When I voluntarily tortured myself through the 11 tracks of Fasy’s (and Fasylive’s) 2023 rock album, quaintly titled "Rock," my friend A speculated whether I had developed a newfound fetish for pain. The concern was justified. Not only did I endure the album on loop, but I also subjected my eyes to the accompanying 3-part documentary, “Making of Rock” (yes, that's the actual title).
Fasy, legendary local rocker and demigod of guitar to a certain age group that probably regrets some life choices, is obsessed with "Rock" – a genre he has here reduced to a one-dimensional monolith. His 2007 album "Vengeance" included the prophetic “Rock and Roll is a Blessing." Fast forward to 2019, he bestowed upon us “The Valley of Rock.”
You can see the pattern emerging.
Come 2023, we're graced with “Rock,” opening with the unimaginative “Rock is Who I Am.” No, Fasy isn’t throwing shade at Dwayne Johnson or Chris Rock; this is all about Fasy's existential crisis with rock music. From witnessing rock's divine intervention in 2007, to braving its treacherous valleys in 2019, he now morphs into his ultimate form.
Fasy comes across as a rock vampire, periodically awakened from his dusty slumber by a loyal rock butler – "Pardon the disturbance, sire, but it's 1994, and the world craves your distorted guitar wails and lyrical banalities. The masses are desperate, my lord." Then, the butler discreetly tucks away a 2023 Animals as Leaders calendar, lest the master discovers that the musical world, including rock, has dared to evolve without him.
In this album, Fasy lavishes us with clichéd guitar riffs and musical motifs from a by-gone era – as anachronistic to today as cassette tapes and fax machines. I don’t want to say, "the 1980s called, and they want their music back," but there, I said it, but let's be clear: they don’t want THIS!
Sure, the drum and bass sections are commendably tight, owing to the talents of the younger members behind them. Fasy's guitar solos, while technically proficient, lack the soul and identity one might expect. Yet, adhering to the ancient decree that 'every song must feature a guitar solo,' we're treated to plenty of it. However, they don’t save us from the arrangements which are stale and uninspiring. There are no surprises here.
Fasy is an accomplished guitarist but a mediocre vocalist. The man’s greatest work has always been instrumentals. On this album, 11 years since the last, Fasy’s vocals sound even more strained as he attempts to punish himself strangling the life out of high notes. The listener, subjected to auditory asphyxiation by his attempts. The coup de grâce? The lyrics – a collaborative effort between Fasy and whichever random passerby decided to contribute – are a masterclass in banality and cringe-worthy attempts at profundity.
“Mau Vantha,” one of the album's ballads, is awash with unsettling botanical metaphors that now make me wary of my own houseplants. A remarkable achievement. Kudos to the producer, frequently seen in the "Making of" videos, for mercifully obscuring much of this lyrical porridge to indiscernible warbling in most of the songs. At least I can safely look at my cacti.
The "Making of" documentaries gifts us with an unintended revelation: a complete absence of creative process. The project is marred by too many cooks in the studio, each adding their own seasoning to a dish that was bland and uninspired from the start. It's a classic case of an artist too ensconced in their echo chamber, with Fasy having luxuriated in his for over two decades, leading to an album that speaks volumes of creative bankruptcy. It’s a problem not unique to him.
Fasy claims the album was a "live recording," a veiled attempt at distinguishing it from... well, every other studio album ever recorded. This pretentious snobbery, rooted in the echo-chamber of self-gloating, only detracts from the real task at hand: crafting something original, relevant and personal, and worth the listener's time.
This album is a monument to futility, so devoid of authenticity and imagination that one must ponder whether enduring this musical onslaught is the price we pay for Fasy's metamorphosis into his truest form: an actual rock. A sedimentary one, maybe.