JEFF KOLLMAN - COSMOSQUAD - A FUSIONY STEP BEYOND SHRED GUITAR ROCK - "Eclectic Earwig Reviews Music and More for You!"    
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Cosmosquad: Squadrophenia
2001, Pugworks Music

Squadrophenia by Cosmosquad is a progressive instrumental effort that blends hard-edged, aggressive, speedy fretwork of Jeff Kollman within a array of widely varying musical ideas. The CD is dominated by the intensive lead and rhythm guitar that does not sit idle for a moment in the constantly changing but always driving soundscape. The tracks have good compositional depth that are centered around the musical themes and riffs that are articulated by the lead and rhythm guitar. Though the playing voices a significant level of complexity and maturity of instrumental delivery, the composition demonstrates a cohesive, easily perceivable musical vision that is mind-stretching. This sensibility of balance between savvy instrumentalism and progressive musical vision is perhaps the strongest aspect of the album.

Guitar intensive music aficionados will take an interest in the captivating style that fuses aggressive, speedy runs with searing melodies and savory harmonies that explore outside harmonization in a coherent and tangible manner that is sure to get the nod of acknowledgement from progressive guitarists. The compositional style is a mosaic of divergent styles and themes that lead the listener into different states of consciousness and then draw, drag, or abruptly pull them into other states with the calculated contrast between the contiguous segments that span arrangements and tracks. The musical stream takes the listener on a journey through hard-edged, heavy rock with a tendency towards metal / shred, funk and aggressive fusion, conventional jazz voicings, and a touch of classical / neoclassical to cover the bases.

One very notable track on this album is "Jam for Jason", an intensive acoustic composition that reaches towering heights with its superb clean-toned acoustic fret mastery. Fans of the Vinnie Moore style acoustic masterpieces will want to take a listen to this tribute to the great neoclassical master, Jason Becker. The change in venue is surprising and impressively illustrates Kollman's talented versatility.

Overall, I found the CD to have some sections that were really good and others that didn't capture my attention as well. But, the sections that did keep my easily fleeting attention were impressive enough to make this CD worthwhile for me, and maybe the other sections will grow on me in time. I particularly liked the combination of blazing runs, well-conceived melodies, creative harmonization (especially when articulated with speedy runs), funky rhythms, and fusion-laden guitar sections that seemed to me to be where the better part of Kollman's talent lies. I also found the diversity in musical concepts and integration into a coherent package that defies definition or categorization to be both compelling and impressive. These guys have put a lot of thought into and thrown a lot advanced musical theory at this album and I think most progressive music fans that can tolerate the onslaught of guitar domination will dig it. Check it out!

Guitar Jeff Kollman
Bass Barry Sparks
Drums Shane Gaalaas
1) Creepy Spider
2) Jam for Jason
3) Road to Tanzania / Tribal Trance
4) Winter in Innisfail
5) In Loving Memory
6) Creepy Spider Part II
7) Sea Broth
8) Godzilla's Revenge
9) Cauldron of Evil
10) Chinese Eyes
11) Funk N' Eh
12) Tribal Trance (Reprise)

~ Christopher Ruel ~ ~ ~ Chris Ruel's Monthly Spotlight

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Jeff Kollman: Shedding Skin (CD, 50:05) Marmaduke Records
Marmaduke Records
P.O. Box 6911
Toledo, OH 43612

If there's one thing you learn from listening to a lot of prog/rock/fusion
music, it's that lightning-fast guitar players are a dime a dozen.
Listeners are generally impressed the first couple of times they hear a
nimble fingered axeman set their fretboard on fire, but after you realize
that there's a ton of similar guitarists out there cutting CDs you begin to
get a bit jaded.  This causes the listener to begin looking for traits other
than speed to set guitar players apart.  The reason I'm bring this up is
because when I first fired up Jeff Kollman's latest CD Shedding Skin
I thought to myself "Great, another amphetamine-fingered guitar player with
an entire hour to kill noodling pointlessly with his instrument."  However,
after listening to the first few tracks I realized that Jeff Kollman is a
shredder with "the difference" - that difference being that he can actually
write a catchy tune and gets enough variance in his guitar sound to keep
things interesting through most of Shedding Skin.

Kollman's latest release teams him up with master drummer Shane Gaalaas, and
a host of guest musicians filling bass and piano duties.  The album starts
off with a nice acoustic riff introducing the title cut, but before long you
realize you're in for more of a heavy-metal ride as Kollman kicks in the
overdrive and begins a frantic sonic journey that has he, Gaalaas, and
bassist Ray Reindeau tearing through Dream Theater-esque metal runs as if
there was no tomorrow.  Reindeau contributes some spine tingling bass licks,
and Gaalaas establishes early on that he's a drumming force to be reckoned
with.  After the opening track, Kollman loses focus somewhat with two
less-than-stellar tracks - "Fat, Mean, and Nasty" which contains a lot of
pointless noodling, and "Blues for Pop" which is a standard Stevie Ray
Vaughn type roadhouse jam.  However, after those two sonic hiccups, Kollman
really catches stride.

The middle of the album features a diverse selection of styles including
Fripp-like Soundscapes on "The Subconscience," a tribute to metal-prog
stawarts Kings X called "The X Factor" (you'll swear that's Ty Tabor on the
rhythm parts), and a beautiful acoustic piece in "Intimate Portrait."  The
metal-tinged "Sheer Drama" has Kollman serving up some wicked sounds from
his axe as Gaalaas bashes away at the skins with reckless abandon, complete
with some Slayer-esque double bass drum fills.  "My Soul Deep Inside" is a
very soothing jazzy piece with some excellent and tastefully done piano work
performed by Dale Grisa.  However, the track that steals the show on
Shedding Skin has got to be "Journey Through Life," which features a
seriously mellow California-style groove coupled with Kollman's laying down
of some of the most incredibly melodic solos I've heard in quite some time.
Kollman really gives an emotional and very effective performance on this

Unfortunately, things begin to unravel a bit towards the end of the disc,
with Kollman taking an unfortunate foray into lounge jazz territory with the
embarrassing "The Color for Love."  Shedding Skin ends with a whimper
rather than a bang with three nondescript exercises in self-important
showing off that completely destroy the mood that was set by the tunes in
the middle of the disc. It's a shame that self-restraint couldn't be
maintained through the entire disc, but that is a lot to ask of musicians of
this caliber.

