ABI VON REININGHAUS – KING OF HEART

Out now on Alnico Records

Now here is something for fans of melodic guitar instrumentals to get excited about and an album to just pass our attention despite being released in 2009. German guitarist Abi von Reininghaus is somewhat of a tone guru favouring vintage amps and guitars, and as just a cursory listen reveals also old school guitar sensibilities i.e. a firm grasp on a decent melody, more than a cursory nod to the subtle art of dynamics (a skill all too often lost on the modern hyper gain generation of today) and also a skill of managing to write interesting compositions across a variety of genres.

King Of Heart proves that Abi is, like fellow countryman Thomas Blug, a player of fine calibre and proves there is life beyond the over satchuration (sic) of Satriani, Vai, Johnson etc that guitar media worldwide would have us believe is all that’s out there in the instrumental field.

Onto the music leads us in a rich bag of genres from the melodic gems of “Seven Friends”, “Remember Me”, “Pacific Coast Highway” to fine acoustic compositions “Clara’s Lullaby” and “The Wedding” to fusion inspired rock of “Pacific Coast Highway” and the stunt guitarwork found in “Captain Locrian’s Revenge” and much more.  All is exceptionally well played with great tone, clean execution, good intonation and solid vibrato, Abi is what you would call a players player and someone all musicians out there will get a kick of out listening to.

So all in all this is a fine offering at the lighter end of the guitar instrumental spectrum and one worth checking out.

Rating – 86%

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MARCEL COENEN – GUITARTALK

Out now on Lion Music

Sun Caged guitarist’s 2003 solo album gets a limited edition digipack reissue (500 copies) with a bonus track of a cover of Joey Taffola’s ‘Six String Souffle’.

ORIGINAL REVIEW AS FEATURED ON VIRTUOSITYONE IN 2003

Now you might be thinking “who the hell is Marcel Coenen?”, to be honest I thought the same thing but after listening to this album a lot lately its one name that is gonna get spread around more by the week.

Marcel hails from Holland and if his bio is anything to go by has created something of a buzz on the European circuit. His first claim to fame came with the act Lemur Voice who released their debut album, Insights, on the Magna Carta label in 1996 and their second and final release Divided in 1999 through Telstar Records. In 1998 Marcel competed in the Dutch National Guitar Championships and won the rock category resulting in an endorsement from Ibanez guitars.This solo album originally came to light in 1999 originally as a cd-r with home recording. Its has however seen a re master since then and whilst not being a mega buck production job that the likes of Vai or Satriani can afford the luxury of, it does showcase what a good set of ears can achieve with modest equipment.

So what does the listener get on ‘Guitar Talk’? Well guitar would be the obvious answer but along with the oodles of fretboard antics on offer you get an insight into an artist that shows he has the goods and should only get better with age. The style is a hybrid of the stylised instrumental guitar workouts of Satriani and Vai, but it also has a prog metal element to it reminiscent of bands like Symphony X and to a lesser extent Adagio.

Opener Independence Day is a heavy tune which sees Coenen utilising a 7 string guitar for added gut wrenching growls. Marcel states in the liner notes that people have compared it to Haji’s Kitchen meeting Meshuggah. My own personal opinion is that its pretty darn sinister with a Pantera esque rhythm part over which a moody melody builds the tension before fast flurries of fretboard extravagance. Odd time signature abound but it all holds together into a cohesive unit.

Race Against Time is in the 80’s shred mold, very Racer X with a driving riff followed by huge arpeggio leaps. Its not all about shred, with a nice mid section breakdown for some great harmonised melodic lines where Coenen’s guitar really breathes. A few Tony Macalpine tapped licks lead us back into the Racer X style – impressive

Inner Alchemy sees the tempo slow and mood become more reflective with a very melodic Satriani-esque ballad. A nice piano underscore allows the guitar to really shine before drums enter with some nice synth pads – the feel of the track reminds me quite a lot of Joe Satriani’s ‘Crying’. This track really does live up to the title of the album as the guitar does indeed talk. Coenen describes this as a song from his heart and it shows – beautiful.

