Tone Masseve 2018
Sweet sinful symphonies from a six-string master who passed on his smile and passed away into eternity.
There’s no shortage of metal records having a go at classical repertoire, yet albums paying respectfully humorous homage to the giants of yore – where delivering a heavy take on “Badinerie” wouldn’t make for a nice compromise – are a rare commodity. Which is why Tone Masseve’s “Amp L’etude” is somewhat special because, beginning from the title and the guitarist’s nom de guerre, it offers a variety of wonderfully layered musical puns that will result in knowing nods from connoisseurs – a fitting tribute to the artist who tragically died of pneumonia in 1997, aged only 27. Two decades later, with the help of seasoned professionals, such as folk-rock doyen Doane Perry, his only work was finished to impress the listener and involve one in a game of untangling a tune.
Dyslexic and a synesthete, he could not only instantly memorize and reproduce a melody, but also see it as an array of symbols; more so, he was able to see subtle harmonic connections and bring them out in most familiar pieces. It took Tone unique qualities to create “7# Edulerp” – a backward recording of Chopin’s prelude, played normally to render it otherworldly – while feeding the ghosts of “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” back into Bach’s “Aire on the G String” would be a simple return of a derivative to the source if the results didn’t sound so compellingly molten. Although being inventive in a note-for-note reading of a time-tested composition is no mean feat, Masseve wrapped “The Moonlight Sonata” in funereal solemnity while infusing Beethoven’s opus with the spirit of Satriani “On The Hill Of The Skull)” and injected Schubert’s prayer with Lennon’s despair in “Maria, (She’s So) Ave” whereas “Serenade For Strings” sees Tchaikovsky through Brian May’s prism and “Pre-Lude-Num-Ber-One-Num-Ber-One” finds “Well-Tempered Clavier” ripped apart by an unaccompanied guitar orchestra.
The same treatment has turned Debussy’s “La Cathédrale engloutie” into a sci-fi prog anthem, yet not everything works as good: a few other Chopin’s preludes become a bit alien when given a groove, and Saint-Saëns’ “The Swan” doesn’t lend itself too graciously to the Fripp and Eno vibrancy. Still, rhythm and riffs serve Orff’s “Carmina Burana” perfectly, to fashion a coda to this fantastic, albeit uneven, album. If Tone were still with us, he’d be up there, at the top.