Bruce Arnold is an American based guitarist and composer. He's also a guitar teacher and a graduate of the Berklee College of Music. He has been teaching on several music academies and universities through the years. He wrote over sixty instruction books and loves using the twelve tone scale as well as the hexatonic scale. He played with a number of jazz greats like Joe Pass, Stuart Hamm and Stanley Clarke. Heavy Mental is an instrumental album which features Arnold (guitars), Andy Galore (bass) and Kirk Driscoll (drums). The music is mainly jazz orientated with some blues influences. With a trio the opportunities to improvise are obvious and listening to these tracks I'd say there is a fair bit of improvisation. Mainly jazz harmonies, sometimes a very prominent role for Galore on bass while Driscoll excels with all his subtle fills. The first track 12 Tone Boogie is a rather slow one with several different rhythms patterns. The slightly distorted guitar plays both melodies and solos. The music is somewhat jazzy but with a bluesy feel mainly. In Multiplicity there's an awesome combination of rock, blues and jazz. The sound of the guitar being distorted again, is rocking hard while drums and bass are playing in a jazzy style. My feeling is that the solos have been improvised. In the second part of the track the drums are still jazzy while bass and guitar are playing rock more in a 'metal' style. Lock And Key is a very jazzy track with the same distorted guitar sound reminding me of rock music. In the vein of soft jazz - like Arnold's colleague Lee Ritenour uses to play - is the next track Heard Instinct, slow and subtle. In the second part of this track you'll hear an impressive bass solo. In Dakota Gumbo there's a part with experimental jazz music, while another part is a bluesy theme with some great soloing by Arnold. In Blues For Arnie the blues component doesn't seem that obvious to me, foremost jazz and a bit of fusion. Again nice bass playing by Galore who has a solo spot in this track as well. In the last track Numbers the distortion of the guitar sound goes even further, the bass is sounding almost like a bass synth and most of the guitar is played with a sound similar to the solo by Trevor Rabin in Owner Of A Lonely Heart by Yes.
In conclusion I would say this is not an ordinary guitar album. It's rather short, but this way the listeners don't have the time to get bored! It will appeal to music lovers with a feel for jazz, fusion and blues music but also to guitar freaks because of the fact that the guitar is the lead instrument. Unusual harmonies and rhythm patterns make the sound slightly experimental while the soloing seems improvised most of the time. Well, to be honest, it's not my cup of tea unfortunately since Heavy Mental is neither symphonic nor progressive rock, but a daring guitar album it is!