Fusion came about after Marcel was messing around with his drum machine. The track is certainly fusion in style and the guitar playing reflects this attitude with some quite freeform leads. It again has a very strong melody. The feel of the track has a little Vai quirkiness, a little Holdsworth cool and a hint of Steve Morse – another highlight.

The tempo picks up and the skies darken for the neo-classical tinged Rebel. Reminiscent of Cacophony meets Yngwie thanks to big arpeggios and harmonic minor and diminished runs, Marcel even quote a riff from Yngwie Malmsteen’s Krakatau 2 minutes in. Some of the rhythms are pretty intense all driven on by double bass drumming (where the drum machine does sound a little mechanical) but the overall effect is another pleasing composition.

Fairy Tale sees the fusion sound re-enter with some more of the Satriani vibe mentioned earlier. The origins of this song started in 1992 so it shows Coenen had the ability to pen compelling tunes in him years ago. Scattered throughout we have some nice twin voice guitar parts, overall the song has a strong structure and melody.

The Wet Season sees a more bluesy vibe enter the fray, again another strong melody and some nice use of different pickup positions for texturing the tone. In places it reminded me of Eric Johnson meets Steve Vai on a summer night!

Anthem is up next. If you’ve ever wondered what the Dutch national anthem sounds like – well here’s the rocked up version. Like all anthems it has a very majestic quality but then it dives into an absolutely slamming rhythm before the melody is intensified ten fold with wide intervalic runs and odd counter harmonies. Nice!

Another very heavy track raised its head in Shoreline. Again Coenen makes nice use of twin leads and the drop D riffage underneath creates a nice basis for the lead melody to work over. Coenen also shows off some very scary speed riffs on this track.

Moyra sees the mood switch over to the romantic, with Coenen penning this tune for a special friend. This track was written and recorded in March 2003 and shows the growth Marcel has made as a player over some of the earlier tunes on the album. Again a strong Satriani vibe enters the fray, but it must be said that the melody is stronger than anything on the last couple of Satriani releases – another highlight.

Move That Groove may have one of the most comical song titles but the music is again very strong indeed. Coenen credits this track as being in the Satriani vein and who am I to disagree. Again this is coming more from the ‘The Extremist’ end of Satch’s repertoire. The song is pretty straightforward in 4/4 time but it has a nice driving groove.

The album ends with an atmospheric track in the guise of Endless. Marcel makes nice use of the acoustic guitar which is coupled with some sweet electric volume swells to really add atmosphere and space to the track. After the sonic onslaught of a lot of this album its nice that it ends of a more spaced note and indeed calls out reflection of the album. To end the album with another highlight makes sure the cd ends with a good impression.

So is Marcel Coenen the new guitar god to challenge the throne held by Satriani and Vai? Well no, but as a debut release this is a very impressive outing that should have the two aforementioned names at least looking over their shoulders. Sure the Satch and Vai influences are apparent but they are used in a way they makes Coenen stand out from the pure imitators and there are many glimpses of a true original voice lurking throughout. It will be interesting to see what Marcel delivers on his next album, I for one hope that he proves me write and delivers the goods. In the meantime this is a fine selection of material and if you’re reading this Satriani how about offering this guy a slot on any future European G3 gigs?

Hot Spots : Inner Alchemy, Fusion, The Wet Season, Moyra, Endless.
Rating : 86%

NIELS VEJLYT – STHENIC

Out now on Lion Music

Debut instrumental solo album from Danish guitarist and mastermind of Infinity Overture one Niels Vejlyt.  As is nearly always the norm for this sort of thing from Lion Music we get highly competent playing over listenable songs.

With a heavier edge than many of ilk, no doubt aided by Vejlyt’s penchant for 7 and 8 string guitars, this is a nice offering for anyone into similar works from the likes of Jeff Loomis or John Petrucci.  Tracks like “Die Today”, “Rain” and particularly “Samurai” are solid compositions with good melodies and a good sense of direction – no aimless fretboard wanking here.

In addition there are moments of lighter note such as the anthemic Vai-esque timbres of “Head’s Up” (the clue to the Vai influence being in the title perhaps?) and the piano/guitar balladry of “Kajsa” whilst closing number, the 9 minute “Winter” sums up the various moods of the album in one composition rather nicely.

