Three months ago we stumbled across a young Greek guitar virtuoso named Gux Drax, and based on the evidence of a few instrumental songs that were then available from a forthcoming solo album, we wrote a short post saying how blown away we were by what we were hearing.
The complete album is now out, and we’ve had it on heavy rotation since it arrived from Greece. It’s called In Search of Perfection, and as far as we’re concerned Gus can ease up on the search — because it’s nearly perfect.
We’ll tell you about that album and why you definitely should track it down, we’ll give you a song to stream from the album, and you can read our interview of Gux Drax — all that after the jump.
Based on the evidence of In Search of Perfection, Gus Drax is a prodigiously talented dude. Not only can he stun you into awestruck silence with the level of his guitar skill, but the nine songs on In Search of Perfection, all of which Gus wrote himself, prove that he’s also an exceptionally gifted songwriter. Plus, he plays with two different bands (the UK’s Biomechanical and Germany’s Paradox). And did we mention that he’s only 22 years old? Shit, Paradox has been around longer than he’s been alive!
There’s no clean singing on any of the songs on In Search of Perfection. Actually, there’s no singing at all. Just one mesmerizing instrumental performance after another. Most of the tracks are fast-paced and all are infectiously melodic (in addition to being compulsively headbangable). On those faster songs, Gus lays down some heavy rhythm guitar riffs, often at thrash-metal speed, and then establishes a memorable melodic theme with a guitar lead, to which he eventually returns from time to time.
But as infectious as those melodies are, it’s what comes in between the choruses that really sends this album over the top. Using a variety of picking and playing styles and producing a variety of tones, Gus fills out the songs with amazing solo variations on the main themes, one jaw-dropper after another.
The solos range from smooth, legato-style arpeggios to howling shreds that soar off into the stratosphere. And in each song, just when you think the solos have hit their pyrotechnic peak, Gus proves you wrong by shifting into an even higher gear and taking off into an even more mind-bending flight of guitar virtuosity.
But the guitar playing on In Search of Perfection is much more than simply a display of technical mastery. The playing has heart and soul, and the depth of feeling in the sounds Gus produces may be the most amazing accomplishment of all for a musician so young. Similarly, the songs are not simply platforms for Gus to use in strutting his stuff — they really work as mature, fully realized songs that are memorable and just as awesome to hear for the tenth time as for the first.
And speaking of soul, the one down-tempo track on the album, “In Loving Memory”, is really one long, emotionally powerful, deeply soulful solo. It’s filled with melancholy, but not gloom; it is instead quite strikingly beautiful.
Gus didn’t play every instrument on the album, but the allies he enlisted to round out the sound are very good. Vasilis Liakos does solid work on bass and Bob Katsionis (Firewind, ex-SepticFlesh) injects some beautiful keyboard stylings (in addition to playing bass on “Vitality”). Dimitris Bournakas provides a brief guest solo at the end of “Abnormal Sequence,” and Steve Smyth (ex-Nevermore, ex-Testament) a second guest solo, also brief. The drums were programmed.
We wouldn’t have complained much if In Search of Perfection had at times been uneven; this is, after all, the debut work of a young musician beginning to stretch his wings. A few diamonds in the rough would have been just fine. But the truth is, there are no weak spots on the album. All the songs are strong, and they stay with you.
If you’re interested in listening to some first-rate, high-energy prog metal by a star on the rise, definitely check this out. Mark our words: you will be hearing a lot more about Gus Drax in the future.
Five songs from In Search of Perfection are now available for streaming on Gus’s MySpace page. So, we’ll give you a sixth one to hear right now. Buckle your seatbelts:
And now, here’s our interview with Gus Drax. You’ll find out how to buy the album, and you’ll see the news that Gus is forming his own band (as if being in two weren’t enough).
NCS: You’ve become an amazing guitarist at a pretty young age. Did you start playing before you could walk? Seriously, we’ve read that you started playing at age 14. Did you have any formal training or is your skill all self-taught?
First of all thank you very much for you nice words man. I really appreciate! It’s true that i started taking guitar lessons at 14. I was practicing a lot of hours because i was having fun with it. I wanted to play like John Petrucci so i was practicing many Dream Theater songs.I think it worked out pretty well. hehe
NCS: Are there particular guitarists that you especially admire?
My all time favorite guitarist is John Petrucci. He is the guitarist who made me play the guitar. Guys like Chris Broderick, Michael Romeo, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, Richie Kotzen and Criss Oliva had a huge impact on me.
NCS: What is the story behind “In Loving Memory”? It’s so different from the other songs, beautiful yet very melancholy. If it’s not too personal a question to ask, what inspired you to write it?
There’s no actual story behind “In Loving Memory”. It has to do with the feeling of losing somebody you love. For someone this can mean the death of a beloved person. For someone else a break up. Although my songs are mostly inspired by my personal experiences this one is not. The basic melody came completely naturally to me one day so i just followed this idea and completed the song. When i listened to it i realised that its melancholic, in difference with the other songs of the album that have a more positive vibe.
NCS: What’s the latest news on Biomechanical and Paradox?
Biomechanical are on a break now so i don’t have any news to share with you. With Paradox we have a busy schedule writing the new album which is going to be released next year. We also have some shows booked, and one of them is the Progpower USA festival in Atlanta. We are very excited about this. We are arranging more shows that we are going to announce soon. Next year is also the 25-year Paradox anniversary and we are arranging many shows to celebrate it.
NCS: Your MySpace page says that you’ve been writing material for a new band you’ve formed. Can you tell us more about that project, including something about the style of music?
Yes. I recently formed a band with some friends of mine. We are working on ideas right now. We have ideas for 6 songs so far. The style is Melodic Prog Metal. To give a picture of it, imagine my style of music with vocals. This time it is a little bit heavier and faster but the melodies are all there. As you can understand, the style evolves. I couldn’t write another album that sounds the same as “In Search Of Perfection”.
NCS: What music are you listening to these days in your spare time (assuming you have any time to listen to music!), and what bands would you recommend to our U.S. readers that they might not know about?
Well i’m listening to a lot of stuff when i have the time to. I will recommend some European bands cause i think that all the American bands that i know are already famous there. So i will recommend some Greek bands first. You should check out Rotting Christ, Septic Flesh and of course Firewind. Textures from Holland are great. Also Obscura from Germany and Behemoth from Poland that i think that are already famous in the US.
NCS: What’s the best way for our readers to buy a copy of In Search of Perfection now? And do you have any plans in the works for how to distribute the album in the future?
I distribute the cd personally. Everyone who’s interested in buying the album should send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org . Its an email i use for the album distribution. It’s also going to be in the Paradox merchandising booth wherever we play.
NCS: Is there any other news you’d like to share with us?
I think we covered everything. I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to showcase my work through “nocleansinging”. Metal on!