So, here we are with the second of the 10-album collection to be released over the next four months that documents Misha Mansoor’s pre-Periphery project, Bulb (in descending order from volume 8, oldest to newest material, and including a couple of surprise compilations). Archives: Volume 8 (read our review here) was a sprawling smorgasbord that highlighted a lot of Mansoor’s strengths and variable stylistic outlets and was a core overview introduction to the series, and Archives: Volume 7 continues that stream with more of a focus on certain key areas.
More than its predecessor, Archives: Volume 7 seems to have a spotlight on the guitar-work. It’s no secret that Mansoor is right up there technically with the shred masters of the past and on par with djent guitarist contemporaries such as Tosin Abasi and Plini, but his easy-going and humble demeanour always seems to keep him from being spoken about on those levels. Whenever he kicks into high gear on Periphery songs, it’s always a very welcome surprise and jaws naturally drop, so let’s just say that the guy is a bit of a stringed genius. Here we get to see him in his element as a solo player without any restrictions, and the results are as astounding as expected.
Songs like “B Equals D,” “Breeze,” and “FF7 Ahead On Our Way Cover (1)” show the man shredding with abandon and throwing out tasty leads as if it were the easiest thing in the world. “FF7 Ahead On Our Way Cover (1)” is especially emotive with a real Eric Johnson-esque, tone-heavy attention to the lead compositions, and is a beautiful thing. Elsewhere, there are short fragments that were either simply broad sketches or possibly even concepts that would be explored further in Periphery, such as “Numberwang,” “Axe 2 High Gain Test,” and “Excalibur” – whilst these may not be songs by any standard definition, they give an insight into Mansoor’s workings on guitar and also as a songwriter, which is ultimately one of the treasures of this monster album collection.
There are heavy djent assaults (“New Snu,” “Mayones 8 Clip,” “Strizzwald”) that are exercises in time signature mastery and the exciting heaviness of the genre. Digging deeper, there are songs that sound like vocal-less Periphery (“Breeze”) and also Periphery songs that never were but should have been (“FF7 Prelude Bombfare Medley”), all dressed neatly with that Mansoor class and nimble fingerwork. Possibly the most unusual of all the tracks here is “Nyan Bulb,” an upbeat tune driven by a catchy melody and rhythm that, even without a solo, is refreshing in a way that Joe Satriani claimed as his own with “Summer Song” on his successful 1992 album, The Extremist.
Once again, Archives: Volume 7 proves that we have a really exciting rabbit-hole ahead of us in the rest of the series, a geeky wonderland where we get to hang out with the guitarist/musician in his most personal space and explore all the intricate facets of his talent. At around 20 minutes less than the first album in the series, Archives: Volume 7 is a shorter, tighter grouping of music that is both fun and breath-taking, and a magical listen for prog/shred/djent/Periphery/Mansoor fans everywhere.
Archives: Volume 7 Track Listing:
1. Axe 2 Clean Test
2. Axe 2 High Gain Test
3. B Equals D
6. FF7 Ahead On Our Way Cover (1)
7. FF7 Prelude Bombfare Medley
9. Mayones 8 Clip
10. MF And RG Test
11. New Snu
13. Nyan Bulb
Run Time: 34 minutes
Release Date: June 26, 2020
Record Label: 3DOT Recordings