It’s been far too long (which I probably said last time). I assume some – hopefully most – have been following on various social pages, such as (@alexskolnickfanpage and @alexskolnick). Alas, I must be brief as there are big things to announce and not much time. If you’ve been following, you probably know why. More on that in a moment…First things first: Today, as I write this – September 7, 2018 – is a huge day in Skol/Guitar land for two reasons:
1) NEW AST STUDIO ALBUM “CONUNDRUM” (Palmetto/MRI)
It is a huge thrill to be able to share our new studio album at last “CONUNDRUM” out today (!) via Palmetto/MRI. This time, it’s all original tunes + one classical interpretation along with a full spectrum of guitars, including hollowbody (Godin), solid body (ESP Alex Skolnick/Fender Telecaster/Gibson Doubleneck SG) and acoustic (Taylor). Check out our brand new video for “Culture Shock,” partially inspired by Les Paul (the guitarist, not just the guitar).
If you’ve attempted to keep up with the news cycle in recent years, then Conundrum (Sept 7 / Palmetto/MRI), the title of the Alex Skolnick Trio’s new album, should be a no-brainer. “It represents the sense of confusion many of us are feeling in the midst of the strangest sociopolitical upheavals of our lifetimes,” says Skolnick, the guitarist and composer who helped define thrash metal as a founding member of Testament, before establishing himself on the international jazz scene. “This album captures many styles in an effort to channel that angst into art and inspire others to do likewise.”
Ironically, given its globally pertinent message, Conundrum is in many ways Skolnick’s most intimate record yet. It is the trio’s first new studio album since 2011’s Veritas, and it features original music almost exclusively, with six compositions by Skolnick, one apiece by bassist Nathan Peck and drummer Matt Zebroski, and a gorgeous interpretation of Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédie No. 1.”
Far removed from the musical tunnel vision of “guitar” or “shred” albums, Conundrum reflects Skolnick’s wide-ranging knowledge as a player and, even more important, as a listener. “What would I want to hear, regardless of the instrument and regardless of technique?” he asks. “That’s the type of music I try to create as an improviser and composer.”
The multi-layer, multi-section songs that resulted are, in a word, sweeping—and include plenty for guitar heads to dig into after all. Skolnick’s “Unbound,” part of which originated on piano, kicks off Conundrum with springy slapped harmonics. Beautiful chordal work follows, as well as soloing that lays out the guitarist’s m.o. as a lead player: to tell a story by varying his attack, tone, intensity and harmonic approach with masterful control.
Born in 1968 and raised in the Bay Area, Skolnick was still a teenager when he made heavy-metal history on Testament’s essential debut, The Legacy. The band remained a major touring act in heavy music. Most recently Testament has been hitting arenas and amphitheaters as part of Slayer’s blockbuster “Final World Tour.”
Skolnick immersed himself in jazz at Manhattan’s venerable New School. It was there that he dug even deeper into recordings by Miles, Trane, Wes, Jim Hall, Scofield, Metheny and more; studied with jazz greats like saxophonist George Garzone and bassist Reggie Workman; and formed his trio, which debuted on record in 2002 with Goodbye to Romance: Standards for a New Generation.
And while Testament continues to thrive, it’s the trio and its repertoire that Skolnick can see growing old with. “These days I still love playing screaming, loud guitar and heavy metal, though I don’t think I’m going to be one of these guys who’s past social-security age and in a rock band and touring,” he says. “But I can see myself doing these songs with the trio for many years to come.”
Conundrum will be available on vinyl, CD and all streaming services.
Join us at one of our Conundrum launch gigs!! (And yes, more dates tba later this year and/or 2019)
Sept 9 – Chicago, IL (Reggie’s)
Sept 12 &13 – New York, NY (The Iridium)
Sept 15- Los Angeles, CA (The Baked Potato) w/ Stu Hamm
Sept 16 – San Diego, CA (Brick By Brick)
Oct 17 – The Woodlands, TX (Dosey Doe)
Oct 18 – San Antonio, TX (Fitzgerald’s)
Oct 19 – Ganado TX, (Rear Window Listening Room)
Oct 20 – McKinney, TX (The Guitar Sanctuary)
Oct 21- Austin TX (The North Door)
2) NEW METAL ALLEGIANCE ALBUM “VOLUME II POWER DRUNK MAJESTY” (Nuclear Blast Records)
Today is also the release day for this album that I’m also very exited for, originally scheduled for a summer release (hence the double whammy). Now in full disclosure, I feel my “day job” is more than a sufficient outlet for the metal side of my playing. I tend to limit my non-Testament activity to improvisation, whether with my own projects (AST, Planetary Coalition) or others. Yet, MA provides sides of metal playing that go to some different places. I was a writer or co-writer on all these tracks and ended up being the producer as well, alongside founder/bassist Mark Menghi. In addition to playing all rhythm guitars and all solos other than a few by our esteemed guests. Speaking of which here’s a humbling quote from one of the first reviews:
“There are three guest guitarists: Andreas Kisser of Sepultura, Nita Strauss of The Iron Maidens and Alice Cooper, and Joe Satriani – who, as it turns out, gave guitar lessons to Alex Skolnick back when he was in high school. The real guitar hero here, though, is the student-turned-master Skolnick, who never fails to impress.” https://www.sonicperspectives.com/album-reviews/metal-allegiance-volume-ii-power-drunk-majesty/
In between these albums being worked on, there was a West Coast Tour with Alex Skolnick trio early in the year, including Yoshi’s (long a dream of mine to headline the place I grew up hearing the great improvisers) and dates with Testament that included Japan, Russia, Israel and Europe. In between there have been dates with fellow jazz rockers Stu Hamm, Jane Getter Premonition (with special guest, Living Colour’s Vernon Reid!) and various clinics and appearances along the way. Oh yeah, Testament had an entire summer of sold out amphitheaters and arenas North America as part of Slayer’s farewell tour (and now it’s time to think about that next album of ours)…So like I said things have been busy.
Anyway, just wanted to let you know about these new releases and tour dates. Hope you enjoy the new music and hope to see many of you on the road again soon.
ALBUM AVAILABLE HERE: