There is a bit of vagueness between what constitutes heavy in a given Metal sub-genre, but with a name like “Heavy Excursions”, there is an implicit expectation of something that is hard hitting and riff happy. Within the context of virtuoso DAVID T. CHASTAIN, who has been ripping out memorable guitar moments since the mid-80s, this would naturally translate into something that is also high technical and lead guitar oriented. When compared against various releases from the likes of JOE SATRIANI and PAUL GILBERT, this is really heavy and aggressive, but when compared to others like RUSTY COOLEY and recent MALMSTEEN releases, it’s a fairly standard affair.
Most compilations tend to follow a chronological approach and focusing solely on catchy songs; or takes the song sampler approach and mixes somewhat less fanfare oriented songs with a few mandatory hits. This takes a modified approach on the former, opting to go in chronological order, but skipping around albums in search of shorter songs that relies the most of heavier sounding riffs, wild yet not overly elaborate soloing, and generally avoids really obscure song structuring. Nothing on here goes over 5 minutes long and there is a general emphasis on electric guitar work. Even the token all acoustic song “Set” has a very dark and low character to it, following a grouping of low grooves and single note drones with melodic leads over top that closely resemble a mid-tempo Heavy Metal song arranged for a single guitar.
In general, the character of the sound from song to song remains consistent in spite there being a period of 20 years being covered on a single album. The earlier stuff has a bit more reverb in the drums, the later stuff has a slightly nastier sounding guitar distortion, but in terms of overall aggression there aren’t any incredibly massive leaps in stylistic evolution from the material of the late 80s and the recent stuff. “Capriccio In E Minor” and “Countdown To Infinity” have similar Neo-classical underpinnings and rely on a hard edged, but not completely lethal riff set that is fairly similar to what you’d hear on an early FIREWIND album. There’s a bit of a tilt towards the material on the first album “Instrumental Variations” and the most recent studio effort, but this is largely due to these respective albums having the greatest emphasis on heaviness, rather than on Progressive affects and esoteric pursuits.
If someone is looking for the abridged version of the DAVID CHASTAIN story and is mostly drawn to straightforward Instrumental Metal rather than what you’d get out of JOHN PETRUCCI, this might be a good way to save some cash on getting 4 or 5 albums. The two bonus songs “827” and “Thunder And Lightning” are the most technically advanced and heavy of the lot, crossing over close to RUSTY COOLEY territory, without the need of a 7-string guitar. The principle flaw of the album is that it doesn’t give the complete picture of this player’s solo efforts and largely contains material that can be gotten along with other great songs by simply purchasing “Instrumental Variations” and “Countdown To Infinity”. But as an individual release, this stands well on its own from start to finish and is worth checking out.
(Online June 13, 2009)