Jazz meets metal.
Instantly, half of you reading this may have clicked out after those three words.
“Not for me,” they thought. And if I’m being completely honest, I did as well. Hell, I still thought that half-way through listening to Blue Prototype‘s new record even though I found myself miming the expressive drum beats and punctuated rhythms.
“Screw it,” I said as the second half came on. But before I knew it, I was trying to figure out how to air guitar to the pulsating melody of “A Clear And Definite Purpose.”
Was it embarrassing? Sure. But it did little to hide the fact that this is a fantastic record, full of musical exploration that’s just downright fun.
This isn’t exactly Metallica meets swing. And honestly, I think calling it metal meets jazz may be a bit misleading. Yes, there are moments you can connect to the genre, like the foreboding sound of “Warrior.” But really, the only thing that screams “metal” here is the prominent guitar tone, something that becomes less metal and more jazz as the record unfolds.
It doesn’t take a jazz connoisseur to notice it too, the idea of jazz meeting metal went out the door around track four with the gypsy-tinged interlude “Losing Grip.” There’s actually a fair bit of gypsy moments on the record too, something that would point me to describing this as music more as “Django Reinhardt playing around on an Ibanez,” or the more simple explanation “jazz guitarist employs modern tones.”
Tone and genre debates aside, the record is just fun even at its darker moments. It keeps the listeners on their toes throughout the runtime with countless twists and turns. There’s also plenty of nods to classic jazz and big band archetypes, as well as several downright impressive runs from guitarist Connor Thompson that could stop anyone dead in their tracks.
Altogether, it’s hardly a record you just want to put on in the background. Trust me — I tried and my work barely got down this morning. It demands your attention, and does so with wildly inventive sections that get stuck in your head thanks to the infectious melodies and vibrant rhythms.
I can sense there’d be some off-put by the guitar’s presence on the record though — that signature guitar tone of hard rock isn’t always for everyone. To those people, I still urge you to give this record a shot. There are plenty of songs with moments that push the guitar to the background, primarily the title track with extended breaks and solos from the piano, bass, and drums. But the best moments on the record are still going to come from Thompson’s guitar work, so I suggest you do your best mind exercises so you stop thinking Joe Satriani when listening and begin to imagine Charlie Parker or Louis Armstrong, just on a different instrument. Thompson’s guitar work really does provide the record’s most incredible moments, like on that title track again, so you’re going to have to come around to the sound eventually… or you’re just going to miss out on a fabulous piece of work.
Normally, I try to extract deeper meaning from the records and EPs I discuss here, but with this type of music, that feels hollow. That’s not to say there isn’t some deeper meaning to extract — I imagine songs like “Failure” come from a very vulnerable place, but with the commitment to jazz and absence of lyrics, it’d be a wild guessing game that almost diminishes the music’s free spirit. The album is called Believe In Nothing after all, so maybe we should all just go in with an empty mind, allowing all the gorgeous notes and rhythms to fill our head space. With everything going on in the world, it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea, and trust me when I say Connor Thompson and the rest of Blue Prototype will go above and beyond in making sure your head space is filled to the brim with exuberant and passionate thoughts, all expressed beautifully through that piercing guitar tone.