Artist: Gary Norman
Album: Untitled EP
Sounds Like: Pink Floyd, Black Album era Metallica
Technical Grade: 7/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 5/10
Commercial Value: 3/10
Overall Talent Level: 7/10
Songwriting Skills: 5/10
Performance Skills: 7/10
Best Songs: Soulless, Angels and Me
Strengths: Well-rounded guitarist with a lot of potential, creative with melodies and harmonies
Weaknesses: Vocals could be improved, Production quality is rough
Gary Norman is an independent guitarist and singer-songwriter. He has recently released this six track, homemade demo to showcase his multifaceted sound that incorporates elements of both classical and rock influences.
Norman’s six-track EP essentially has two main sides to it; a definitively more classical approach that emphasizes more traditionally composed melodies, and a looser, acoustic-based rock experience that lingers somewhere between alternative and a more blues-based sound that is also quite melodic. At any rate, the EP’s greatest asset is Norman’s adept guitar playing, particularly his skills in the classical compositions. Perhaps it would be inaccurate to compare Norman’s approach solely to that of a classical guitarist, considering his sensibilities evidently bleed into rock and blues influences. For this reason, dynamic and detailed instrumental guitar work in tracks such as “Angels and Me” is reminiscent more of something one would expect from Kirk Hammett’s classical interludes in Black Album era Metallica. Norman’s classically-inspired melodies in these tracks (“Desire” is another example) are very familiar in that they suggest the signature 1990s heavy metal/classical acoustic fusion that became highly popular during the era and a sound that rock bands have been emulating ever since. While some modern bands can pull off believable acoustic instrumentation and composition better than others, successfully implementing this methodology into Norman’s EP, in conjunction with his more basic rock and melodic blues material, is one of the elements of this six-track collection that makes it stand out and showcase an artist with potential as opposed to just a man in his home-studio making music. In short, Norman has the skills as a guitarist and the talent is there. The other side of the album is much more rock and song-writing oriented and stands to give a better picture of who Norman is as an artist. Tracks such as “Drifter” and “Soulless” are based around a basic acoustic rhythm section with relatively simple progressions, but are also augmented by edgy, electric blues solos that give the tracks a little extra depth. Close scrutiny reveals a similarity of music comparable to Pink Floyd. The acoustic and vocal intro to “Soulless” is considerably in the likeness of Roger Waters. When this is combined with the harmonic vocals, melodic blues guitar solos, and psychedelic interludes, such as in the track “Stranded”, the Pink Floyd, experimental 1960s similarities become quite noticeable.
However, the production quality on the EP isn’t very good. It is without a doubt a home-studio recording that leaves much to be desired. The tracks are very raw and rough. Even though the acoustic guitars probably sound the clearest throughout the EP, they are still in need of significant cleanup work to achieve their greatest potential. Moreover, Norman isn’t the greatest singer; there are some parts of these tracks where his voice sounds legitimately good, but others where things are rather mediocre. If there were any bass tracks in the EP, they were nearly to completely inaudible; this music needs more bottom-end to warm it up and give more dimension to the overall sound.
Norman is a talented guitar player, he has demonstrated this definitively throughout these six tracks. While the production needs to be significantly improved without question, there is something to be said about the EP’s potential. Norman needs to get into a studio, wrangle up some other musicians, and go to work cleaning up these tracks. As an artist, Norman is good enough to give further developing these tracks a try. Whether his songwriting ability is enough to achieve any sort of formal success is yet to be determined.