Album Review: WEAPONEX – In the Nick of Time

weaponexWEAPONEX: Progressive metal at its absolute finest.

Metalheads of Western New York, it’s only February 23 and WEAPONEX have already put out the funnest EP of 2018.

It should be no secret that Mike Willard is one of the best guitarists in all of New York State. His ability to lick with the best of any style of play make him a true talent and a widely sought after guitar teacher at The Guitar Factory as well. Among his students are now and have been (just to name a few):

Joe Lamoureux from Nuclear Winter

Brian Platter from The Last Reign

Alex Miskell from Scenery with Solace

Cody Lange from Mass Casualty

Dan Behrens plays bass in WEAPONEX, but most know him as Danimal Cannon (local master of chiptune). Danimal is one of our local treasures and more recent success stories. He’s been recognized on Metal Injection, done some fairly extensive touring and recently announced his ability to depart his day job to pursue music full time. Dan’s living the dream, folks and it’s glorious. I can’t think of a better person to hold down the low end in a band like WEAPONEX.

Larry Steele completes the puzzle on the drums. Yes, these guys are a 3-piece prog powerhouse and you have to see them to believe it. Larry used to teach drums at Guitar Factory and has also been involved in numerous projects behind the skins, showcasing his extremely versatile playing ability.

Their new EP, In the Nick of Time, literally has come out in the nick of time. It’s been awhile since their last release, beyond just a single here or there, and with 3 major talents like these making up the band, we’re pretty much getting what you’d expect.

In the Nick of Time is 6 songs deep, and it’s “all killer and no filler”. The opening track is “The Aberration”. We actually put this song on our first local compilation a few years back and I’m stoked they decided to rerecord it for the new EP. It’s a generally 2-step, energetic, ultra catchy and technically savvy thrill ride. The intricacies in this song are subtle, but they’re there nonetheless. Try listening to this song and not humming to one of its many hooks afterwards, I dare you.

“Justo a Tiempo” follows it up. It’s an instrumental that instantly transports you to a beach vacation.

“It’s like I’m sitting at a poolside bar, sipping Mai Tais in the Bahamas.” – Vick

The title track is next and it’s nothing short of exceptional. It’s not our favorite on the EP, but it’s the first point on the release, where we get into this band’s true technical ability. The layering on this track is particularly on point. From chords to harmonies, both on guitar and vocally, speed picked/note-packed guitar breaks, bright bass and drum moments, megaphone style clean vocals and everything in between, this song is the turning point of the EP. From this point on, the listener knows there’s no going back to the “simple comforts” often present in progressive rock infused metal.

Onto Vick’s personal favorite, “Wrath of the Manticore” (instrumental). By now, we’re getting into WEAPONEX’s darker side. Throughout the chugging and rather “desert sounding” lead guitar play, there are some seriously ominous and evil vibes throughout this track. Certain guitar harmonies backed by quick 2-step drums are reminiscent of “boss music” in 16 bit era video games. This should come as no surprise, since Mike, Dan and Larry all play in Armcannon (Buffalo’s authorities on video game based metal).

Onto my personal favorite, ‘”Middle-Side Topwise”. This song contains the riffs I’m left humming to myself after every WEAPONEX set. There’s a subtle dissonance to some octave chord slides present in what can be considered the “main riff” of the song that I love. I’m also big into the chopped up “carnival music” style harmonized guitar sections of the song. This tune is HUGE when it comes to dynamics. While listening to this track, it’s important to consider that WEAPONEX nail all the changes and stops perfectly live, EVERY. DAMN. TIME.

That’s another thing I love about this band. When listening to their studio efforts after seeing them live, you’ll know there’s no “studio magic” at work. These guys are now and have always been the “real deal”.

The EP closes out with a spirited cover of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”. I vaguely remember Dream Theater covering this song as well, but (maybe I’m bias), I’m confident in saying that WEAPONEX have officially overthrown DT’s version of it in the prog community. I can’t get too in depth with my analysis here, but just know that Mike, Dan and Larry really made the song their own and Mr. Willard’s vocals SOAR in that chorus.

In conclusion, I just want to say that I’m disheartened by the lack of attention I’ve seen WEAPONEX get over the years. I’ve been a fan since the first show at Sikora Post in 2004 and I’ve gotta say Buffalo, get educated about this incredible progressive metal talent you have right in your backyard.

“There are no talented unsigned metal bands in Buffalo.” – Too many people from Buffalo.

In the Nick of Time by, WEAPONEX:

Drums recorded at Sonic Farm Studio.

All other instruments engineered by WEAPONEX at Hogogan Studio.

Mixed and Mastered by Grant “Stemage” Henry (Steven Universe, Metroid Metal, Stemage).

 

 

 

 

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