New Sounds: Matt Chanway
Artist: Matt Chanway
From: Vancouver, BC, Canada
The progressive metal genre never ceases to provide scores of insanely skilled guitar-slingers, and Vancouver’s Matt Chanway can now be recognized as another mind-blowing practitioner of the style.
On his self-titled instrumental debut, Chanway bombards us with all the sweep picking and muted-string, drop-tuned riffage you can digest, if not more. The tone is there, and the playing is adept and accomplished. Chanway is a guitarist of impressive skills.
With six stormy songs, only one of which falls (barely) below six-minutes in length, Chanway provides us with a soundtrack straight from the Dark Side, replete with all the evil sounding exotic scales you would expect, and plenty of odd-time signature mayhem to keep the listener at least a little off-balance. If not ready to fall over.
Titles such as “Evidence of the Arcane,” “Harbinger 2.1,” and “The Receiver of Wisdom” fit right in with and make apparent the progressive metal mindset. This heavy release shows hints of Dream Theater or John Petrucci’s solo work, among other influences. In his bio, Chanway lists original Shrapnel Records shredder Greg Howe, and Mr. Scary -- George Lynch -- as role models, though their influence isn’t as obvious.
If there is a downside to the album, it is that, while the songs on Chanway’s debut are all expertly put together and fluently played, eventually the ideas all run together. It’s hard to tell where one song ends and the next begins, seeing as how they’re almost all based on the sinister sounds of diminished or other similar tonalities, and with about 46 time changes per tune -- though I may have lost count when my brain cells overloaded.
As an exception, the final cut, “Lucidity,” finally gives us a little bit of sunshine amongst the dark, brooding mood that is predominant throughout the rest of the album. With this last track, at least for a bit, a couple of major chords break through the clutter of minor-ness. Maybe it was Chanway’s subconscious mind breathing a sigh of relief after having survived the grueling technical efforts required to pull off the previous five tracks.
The very adept fretboard work alludes to Chanway’s solid educational background -- he holds a diploma in guitar performance from the University of West London College of Music, in London, England, which probably means he has either classical or jazz abilities we’re not hearing on this album. There’s no doubt that Chanway has mad skills on the guitar. Maybe a little more variety will emerge in his future work.
The guitarist credits this particular musical onslaught to only himself and two others. While the drum programming by Jacob Craner is certainly appropriate to the genre, it’s hard to imagine a human being ever being able to pull it off -- not that that would ever be necessary, but still…
It’s like listening to a robot banging on “virtual percussion devices” more so than hearing a drummer lay down a groove on some real-world kit. Not necessarily Craner’s fault of course, as the songs aren’t exactly steeped in any kind of groove, at least not one that lasts for more than a few measures. But of course that’s typical of modern progressive metal, right?
The album was mixed and mastered by bassist Stewart Hidalgo, who not only handled the techie end of the whole affair, but had to keep up with Chanway on the low strings too. So kudos to Hidalgo on both ends, though he probably could have brought himself up in the mix. Even though the bass is not super-evident, the collection is, sonically, very professional -- and satisfyingly thick.
All together, it’s a solid recording featuring some intense tracks and monstrous guitar playing. Clearly the bandleader is very well-practiced and expertly fluent in the genre. Keep your eyes and ears open for this talented musician.
Chanway, who teaches guitar in the Vancouver area, is a member of Western Canada-based “old school” death/thrash metal outfit, Assimilation, who themselves have a new album, The Laws of Power, set to drop March 2017.
Chanway’s self-titled, solo instrumental album is available for download from BandCamp, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify and other sources. For more information, visit