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. A composer and guitarist from Montreal, Liam Mackenzie, launched his debut album “From a Time Ago” in October 2023.
Well composed, arranged and wonderfully performed, “From a Time Ago” is an ambitious piece of largely instrumental prog rock/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 Liam’s true calling lies in melody-driven progressive metal guitar, the stylistic curveballs here are fully-realized and sound great. After a soothing, piano-and-acoustic-guitar epilogue in the shape of “Self,” “Broken” is an excellent example of Mackenzie’s skill as a multi-faceted composer. And this skill just keeps on improving throughout the eight-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 Liam’s prodigious grasp of the electric guitar. Although the album’s “progier” side doesn’t stand any bit above what we’ve already heard from that corner of the genre, Liam makes himself out to be an absolutely brilliant fusion guitarist. “Lost Civilization” might be my favourite track on the album for this very reason; Liam’s marriage of keen instrumental wandering and tight melodic passages is gorgeous.
“From a Time Ago” is an album packed with instrumental inventiveness and technical proficiency. Liam Mackenzie excels here both as a composer and musician.
Although the album's "progier" side doesn't stand any bit above what we've already heard from that corner of the genre, Liam makes himself out to be an absolutely brilliant fusion guitarist.