Lee McKinney - In The Light Of Knowledge (Sumerian Records)
Updated: Feb 5
For anyone who has listened to metal in the last two decades, odds are, Lee McKinney needs no introduction. As a brand ambassador for Kiesel Guitars and, of course, as the guitarist of Born of Osiris, he has been a staple of the metal community since metalcore evolved into deathcore and deathcore gave way to djent.
Continuing to push the limit of metal and progressive music, McKinney's second solo album, In The Light Of Knowledge (Sumerian Records) picks up where his 2019 debut, Infinite Mind, left off while exploring new territory. What follows is a trip through time and space guided by infectious grooves and ambient instrumentation.
Beginning with a catchy, upbeat synth line, "Crystal Song" introduces the album as a fantastic realm where so much is possible. For years, the music of bands such as Scale the Summit was referred to as 'adventure music', a term that could certainly be applied to "Crystal Song". This vibe continues right into the title track, which is the first of many songs to feature Adrián Terrazas-González (The Mars Volta, T.R.A.M.) on saxophone.
Tipping a hat to McKinney's career built on mind melting metal riffs, "Stormrage" kicks in with exactly this and delivers a satisfying dose of intensity. But because this is not your typical shred/djent album, the sax comes back under luscious guitar harmonics and and elegant synth work. The contributions from Terrazas-González really shine on "Haven", which sounds like something out of an anime like Outlaw Star or Cowboy Bebop: futuristic jazz at its finest.
A special surprise from the second half of the album is McKinney's impressive skills with flamenco stylings as heard on "The Reason". Though not as complex in structure as traditional flamenco music, it is a well placed change of pace and demonstrates the artist's wide palette of influences. Wrapping things up with "The Maven (In The Sky)", the album closes out with McKinney's iconic shredding skills, which is sure to leave listeners craving the next album.
The Metal Mayan rating: 5/5
This is the kind of album that inspires a feeling that I can only describe as 'being nostalgic for memories of the future'. Fans of vaporwave might understand this sentiment more than most folks, but go listen to "Haven" and tell me if you feel any different. Even after several replays, I couldn't get enough of this song.
While it was a shame that Lee McKinney didn't get to properly tour for Infinite Mind (tour pushed from 2019 to 2020, never rescheduled due to the pandemic), it was so great to hear that he had a new album coming. The title track and "Stormrage" are both excellent cuts to begin with if you only know McKinney from his work with Born of Osiris.
Visit your local record store and pick up a copy of In The Light of Knowledge, out now on Sumerian Records. Here's hoping we get that solo tour, I know I'll be front row for it!