Prestissimo Fortissimo

Ron Thal: The Adventures Of Bumblefoot
1995 Shrapnel Records

What can we say about you Ron Thal? You are bizarre, unconventional, and probably off your rocker. But, there is genius in your madness. Bumblefoot is a collection of diverse and boundary-stretching tracks that are intended to broaden your musical experience. There is some good guitar work here, but the striking aspect of this album is the composition and not the techniques that Ron deploys, but rather the psychological effects he achieves with them. Ron Thal goes where no guitarist has gone before, and none are likely to go again. If you like the music in video games, commercials, or demented movies, you are sure to like this CD. Be forewarned, this CD will take several listenings for you to adjust to the style and composition. Ron Thal has a unique view of the world that shows through in his music. That view is sometimes realistic, sometimes captures the off-beat or the bizarre, sometimes surreal, but always has an unexpected optimistic side to it that becomes more striking because of the other aspects that contrast this sparing optimism so boldly.

Bumblefoot opens with the title track that sets the climate and makes it very clear what you are in for. The bumbling bassline establishes the mood and feel that is like some awkward troll or Scuzzlebutt creature from the South Park cartoon (my favorite episode!), but then becomes a little more intricate and gains some depth of character with the guitar work that ensues. Bumblefoot then turns toward the sun from the shadows under a troll's bridge in the track "Orf". There is still a dark overtone to it, but there is now a ray on sunshine bursting forth from the clouds. "Scrapie" follows with a very uplifting melody and progression that sharply contrasts the tortured riff that the track opens with. And, so the album continues on in this fashion, changing from shadow to light, from sin to redemption, from sickness to health, from depression to elation, and from sadness to happiness. But, there is always an eerie, disoriented feel that is only mastered by Ron Thal. Thal make's "Ick" feel good, probably better than it really does, and this is probably my favorite track, though I appreciate the salvation given in "Fistulous Withers" too.

And, just to give you a sense for Ron Thal's demented nature, all of the tracks have titles that are equine health disorders. Ron's wife is a veterinarian, so there is probably some connection here that is known only to Ron, and maybe his dear wife. Are these the emotions that horses undergo when they experience these terrible health problems and recovery from them? We may never know because horses can not talk and therefore will not tell us... but maybe they have told Ron who has some strange ESP abilities with horses? ... !!! The purely instrumental tracks definitely convey that tormented feeling that you have when you are sick and tired of it. But, Ron is not a pessimist and always heals you before he is finished imposing the torture of illness on you and taking you with him as he indulges in his morbid fascinations.

Ron Thal's mastery of emotion in music is unparalleled. The musical styles that he brings in and integrates to achieve his intended emotional effect is nothing less than brilliant. This is not music... This is art.  And, like most good art, you will have to stretch your boundaries to appreciate it!

There is no doubt that Ron Thal is out there and probably off the deep end. But, give it a shot. You will never look at the world the same way again.

Chris Ruel