Putting out a guitar-heavy album in an era of processed faux punk is a shaky prospect indeed, and one that likely won’t garner much notice stateside. Metal veteran Chris Caffery likely realizes this, but it hasn’t stopped him from doing exactly that. With an inimitable pedigree working with metal greats Savatage, Doro, and members of King Diamond, one can assume- correctly so- that Chris Caffery’s solo album wouldn’t disappoint. With a barely-bridled fury and the technical precision upon which he’s built his name, Pins and Needles is an exercise in traditional metal with a touch of prog unlike much of what’s been heaped upon American audiences for the last decade and a half. This is no Avenged Sevenfold or Trivium trying to revisit the pop guitar sound of yesteryear- this is the real deal, with all the sincere love of a heavy, well-produced sound and the seasoned, genuine mastery of an instrument that fell out of (relatively) mainstream media’s favor with Dimebag’s passing.
With a refreshing twist on virtuosity, Caffery manages to avoid the trap of relying solely on the prowess of his fingerwork (ala Yngwie) and instead has succeeded in crafting an album of nuance and compelling, emotive themes. All the while, he retains his experimental edge with bits of jazz and other unexpected sounds thrown in. It’s classic, riff-heavy metal with all the trappings- Jackson guitar, lyrics about angels forever in chains, tons of false harmonics, and relentless rhythms- updated with a more bluesy sensibility (there’s even a Mick Mars swagger hidden in there- Caffery could write a pop hit with the best of them if he wanted to water himself down. Thankfully for his fans, he’s chosen to remain complex). Availed of the constraints that come with collaboration, Caffery has proven that his solo accomplishments rival any of those he had within his previous bands. Pins and Needles should be heard not only by fans of Savatage, but also by anyone with a penchant for Peace Sells-era Megadeth- new school of thrash, try leader is Caffery. Listen well.