When listening to one of guitar virtuoso Ron Jarzombek’s more recent projects- Blotted Science’s ‘The Machinations Of Dementia’- I could not have been more blown away by the sheer technical ferocity of the man’s vision and composition. As much a brilliant mathematician as he is a guitarist, Jarzombek has impressed me with everything I’ve heard of his, and Spastic Ink’s debut has been no exception to that. Although not a entirely emotive piece of work, ‘Ink Complete’ is a musician’s dream listening experience, and should see fit to stretch lobes of even a Calculus major.
The first thing I notice with the music of Spastic Ink is that it is a fair bit less heavy that what I’ve heard of Jarzombek’s work before; the album is worked through by lead guitar, bass, and drums. Occasionally, the electric guitar will be overdubbed a few times for harmonies and added rhythms, but for what turns out to be incredibly complex music, it is surprising that there are only three instruments and musicians at work here. Of course, my reason for going into this was to hear some more of Ron Jarzombek’s work, and its clear he does take the spotlight here in most cases. Whether he is making intensely mathematical chugging riffs, shredding or doing thoughtful and melodic leads, the music of ‘Ink Complete’ draws around virtually whatever he does, with the other two musicians taking more of a support role. Bassist Pete Perez and drummer Bobby Jarzombek are both worthy of praise however. Bobby nicely compliments the constantly changing time signatures by adding plenty of fills and intricacy that makes his performance here much more than for the sake of merely keeping time. Pete Perez is the least remarkable member here, feeling as if he is often overshadowed by the wizardry of Ron and Bobby. His skill is evident in the moments he is really able to let loose with his playing.
It does feel as if Spastic Ink would be a much more enjoyable project if it was somewhat more band-oriented as opposed to being so highly guitar driven. Also, what Spastic Ink makes up in their technical and compositional wizardry here, they do lose in emotional appeal. Although one can listen to this album and see it has being a technical masterpiece by all accounts (as virtually everything Ron Jarzombek has done turns out to be) but there are only a few scarce moments in the album that really caught my feelings. Chief among these would be the second track ‘A Morning With Squeakie’, which is relatively quite melodic and upbeat. The real crown here however goes to ‘The Wild Hare’, which is a playful masterpiece both in composition and instrumental feeling.
An excellent album, and while Jarzombek has clearly done better, ‘Ink Complete’ is a wonderful piece of technical progressive metal.
With Spastic Ink’s 1997 debut ‘Ink Complete’, brothers Jarzombek and bassist Pete Perez left quite a mark on the tech metal scene. Being able to charge their viciously impressive playing with intelligent and complex composition, Spastic Ink immediately set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd, leaving a dedicated fanbase hungry for more. Seven years later, a few things changed with the band’s sound on the second record ‘Ink Compatible’, but the tongue-in-cheek nature of the album coupled with its technical brilliance make it nothing short of a great follow-up to the original.
‘Ink Compatible’ shows the sound and direction of Spastic Ink growing more mature, although the eccentric charm of guitarist Ron Jarzombek is still here, through quirky guitar solos and odd voiceovers. To one as yet uninitiated with the music of Spastic Ink, the band takes progressive metal to very technical heights, and features incredibly complex arrangements, albeit at the sacrifice of well-rounded music. Although I was always impressed by the arrangements of Spastic’s msuci the first time around, it always felt as if the compositions lacked cohesion as complete pieces. On ‘Ink Compatible’, there has definitely been a marked improvement on that front. Instead of the songs feeling like individual collections of jaw-dropping riffs and musical ideas, ‘Ink Compatible’ has pieces that take the form of actual songs; all to the band’s benefit.
In most ways, ‘Ink Compatible’ is an improvement over its predecessor, although it certainly takes some extra time to grow in light of the added complexities to composition structure. However, I do not necessarily choose this album over the first. The biggest reason for this is certainly the use of singers here, which as one may have expected from a band as technical as Spastic Ink, does not work in the band’s favour. Although there are some great singers like Daniel Gildenlow (of progressive metal titans Pain of Salvation) at work here, the vocal melodies never sound inspired, and instead tend to distract from the real delight here, being the excellent instrumentation. Some of the voiceovers wear thin quickly as well; one can only hear interludes about hillbillies’ views towards personal computers so many times before deigning to skip over it!
Perhaps there isn’t as much of the same charm this time around for Spastic Ink, but the album is certainly a step above ‘Ink Complete’ in terms of its writing and- in some cases- musicianship itself. Spastic Ink finally sounds like a full band effort here as opposed to the debut, which sounded closer to being a Ron Jarzombek solo album. An excellent album by any stretch, although it is more hit-and-miss than what I’ve previously heard from Spastic Ink.