Sound — 8
Before he was a teenager, Vinnie Moore had been rocking out on his guitar well enough to be professionally performing in his tiny home state of Delaware, but after getting spotlighted in Guitar Player Magazine for his instrumental prowess by age 20, his career would take off running as one of the vanguards of the shred guitar scene. Throughout the mid-'80s and '90s, Moore's career spanned from his shred-showcasing solo albums, to working with other bands like Vicious Rumors, as well as appearing on Alice Cooper's 1991 album "Hey Stoopid," sharing the same guest musician bill as other guitar greats like Slash, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen and Mick Mars.
Moore's activity in the current millennium has slowed down a bit, however, more or less due to the cooling down of the shred guitar craze. After his sixth solo album, 2001's "Defying Gravity," Moore's solo catalog would collect dust while he was soon recruited as the next lead guitar player for the long-standing heavy metal band UFO. Having only released another solo album during his tenure with UFO six years ago (2009's "To the Core"), the past couple of years have shown Moore in high gear in the studio; not only continuing his work with UFO, Moore also played the role of guitarist for the new band Red Zone Rider, and has also just released his eighth solo album, "Aerial Visions."
From the eight-year span of "Defying Gravity" and "To the Core," Moore's style of composing solo albums went from the standard shred guitarist tropes of neoclassical guitar style and flamenco acoustic riffing, and "To the Core" showed more elaboration in songwriting as a whole - with Moore's lead guitar playing more reserved in some areas, there was more focus on guitar layers working in groups, more synthesizer elements, even some guest saxophone parts. In "Aerial Visions," Moore focuses the spotlight back on his lead guitar acrobatics, which seldom leave any moments without throwing in some peppy hammer-on licks, tremolo picking ascents, or full-on shredding fits - every song features a hodgepodge of all this, but Moore's lead guitar-work is especially relentless in "Mustang Shuffle," "Aerial Vision," "The Dark Dream." Moore also wields some unconventional guitar sections to diversify things, heard in the warm whale-song-esque swells in "Faith," and the noise guitar layers that break things down in the bridge of "Now's the Time."
But even with Moore's lead guitar sitting back on top of this compositional hierarchy, "Aerial Visions" still makes its genre flavors and instrumental arrangements to be a full-bodied experience rather than just simple backdrops for Moore's shredding. Mainly, "Aerial Visions" shows a penchant for a southern rock flavor, heard in the swingy rhythms of "Mustang Shuffle," the slap bass-touting "Aerial Vision," and Moore's punched-up cover of ZZ Top's "La Grange" (though it would've been even better to hear Moore attempt to do Billy Gibbons' vocal parts in the beginning, just for the full effect), but the album also takes some turns into funky jazz fusion (in "Slam"), '80s-style power ballads (in "Looking Back" and "Calling Out"), and the final song "A Million Miles Gone" is especially elaborate - in its near-seven-minute span, it goes from a soft rock acoustic ballad (also being the designated area for Moore's flamenco acoustic guitar skills) to a heavy metal ballad, then closing out with a stronger and faster metal finish.
Lyrics — 8
(This album is entirely instrumental, containing no vocals or lyrics).
Overall Impression — 8
Though the past ten years have been sparse for Moore's solo work, the couple of albums that have come in this time have been pivotal in pushing his style forward from his out-of-fashion roots. With his reinvention from his neoclassical shred style into the more instrumentally-cooperative likes of "To the Core," the step forward shown in "Aerial Visions" bridges the gap between exploring different genre styles and maintaining an interesting instrumental effort all across the board, and having Moore indulge more in what he does best - playing guitar leads that could reduce a fret board into splinters.