Syrek – Story
Ladies & gentlemen, boys & girls, I hope you are sitting comfortably. Here is a Christmas story with a difference. Firstly, it’s not really a Christmas story and secondly, it’s set to an instrumental progressive rock/metal soundtrack. I have to admit, I feel slightly embarrassed that I’ve not come across guitarist/composer/teacher Terry Syrek before now. Especially as he has worked with an impressive list of renowned artists including Paul Gilbert, John Petrucci and many others.
For this, his fourth album Terry has assembled a veritable international supergroup. Sharing bass guitar duties are Bryan Beller (The Aristocrats, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai….) from America, and Indian bass prodigy Mohini Dey (Steve Vai, Tony McAlpine….). On keyboards is Lalle Larsson (Karmakanic, Electrocution 250, Agents of Mercy….) from Sweden. Completing this amazing line-up are Romanian virtuoso violin player Florian Cristea and esteemed German drummer Marco Minnemann.
This album, simply called “Story”, has a concept which recounts a tale of two little creatures who go on a grand adventure. So that you get some idea of where they are on this journey, there are pieces of narration. For this job Hollywood actor Keith Szarabajka (Dark Knight, The Equalizer, The X-Files) was employed.
The album begins with one such bit of narration in ‘Magic Lantern (into the woods)’. This short track sees the two companions start out on their escapade. “But wait, what’s this?”, “I don’t know, but I think it’s a monster”. Cue whirling guitar, heavy riffs and complex bass and drums, and it really does feel like the start of a big adventure. Set aside some time though, as this album clocks in at 77 glorious minutes.
Most of the tracks on the album are long and ‘I think It’s a Monster’ is no exception. Because of this Marco Minnemann apparently found it hard going sometimes. He likened the length, speed and odd time signatures to going to the gym and doing maths at the same time. Click on the picture of the monster below to hear the track.
The voices/noises of the adventurers can occasionally be heard as well. One joyfully cries “Oh look, a big balloon” and woosh, we are off on a ‘Balloon Ride Over a Jigsaw Map’. There are hints of Rush in parts of this 9 ½ minute track and it evokes a multitude of emotions that one might feel on such a balloon ride.
The balloon lands and they have escaped from the monster. One of the companions exclaims gleefully “I got a lightning bug” and that is the title of the next track. Despite having some heavier moments, this is a predominately melodic track.
The narration at the start of ‘What The Owl Said’ doesn’t actually appear to finish saying what the Owl said. “Now listen well” said Owl, “Of all the things to know, this is most important………………”. Then music, which is upbeat, funky, jazzy, bluesy, and at times laid back but, no message.
‘Starcrowned’ is another long number with a mellow centre portion that has shades of Pink Floyd in it. It also has some fantastic bass playing from Mohini Dey and amazing arpeggios from Terry. There doesn’t appear to be any accompanying videos from Terry yet, but Lalle Larsson has produced a couple regarding the album. These are from his perspective but should give you an idea of what the music sounds like. (EDIT: There is a video from Terry now as well – see below)
Lalle Larsson – Terry Syrek keyboard sessions 2020 Part 1. (click here if the video does not play)
Lalle Larsson – Terry Syrek keyboard sessions 2020 Part 2. (click here if the video does not play)
The magnificent talents of Violinist Florian Cristea come to the fore in ‘The Perilous Flight From Castle Abathria’. From the haunting beginning, it speeds up in the frantic “flight” with its guitar/keyboard/violin battles. This is all finished off with Cossack style dance music, complete with cries of “hey” in the pauses.
As the adventure continues the pair arrive at a cave and are met by the sound of a ‘Strange Machine’. At close to 10 minutes this is the longest track on the album. Plenty of time then for all these superb musicians to flex their muscles and that is precisely what they do.
In complete contrast but equally enjoyable comes the mellowest track ‘Dandelion Sword’. It is purely guitars and bass with a sprinkling of keyboards and dash of that Rush sound. After a few plays of the album, I found myself getting immersed in the relevant parts of the story. This track is a particularly good example of that.
“Never take tea with an angry gnome” could be what Owl finished that sentence with earlier. It is nevertheless spoken at the start of ‘Gnomus Maleficus (Tea With the Angry Gnome)’. The music is suitably angry sounding in places as well with some more incredible shredding from Terry.
‘Promenade Into the End’ is a short track in which the narrator brings the story to an end. ‘The End’ is a beautiful finale that brings to mind Dream Theater’s ‘The Spirit Carries On’. Then there is one very short track to finish called ‘Home (Out of the Woods)’ where one of the companions is heard to say, “Let’s do it again”.
The musicianship on this album is second to none, and everyone puts in a stellar performance. Although Terry proves that he can shred with the best of them, he also has so much more to offer. The narration is delivered like a children’s story, but the music is for grown-ups. It’s an unusual approach, but oddly comforting. I think it really is a monster.
- Magic Lantern (into the woods)
- I Think It’s a Monster
- Balloon Ride Over a Jigsaw Map
- I Got a Lightning Bug
- What the Owl Said
- The Perilous Flight From Castle Abathria
- Strange Machine
- Dandelion Sword
- Gnomus Maleficus (tea with the angry gnome)
- The End?
- Home (out of the woods)
Syrek – Balloon Ride Over A Jigsaw Map (click here if the video does not play)