With a better production than many heard of late and a nice mix from Tommy Hansen (Helloween) this is a very solid package indeed and a nice addition to any fan of guitar instrumentals collection – cool artwork too by Matthias Noren.

Rating – 84%

WHITESNAKE – LIVE AT DONINGTON 1990

Out now on Frontiers

As someone who witnessed the Slip Of The Tongue tour, I have to say I raised an eyebrow when confronted with the prospect of a live album from this tour. As I remember the gig, Coverdale’s voice was shot, and there was remarkably little chemistry to the band.

Did I catch them on an off-night? This live album, taken from the band’s gig at the 1990 Monsters Of Rock, might tell… (the day where Thunder and Aerosmith blew them away -Ed)

The setlist is evidently firmly based on the ‘Slip Of The Tongue’ album. And from the off, it’s obvious Coverdale is straining. He’s singing way above his natural register, as he has been doing since 1987, and continues to do to this day. I guess having one of the all time classic soulful voices doesn’t cut it for Dave…

As long as he sticks to his natural voice (“Judgement Day” or “Is This Love” for instance), the magic is there. But then he insists on going Robert Plant on us and it all falls apart in a rather painful way. When he does get it together, like in “Slow And Easy”, it’s brilliant.

The band delivers a solid performance, if you can stomach Vai’s idiosyncrasies in the older tunes. Vandenberg is a better fit musically, and more than holds his own. Even if his solo spot starts off as a pastiche of Michael Schenker’s “Courvoisier Concerto”. The inclusion of some of Vai’s solo material makes it all the more obvious he was just using Whitesnake as a way to help further his solo career.

This recording sounds untampered. A bit messy even. It does add to the live mood. If they’d done overdubs, some of Coverdale’s more painful moments would have been cleaned up.

So, is this a bad album? Not at all. It captures Whitesnake at their commercial, if not musical, peak. I’d buy Live… In The Heart Of The City or Live… In The Still Of The Night before this one though.

If they’re going to be releasing old live material, how about the live video from Whitesnake’s first Donington gig, the rather good “Commandos”? That one’s long overdue for a DVD release.

Rating – 80%
Review by the aimed and firing like a gatlin gun Sancho.

DANIELE GOTTARDO – FRENZY OF ECSTASY (ARCHIVE)

 

Out Now – Favoured Nations Digital

Long recognized in the underground guitar scene as one of the most heralded of the YouTube generation of uber shredders, Daniele first came to prominence as a voted finalist in the Guitar Idol competitions in both 2008 and 2009. In 2009 he was recognized as Steve Vai’s personal award winner, his prizes included a recording contract for Vai’s Favored Nations label.

Daniele has taken full advantage of this opportunity! Having already seriously honed his craft touring incessantly with some of Italy’s most well known pop acts, Daniele gets right down to business on this scintillating debut release. Daniele ripples off serious run after serious run whether picked staccato, shimmering legato or finely articulated eight finger tapping, Daniele has mastered all of these techniques. Ultimately though, what sets Daniele apart, is the quality of the melody evident in his song writing which enhances the tone and conviction of his performance. Personal favourites include “Cardiology” (2009 Guitar Idol finalist submission) “Marakkesh Market” and the rockier “Apocalypse Ape” (Daniele informs me that Ape means bee in Italian).

Daniele has set the standard very high indeed with impeccable technique, demonstrated with flair and disarming facility. Don’t believe me check out some of his YouTube videos. Serious fans of instrumental guitar should get this CD!

Rating – 90%
Review by Mike Blackburn

MARTY FRIEDMAN – TOKYO JUKEBOX (ARCHIVE)

Out now on Mascot Records

 When one of the worlds’ best metal lead guitarists decides to release an album in the J-Pop style (that’s Japanese Pop for those not in the know) then you are right to feel a little trepidation.  However, if you look into what makes up J-Pop then you will discover it’s nothing like the pop we know in Europe or the USA.  Manufactured “pop idol” and gangsta rap don’t come into the equation in Japan, but rock does and it appears rock transcends all genre boundaries and fully embraces itself into pop culture – hoorah.   

