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05/13/2015
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Planetary Coalition We say: Metal guitarist turns the volume all the way up to … five?

Alex Skolnick—who was in Californian thrash metalers Testament, helms his own hard rock trio and has appeared with Rodrigo Y Gabriela—here dials down the volume, picks up acoustic guitar (mostly) and teams up with top-flight world music players in New York. The results are somewhere between Al Di Meola, Paco de Lucia, Shakti and the Robert Plant/Jimmy Page "Unledded" project. The instrumentation runs from Chinese lute (pipa), Turkish zither and oud (played by Adnan Joubran of Le Trio Joubran) to santoor and tabla.

The energy and diverse musical reference points steer this away from world-meets-New Age. When Rodrigo Y Gabriela drop by for fire and fury on "Playa La Ropa" or Skolnick plugs in electric guitar (at Joubran's insistence apparently) for the exotic and searing "Rock of Ramallah" this can be quite thrilling.

Elsewhere we're in central China for the more reflective passages in "Return of the Yi People" (with pipa) and India for the energetic "Passage to Pranayama" with tamboura, violin, and Indo-Canadian singer Kiran Ahluwalia bringing a soaring vocal part. A fine fusion of acoustic-driven rock and world music, and 14 stand-alone pieces which end with the gentle mystery of "Sleeping Gypsy". Very appealing.