There are only a handful of name-brand metal guitarists. Gus. G. is certainly one of them, and that was before he joined the Ozzy train in 2009. Firewind, Dream Evil, Nightrage, and Mystic Prophecy—he was mostly, even rightfully, the feature of those bands. He’s also the kind of person you see hawking shiny new things in Guitar World.
There are also only a handful of instrumental albums I, and I suspect many others, am willing to listen to. This, however, is one of them.
Part of the appeal of a Gus G. instrumental album is the sense that, despite the “Gus G.” persona, he’s always been too much of a team player to release the gates and let the creativity flow. Dream Evil was fairly predictable, anthemic power metal. Nightrage, despite being a mostly Greek band that adopted a slightly more abrasive tone, was never too far removed from melodic death metal of the Gothenburg variety. And Mystic Prophecy, not unlike Nightrage, adopted a slightly more abrasive tone than its sub-genre peers, but largely existed within, and would be recognized as contributing to, the Euro power world. There’s scant room for boundary-pushing there.
But, at least theoretically, a solo instrumental album gives a guitarist of Gus G.’s talent and skill a clean slate. Listener expectation aside, he can shed the weight of history and defy some of what experience might suggest this thing to sound like. At least one would hope.
And fortunately for us listeners, Gus G. does that with Quantum Leap. I can’t speak to Guitar Master, I am the Fire, Brand New Revolution, or Fearless—the four Gus G. solo albums preceding this one—because, well, I didn’t listen to them. But Quantum Leap is just the sort of fun and adventurous listen I wanted.
Though instrumental, Quantum Leap feels like a narrated experience where the guitar does the talking. Cathartic album-opener “Into the Unknown” gives off major shedding-of-the-skin vibes. There’s a celebratory, almost care-free aura. It would feel like a statement if it didn’t also sound so natural.
“Exosphere” digs a little deeper—still shedding and exuberant, but getting closer to a darker, more metallic tone. What’s most surprising is how expressive this sounds. Gus G. sounds completely in his element, and I am here for it. Solos galore, of course, but there’s an almost aggressive pensiveness that feels forceful and confident.
As diverse as the songs here are, the impressive but never excessive noodling is a common theme. The title track might be the best example. Gus G.’s noodling is so good that he makes rhythm guitar sound like lead. And when things get moodier around the 3:00-minute mark, it still naturally crescendos into this beautiful solo at around 4:15.
“Chronesthesia” is when things start to sound a bit heftier. Yet even when he gets a little rhythmically down-tuned at the 1:45-mark, he ramps up on the leads. That balance is another common theme that threads itself throughout the record. As soon as you think you’re being pulled in one direction, you find yourself zoning out in another. That command of pacing, and respect for songwriting, separates Quantum Leap from most other solo instrumental albums.
I won’t spoil the rest for you. It’s enough to say that Gus G. sounds as inspired on “Into the Unknown” as he does on “Force Majeure,” the eleventh, and last, song on the album. I haven’t been this impressed with an instrumental album since Christian Münzner’s Path of the Hero. The only thing I’ll add is that this Dennis Ward-produced album couldn’t sound better. Suffice to say, if you want a crystal clear production that doesn’t sacrifice bass, hire a bass player.