Release Date: August 10th 2018
Thom Pankhurst is a virtousic guitar player based in the UK. After countless hours honing his craft, he began to experiment with a range of detailed melodic ideas in 2014, which were worked on intermittently over the succeeding four years. Once he was confident that his ideas were fully-developed and ready for release, he swiftly recruited bassist Alex Vanblaere and drummer Yanir Aronowicz to commence work on his debut EP. The resulting product, ‘Lighthouse’, forms the perfect introduction to a well-versed and eager musician with a huge amount of potential.
The title track ‘Lighthouse’ opens with an array of excellently-arranged counterpoint guitar lines. This effectively introduces one of Pankhurst’s biggest selling points; his comprehensive understanding and execution of technical music. Whilst the parts are indeed complicated, they are melodically sound and irresistably catchy. This shows that whilst Pankhurst is keen to display the extent of his virtousic abilities, he still keeps the composition itself at the forefront of his mind. The clean section quickly launches into an extended tapping line, which is incredibly well executed and showcases Pankhurst’s meticolous nature towards guitar playing. It’s abundantly clear that he’s rehearsed each and every technique to near-perfection before moving onto the next, leading to a very refined and effective overall guitar technique. The track takes a series of rhythmic twists and turns, including syncopation and off-time sections to keep the listener firmly on their toes. Particular praise also goes to the synth tracks that are introduced approximately halfway through the track. These effectively fill out the midrange and form a wonderful contrast to the lead guitar lines. This is a ball I’d very much encourage Pankhurst to pick up and run with on future releases as it works fantastically well with his sound.
‘Traveller’ features a slightly stronger heavy metal influence, with many of the riffs being reminiscent of Metallica’s early work. I thought the ambient clean sections on this track were particularly notable and give the track ample room to breathe before launching into detailed lead sections. The track also features a guest guitar solo from Dan Thornton, which displays a fantastic use of legato playing and sweep picking. At this point, my attention turns to Pankhurst’s backing ensemble. Both Vanblaere and Aronowicz do a fantastic job of arranging their parts to best showcase Pankhurst whilst also catering to the needs of the compositions themselves. Vanblaere often inverts the harmony and provides tasteful counter melodies during sparser sections of the arrangement, before dropping back to root notes for sections of detailed lead guitar work. This largely contributes to a fantastic arrangement on each track and keeps the material melodically, harmonically and rhythmically interesting at all times. Aronowicz serves as a form of solid infrastructure for the many rhythmic twists and turns throughout the tracks, accenting sections with a range of well-chosen fills and some fantastic off-time drumming. His double bass work is also notable, truly driving the momentum forward at key points in a clear and consistent manner. Whilst I have no doubt this lineup would work fantastically well in a live setting, it may be worth Pankhurst giving some thought to how he’d like to incorporate the synth lines into a live performance. Whilst it may be feasable to recruit a synth player, this runs the risk of drawing attention away from Pankhurst’s lead work at key sections of each track. As a result, I’d highly suggest Pankhurst looks into either backing tracks or foot-operated MIDI synthesizers in order to incorporate the synth parts showcased within the EP in his live performances.
‘Lunar Wave’ showcases some impressive sections of clean picking whilst a legato lead line sails atop the mix. I thought the ambient clean section where Aronowicz dropped down to just his ride cymbal was particularly effective in showcasing the guest solo by Sam Bell. Bell’s solo presented a wonderful mix of sustained notes interspersed with lightening-fast scale runs, undoubtedly being one of the most ear-catching sections of the track. By this point, it’s clear that Pankhurst has an incredibly well-crafted and clear cut sonic identity. He possesses a range of signature traits, including detailed legato lead sections, intricate layered clean sections and a variety of different rhythmic devices up his sleeve. Whilst the EP is sufficiently varied from track to track, the genre and vibe are both incredibly well-channeled and focussed, which is something rarely seen on debut releases. At this point, my attention also turns to the EP’s production, which is outstanding. It’s clear Pankhurst and his team have taken adequate time to source the very best tones and takes to create a very convincing product. The mixing and mastering is also fantastic; all levels and frequencies are well-balanced with no sudden changes from section to section or track to track. One of the most impressive aspects of the EP production-wise is the range of guitar tones obtained for the project. The clean tones are full-bodied and ethereal, whilst the lead tones are sustained and cut-throat. There are several appearances of heavily distorted rhythm guitar sections throughout the EP, which provided a fantastic contrast and would be something I’d love to see more of across Pankhurst’s future projects.
Overall, ‘Lighthouse’ not only showcases a talented guitar player, but also a well-rounded musician who’s overtly clear of his sonic identity. There’s no doubt Pankhurst is an ambitious individual and I’m whole-heartedly looking forward to his future releases. I’d encourage him to play live at every opportunity in order to build connections within the industry and showcase his talents in the way they’re to be best percieved. Highly recommended for any fans of metal, rock, or virtouso guitar music.