When solo records from guitar virtuosos are spoken of, guitar masturbation is often what comes to mind! The list of shredders that completely over play everything for an hour or so is endless and I usually get bored after just a couple of songs. But there are exceptions; Paul Gilbert, Richie Kotzen and Joe Satriani, to name a few. Together with guys like Yngwie Malmsteen, many of them also add vocals to the mix which, at least in my book, makes the result more varied and interesting.
Italian guitar virtuoso Tommy Vitaly (Vitaly from Italy… I wonder if he has heard that one before…) is one from the Yngwie school of guitar players, fast and aggressive, yet tuneful, melodic and sensitive. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with his his previous band, Italian power metal outfit Seven Gates and his previous solo record Just Me was a bit too uneven to give him his big breakthrough. But this time it took me just one listen to find that Vitaly has a way more elaborate product on his hands and this album feels much more professional than his last effort. Still, as a guitar player, Vitaly has always been faultless and even though he sometimes wears his influences on his sleeve, he does his thing extremely well. His technique and finesse is brilliant, but there is heart, soul and passion in his playing, not talk of a true love for metal that brings feel to the whole thing. Not only does he have a tight band backing him up, in Andrea Toricini (Vision Divine) on bass and ex Manowar drummer Rhino, he has also found himself some really impressive guests on this album to be the icing on the cake, especially in the lead vocal department.
Opener “Betrayer” features Mats Levén (Therion, Yngwie Malmsteen, Treat) on the voice and the song is, to use Tommy’s own words, Judas Priest meets Motörhead and I couldn’t agree more. As usual Levén nails it. What a headbanger! Next runner up, “Run With The Devil” is great, a classic metal song with some killer vocals from German singer Carsten Schultz, “Hands Of Time” is brilliant Yngwie plays Priest metal with a fantastic guitar melody and some stunning vocals from new Queensrÿche vocalist Todd LaTorre, also with Crimson Glory and “Forever Lost” is such an amazing metal ballad with an out of this world vocal performance from Virgin Steele singer David Defeis. Tommys’ love for power metal, a kind of metal that I usually have hard time listening to, shines through in “Idol”, a sing alongish track with huge Yngwie influences. But I found myself humming the chorus for hours after the album left my player. Not really my bag, but this is a really good song and the vocals by Michele Luppi (Vision Divine) is just great. There are a couple of instrumentals on here as well, the first one is called “Misanthropy” where Tommy’s Yngwie influence shines through a lot, but he never becomes a clone and the song is very emotional with an edge. The other instrumental is the title track and the best song on the entire album where Tommy lets his little Blackmore come out to play and also features a great Rainbow sounding keyboard solo from Ferdy Doernberg (Axel Rudi Pell, Helloween). Former Savatage and current Circle II Circle singer Zak Stevens guests brilliantly on “Icewarrior”, a very catchy and memorable melodic metal track. But not all is well here. “Heavy Metal God” is not a bad track, but the lyrics are so cliché that this song almost becomes unlistenable. If you are Manowar, maybe you will get away with this kind of rubbish, but otherwise these kind of lyrics are a big no no. Speaking of Manowar, their former guitar player David Shankle plays a blistering solo here, very good, but still no cigar.
To sum this up, this album is surprisingly good. Not that I have ever doubted Vitaly’s skills as a guitar player, but his last solo album was with the exception of a few songs, forgettable and quite frankly I had some doubts in the song writing department, but if you are into metal with power and neo classical influences, there are no worries for this one. The performances by everyone involved in this project are completely faultless too. Also, the production signed Vitaly / Toricini is very classy. I can’t help but wonder, if a more or less unknown guitar player from Italy can make an album sound this good, then why can’t a filthy rich Swedish Miami resident one do the same? Yngwie Malmsteen might be one of Vitaly’s heroes, but when it comes to new music I’d take Vitaly’s over Malmsteen’s any time.
Jon Wilmenius (8/10)
1. Betrayer (feat. Mats Leven on vocals)
2. Run With The Devil (feat. Carsten “Lizard Schulz” on vocals)
3. Hands Of Time (feat. Todd LaTorre on vocals)
4. Forever Lost (feat. David Defeis on vocals)
5. Idol (feat. Michele Luppi on vocals, Norifumi Shima and Ferdy Doernberg solos)
6. Misanthropy – Instrumental –
7. Heavy Metal God (feat. Carsten “Lizard” Schulz on vocals, David Shankle guitar solo)
8. Hanging Rock – Instrumental -(feat. Ferdy Doernberg keyboard solos)
9. Icewarrior (feat. Zak Stevens on vocals)