It has occurred to me that through many a trial, and an equal number of errors, one of the most crucial steps in a recording project is the final mixing. You can sweat every detail, lay down killer riffs, sing your heart out and give it your all, but if you’re burying all that flash in the final mix, what was it for? If that sounds like a negative way to start off a CD review, you get the gold star.

Dec Burke is a guitarist and vocalist for the UK group Frost* and the former guitarist/vocalist for Darwin’s Radio. Destroy All Monsters is his first solo effort and Burke has come up with some pretty good tunes for his first at bat. The problem is that the mix screws the whole thing up. Take, for example, the song “Small Hours” — the opening section and verses sound well balanced, nothing jumping out, no red flags. The performances are fine; Burke has a solid voice, and is a talented instrumentalist. However, we get to the chorus and all ‘center-channel’ sound drops out and things go to extreme left and right. It’s not a pan but a sudden and completely confusing change of tactic. Worse, because of the change, the bass response is diminished, leaving the choruses, which should be the most important part, sounding flat. All the punch is gone.

The first track, “The Last Time,” finds the keys mixed all the way up front, way above the vocals, guitars, everything. As a textural centerpiece, the synth sounds are of a blippy-bloopy nature, which is not uncommon for rock songs based in a prog background, but they’re usually mixed down further in so that they support everything else rather than smothering them. To say I was taken aback by just how prominent and distracting they were is an understatement. “Signs of Life” starts with a keyboard section, all of which sounds very clean and distinct. Then, when the rest of the instruments fall in, we get that audio muddling again and the effect is like going from satellite radio to an AM station.

None of this would matter if the songs were terrible, but sadly (and how bizarre that I should be sad about this), the majority of the songs are pretty good and quite promising. Destroy All Monsters has the awful distinction of containing decent material that has been sabotaged by that all-important final step, the mixing process. It is, because of that broken link in the chain, why I can’t fully recommend the CD. You can tell Burke put his best efforts out there but, in the end, if you can’t clearly hear them, the point is lost.I know, intellectually, a good tune can survive even the worst presentation, but in this day and age, why should that even be an issue?

I’m hoping that somewhere down the line, Burke is able to take another crack at the mixing process, or have someone come in and take a whack at it. He’s a musician that ought to be heard, but not like this.

Destroy All Monsters is available from Amazon.