Over the last few years, instrumental releases within the progressive rock/metal genre have been on the rise, and like with everything else, the quality of the releases vary from hit-and-miss to some absolutely amazing gems. The Blue Prison, based in Los Angeles, California, is a project of Keigo Yoshida, a composer and guitarist who has been releasing music for a few years. Alchemist is his new EP. Scheduled for the January 18th release, it can be said that this EP is definitely one of the first releases to consider for the 2018 AOTY lists.
Well composed, arranged and wonderfully performed, Alchemist is an ambitious piece of largely instrumental prog metal, with more than enough epic ideas to keep a listener engaged and attentive. Suffice to say, there is more than enough of a variety to keep the music from sounding stale or rehashed. Although Yoshida’s true calling lies in melody-driven progressive metal guitar, the stylistic curveballs here are fully-realized and sound great. The title song is an excellent example of Yoshida’s skill as a multi-faceted composer. And this skill just keeps on improving throughout the five-track release. Song structures seem arranged to cater to a string of individually satisfying moments, as opposed to the ideas all contributing to the overall whole of a composition. Even in the most ambitious progressive rock/metal moments, I tend to look for some of the same qualities found in conventionally good songwriting.
Obviously, much of the spotlight here is placed on Keigo’s prodigious grasp of the electric guitar. Although the album’s djenty side doesn’t stand any bit above what we’ve already heard from that corner of prog metal, Keigo makes himself out to be an absolutely brilliant fusion guitarist, possibly one of the best I’ve heard in recent years. “Zenith” might be my favourite track on the album for this very reason; Yoshida’s marriage of keen instrumental wandering and tight melodic passages is gorgeous.
Alchemist is a release packed with instrumental inventiveness and technical proficiency. Keigo Yoshida aka The Blue Prison excels here both as a composer and musician.