Dan Sugarman – [ Inside/Out | Part I ] (Album Review)

Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions in the name of love. After parting ways with the Deathcore outfit As Blood Runs Black in 2016, exceptional Guitarist, Producer, Songwriter, and Educator Dan Sugarman went home to care for his mother, who was terminally ill with brain cancer. Inspired to utilize his time off the road to fuel the flames of a solo career, he issued the debut solo disc, the 6-song Centersun, in 2016.

This, in turn, kept the muses flowing, and Sugarman began work on a new opus,[ Inside/Out | Part I ], a “living album.” Revealing one new song per month, the musician offered bonus perks and incentives to his fans with each additional track, and donated all proceeds to charities including the National Brain Tumor Society, Childhood Domestic Violence, ALS Research, and more. Balancing his love for his family and the need to create, he found something special with [ Inside/Out | Part I ]—but then tragedy struck and everything was, understandably, shelved.

Enter Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills, who contacted Sugarman in 2019 and invited the guitarist to join the Horror-themed Metal band in hitting the road to support 2018’s The Silver Scream. One world tour later and the guitarist had rediscovered his love of performance and sharing his music with the masses. Now, the product of those reinvigorated flames, [ Inside/Out | Part I ], Sugarman’s second solo LP, is set to arrive on Friday, May 15, 2020. (Please insert a “Thank God It’s Friday” joke here.)

Written over three years ago, the 6-song [ Inside/Out | Part I ] serves as a cathartic expression of the guitarist’s grief in the face of the passing of his beloved mother. An emotional journal written on his guitar strings, the instrumental collection opens with “The Unattainable,” a richly-toned journey through the frenetic fires of Rock-n-Roll. Undulating across a filmic score, Sugarman displays his ability to rage and rock out with crunchy guitars, and yet to offer subtle gasps for breath, as well.

This primes listeners for the Prog Metal dual of “Another Good Day On Earth, I Collect Them,” featuring another talented guitarist, Angel Vivaldi. Where “The Unattainable” ebbs and flows but maintains a crunchy performance, this track instead meanders through a more Progressive Metal approach that shows the technical proficiency of both Vivaldi and Sugarman. Shining like diamonds, the pair pave the way for an atmosphere of tension that builds into “Creatures of Circumstance,” which features Alex Campbell. Here, the guitars twang from inside an amorphous cloud before stepping into the heavenly light to deliver an anthemic blend of sludgy grooves that would make Pantera proud, anchored in fat bass and providing some arena-worthy moments.

Next, the sonic maelstrom of “Mind Frame” features up-and-coming guitar virtuoso Sims Cashion, and, pardon the pun, it is apt to blow your mind with its exceptional musicianship. Then, “Nova” detonates a wall of chunky sound that finds its groove quickly. Upon A Burning Body’s Ruben Alvarez steps into the madness to offer his guitar skills to this amazing rocker that travels through multiple soundscapes. Finally, dedicated in memory to Sugarman’s mother, Teri, who passed away in October 2016, “The Art of Knowing” is an emotional exploration of bluesy guitars, lulling percussion, and varying tones that set a beautifully relaxing mood. In this, the collection ends with that cathartic breath, the moment that we realize that all our struggles can be used to inspire positivity.

It can’t be easy to travel the path that Sugarman has been on for the past four years, but the exceptional musician’s ability to take his pain and author the striking [ Inside/Out | Part I ] is a beautiful testament to his emotional strength. Melding monstrously heavy riffs and emotive solos into a beacon of hope for fans, all while allowing himself to be swept away in the instrumental maelstrom, Sugarman shows that he has something immense to offer to Metal. A magnificent tribute to the enduring nature of love, Cryptic Rock gives [ Inside/Out | Part I ] 5 of 5 stars.

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