It’s not too hard to believe the fact that Living Colour’s breakout hit, “Cult of Personality,” was the catalyst for Shawn Christie’s whole musical career. Bullseye, his second album, very much reflects the genre-crossing (funk mixed with metal and hard rock) appeal of that song. The Philadelphia, PA musician says that his most recent work “runs the gamut of styles. Rock, hard rock, metal, prog metal, country, smooth jazz and fusion styles [are] all authentically represented.” The result is an impressively diverse feat of instrumental rock in the vein of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. Some of Christie’s major accomplishments as of late include winning a country radio contest in 2018, sharing the stage with numerous famous bands, including 10-time Grammy winners, Take 6, and of course, Bullseye. All ten compositions on Bullseye were recorded and mixed in Christie’s home studio. Mastering was done by Jeremy Krull for Strategic Sonics.
“Forever Summer” starts off appropriately enough with the sound of waves lapping the shore. The flashy rhythm guitars in the intro are a nice way of signaling a lead riff perfect for the beach. “Ladies and Djents,” on the other hand, sounds like the setting of the sun. Featuring intricate solos as well as a couple of palm muted breakdowns, it is a dynamic standout. Christie then goes rockabilly on “Blueberry Jam,” the fastest and shortest cut. This will certainly appeal to fans of both country and good ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll. By contrast, “Only When the Sun Shines” begins very quietly and moves along at a much slower pace without being plodding.
Once it erupts into that electrifying solo backed by bass, piano and drums, it quickly becomes one of Christie’s signature epics. “From the Six” hearkens back to the days of ‘80s MTV rock, albeit in instrumental form. Lots of different shifts in tone are to be found here, but the primary focus remains the spellbinding electric guitar work. Even the following song, “Isobar,” has its moments. It’s gentle and sweet, keeping it relatively simple with wholesome acoustic strumming. Its electric guitar work sounds like that of the legendary Peanuts composer, Vince Guaraldi. In the genre-defying spirit of Living Colour and other metal bands, the sweetness of “Isobar” precedes the heaviest moment on Bullseye, “Locution.” This one also has the killer bass grooves and that palm muted crunch of “Ladies and Djents,” only this time, it’s much more abundant.
“Distant Thought,” like its title suggests, is a contemplative slice of modern heavy metal. This is one of the best tracks to play when you’ve got a lot on your mind. I also really dug the overdriven tones of certain guitar parts! We get one last taste of jazz with “Intransigent,” which is fairly repetitious, but the saxophone is just enough to make this piece stick. I was reminded of Jeopardy! Music, funnily enough. Last but not least, “Still Chasing” offers more scorching riffs within a slow-burning, ballad-like structure. The way the guitar bends during the solos is rather impressive, and the drums sound as crisp as ever. I’ll admit, I normally don’t listen to instrumental rock, since I prefer to have words accompanying the music I listen to. However, guitar virtuoso, Shawn Christie, makes an incredibly strong case for the power of instrumentals with Bullseye. Give it a listen!