Overall, despite a few wrong musical turns, Shedding Skin is a very
solid piece of instrumental metal-fusion.  Kollman - more so than most of
his counterparts - really knows how to write a pleasant melody when he sets
his mind to it, and that fact coupled with his excellent drumming partner
Shane Gaalaas warrants this release a serious look from the metal and fusion

- Michael Askounes (

Jeff Kollman: Guitars, Bass (on Tracks 7,12,13)
Shane Gaalaas: Drums and Percussion
Kevin Chown: Bass Guitar (Tracks 3,4,9,10)
Ray Riendeau: Bass Guitar (Tracks 1,2)
Barry Sparks: Bass Guitar (Tracks 6,11)
Roger Burn: Piano and Keys (Tracks 3,4,12)
Dale Grisa: Piano (Tracks 9,10)

1. Shedding Skin (4:58)
2. Fat, Mean and Nasty (4:50)
3. Blues for Pop (4:00)
4. Journey Through Life (4:52)
5. The Subconscience (0:58)
6. Sheer Drama (4:35)
7. The X Factor (5:36)
8. Intimate Portrait (1:04)
9. The Color For Love (4:10)
10. My Soul Deep Inside (4:29)
11. Redeye Romp (3:38)
12. Where is One? (3:57)
13. My Guitar Gently Screams (2:58)

More information on Jeff Kollman can be found at

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Cosmosquad: Cosmosquad (CD, 54:33) Marmaduke Records 1997 Marmaduke Records P.O. Box 6911 Toledo, OH 43612 CYBERHOME: "Hey isn't that Steve Ray Vaughn?!?! No - wait a minute - it's Clapton, I just know it! WAIT! It's some cheesy, new age, acoustic guy! No, no, no. It's Steve Vai! Hold on a minute, it's --" It's Jeff Kollman - man of 1,000 styles and studio guitarist extrodinaire - and a couple of his buds, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen bassist Barry Sparks and ex-Michael Schenker Group (remember them?) drummer Shane Gaalaas. These fellows have gotten together and created Cosmosquad, whose self-titled debut effort can be best described as belonging squarely in the metal/prog/jazz/fusion/new age/blues genre. In other words, it's all over the place and as with most recordings that aren't particularly focused, Cosmosquad works in some places, and not in others. Before I get into specific tracks, I'd like to point out something that I think is an overlying issue that effects the entire CD. Kollman is a prolific session guitarist, and session guitarists often have to sacrifice their own personal styles for the style of the artist their working for. While that's actually GOOD on other people's work, carrying that over into your own work can be a problem. On Cosmosquad, Kollman SOUNDS like a session man in his own band, and not a creative stand alone artist. There's no doubt that the man's got some serious chops, but without doing anything innovative with them he's not utilizing his skills to the fullest potential. The CD is full of impressive axe work, but the CD is NOT full of what it needs most - a soul. Cosmosquad seems to get its best results when it shows the metal side of itself. Hard-edged tracks such as "I.N.S. Conspiracy" and "Stretch Hog" feature seriously aggressive guitar riffs, and killer drumming by the very talented Shane Gaalaas. The band is also effective in a more mellow mode with the acoustic ballad "Missing You," which will have you pouring yourself a scotch and kicking band in the E-Z chair. Finally, Kollman and Co. really hit the mark with the sultry blues number, "Slowburn," where Kollman's guitar playing is reminiscent of some of Jimmy Page's finer moments. As a matter of fact, I can imagine Robert Plant screaming "Since I've Been Loving You" over top of the tasty groove that Cosmosquad lays down here. Nice work. Unforunately, things are quite as rosy on other tracks - the first two tracks "El Perro Vaila" and "Three A.M." sound like Steve Ray Vaughn tribute tracks rather than original compositions. And of course, as on every other fusion guitarists' albums, "lounge land" beckons and insists that Kollman and the boys take an wrong turn into smooth jazz land with the ill-advised cuts "The Scene" and "Pugs in Central Park". It's almost as if Jeff Kollman wants to prove to the world that he can play in every style imaginable. Well, I'm convinced. Unfortunately I'm a little bored, too. If Kollman and Cosmosquad could make a decision to focus on one or two particular genres (preferrably metal/blues), I'm certain they could make a killer album. Also, even though I know this may be blasphemous in fusion circles, but whoever said you can't throw a vocal or two on some of these fusion CDs? Some of the tracks on Cosmosquad just screamed for vocal accompaniment, and I think the boys should give that avenue a try on their next effort. The musicianship is definitely top-notch on Cosmosquad, it's just the talent is mostly wasted on fusion cliches and what amounts to a lot of pointless noodling. - Michael Askounes ( CREDITS: Jeff Kollman: Guitars Shane Gaalaas: Drums and Percussion Barry Sparks: Bass Guitar TRACKLIST: 1. El Perro Vaila 2. Three A.M. 3. The Scene 4. I.N.S. Conspiracy 5. Epapo Funk 6. Missing You 7. Stretch Hog 8. Pugs in Central Park 9. Slowburn 10. Galactic Voyage More information on Cosmosquad can be found at

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