Keith Merrow – Awaken the Stone King

In the style of instrumental metal not unlike that of Animals As Leaders, Keith Merrow is a guitarist who has come out with two albums to date. His sophomore ‘Awaken The Stone King’ sees the guitarist making a heavy and technical blend of progressive metal that often ventures into the realm of djent, and as the music here indicates, Merrow has a promising future ahead of him.

‘Awaken The Stone King’ may initially be most notable to people for the fact that Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis plays a guitar solo on the album. However, this feels like a mere selling point rather than a real treat in the music, especially due to the fact that Keith Merrow is no wimp on the guitar himself. The music here is instrumental and viciously technical at times, although Merrow throws in some nice leads here and there for the sake of added melody. As far as the rhythms here go, Keith Merrow seems to be part of the now quite popular djent- or ‘palm muted math metal’- sound, and his skill with this sort of music makes me wonder why I have not heard of him before.

As one might guess, this is a guitar album, and at no point does another instrument take over the listener’s interest. Granted, there are sections here with some symphonic ambiance, but it feels like the other sounds here are only meant to back up the guitar work of Keith Merrow. Much like Tosin Abasi’s Animals As Leaders, it is easy to appreciate a guitar album for what it is, but at the same time, the music does suffer a lack of well- roundedness, and those who aren’t particularly engaged with lead rock guitar or djent may find themselves in unwelcome territory. Although the drum machine is dull and there is nothing notable about the barebones backing tracks of Merrow, he makes some excellent riffs here, particularly when he opts to get technical. I do find that the djent thing feels like it has been a few too many times before, but it works well to put Keith in with a crowd that may very well enjoy his music.

Most often, I do not like instrumental metal of this nature, and while I can appreciate it, it is rarely able to make me feel anything. ‘Awaken The Stone King’ doesn’t deviate from that predetermined course, but the talent and skill here is undeniable, and there are sections here where the excellent musicianship is impossible to ignore. A promising album from this guitarist.


1. From Fathoms Beneath (The Awakening Pt. 1) (4:23)
2. Heart of the Sea Nymph (3:46)
3. The Piscator (3:35)
4. Braving the Dunes (4:41)
5. Spirit of the Ancient Siren (3:39)
6. Many a Fortnight (1:41)
7. People of the Bog (4:00)
8. Beheading the Manticore (3:02)
9. Paramount Asmodeus (4:22)
10. Stone King (The Awakening Pt. 2) (10:34)


* Keith Merrow – all instruments
* Jeff Loomis – guitars (guest solo on Heart of the Sea Nymph)


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