Artist: Chris Quirarte
Album Title: Mending Broken Bridges
Label: Independent Release
Date of Release: 16 February 2016
If you’re a fan of progressive metal, it is likely that you’ll be familiar with the name of Chris Quirarte. He’s the highly talented drummer acting as one half of an impressive rhythm section that lays the solid and engaging foundations for the music of US progressive metal band Redemption. He also frequents the drum stool in Prymary too. Naturally therefore, when news of a solo album reached me, I had to investigate further. Thankfully, the man himself indulged me and sent the files my way to allow this review to reach fruition. And, having spent a substantial amount of time getting to know this debut solo effort, I can only conclude that my life is all the richer for having heard it.
The album was funded, as it the increasingly popular way these days, via a Kickstarter campaign back in February 2015 but apparently despite a few initial misgivings Mr Quirarte seemingly had little problem in persuading people to part with their hard earned money to support his endeavours. This fact underlines just how tight-knit and supportive the prog metal community is and, more importantly, the high regard in which Chris Quirarte is held; without either, this record may never have seen the light of day.
This debut album goes by the title of ‘Mending Broken Bridges’ and the lyrics are built around a concept, namely relationships. More specifically, they take a look at the way all human relationships can deteriorate if they are not treated right but run the gamut from love to the ultimate fear of being alone. As Chris explains, the album acts as something of a release for him, having been fuelled to an extent by private personal turmoil. It’s a powerful, emotive subject and one that acts as the perfect accompaniment to the music on this record. Moreover, they are delivered passionately by Quirarte himself, powered by a surprisingly impressive voice. I never knew he could sing, let alone this well. If that wasn’t enough, Chris handles the keys on this record too.
For those wondering, there is a Redemption vibe to some of the material. Indeed, Redemption mastermind Nick van Dyk offers his guitar-playing on the opening title track. The familiar urgency to the music is present and the track skips along at a great pace, enhanced by a really rich and warm chorus. It explores many musical avenues within its eight-minute length, maintaining my full attention at all times. And, thanks to the variety contained within as well as some really top drawer drumming, it’s definitely a personal favourite.
From this moment on however, the Redemption nuances fade somewhat and despite regular guest appearances by his day-job band mates throughout the album, aside from accents here and there, the music becomes much more individual and personal to Chris Quirarte. On the subject of guests, ‘Mending Broken Bridges’ packs an impressive punch as it features Don Schiff (Rocket Scientists), Randy George (The Neal Morse Band), Ed Platt (Enchant), Sean Entrikin (Prymary) as well as Nick van Dyk, Bernie Versailles and Sean Andrews of Redemption.
‘Disintegration’ begins in a much more straightforward hard rocking manner with a 70s flavour thanks to the use of a mellotron within the composition. The blend between the light and heavy is fascinating, creating palpable drama in spite of the song’s relatively short life.
‘Out Of Time’ is another favourite. Stretching beyond the ten-minute mark it still isn’t the longest track but it opens up with a lone classical guitar which is simply beautiful before being joined by a melodious vocal and then eventually swathes of synths, drums and some ear-catching bass work. For all its countless charms, the real high point of this track however, is the chorus melody and the accompanying lyrics, sung with passion and conviction by Quirarte. ‘Time is precious, time is cruel…time is fleeting, time is short, time’s the punchline and we’re the joke…time is killing us each day.’ I have paraphrased, but I can’t quite explain how much I have taken this track to my heart, it’s superb.
The soothing acoustic ballad ‘Breathless’ is a nice track but it suffers a little from the ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show syndrome’ and threatens to be overlooked. Nevertheless, the tender male/female vocal duet and breezy lead guitar solo at the mid-point are worthy of repeated listens.
‘Dark In The Light’ features arguably the heaviest, most in-your-face guitar riff on the entire album, complimented by an urgent tempo and even some double-pedal drum action. Quirarte adds in some snarl to his normally soothing tones and the whole track gallops along, propelled by some fantastic drumming as well as plenty of keyboard and guitar solos alike.
‘Floating Through A Dream’ is a great title for a track that in large parts has a dreamlike quality to it, reminiscent of Pink Floyd in places. The opening acoustic guitar and effect-laden soft vocals are bathed in the warm glow of keys and synths. As the track builds however, the vocals reintroduce that snarl and the bass guitar stands out impressively. And then the closing crescendo is a thing of real grandiose beauty dominated by expressive guitar lead breaks and swathes of keys.
It seems almost impossible to talk of something even more epic given what’s already gone before it but ‘Half Life’ manages the feat. At over 16 minutes, this composition is an adventurous and ambitious soundscape that takes the listener on a journey from progressive metal to ambient post-rock and just about everything in between. It is equal parts dark, atmospheric, upbeat and dramatic, featuring some lovely prominent melodies and wailing guitars towards the tail end of the track.
The album then concludes with ‘When Is It Time’, an intriguing and strangely compelling vocal and keyboard ballad. The vocals are heavily effect-laden, the melodies are relatively simple but together they create a rather beautiful, understated conclusion to a genuinely impressive album.
If I was to find anything to criticise about ‘Mending Broken Bridges’, it would have to be the production. It isn’t bad per se, but occasionally I wish it was a bit more muscular and less ‘floaty’. At times I feel that certain instruments lack sufficient definition, with the guitars in particular needing bite at times. It’s minor point and probably very subjective but in the spirit of honesty, needs to be mentioned.
‘I’ve always been in the back, in the shadows. I’m ready to take a step forward.’ So says Chris Quirarte on his Kickstarter web page and accompanying press release. I couldn’t agree more because with ‘Mending Broken Bridges’, he has transformed himself from just a drummer into a solo artist and song-writer of real quality. If you’re a fan of progressive music, do yourself a favour and check this debut record out as soon as possible.
The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld