Richard V. : Alex Skolnick is a guitar player that continues to grow and expand. After recording five albums with Testament at a very young age, he decided to study jazz guitar at New School University in New York. After graduation he started the Alex Skolnick Trio and released three albums with bass player Nathan Peck and drummer Matt Zebrowski. A few years ago Skolnick re-joined his buddies in Testament and recorded the excellent thrash album 'The Formation of Damnation'. The recording and touring schedule of Testament in the 21st century is not as hectic as in the eighties and early nineties, leaving Skolnick enough time to play jazz. 'Veritas' is the fourth album by this trio and continues to explore new roads.
Opening song 'Panna' is a tribute to Indian (Music) culture similar to what Ravi Shankar and John McLaughlin did on the famous 'Shakti' album. The song seamlessly flows into 'Bollywood Jam' that is inspired by the movie Slumdog Millionaire. An eastern rhythm is the basis for same serious riffs and interesting string work. On songs like 'Song Of The Open Road' and 'Alone in Brooklyn' we clearly detect Pat Metheny influences as we did on earlier albums by AST. The title song has dreamy guitar play and an unusual steady beat for a jazz song. For '99/09' Skolnick imagined a jam between Prince and John Scofield, two guitar players that each incorporate funk in their Music in a very different way. The result is nowhere near the music of those artists, but does show a strong resemblance to Rik Emmett´s later solo output. The acoustic 'Path Of Least Resistance' is rather average, whereas the following 'The River Lethe' is strong. The albums best piece is inspired by Jeff Beck´s legendary 'Blow By Blow' album and the result is very enjoyable. Skolnick keeps fantasizing about collaborations between famous musicians. 'Flection' should be a jam with John Coltrane and Bill Evans. The result sounds more like Grant Green than these two jazz legends. A cover of Metallica's 'Fade To Black' closes the album. Although I am very familiar with the Metallica classic I can't recognise the song or its structure at all. That happened before with this Trio on 'Transformation'. Maybe Skolnick should stay a little closer to the original to make it recognizable.
The musicians in AST certainly know how to play their instruments, but after several spins I am still not crazy about the music. I wonder if jazz purists will applaud this effort, fans of hard rock and metal will scratch their hands wondering what to do with this.