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Monday 9 November 2020

Reviews: Orianthi, Mountain Caller, Susan Santos, Erja Lyytinen (Reviews Matt Bladen)

Orianthi: O (Frontiers Music)

O is the sound of Orianthi Panagaris' returning to what made her the go to six stringer for artists such as Michael Jackson (who is commemorated on Moonwalker), Carlos Santana, Carrie Underwood and Alice Cooper. Putting behind her the absolutely awful Richie Sambora collaboration RSO, which Paul generously gave a 2/10, O is Orianthi taking back creative control of her career, signing to Frontiers Music to do it. O is her first solo album since 2013 and it features 10 tracks of melodic radio friendly rock with obvious pop influences, from the Muse-like throb of Contagious which immediately brings us into that US Radio Rock style favoured by bands such as Halestorm and The Pretty Reckless, the former coming strongly on the stripped back ballad Crawling Out Of The Dark  

A sound that's continued into the big bluesy swagger of Sinner's Hymn. Orianthi sings and plays guitar here, vocally she sounds a lot like one Ms Hale while her guitar playing is astounding the kind of shredding that will get social media buzzing but never detracts from the song structures. Unlike RSO which was everywhere musically, here we have the general sounds of rock, blues and some foot stomping country on Rescue Me (which reminds me of Carrie Underwood but with a heavier edge) Behind Orianthi are Evan Frederiksen (drums, bass) and Marti Frederiksen (percussion, programming, bass) in the rhythm section who give us a strut on the achingly modern Sorry. O takes Orianthi back on the path she has charted since the beginning of her career, not as heavy as her friend Nita Strauss, but still based on virtuoso guitar playing with catchy songwriting ready to take the live arena when safe to do so. 7/10

Mountain Caller: Chronicle I - The Truthseeker (New Heavy Sounds)

Claire (Guitar), El (Bass) and Max (Drums) makeup elemental, primeval, instrumental band Mountain Caller. It's pretty much a given that Chronicle I -The Truthseeker is going to be a heavy offering due to it being released on New Heavy Sounds but it's not just colossal knuckle dragging doom riffs but it's also punctuated by progressive melodic, ambient soundscapes. If you check out their PR you get a good idea of what they sound like when they say Sleep jamming with Mogwai and Trial By Combat really displays this by having a slow clean repeating riff that eventually moves into downtuned heaviness for a few bars as it shifts into groovier stoner riffs with some thrashy drumming. 

As we reach the end of Trial By Combat we are taken into the very proggy A Clamour Of Limbs which has that choppy, erratic riffs that move into the realms of Mastodon although with added jazz and it is also the only song with vocals which are really good so I hope that they incorporate them a little more on their next release for an extra dimension. The trio use their music to allow the listener to create images in their mind as these 6 tracks unfurl their musical journeying, letting the instruments speak for themselves none of them ever trying to compete with one another, rather they are all equally important to the cinematic sound of songs such as the brilliant closer Dreamspirals. Produced by Joe Clayton of Pijn and mixed by Magnus Lindberg of Cult Of Luna Chronicles I - The Truthseeker is a fruitful climax to three years toil for this excellent debut album. 8/10

Susan Santos: L.A Sessions (Self Released)

Well established and critically acclaimed blues guitarist recorded this EP in December 2019 (before the world went nuts), it features Santos on guitar/vocals, Tony Morra on drums and Fabrizio Grossi on bass, the Supersonic Blues Machine man also recorded, engineered and produced the record in his L.A Studio. So what do these four tracks do that Santos hasn't done before on her previous 5 releases? Well nothing really, but if it ain't broke and so on. Santos' soulful vocals make songs like the moody Somebody To Love and the late night blues of Fever really shine as her guitar playing is at the top level unleashing searing blues rock riffs on Wait. A stopgap before her next full length L.A Sessions is an ideal intro to Santos music. 6/10 

Erja Lyytinen: Lockdown Live 2020 (Tuohi Records)

Yet more blues rock mastery this time from the rockier tones of Erja Lyytinen, without any chances to tour her previous album Another World and her tour put off until next year Erja Lyytinen decided to record an 'empty arena' show for CD and DVD. Before the pandemic Lyytinen was riding a crest of a wave in her creative life but with Lockdown in force and separation from her band she decided to hole up in Bluesounds Studios in her hometown of Kuopio, Finland get her band behind her and give her fans a fully immersive livestream concert. The result of which is on this record, which contains tracks from her whole discography but the most come from her most recent record. It's a novel concept but without a crowd it's only the oddly hollow production that gives away that this is live at all, it sounds like it was recorded in an empty room, which of course it was but with a little studio trickery this could have been rectified (hey if Thin Lizzy can do it). Much like Santos' EP this would make a good starting point if you've never heard Lyytinen before so it's worth checking out at least. 6/10

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