I reviewed Waqas Ahmed's debut album, Doomsday Astronaut, last year and he kindly sent me his new EP for review with its release date that's exactly one year after its predecessor. As you might imagine, the negative side is that it's short, its six tracks amounting to only seventeen minutes of time; three of them are very brief indeed, interludes reaching a minute or so each. We could well see them each as an intro to the more substantial song that follows it, which interpretation might call this a three track 12" single. The positive side is that it does everything we might expect from Ahmed, but in a more varied mix, so it's a good step forward.
Oddly, for a guitar shredder, the first of those tracks, Warrior in Time, is entirely electronic, but I should note that Ahmed plays almost everything here, not just the guitar: he's responsible for all the guitars, bass and drums and some of the keyboards, with only Sarmad Ghafoor helping out on the latter. I like how balanced this all is, because Ahmed is not a guitarist who can do other things, he's a true multi-instrumentalist, and he gives each of those instruments all his attention as if he hasn't ever seen anything else.
Really, Warrior in Time is a pleasant and peaceful intro to serve as a contrast to Demon Slayer, the track proper that follows it, because that gets right down to business with shredding straight out of the gate. I couldn't help but wonder exactly how quickly this one matches the note count of the opener and it has to be in mere seconds. It's a blitzkrieg of a song, a solid Guitar Hero challenge, but it's enjoyable to simply listen to with some slower sections, electronic parts in the background for flavour and a very liquid guitar tone that varies depending on where the song has got to. It's a portfolio piece, sure, but it's a fun journey for us too.
No Laughing Matter is the next song proper, after a brief interlude called The Hunt. This one adds some different elements to Ahmed's shredding, opening with a doomy riff that's soon echoed by that liquid guitar, as if angels are harmonising with demons. It certainly feels diabolical at points but it also gets bluesy for a while which makes us think that Ahmed has wandered on down to the crossroads, not to sell his soul but to challenge the devil for a guitar made of gold. The only thing that makes this feel any different is that the core theme that Ahmed returns to throughout is an infuriatingly catchy one, to the point that it could be a TV theme tune.
The final track is the title track, following a piano interlude with orchestration called Aftermath, and, to my mind, A Perpetual Winter is the best of the bunch. It starts heavy but gets soulful, with some delightful slower sections that are exactly what I was looking for more of in my prior review. I like Ahmed as a shredder; Demon Slayer is a lot of fun. But I like him more when he's playing like this, soaring above both strings and crunch. I also like the extra ethnic flavour, even it's restricted to hand drums early on, and the way he plays with modern dissonant chords later in the piece.
So, this is good stuff. I liked Ahmed's debut album but I like this more. The only thing I don't like is that it's so short, but hey, I'll take what I can get. What this really boils down to is a three track EP or single with intros to each that sound great but are quickly forgotten in the grand scheme of the release. Now I'm looking forward to his second album all the more. Thanks, Waqas!