"The Riddle of Steel" (Sliptrick Records; 2022)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Any honest music reviewer—especially those reviewing hard rock, heavy metal and punk—will tell you that it's difficult to review instrumental albums. It's not that vocals provide an added layer that gives you something to focus on, it's just that you have to listen to an instrumental album in a different way. Like motion picture scores, instrumental albums tell their stories in unique ways. Of course, the difference there is that movie scores are designed to enhance images that you're watching on a big screen. Instrumental albums are designed to enhance (and perhaps create) the images hidden away in each individual's mind.

All that being said, I was thrilled when Leslie Ripp's new album, "The Riddle of Steel," crossed my desk, especially when I read in the liner notes "This album was inspired by the 1982 film classic 'Conan the Barbarian.'" I'm a huge fan of that movie, especially the score by the legendary Basil Poledouris. I wondered if Ripp could catch the power and pageantry of that movie ... and, based on his previous music, I assumed he could.

I was not disappointed.

"The Riddle of Steel" is ten tracks of spiraling guitars, chunky rhythms and a pounding pace that fits well with the powerful image of our favorite Barbarian. The music on this album is big and bold, the guitar leads fiery and encompassing. Some tracks are sly and sinister ("Thulsa Doom") while others are bright and full of promise (or threats) of what's to come ("Flesh and Burns"). The final track, "Valeria," closes out the album with an atmospheric journey that brings things to their appropriate end.

Has Leslie Ripp recorded the greatest Conan-themed album of all time? Well, no. With all due respect to Mr. Ripp, that would still be Basil Pouledoris's soundtrack to "Conan The Barbarian" (which you can, and should, buy by clicking here). But "The Riddle of Steel" comes close, and that's saying a lot.

All guitar, drums, bass, keyboards and piano performed by Leslie Ripp.

For more information visit https://leslieripp.com.

"Manifest Destiny" (Ripp Music; 2018)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

As I've said on these pages before, the difficulty in reviewing a guitar instrumental album are two-fold: 1) Does the album do more than showcase the talents of the particular guitarist and 2) How many times can I find adjectives for words like shred, virtuoso and tone?

Then along comes former RAT ATTACK guitarist Leslie Ripp and his CD, "Manifest Destiny," which falls somewhere in-between the categories of stand-alone album and showcase. With song titles like "1812," "Night Crawler" and "Tumble Weed Express," it sure sounds like there's some story-telling going on here, even though other song titles like "Midnight Jamboree" seem to indicate more of a showcase.

Song titles aside, "Manifest Destiny" sure plays like a showcase. Each track is filled to the brim with Ripp's amazing guitar effort and the one thing you can't help but come away with after listening to this CD is that Leslie Ripp is a hell of a guitarist. He's a virtuoso who shreds and has an excellent guitar tone (See? I got all of those buzz words into one sentence).

The problem with  showcases, however, is they tend to be dull and repetitious. Unless you're a guitar player who's interested in technique, even a master guitarist gets boring after awhile. And though "Manifest Destiny" does tend to wear out its welcome by the time the final track winds down, it's still more interesting than many other showcase albums I've heard ... which bring us to this ... it's probably more than a showcase.

So, I'm taking the easy way out. Just let me say that Leslie Ripp's "Manifest Destiny" is an amazing showcase of Leslie Ripp's undeniable talent and, at the same time, is more than just a showcase album, even if just by a little.

For more information visit https://leslieripp.com.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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