So former Megadeth fret blisterer Marty Friedman (who is seen as a demi-god in the land of the rising sun) has not only moved to Japan to fully embrace its culture but decided to get himself a piece of J-pop action as it where (arguably the next logical step after moving there) and the results are on his new album “Tokyo Jukebox”, which is instrumental versions of popular Japanese tracks and in all honesty its not half as bad I feared it might be.   The songs were chosen in part by the readers of “Nikkei Entertainment!”, Japan`s all time number one entertainment magazine, which features a popular page on Marty each month for over three years and still going strong.

Essentially this is big guitar melodies over rocking back beats (mostly supplied by  Steve Vai drummer Jeremy Colson), its modern in its approach yet also classic in its melodies and for guitar fiends this is all rather enjoyable, although it does feel a little “novelty” in places thanks to a lot of the programmed backings where it does sound a little karaoke, or should that be guitaroke?  Friedman however sounds more inspired that he did on his last solo album “Loudspeaker”, however whether this will manifest itself into big time spent on my jukebox remains to be seen as although its all good fun when its on I don’t find myself wanting to put it on again, yet when it is on I don’t find myself skipping.

Time will tell but for now this is competent enough and Friedman delivers strong lead work over a different format to what many fans may be used to.  Give it a chance.

Rating – 75%



SEVEN THE HARDWAY – S/T (REVIEW)

Out Now on Mascot Records

Seven the Hardway is a 5-piece progressive rock/metal band formed in 2009 by guitar virtuoso Tony MacAlpine (Steve Vai, Planet X, CAB), legendary drummer Virgil Donati (Planet X) and renowned vocalist Mark Boals (Uli Jon Roth, Royal Hunt, Yngwie Malmsteen).  Joining MacAlpine, Donati and Boals are bass player Doug Shreeve and 21 year old Argentinian newcomer Stefanía Daniel on guitar though this pair according to the complete lack of their names in any capacity on the inlay booklet suggest they have joined after completion of the album for live work as Macalpine is also credited with bass on the album in addition to Guitar and keyboards.

This 10 track debut album has been mixed by Roy Z and is a completely different kettle of fish to when the core trio last collaborated in the neo-classical band Ring Of Fire.  Musically this is being marketed as progressive yet alternative metal might well be a better genre to go with.  Vocally this is far away from anything I have really heard from Boals.  Gone is the trademark operatic wail to be replaced by a much darker timbre and in the case of opener “Liar” a bit of an need to be Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell rolled into one with Alice In Chains style vocal harmonies.  Not what was expected at all. 

The vocal weirdness is prevalent pretty much throughout the album yet hits its nadir with the mock rapping of “Guilt” – yes really.  The AIC ism’s return for “Solitary Man” over a nice odd time signature dirge of a riff from T-Mac which does fare a little better.    The dark acoustic tone of “Where I’m Going” is better, yet “All I Had” is trying to be modern metal and is a complete write-off to these ears and I have to ask, Is Boals singing off key on purpose?   “Blame” plays around a riff the likes of Soundgarden might get away with yet lacks any staying power.  “The Wall” offers up hope with a faster tempo and is as progressive as the album gets in its musicality and even Boals appears to be trying a little harder here, yet we are treated (cough) to some vocal fx just in-case we might get a hint of the Boals of old, or so it feels like.  And so the album progresses until closure, and nothing manages to raise the quality level.

When I first received this album I was rather excited.  3 of my favourite musicians over the years, who have made excellent music both collectively and individually in the past, this should have been good.  That excitement quickly disappeared.  Vocally its dated already, perhaps more so than Boals operatic wailings from the Yngwie days, musically there is the odd peak but not anywhere near enough to maintain any real interest.  Progressive fans will find this samey and dare I say it bland, modern alternative metal fans will most likely look at the personnel and dismiss it straight away and the grunge boat sailed 15 years ago so it’s hard to see what audience this will appeal to?  Perhaps I am missing the point completely? All I know is that is a huge disappointment from start to finish and is topped off by poor artwork, which coincidentally bears no resemblance to the look being portrayed on the bands new website!

 A major major letdown.

Rating – 30%