(All Album Reviews by Windhawk)
(originally written for www.prog4you.com)
Michael Orlando is a US based musician, residing in "the Big Apple". Sonic Stomp is his debut CD, and is a self recorded, self produced and self released CD.
The musical style on this release is easily described. It's guitar. More precise, it is a release made to highlight Orlando's skill playing the guitar, set in a hard rock / metal frame. The musical universe explored is in the same neighborhood as Satriani explored on his first two releases, but somewhat heavier tinged with blues. Orlando is a bit more fond of shredding a la Malmsteen as well.
Now, as there are born guitar hero wannabes daily, and quite a few of them manage to showcase their skills through a CD either self released or on a label, the question is if Orlando sets himself apart from the hordes of other guitar players trying to be the best, fastest and most skilled east and west of the Atlantic.
And Orlando does set himself apart to some degree. Like Satriani, and only a few other guitar players, Orlando has laid down some serious work in the musical backdrops here. The songs aren't just put together to form a foundation for soloing, but come across as carefully thought out songs, with good riffs, several sections showcasing the individual songs melody, and a lot of work have gone into making actual songs here that has a beginning, a development and an ending. Which is kinda rare in the guitar hero trade.
Also, Orlando seems to showcase musical influences apart from pure guitars as well. Several of the musical backdrops here seem to be influenced by Rush, and in one song there was a clear nod to Meola's classic fusion releases in the late 70's. Some of the tracks here have a distinct blues feel to them; and I guess there are nods to greats in the world of blues and blues rock there as well.
Orlando also tries to showcase other abilities than pure technique on this release. Most of the songs have parts where mood is more important than pace and technique; where the good melody and the effects made by a guitar are more important than blistering pace alone.
But when that is said, this release probably won't appeal to the casual listener. Although Orlando seems to try and reach out to an audience beyond the guitar god fans, there's still too much shredding, too many pace exercises and too much "guitar masturbation" present on this release to make it accessible beyond the usual crowd. And he lacks the songwriting skills of a guy like Satriani to hide these antics in more captivating and subtle moods and melody lines.
Guitar players and guitar aficionados will probably rate this CD much higher than me, but as a casual listener to guitar albums who doesn't play myself, and aren't too interested in guitar technique, this release ultimately gets boring.
Personal highlight: "Game Over", a track where mood and melody gets to the forefront on several occasions, and where the amount of guitar hero antics is tolerable.
My rating: 53/100