HGR CD Review: John Hahn

JOHN HAHN – DARKNESS FALLS (no label) Guitarist John Hahn first rose to regional prominence after he joined Harpo in his late teens, honing his skills while playing the group’s rigorous touring schedule, and performing on their 1987 Armed to Deliver album. Hahn was subsequently discovered by Shrapnel Records head Mike Varney and featured in his Guitar Player Magazine, before signing with hard rock indie label Leviathan Records and issuing several solo recordings. His latest, Darkness Falls, exposes more of Hahn’s virtuosity and creativity over ten action-packed instrumental tracks. Hahn’s guitar skills are obvious from the get-go, but he executes his dazzling fretboard displays in the context of well-crafted, tight and varying arrangements that deploy colorful progressions and tempo shifts, and the ability to set and maintain moods. The overall direction of the CD is darker-toned, hard-hitting rock that runs the gamut from frantic to calm. The disc-opener “Next Day Air” blasts the album into action; a fast-firing, pedal-to-the-metal assault that jars the listener to attention. From there, Hahn delves into diverse terrain; taking jazz-like dynamics for a metal-rocking joyride on “Journey from Within,” and generating a leviathan neoclassical arrangement on the pounding “Storm Runner.” On the title track composition, “Darkness Falls,” Hahn constructs an oceanic, surging arrangement with waves of sonic ebb and flow. “Unbreakable” crunches down with a stern, stalwart heavy rock arrangement, while “Arabian Sails” offers a forceful metallic battle charge. Hahn mixes sullen and heavy dynamics on “Pitch Black” and the disc-closer “Ultraviolet,” with both tracks escalating from reserved and shadowy passages into full-thundering sonic storms. Hahn’s arrangements never stay in one place for long, with each track elaborating and exploring from its central riff, with Hahn’s guitar fireworks providing the coloration and detail. Recorded, mixed, produced and mastered by Hahn, Darkness Falls sounds big and towering, urgent and edgy. While guitar shred connoisseurs will no doubt savor John Hahn’s latest album, general purpose rock fans should appreciate the versatility of his virtuosity, and his skill of weaving it all together into both cohesive individual compositions and a unified, flowing set. (The CD can be obtained through John Hahn’s website, www.johnhahn.com.)