[Review] Nathan Montalvo's 'Neon' Shreds Through the Best of the '80s

As a vocalist, it's sometimes really hard for me to sit down to listen to guitar virtuosos, but Neon has been one of the most inspiring, fresh things I've heard in a while. It was something I didn’t know I really needed and wanted to hear: a journey through a passionate fan's yearning for the '80s, as similar to myself. I can still hear a story even if I'm not exactly interpreting it correctly when I listen to any of these songs. Lately, when I've needed the metal energy without the temptation to sing or to just not listen to any vocals, this has been my go-to, listening to them as an album or mixed into a playlist. It's so authentically '80s that I love to mix it in between Def Leppard and Night Ranger. The album really resonates with me because I have always had a longing for the '80s and the whole emotion from this album is exactly that. At any point of this album I feel any part can be inserted into a NES or Sega Genesis game, everything just sounds authentic as is, like another soundtrack you can listen to in a game. If you've been craving some fresh '80s video game style-sounding guitar work similar to the likes Eddie Van Halen or George Lynch, you definitely want to check this out!

"Skytropolis" takes us through a world where I’m envisioning a kid exploring his hometown and seeing everything changed from what he knew it to be like from the '80s. It’s almost from a video game point of view is how the song sounds. I can relate to this kid walking through the streets just wanting to live out life in a different way than what you see others just happy with. I'm personally happier playing my NES than any Xbox game, or re-watching Back to the Future over watching a newer movie I haven’t yet seen. I love the clean part in the middle to change the pace of the song before this rad descending lead near the end of the track.

"Turn Back the Clock" is a tribute to '80s guitar styles and tones almost in memorandum as there’s also the urgency to revive it back to life. Heavy noticeable influences I could hear are Brad Gillis, Eddie Van Halen, and parts of the Terminator, while the music video (below) definitely has a huge Back to the Future vibe. At the very beginning, there is VHS play screen before it starts showing Montalvo gearing up in his '80s warrior uniform comprised of white tennis shoes, a shirt sporting Maxwell cassette tape brand, and an '80s belt in light blue '80s tight jeans as he picks up his pink guitar shown on the album cover and begins shredding. It’s also hard to not spot the EVH guitar and Marshall amps in the background. He looks around the room in disgust at the newer posters in the room, the updated flat screen TV, and the iPod charging on the speakers; then starts tearing the room apart. Ripping down the new boy band posters and kicking down the TV, they are replaced with posters of Iron Maiden, Van Halen, and E.T., as well as an older, bulkier TV with a VCR where the other was. He switches out the clock for a digital alarm clock like Marty McFly’s, causing his desk lamp to spark. The awesome '80s effects on the VHS tape were great along with seeing him rock the blue guitar too. I love how it comes full circle where he’s in the classic Maxwell logo pose on the couch with all his '80s items surrounding him and sparks are continuing to fly. Will we learn how this invention works?

"Wall Street" has such a soothing melody and a bluesy influence on it, like a Chicago/big city vibe. I love when it picks up, it isn’t too intense but the flow of all the instruments is so flawless and relaxing. There are all kinds of different melodies going on in what I’d call the chorus. This easily goes in with my easy listening playlist when I’ve been more in the more mellow Richard Marx mood. On the other hand, "Night Creeps" has a heavier metal tone like old school Judas Priest. It’s almost a galloping tempo with intense guitar licking start to finish. There are awesome fast, alternating harmonies the guitar almost battling itself. I can almost envision a shadow hiding behind objects when you turn your shoulder.

"Hakyokuseiken" has an awesome, intense intro feeling like you’re actually falling into another world, very Iron Maiden-ish. The guitar permeates through the speakers with the epic '80s soloing. I see this as a true showcase of influences from both video game and guitar heroes. My second favorite straight-soloing track on Neon. Viably his best shot on the axe on the whole album besides "Aqua".

"Aqua" is a fiercely sensual '80s arena “ballad” that I’ve become obsessed with. It is reminiscent of the Terminator love scene, and it honors the best of crooning love songs as Whitesnake would, the best elements of Steve Clark, and George Lynch’s seamlessness. The drum is pounding in your chest while this beautiful piece from the intro plays through most of the song, with elegant arrangements of it that has the most heart. This alone makes "Aqua" easily my favorite song. I’m a sucker for '80s romance, like Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor's, and I felt it immediately the first time I heard "Aqua".

"Neon" has a raw, progressive intro that really kicks into an "Eruption"-style guitar solo-song. The anticipation to hear the rest of the song was just really setting in felt like the right timing. It’s truly a spotlight on Nathan’s chops on the guitar. It also displays his deep love of Eddie Van Halen specifically and proves Montalvo has demanding shredding skills to contend with. "Swamp Stomp" immediately picks up the pace with an awesome inclusion of the voice box as heard in "Livin’ on a Prayer". I really love the tone when it sounds intricate with the guitar work; and the assortment of different elements in one song. This is one of my favorite guitar solo-like pieces on the whole album.

"Fall Into Me" is an acoustic track featuring a pleasant and happy melody with mainly picking and sweet chord progressions. The hand drums are a pleasant accompaniment and I like the selection to have them only in key parts, which adds a really nice and detailed touch. I loved the soft, higher octave that has moments to really shine, and the simple ending was absolutely spot on perfect. The intro to "Hot Shots" builds suspense before it pummels you with true 8 or 16 bit-video game style fire. It’s a really solid song through and through and keeps up with the pace of tempo changes amidst arguably the most variety in a song on Neon. There are sections where it gets slower or where the guitar work cleverly innovates itself and gains momentum. Hot Shots closes out the album with a personally interpreted classic '80s metal ending, which I could think of no better way to end it myself.

Buy Nathan Montalvo's Neon today! Hard copies are still in production but will hopefully be released later this year!


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