Fred Westra is a Dutch guitar player who played in several bands back in the eighties. After contributing to the power metal band Xhausted in the nineties, he took time off to start a family, but when the music's in your blood, it will always find a way to come out. Since 2009, Fred Westra is back in business writing scores and promotional movies. Very interesting for all guitar-minded readers: he recorded Severe Damage, an all instrumental guitar album. Fred Westra doesn't need to worry about any negative criticism, since his compositions cover a wide range: from shredding in the best tradition of musicians like Steve Vai or Joe Satriani, to more fusion and progressive metal. When I compare Westra to these two guitar masters you already know that he's able to play some fierce guitar, and he really does.
In the opening track Polyphonic Turbulence, he combines the Satriani-like virtuosity with a more modern kind of guitar music which is a great combination. The start of the next piece Something Raw is an extraordinary sounding mix of space music with - I think a sample of a didgeridoo - continuing in a more relaxed sounding guitar synthesizer with a nice solo near the end. Normally I don't like programmed drums, but when the music has a modern touch, it doesn't bother me that much, although I still like real drums better. A Story Of Three Angels has a wonderful and clear guitar sound changing into a synth driven guitar part ending real clean again. The title track contains a great guitar riff and a very heavy sound; the repeating guitar theme really does it for me. The wah-wah sound gives the solo a great finishing touch. Though Westra shows his shredding abilities here, an ambient part closes the song.
Rude Awakening indeed contains powerful riffs over a modern base, but it shifts into a kind of soundtrack for an imaginary movie. Great guitar sounds gently flow into a place of serenity. The smooth gothic, classical female voice provides for the angelic atmosphere. I have to say that the base of most of the tracks has a very modern rock related sound, songs like Tranquil Mind, Jabbertalk and The Wind At My Heels are great examples wherein the guitar plays over this programmed base. Therefore, I guess, I can live with the drum sound. A Little Progression Of Some Friendly Tones shows that Westra isn't an average guitar player. He incorporates fusion and jazz in his compositions which gives this piece something special. The emotional guitar parts combined with Karen Kall's flute make this a remarkable song. The album's finishing song A Relative Simple Song For A Very Good Friend, has a theme slightly influenced by Steve Vai; a great song to end a nice album with.
Unfortunately we've lost sight of Fred Westra during the last decade or so, but gladly blood is thicker than water and what came out is a pleasure for the ears. I'm very glad that Westra made a come-back in the music scene with an album that is really worth listening to. Westra is no traditional shredder, but a guitarist with something extra!
***+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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