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Chris Poland - Return To Metalopolis CD (album) cover


Chris Poland


Progressive Metal

3.34 | 10 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Hidden Jem in the Shredder Vault

Over the last few years, I have become an enormous fan of Chris Poland. His playing combines some of the best elements of rock and fusion guitar into a unique sound that has appeal to a wide audience. For the most part, his talent is unfortunately recognized only by more diehard fans of the guitar. After being kicked out of his high profile gig in Megadeth, Poland emerged from rehab just at the peak of the era of shred guitar led by Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, and legions of imitators on the Shrapnel label. Other producers were looking for talent, and in 1990 Poland was tapped by Enigma to produce a shred album. The result was Return to Metalopolis, heavily advertised in the guitar mags but not anywhere else. Numerous young pickers grabbed this album expecting a new flavor of the month fret burner. Instead, they got one of the few albums from that glut of cassette tapes that has stood the test of time.

Poland had been a guitar wunderkind locally long before Yngwie hit. He cut his teeth on the 70's fusion shredders of Holdsworth, McLaughlin, and DiMeola, and unlike the rest of the neo-classical shredders, his playing was a true combo of metal and jazz fusion. What appealed to most metal heads at the time was the fact that Poland could actually play and write good metal rhythm guitar. (Sadly this album is really the last we hear of Poland's metal riff writing.) Most of the riffs on the shred albums were weak and clearly the players were playing rhythm just to back up their soloing. Poland had written compositions with not only great riffs worthy of his former bandleader Dave Mustaine, but bursting with melody as well. What's more, the jazz influenced melodies were much richer than anything seen anywhere in metal guitar playing, shred or otherwise. In addition, Poland's brother Mark had actually composed his drum parts to go with the songs, where many shred albums featured programmed drum beats (which weren't too complex in those days.)

Poland's use of dynamics, feedback, and multiple tones both clean and distorted distinguished him immediately. His bending technique and use of microtones has still never been matched. His note choice was that of a fusion master, though not as abrasive as Holdsworth. He also may be the best guitar jam soloist ever. This praise may sound like an excuse for a player who couldn't keep up with the young guns of the time. On the contrary, Poland dexterity was never an issue. His fluid legato lines equaled Satriani's, his vibrato eclipsed them all, and his pick speed (strange as his technique was) kept up with any in the genre.

It is hard to say whether this album influenced the jazz-metal that came in the 90's. Certainly, the sound of Metalopolis does not come off nearly as dated as most of its contemporaries. But Poland's technique is hard to emulate as a hand injury forced him to adopt some painful positions, and allows him stretches unavailable to most hands. The album fits within the idea of "Progessive Metal" especially considering when it came out. But Poland certainly would not have had prog on his mind in any way at that point. (Certainly jazz fusion, but shred and prog got fused by Dream Theater a few years later. It was on very few metalhead's radar at this point.)

Return to Metalopolis does have some weaknesses, however. The style Poland uses here is somewhat limited in breadth, and by the end gets to sounding a bit samey. The 2002 bonus tracks highlight this, with a great Hendrix homage (Poland happens to be my favorite guitarist in evoking Jimi, better even than SRV), and an early jam with his current band OHM (which is purely jazz fusion with Poland using a metallic tone as the only look back toward Megadeth).

This is a must have in the library of hardcore metal guitar fans. Its role in prog is unclear, but I think any prog metal fan will still thoroughly enjoy the album. Fans of Ohm looking back into Chris' back catalog should start with the more jazzy Chasing the Sun.

---Hope your hearing gets better soon Chris.

Negoba | 3/5 |


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