Fund raising seems like the new way for artists, both smaller independent ones and bigger names, to make albums nowadays. The fact that something like this works in a time and age where everybody seems content with listening to music through streaming such as Spotify or simply download the music illegally from some torrent site is quite astonishing. I mean, people won’t buy an actual CD from a record store but they’re willing to pay beforehand for a product they haven’t heard a single note from – that’s being a fan, folks. I think it’s a great way to do things and it sure help musicians continue to make music without getting completely ruined financially. Italian guitarist Tommy Vitaly is a bloke who has done exactly that with his new record, his third, through GoGetFunding. Vitaly is a metal guitar player who comes from power metal, the European kind, a kind of metal I’m not all that comfortable with. Still, his Facebook shares shows a guy with a broad taste in music and many of the bands he’s into, I’m into as well, so I found an interest in checking him out because of that. What is interesting in Vitaly’s case is just how many well-known names he has managed to gather for his albums. I mean, Tommy isn’t a big name and an independent musician but still he managed to bring in guys like Thomas Vikström (Therion), Todd LaTorre (Queensrÿche), Mats Levén (Candlemass, Yngwie Malmsteen), David Defeis (Virgin Steele) and Zak Stevens (Savatage). Not bad. Not bad at all.
Vitaly’s debut album Just Me (2011) was an uneven give that showed a guy with lots of potential but screamed “debutant” a long way. The production was ok, sounded a bit demo, the arrangements and song structures were in many cases more cloning than just influences and the lyrics were sometimes slightly embarrasing but showed a guy that was learning, but I wouldn’t call the record bad at all. It did show a guy that was passionate and had a huge heart full of metal music. The follow-up Hanging Rock (2012) was an album that showed a guy who had learned shitloads in just one year and it was a huge improvement and even though I got somewhat carried away with my rating – much because of his improvements. The album is probably not 8/10, more like a seven – but a good album it is. But what gave the most pleasure was that the most obvious power metal influences had been replaced by more traditional heavy metal – heavy metal is in my DNA, kind of – even though his power metal past was very much around. But diversity makes for a much more fun listen, in my book. Now, five years in between albums is a pretty long time and Vitaly’s new record has been a long time coming for sure, so now that the new record is finally released, I was looking forward to sink my teeth into it – and this time it came with some big expectations.
The opening title track, sung by one Carsten “Lizard” Schulz (Dead End Heroes), is a fast paced metal track with an obvious power metal vibe but mostly this tune is classic 80’s metal. It strikes hard and the melody sticks right away and it really shows how much Vitaly has developed in the last few years. “The Lodge” is heavy and slower in pace but it comes with a punchy beat. It’s metal for sure, but to my pleasure there’s a lot of classic hard rock all over it. Sung by Apollo Papathanasio (Firewind), it comes with a really strong melody and even though the chorus isn’t “hitty”, it’s very memorable. Musically, I can hear references to both Yngwie Malmsteen and Iron Maiden. Great stuff! Vitaly wears his Malmsteen influence on his sleeve on the fast, neo-classical instrumental “Duel”, but he keeps his identity which keeps the worst clone comparisons at bay. Guest keyboard player Gabriels however, goes very Jens Johansson on us but he does it good so no complains from this guy there.
“Macabradanza” is inspired by a Neil Gaiman book called “The Graveyard Book” and means “The macabre dance”. It’s a gothic, yet heavy metal track with a big symphonic touch, like early Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force meets later day Nightwish. Singer Roberto Tiranti is probably known in power metal circles as he’s the voice of Italian PM-band Labyrinth and he does a great job here but it is his duet partner Chiara Manese that will rise an eye brow or two here. She has a big voice, quite operatic but at the same time sweet but with bite and without being the least Tarja Turunen annoying. She’s a find and hopefully we’ll be hearing more of her in the future. The song itself is a real killer and easily one of the best songs Vitaly has ever recorded. Up next is the acoustic ballad “Forever Lost”, a tune Malmsteen would have given his right nut to have written. It’s soft, mellow, beautiful yet dark and heavy in its stripped way. Henrik Brockmann (Royal Hunt, Evil Masquerade) does a phenomenal job here and this tune can very well give Vitaly his first hit – brilliant! On “Wings Of Doom”, Vitaly’s power metal past rises up hard – it’s fast with double bass drums going 100 mph with a sing-along football choir. It’s ok, but it’s not my cup of tea at all.
“Coraline”, sung by one Jan Manenti (Unity), is the second track to be influenced by the Gaiman book, starts out in a softer mood, continues with some strophes borrowed from The Phantom Of The Opera and then turns into a fast metal track. When the chorus turns up the song turns into a full-blown melodic rock tune and said chorus is just so brilliantly catchy it should result in a hit for Vitaly – single alert! A real killer! “La Bestia” is an instrumental track that comes with a mix of metal and more traditional hard rock. The Malmsteen influence is pretty obvious but since Malmsteen hasn’t written anything to write home about in 15 years, I embraced this track right away. Besides, it’s a good song no matter how obvious the influences are. And if we’re talking obvious Malmsteen influences, say hello to “Sinner”, sung by Fabio Lione (Eternal Idol, Rhapsody Of Fire, Labyrinth, Angra). It’s an ok song, but the influence is so big it really could have been an unreleased Rising Force tune. It’s still better than anything Yngwie has provided us with on his last few records. The album closes with “Joan Of Arc”, a bad-ass heavy metal tune where I hear early Iron Maiden and Hammerfall gone NWOBHM and a power metal twist. The melodies and arrangement is really good and the chorus puts the ball in the net – a very good tune.
This is without a doubt Vitaly’s best alum to date – and his most diverse as well. The variation proves that Vitaly has been looking outside his power metal comfort zone and since he has kept his identity, the album doesn’t sway away at all – it really sounds like an album by one artist even though he uses a lot of different singers. Solo records by heavy metal guitar players has a tendency to be a bit same same but Vitaly avoids to step into that trap. When you think of the fact that this is a budget recording done DIY style, it’s quite impressing just how good it sounds – maybe he could teach Yngwie how to do things without your album sounding like a rushed demo recorded through a tape recorder. Vitaly himself as a player has improved by every release and it’s so refreshing to hear a guitar player that doesn’t go overboard with guitar masturbation all over the whole album. Vitaly is tasteful and even though he’s fast he only plays exactly what the song needs – no more, no less. Highly recommended to fans of heavy and power metal with a soft spot for neo-classical guitar playing. Very good!
Other Tommy Vitaly reviews:
2. The Lodge
5. Forever Lost
6. Wings Of Doom
8. La Bestia
10. Joan Of Arc