REVIEW: Bernth – EP: When It Rains

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Despite my humble and deliberate efforts to try to confuse Facebook algorithms – you know, those funny little mathematical creatures designed to rip apart the very fabric of society with short-term dopamine-driven feedback loops – they have a nasty habit of making recommendations that hit so close to home that it is almost frightening. It happened again with the YouTube videos of the Austrian guitar virtuoso, Bernth Brodtrager, a while back. Yes, despite the fact that shredding videos are not exactly my cup of tea, this guy turned out to be one of those rare exceptions to the rule: performing under the artistic alias of Bernth, his guitar magic reaches far beyond mere pyrotechnical finger exercises in such a way that it runs the risk of leaving you breathless for a moment. So, when I was offered the privilege to review his latest 4-track EP bearing the title, “When It Rains,” I was obviously stoked – hey, I’m following this dude already! Released independently on October 14th, 2022, the EP rolls out both his trademark high-adrenaline shredding and snippets of more cinematic and plaintive flavor. His music is exclusively instrumental but it still speaks volumes.

The EP kicks into gear with the title track, “When It Rains,” which unfolds in a bit slower tempo, undulating between rapid-fire shredding passages and more plaintive guitar legatos. The song is nicely constructed in such a manner that those high-octane, neoclassical Paganini runs on the fretboard give way to a tad more introspective melodies before the sheer excess of notes begins to wear you down. I reckon this guy’s apparent songwriting skills have a lot to do with the fact that, despite his rather young looks, he is already a seasoned musician, having played as a session guitarist with bands such as HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY, BELPHEGOR, and, of all artists in the world, David Hasselhof. Now, if that isn’t a résumé worth flaunting as a display of open-mindedness, I don’t know what is.

Next up, “A Broken Heart” begins with a distinctly GOJIRA-like hammered-on, clean-tone guitar motif before the neoclassical high-speed fretboard sweeps take over. Obviously, with such prominent neoclassical vibes, one might be tempted to think that Bernth is paying homage to, say, Yngwie Malmsteen. Still, there is perhaps something more akin to BUCKETHEAD‘s highly eclectic style on display here. At this point, I made a mental note that, two tracks into the EP, there are remarkably fewer djenty riffs in the songs this time, compared to Bernth‘s debut album “Elevation,” released in 2021. The delicate mixture of djent and neoclassical influences was what initially lured me into being a fanboy in the first place, but this is not to say the somewhat more traditional guitar-shredding and melodic flare of the new outing isn’t just as delicious. Oh, it is.

Besides, my fear of hearing no djenty stuff at all was premature; there is a very subtle djent element in “Dopamine,” especially in the basslines. It is far less in-your-face in comparison with the songs of the debut, but it’s there. It is quickly overshadowed, though, by the lovely guitar fractals, both clean and distorted. I would say that this is the absolute standout track on the outing. Interestingly enough, the song title would suggest a relentless onslaught of high-adrenaline guitar pyrotechnics, but there is plaintive guitar meditation in equal measure.

Finally, the EP brings things to a close with “When It Rains, It Pours,” which is a bit more of a ballady track, taking perhaps the deepest nod towards those revered, vintage guitar albums of the past. I noticed how some fans have expressed their wishes that not every song needed to plunge into such breakneck speed on the debut. It seems that Bernth has taken heed and incorporated far more restraint in his guitar shredding this time around, resulting in nothing short of a flawless selection of instrumental guitar madness.

Guitarists the world over should be thrilled about this EP, no doubt, but I guess it speaks for itself that I, who ditched guitar playing in favor of the warmth of analog synths some 30 years ago, find this EP a real gem too.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. When It Rains
  2. A Broken Heart
  3. Dopamine
  4. When It Rains, It Pours

Lineup

Bernth Brodtrager – guitars and all

Label

Independent

Links

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