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Automatic Fine Tuning - A.F.T. CD (album) cover


Automatic Fine Tuning


Heavy Prog

3.55 | 66 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
3 stars NEENER-NEENER-NEE! 3.5

Sometimes, one wonders why one writes reviews. In the case of Automatic Fine Tuning's essentially eponymous (and sole) album, I feel as though this was a challenge from my reviewer brethren. After all, how could I, the Whistler, NOT Ian Anderson, someone NOT known for his brevity, possibly write a whole review about this album? It's short; it's not even forty minutes long. It's very samey; these guys really milk the ole "heavy pork" style. And, it all sounds the same...

Well, I've got a good start. After all, I just burned up a paragraph talking about myself. But, on to the music. Automatic Fine Tuning was basically four dudes who utterly ripped off Iron Maiden a few years before that band's invention, so that takes guts. I know it all sounds the same, but if you like that whole "undying riff-fest" thing, then do I have a treasure from the vault for you...

Starting off on an un-ambitious foot, the band kicks into gear with "The Great Panjandrum Wheel, Part One." It's largely what it sounds like...if the name conjures up about fifteen minutes of instrumental classical/medieval riffage. Don't get me wrong though, these lads know their stuff. The rhythm section is very professional, but your attention will doubtlessly be won by the twin guitar attacks. It's the guitars that lead the track, constantly changing the speed and the riffing so that you never get bored.

Call me crazy, but my favorite bit of noise on this thing is "Gladioli." It's slightly shorter than "Panjandrum," about ten minutes shorter in fact. But the speedy lil' Mozart inspired (?) riffage is just so darn CUTE that I can't help but commend it. Humor is something that the classical/medieval metal genre is often lacking, purposeful humor at least, but "Gladioli" delivers.

But when that old familiar riff starts up again, you know that you're in for "The Great Panjandrum Wheel, Part 2." Is it more of the same? You betcha, right down to the time. Is it just as good? Uh-huh. In fact, it's better, quite a bit better, because it's even more varied, with guitar tones poppin' outta all angles, and the bass and drummer get to make use of the faster tempos to show off a bit more.

After the rushing climax of "Panjandrum 2," it's odd that we turn in a totally different direction to finish this puppy off. "Queen of the Night" is a much more bluesy number, with the guitar tone sounding almost like a harmonica this time around. And it has LYRICS! SUNG lyrics no less. Fancy that. Unfortunately, they turn out to be a cross between fairly pedestrian Gothic imagery, and some more pedestrian...barroom imagery? Family these guys are not.

And that's about it. The riffs are good, if never terribly memorable. No, this is not music for humming along. It doesn't create any particular feelings, or cast any specific mood. It doesn't show off shocking skill of guitar, bass and drums. It's art metal groove, seemingly designed for the pretentious headbanger in all of us.

So where does that leave us? With a very interesting band. It's easy to see why these boys never hit it big time; they might be Iron Maiden dreams with High Tide technology, but they lack the latter's atmospheric impact and the former's songwriting. Still, I imagine that's why the band collapsed: one foot in the seventies and one in the eighties realms of metal does not a stable lineup make (and don't forget a quick glance to the sixties! There's a definite psycho influence to this affair).

But, any fan of guitar based heavy rock is going to find this thing interesting. The twin guitarists, Paul MacDonnell and Robert Cross, are both quite skilled six stingers, and the variety of pedals and devices they use ensure that their instruments are able to ape harmonicas and church organs very nicely (for the best example, pay close attention to "Panjandrum 2;" I swear to God that thing sounds like a violin at one point!).

Naturally, their sound is going to make one draw a lot of associations: everyone from Brian May to Martin Barre to Tony Hill to Steve Hackett to Robert Fripp to...I dunno, Django Reinhardt and Keith Emerson and your uncle Leo. Even if it's not very memorable, it is by no means unpleasant, and anyone who is a fan of loud, structured jamming with a proggy bent will find something to love. In fact, it IS a pity that the band did not survive. Another album perhaps, and their nascent songwriting genius might have been unlocked, or at least we could have gotten a live album out. Considering the period, and what kind of a band this must have been, a live document would have been invaluable.

The Whistler | 3/5 |


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