Alex Skolnick Trio
Last Day in Paradise

When Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick jumped ship before touring for 1992’s hugely successful The Ritual, few fans seemed to notice on the initial dates (as there were no Internet postings back then). When the Return to the Apocalyptic City EP came out a year later, he was sadly absent, having been replaced by Forbidden axeman Glen Alvelais, though Skolnick’s musical career had taken a 180° turn—into jazz. He went back to school, earned a BFA, and formed the Alex Skolnick Trio, releasing their 2002 debut Goodbye to Romance, which featured jazz covers of classic rock standards. Another album, Transformation, followed in 2004, and this year holds AST’s high-water mark in Last Day in Paradise.

Opener “Mercury Retrograde” percolates with the group’s now-trademark interplay, while the laid-back title track simmers with a Rush-like ambience. Speaking of which, Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” is covered next, though listeners will be hard-pressed to discern it from the first minute or so. The band turns the tune inside out, tempos changed, and chords bent into a whole new composition that must be heard to be believed. “Shades of Grey” is another ballad-like number that precedes “Practica Que Lo Predicas,” Skolnick’s jazzy rendition of Testament’s “Practice What You Preach.” The Stevie Ray Vaughn-flavored “The Lizard” with Nathan Peck’s double-bass workout gives way to “Channel 4,” spotlighting Matt Zebroski’s exceptional drum fills. Another cover, Ozzy’s “Revelation (Mother Earth),” reveals a previously unexplored side of Randy Rhoads’ melodic soloing, and the Peck-penned “Out There Somewhere” could easily be tagged as contemporary jazz as Skolnick’s archtop guitar echoes mellifluously throughout, with more of Zebroski’s Neil Peart-like fills at the fade-out. Brandishing swatches of “Fairies Wear Boots,” the über-fuzzy “Western Sabbath Stomp” sounds like prime Sab as interpreted by Blackfoot, a forward-thinking country rocker like Steve Earle, or even the adventurous California Guitar Trio. It’s also the first time that Skolnick has played slide guitar on a record, though he totally sounds like a natural.

From the first note to the last, the band truly gels on this release, and unlike previous albums, the original compositions aren’t at all pedantic, nor are the cover songs fraternizing or too high-brow for casual fans. Since Skolnick and co. are very busy with other various projects, let’s hope that they remember that AST have not yet seen their Last Day in Paradise and will rightfully raise the ante on their next album.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Ayers
April 27th, 2007

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