ouroboros, Paradigm).

The album also includes a suite of guests including Danny Tunker (Aborted, Spawn of Possession) and Francesco Artusato (All Shall Perish) but I’m throwing a special shout-out to Christian Muenzner’s (Obscura, ex-Necrophagist) ridiculous playing in “Proprium|Assent”. Muenzner is (in my never-humble opinion) one of the most ridiculous and exciting players around at the moment and his apocalypse-inducing playing on that track perfectly demonstrates why. Interestingly, the guest solos from each of these artists fit perfectly in their context and with Ivanyi’s own lead style, if that gives any indication of the variety of playing on the record.

My only criticism of Aphasia is that it verges, at times, on being too disjointed. Each track on the album has its own distinct character: “Olivia” is calm and peaceful, “Reawakened” is melodic and flowing, “Ubuntu” is vicious and technical and so on. While this is in itself probably a good thing, it would be nice to have that diversity spread throughout the tracks as well as between them. As it is, I happen to like the evolution as the tracks progress but I would be curious to see how this music unfolds with more ambitious song structures. This is obviously not a major flaw and is probably more just a reflection of me listening to too many long prog songs lately.

It’s diverse. It’s powerful. It’s thrilling. It has Christian Muenzner.

Go listen to it.

Artist: James Norbert Ivanyi
Album: Aphasia
Year: 2013
Genre: Progressive / instrumetal
Origin: Sydney, Australia

Track List:
1. Olivia
2. Reawakened
3. Apperception Prism
4. Proprium | Assent
5. Ubuntu
6. Resolute Enmity


Sam Maher is Metal Obsession's resident prog reviewer. He only likes songs that are at least 15 minutes long, contain 4 guitar solos and can only be described with a genre that is at least six words long. He also plays guitar for Sydney-based groovy melodic progressive technical death metal band Apparitions of Null.