Review by Rick Ossian
For those of you who did not know (myself included), Pyramids on Mars is a one-man operation. Kevin Estrella, of Hamilton, Ontario, is the sole owner, operator, player, and evidently distributor of the brand as well. He plays all guitars, basses, keyboards, drums, programming and FX. He labels himself as ‘melodic instrumental rock‘, and that is exactly what he is. However, for those of you who are thinking ‘oh there’s enough of that on the market already‘, perhaps you are correct. I, for one, have heard some but would dearly love to hear more! I highly recommend POM for anyone interested in listening to some pretty decent ‘cosmic’ widdling. To even further clarify, if you like Joe Satriani‘s instrumental work, or can imagine, say, Steve Vai or Yngwie Malmsteen sans vocals, then this is for you!
Many of the tracks contained herein are merely exercises in six-string masturbation. There are some that involve massive shredding, and there are those who merely noodle away ad nauseum. There is even one track that is presented twice (I’ll never understand why artists insist on doing this). The offending article here is the lead-off track, Dream Division, and for it’s second go-round we get to hear the ‘radio edit’ version. Those of you who find yourselves already disgusted may as well shove off. Things do get better, but patience is required… As Mr. Estrella explains in his description of himself and his tunes, this is very melodic. It is also pretty heavy at times, and VERY shreddy (is that even a word?). Any aspiring guitar players will probably really enjoy this stuff, until it comes time to map out the solos!
I was absolutely transported by this particular track, and several others, as you will hear/read if you choose to continue. Whether or not one could be transported to Mars is entirely up to your own sets of ears. Dream Division is entirely listenable, as are the rest of the tunes on offer, but only if you are into ‘melodic instrumental rock’. By all means, please continue at your own risk. This is Mr. Estrella‘s second effort, by the way, having released his eponymous debut in 2013. I can only assume it contains more of the same. Those of you who are interested are whole-heartedly invited to seek it out.
Battle For Rome is up next, and assaults our ears with a bass solo intro of sorts before delving off into a spacey keyboard-laden jam. Synthesizers are not the order/instrument of the day, however, so don’t be disheartened if you are a 6-string (or 4-string) fanatic. Estrella gets back to the string bending soon enough. In fact, on most of the tracks here, the keys seem to be an ancillary instrument. They decorate, they enhance, but they do not lead. That duty is left to the guitars, of course. BFR is, again, another shred-fest, as are all of the tunes on board. Do not be dismayed, there is more…
Death Valley Driver starts out life as a helicopter/airplane FX vehicle (see what I did there?), then kicks into the drums and guitar. The guitar could definitely be construed as heavy metal and/or hard rock, and, again, is entirely listenable, especially if one is into melody. This particular track is more of a Star Wars/Star Trek sound-trek, if you will. The lead guitar work goes way up high, into the sky, but I’m not sure if any of the work here could be deemed ‘guitar solo(s)’, as most of it IS a solo. Pretty much every track starts out with Estrella soloing, and ends in the same manner.
Tribute starts out slow and mellow, almost dirge-like, in fact. This is another exercise in shred, and is bluesy for the main part.
Heaven’s Gate features a heavy riff introduction, and is largely repetitive, particularly the rhythm(s). This track, for me at least, smacked of Satch’s Surfing With the Alien period.
Sailing the Oceans of Neptune begins with what sounds like waves, then drums, then more heavy riffing at the outset. This track is, like most of the others, one long solo. Not that that is a bad thing, necessarily – just thought I would let you in on the ‘secret’. There is some wah/crybaby on board here (yay!), and proceedings are more doom and gloom then before. It is still pretty good, and one thing I noticed that, for some reason, the rhythm riffs kept threatening to lead up to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh, Well’. Perhaps Estrella really likes that one!
Spectre of Orion begins with more synths and a slashy slide guitar intro. The synths actually pervade things here, which is a refreshing change. More nice, heavy riffing at the outset, and again another shred-fest in the mid section. This is sort of a spacey journey with lots of leads, for lack of a better description. More riffing and synths at the close remind us that there is not a lot of variety in the general attitude of the music. This could be considered derivative or repetitive, unless one is aurally inclined to groove on melodic instrumental stuff.
Order of the Freemasons is a whopping epic monster at just over eight minutes, and contains more of the same. There is another synth-y intro, and portentous of doom and gloom. There are monks (or demons?) chanting in the background, and other voices that chat at us briefly here and there. There are also lots of leads, lots of cool riffing, and a general heaviness overall. At the close we are asked; “Do you understand me?” by whom I can only assume is the protagonist. There is more spacey percussion at the fade-out, and before you can say ‘bob’s your uncle’, we again find ourselves at the end of another track!
Occam’s Razor features more heavy-as-fuck riffing, a cool break beat on the drums, which kind of surprised me being placed where it was, but what the hell, right? OR is spacey and melodic – starting to see a pattern developing here. It is also heavy with riffing and we get a bass solo thrown in for good measure.
The closer, unless you include Version #2 of Dream Division, is the title track. It is more of the same, although a bit drowsy compared to its predecessors. There are voices assaulting us again, but there is still lots of shred to absorb, and it is still very good music.
In short, Echo Cosmic will delight your ears – but ONLY if you are into ‘instrumental melodic rock’. That is all!