When I first heard that John LaRussa of Inhale-Exhale (and formerly Narcissus) was going to release a solo EP, I was pretty excited. While I’ve only heard his work in Inhale-Exhale, I always thought he had some of the more interesting riffs in the genre, and certainly some of the most unique guitar tones. I assumed he would recruit other musicians to help record the album, but it turns out he didn’t have to.
All five tracks on The Glory EP were produced and performed entirely by LaRussa. While one may assume a guitarist knows only part of what it takes to write great songs, his long and intimate relationship with heavy music immediately shines through. From the opening track and throughout, the songs aren’t simply a backdrop for inventive guitar work, though there is certainly plenty of that. Some of his signature guitar tones make appearances, and the sounds vary from fast tremolo picking to grungy riffs to thick chugging. He really does cover the full range of techniques for heavy guitar, including some dissonant squeals here and there. The drums take a featured spot in the mix, as one would expect from a metal-influenced style, but they don’t steal the show. Blast beats and punk beats ensure that listeners will be tapping their feet and banging their heads all along the way. Bass holds it all together and only takes the spotlight for the occasional slide. One thing which I really appreciate is the way LaRussa uses instrumental breaks in several places to build tension before plunging back into the fury. That’s something I haven’t heard lately, but it’s very powerful.
Production-wise, the album is truly top-notch. It’s incredible what one man can create in a studio by himself anymore. The mixes are well-balanced with powerful drums, a solid bottom end, and plenty of room for the guitar and vocals. Sonically, this is definitely an album that deserves the full-volume car stereo treatment. Studio effects are used judiciously, and a couple of longer, noisy intros give the five tracks some room to breathe. The stereo imaging is very well done, including some well-timed hard panning of guitars. I applaud him for finding a good balance between raw energy and production. Some may have preferred less of a tight and clean sound, but I’m glad for the polish he added.
Looking at the album with a critical eye, I can find only a couple of soft spots. While the vocals are strong and never strained, there isn’t a lot of variety. John’s throaty scream is at the front of every track with only a couple of sections where toned-down melodic singing is used for effect. The other point which could have been different in my opinion are the lyrics, though I understand that is highly subjective. When it comes to heavy music, I’m a fan of themes that are more grand and philosophical. Many of the lines on The Glory EP are personal and directed at the second person (or possibly one’s self), such as those in the title track: “I want to hear your story / Always falling short of glory.” I would love to know more of the background of the songs to grasp his intent, but sometimes the beauty of art is in the mystery.
In the end, this is a very solid EP if you enjoy heavy music in general and LaRussa’s work in particular. It is well worth the current asking price of $4 on Bandcamp, and fans can appreciate the fact that they’re paying the artist directly. This album is a fresh and creative offering in a genre where it is very difficult to sound original. You can follow Animal Giant on Facebook and download The Glory EP on Bandcamp.