Album Reviews : I Built the Sky – The Zenith Rise
Always threatening to, Melbourne maestro Rohan Stevenson has now entered the big time. Instrumental progressive music has become a niche worldwide phenomenon over the last 10 years or so, and virtuoso guitar instrumentalists have become a niche phenomenon within that niche, led by the likes of Plini, Animals as Leaders, Intervals, Modern Day Babylon, David Maxim Micic and many more.
And now, if he wasn’t there already, you can add the name of Stevenson’s musical alter-ego, I Built the Sky, to that illustrious list.
The Zenith Rise is a real statement, a statement that screams ‘hey look this way, I’m messing with the big boys now!’. Obviously the guy can play guitar, this is not in question. Nor is it the issue. Plenty of people can play guitar with blinding technical skill. Just go onto YouTube and check out the myriads of them on there.
The point is not even that he can compose cohesive and electrifying instrumental guitar pieces, that has been proven beyond any doubt on previous releases.
The main thing here to note is that Stevenson has taken his playing and his compositional nous to another level here, and crafted 10 spankingly good instrumental tracks. Tracks that are choc-full of soaring melody, blistering lead work (although this never draws the attention away from the quality of the songwriting, or attempts to distract from a lack of songcraft), interesting dynamics and variety (from the uplifting stomp of Stars and Darkness to the epic shredathon that is the title track to the acoustic and stringy beauty of Diamond Dust), and also somehow manage to be supremely tasteful at the same time.
Everything else has lifted a cog too, from the crisp and powerful production, courtesy of the great Forrester Savell, to the artwork, to the marketing of the record. Everything about The Zenith Rise has a slick, sweet and professional sheen to it.
This is a work of majesty and memorability, and is an absolute must for any fan of any kind of progressive and instrumental rock and metal music. It’s up there with the albums of 2019, no question.
Band: I Built the Sky
Album: The Zenith Rise