With the realms of the Progressive Metal genre or, if you must, sub-genre, even the most casual of peruser will attest to the veritable wealth of 'lightning-fast' guitarists found throughout. Among the most talented and arguably least publicized of these six-string warriors is Sofia, Bulgaria-born Alexandra Zerner. Embarking on a career as an Engineer, guitar teacher and session musician in 2001, she released her full-length debut 9 Stories in 2014 as well as its inexplicably-overlooked follow-up Aspects in 2015 while also fully participating in Peter Pahor's Another Destiny Project, Aurora Borealis and the Vivaldi Metal Project. Garnering international acclaim via a series of deftly-executed YouTube performances (most notably her variations of the Jason Becker classics “Altitudes” and “Perpetual Burn”), Zerner has propelled herself to the apex of the genre. Fortunately for all parties involved, the wait is over as she has unleashed her most ambitious solo 'propitiations' yet via Opus 1880.
On the stunning Opus 1880 (2019), an expertly assembled twenty-two track collection of Progressive Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the relentlessly pummeling, Angel Wolf-Black-fueled “Chaos Of Cards” the soaring, acoustic-tinged quasi-ballad “Quest Of Light” and the gently lilting--albeit much-too-brief--“Letter To Nowhere”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners, myself most definitely included. Wasting little--if any--time driving home each key focal point via a multi-dimensional barrage of soaring vocals, blistering fretwork and imaginatively punishing rhythms, Zerner flexes her woefully-underrated creative muscles early and often. Firing on all cylinders early and often (as the cataclysmic opening riff and solo on “The Oracle” succinctly showcases), the guitarist stylistically differentiates herself from her few contemporaries by enthusiastically repelling the repugnant, tried and true formulas of yore.
Continuing with the Folk-infused tome “Pinch Of Time” the relentlessly pummeling (and Ivan Ivanov led-) “Master Of Lightning” and the refreshing, shred-laden instrumental “Unfairlytale”, Zerner (who effortlessly 'handles' guitars, bass, keyboards, mandolin and drum programming duties with an oft-sickening ease) is joined throughout by a staggering array of guest musicians including multi-octave vocalists Angel Wolf-Black (Bare Infinity, Fallen Arise, Triaxis), Ivan Ivanov, Svetlana Bliznakova and Misha Iliev, guitarists Bobby Koelble and Gretchen Menn (Francis Bakin, Lapdance Armageddon, Zepparella), bassist Franck Hermanny, keyboardist Giuseppe Iampieri and cellist Nora Kalcheva. Having already repeatedly proven herself more than capable of delivering the proverbial goods (the previously-mentioned 9 Stories and Aspects), the depths and intensities of Zerner's efforts will serve as no surprise to those aware of her penchant for lyrical and compositional dexterities.
One of the most thoroughly satisfying and, for that matter, outright memorable Progressive Metal releases in recent memory, other standouts, including the hauntingly majestic “Sensosphere” the impossibly smoldering “The Other Side Of The Sky Pt 2” (featuring a 'scene-stealing' performance from Svetlana Bliznakova) and the thought-provoking, equally impressive closer “Youtopia”, only add to Zerner's already burgeoning reputation as a bona fide creative force not to be ignored. Exhaustive in both it's focus and execution, the end result(s) of her more than considerable efforts force the listener to acknowledge Zerner's rightful position within the fabled hierarchy of the Progressive Metal genre. While those still unfamiliar with the bulk of her previous works may find my incessant, caffeine-addled admiration of her efforts precariously approaching fanboi territory, you will only have yourself to blame for not wholeheartedly digesting a true cross-section of her storied career trajectory.
With Zerner effectively representing what can only be quantified as the true future of the Progressive Metal genre, the majority--if not all--of the decidedly imaginative wares contained herein serve as a ideal showcase for her unabashed lyrical and compositional ingenuity. An absolute must-have for any truly open-minded Metal enthusiast (particularly those with a genuine and sincere interest in continuing to broaden their horizons) what ultimately separates the mighty Opus 1880 and, as a result, the undeniably talented Zerner herself, from her few legitimate contemporaries is her ceaseless dedication to honing her already razor-sharp chops. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself in search of a delightfully imaginative reprieve from the painfully mindless, unnecessarily testosterone-riddled din and clatter that is so often force fed en mass (e.g. 'New Metal'), then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane salves for what it is that ails you. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.
Opus 1880 (2019)
9 Stories (2014)
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