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Mike Campese - 2011 - "Electric City"

(76:21, ‘MC Music’)



1.  Eleventh Degree 5:45
2.  Shred Machine 5:13
3.  Heavy Thing 4:55
4.  Cruising across the Mojave 5:46
5.  Over the Top 5:40
6.  Kauai Blue 5:24
7.  Closer to the Sun 4:01
8.  Napali Coast 5:11
9.  Punk Ass 3:59
10. LandShark 5:25
11. Shred 5:02
12. The Bitch Upstairs 5:12
13. Butterfingers 3:58
14. Camelryde 10:50


Mike Campese – vocals; most instruments, programming
Matt Bielinski – drums 
Art Bernstein – drums 

Prolusion. US composer, music teacher and guitarist Mike CAMPESE has been active in a plethora of bands and has an extensive solo career behind him too. He is arguably best known by the public at large for his stint in Trans-Siberian Orchestra, while connoisseurs may be more familiar with his seven solo albums and steady stream of articles in guitar enthusiast magazines. "Electric City" is his most recent solo production.

Analysis. Just to get this out of the way at once: if you're a guitarist with a keen interest in what your fellow guitarists are up to, an aspiring guitarist in search of inspiration or just an enthusiast of metal guitars in general and shredding in particular, Mike Campese’s latest effort should be an item you're already familiar with, and, if not, a production you will want to investigate. From an enthusiast's point of view there's plenty to enjoy on this disc, especially if you enjoy encountering the "how did he do that?" moments when listening to a good guitarist. Personally I don't belong to the category of people with that much of an interest in pace and technical skill in themselves, however. I appreciate quality performers by all means, but by preference within a larger context. How an instrument is applied within a compositional whole in particular, and seen from that point of view "Electric City" isn't quite as impressive to my ears. Most times when I encounter an instrumentalist with a fair degree of success outside of a specialized nice segment, it will be one who knows how to apply restraint to his or her endeavors, showcasing technical and instrumental skills carefully, focusing on themes, motifs and the compositional whole. In that department I find quite a few of the pieces on this disc wanting. Technically impeccable for sure, and highly impressive as far as showcasing pace and instrumental skill, but as complete compositions tracks like Shred Machine and Landshark in particular failed to make an impact on that level. Other excursions work better due to a slightly more elaborate supporting set of textures, even if the compositional whole is blatantly overshadowed by instrumental showcasing. On a fair few occasions Campese explores creations of a different nature too: pieces where restraint has been applied, at least to some extent, and where the role of the supporting instrumentations takes a more central place, sometimes without quite succeeding. Kauai Blue is an example of that to my ears, sometimes with partial success, with final piece Camelryde being a good example of that: not quite enough restraint in the shred department being my main issue with these efforts. Camelryde has all the makings of a really great tune, but the emphasis on technical showcasing in the elongated mid-part weakens the impact of this otherwise engaging and intriguing Eastern/Arabian-tinged creation. Heavy Thing and the following Cruising across the Mojave are on a different level altogether however. On these two efforts, Campese has crafted two brilliantly engaging compositions and also managed to restrain the showmanship in favor of the compositional features. Not all the way through, but with enough care given to the motifs and themes to give them the freedom to soar: two pieces of shining magic amidst a stack of slightly flawed gems and the occasional rock. This when regarded as complete compositions rather than instrumental showcases, just to stress that this is an impression written from that specific point of view.

Conclusion. If you play metal guitar yourself, subscribe to magazines like Guitar World or Guitar Player or just have a strong fascination with guitarist solo albums in general and shredders in particular, "Electric City" is a production you probably should have on your purchase list. For those more keen on such escapades as applied within a greater context should approach this item with a bit more caution, and I would advise the curious in this department to lend an ear to the songs Heavy Thing, Shred and Camelryde for an initial impression.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: December 7, 2011
The Rating Room

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Mike Campese


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