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TRACK LIST: 1. Instrumetal 4:28 2. Don't Quit Yer Day Job 4:49 3. Clark-san 0:18 4. Incontinental Breakfast 4:17 5. She Sleeps on the Moon 5:29 6. Algorhythm 4:22 7. Noises 0:39 8. The Gentle Art of Listening 5:58 9. The Bolero Unravels 5:43 10. Relax 3:25 11. Don't Quit Yer Day Job Alternative 4:49 12. Algorhythm Alternative 4:22 13. She Sleeps on the Moon 5:29 LINEUP: Elmo Karjalainen – standard rock instruments With: Christer Karjalainen – drums
Prolusion. Finnish composer and musician Elmo KARJALAINEN has been around for a good few years, with a past as a member of the band Deathlike Silence and presently active in Kilpi, Seagrave and Helena & Kalevi. A few years back Karjalainen also decided to release solo albums, of which four have appeared so far. "The Free Guitar Album" is the second of those, and was self-released in 2015.
Analysis. As one might expect by the album title, this is the solo album of a guitarist. Like most such productions it is instrumental, it does focus on the guitar as an instrument and, indeed, shredding will be found without having to listen all that hard. This isn't an album totally focused on technique, technical prowess and speed however, so it may well have an appeal beyond the crowd of fellow guitarists and guitar enthusiasts. Like many guitar albums, one of the main weak points of this one is the drums. Steady and unadventurous on the greater majority of tunes and, in some cases, like the opening track Instrumetal, they are also mixed too loud and have a too dramatic and frantic sound to them, which has a detrimental effect on the total experience, at least as experienced from a non-guitarist listener point of view. Mix and production both leave a bit to be desired at times too, as the album as a whole has something of a budget feel to it in that department. On the positive side I do note that Karjalainen opts to include well developed arrangements on the greater majority of the compositions, with supporting guitar riffs and floating keyboards used as building blocks in an arrangement rather than merely functioning as a backdrop for the guitar to play upon. That being said, the guitar is still the star of the show here, and Karjalainen has the good insight to provide a bit more than breakneck scale runs. Compelling, gliding and atmospheric solo runs are the order of the day here, with the fast-paced shredding exploding in planned and concise sequences more often than not. Some of the songs have a tendency to become a bit more flamboyant in the technical department as they develop, but you rarely, if ever, get the feel that a song is present merely to highlight whatever aspects of his talents the guitarist wants to showcase. Karjalainen is a skilled and clever guitarist and a decent composer too. He still has some developing to do if he's going to reach a substantial audience beyond the regular guitar hero-oriented crowd, in my opinion, but he does have a fine approach and a tendency to orient himself towards landscapes where his music will have a broader reach, as I experience his excursions on this particular disc. In fact, with better mix, production and a much better drummer he'd come a long way towards reaching this in my more or less humble opinion.
Conclusion. If you have a general tendency to enjoy instrumental solo albums focusing on the guitar, Elmo Karjalainen's second CD "The Free Guitar Album" should be right up your alley. His material does have qualities to it that come across as more developed than your average production of this kind, with well developed arrangements and a focus on other aspects than solely the guitar's role. As such, I suspect this album may well find favor among a few also outside of the key audience for recordings of this kind. Mix, production and drums are the weaker parts of the album, in my opinion, and may well be the details that limit its general scope more than any other aspects of it. An almost good album overall, but lacking the finer details to be a great one.
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