Steve Ouimette, the six-string samurai behind nearly 100 cover songs from the Guitar Hero franchise and Rock Revolution, released his debut solo album this week, appropriately entitled EPIC. Since more than a couple of you have rocked alongside Steve in spirit whilst living out your living room rock star fantasies, why not step inside and take a listen to what this talented musician put together when unbound from the constraints of recreating someone else’s music.
Starting with Guitar Hero III, Steve Ouimette brought to life some classic songs for gamers to click and strum to. Now that bands realize the value of putting their own material into music games, Ouimette had some time to let his muse speak to him and create his own sounds. The main set list features 10 original songs, followed by four recordings he did for various iterations of Guitar Hero. He couldn’t have chosen a better title for this album, because it is an epic listen from start to finish.
The lead off track - “Speaking in Tongues” - was inspired by films like The Exorcist and The Omen (more on how we know this, later). Ouimette conjures some truly demonic tones from a very low tuned Les Paul baritone guitar for the main riff.
If you are a fan of the guitar in all its many manifestations, the turn in style and genres of this next track will delight you. “El Toro!” takes the listener into the center of a bull fight, with multiple guitar lines representing both the bull and the matador.
“The Divining Witch” will definitely win you over if names like Steve Morse and Joe Satriani feature on your play lists. This is a brilliant example of a let-the-guitar-do-the-singing number.
EPIC is not entirely instrumental. “Lou’s Revenge” is Ouimette’s dark and heavy sequel to his cover of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and features Chris Powers (also from “Devil”) on vocals. Among the standout tracks on EPIC is another vocal song called “Mr. Bones”. Sounding completely different than anything else on the album, this song hooked me instantly, with its Django Reinhardt-style strum (if you played Bioshock, you heard Django’s guitar throughout it) and vocalist Brody Dolyniuk’s nefarious sideshow barker performance. I challenge you to not tap your feet and sing along to this one.
The “bonus tracks” if you will, comprise some of Ouimette’s more popular recordings from Guitar Hero, including “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, the squeal-inducing “Dueling Banjos” (we mean squeal of delight because its awesome! Get your minds out of the woods!) and his electrified renditions of holiday traditionals, “Hark” and “We Three Kings”.
Probably one of the best things about EPIC isn’t even on the album itself. Along with demonstrations of how he played some of the songs, the bonus DVD that comes with the physical version features interviews with Steve Ouimette, detailing the back story of each song on the album. The interviews are simple, straightforward conversations from the artist, but open up an entirely new level to the listening experience.
Ouimette talking about the writing and recording process is interesting, but it’s his personable, on-camera presence in these video liner notes, describing the stories about the meanings of or what inspired the songs, that really brings a much fuller experience to enjoying the album. Upon first listen to EPIC, this reviewer had a good idea about what each song represented in terms of sound, if not their deeper meaning. But after watching the DVD, it painted an entirely different picture, giving a new depth to each piece and making for an even more enjoyable second, third and tenth listen. Even the vocal pieces and cover tracks benefit from this enhanced experience.
Whether you are a fan of Guitar Hero or if your heroes play guitar, EPIC is an absolute must-listen. It is available digitally from record label Sumthing Else Music Works and physically from Amazon.