Review: Raff Sangiorgio – Rebirth

Raff Sangiorgio, guitarist with Death Metal outfit Gory Blister, is soon to unleash his solo album upon us. He describes it as, and I quote, ”a one-man studio project, focusing on instrumental metal-rock songs with blues influences”. I am always dubious when I see the word ‘instrumental’ especially, as is the case here, when one person is doing everything from producing and mixing, to playing all the instruments on the record. It is very easy for things to get self indulgent, as happens, in places on this album but I am glad to say, not as often as I feared. Although (call me old fashioned) I prefer to hear some vocals. So cynicism aside lets dive in.

I have to admit, my knowledge of Raff or Gory Blister, is limited to say the least, but with a little digging I find that he hail’s from Milan in Italy and Gory Blister also have an album out on the same label, Sliptrick Records. They seem to have been around forever, the earliest entry I find is from 1991, so he has certainly paid his dues, with tours and festivals,  mainly in Italy but around other parts of Europe as well. My first listen through the album leaves me in no doubt of Raff’s musicianship, his guitar work is top class and considering he plays everything else, although I do wonder if the drums are programmed, no matter as the production quality is definitely not an issue.

‘Quick Trigger’ blasts us into this album with all the runs and riffs I would expect from the guitarist, from a death metal band, but, we are not finished there and as the track progresses I start to realise that this album is going to be a journey. From the frantic beginnings, all suddenly changes to a more relaxed tuneful, harmony filled, world of rock guitars. Clever touches with panning and the clearness of each instrument make me realise that this guy knows his way around a mixing desk as well as he does a guitar neck.

‘Lil’ Chuck Blues’ realises Raff’s promise of blues influences. This is a total departure from the previous track and could easily pass muster on a Santana record. Despite the lack of vocals there is an obvious song structure and, dare I say it, melody akin to some kind of song chorus. We also find the traditional blues organ being cleverly used to back up and fill out the guitars whilst we are led on a very enjoyable musical journey. I am finding the lack of vocals interesting, it gives the listener the chance to imagine their own emotions and lyrics that lie behind the music. This track is not so much instrumental, it has vocals, he just chooses to do the singing with the guitar.

We are next taken into a world of melodic rock, with a slightly hard edge, but still melodic rock. I have to admit that I am at this point a little surprised. I thought that by now I would be moaning about overindulgence and the lack of any vocals but Raff, so far, has kept things to a fairly traditional song structure, with obvious verses and choruses, giving us mere mortals some threads of normality to cling onto and make sense of, so as to make each track a separate work and have elements to remember.

The journey continues on for the next few tracks, although by now all musical influences are beginning to get mashed together. ‘Glaring Soul’ gives us a blues wah pedal guitar intro all the way to Yngwe Malmstien classical scales and everything in between. ‘Rebirth’ and ‘Cosmic Seed’ are heavier riff filled, blistering scales, with double kick drum with tom tom runs galore Although they also have moments of calm, peaceful soundscapes. ‘Magic River’ deserves to be picked out as the guitar work is on a slightly different level. Raff really makes use of techniques to make the guitar talk and sing that Steve Vei would be proud of. Some acoustic piano hails a change of pace as ‘Fragile Existence’ starts and Raff shows he also has fast finger on the ivories (or is it a midi guitar? Hmmm but even more interesting!!) before once again being led on a rock guitar, roller-coaster ride. There are some quieter moments which provide us with some very cool picked clean guitar in kind of pseudo-acoustic sections that help to provide some light and shade moments. The final act of Raff’s debut solo album is a total departure from anything we have heard up to now, the only similarity is the fact he is playing guitar. ‘Voices From the Sea’ is a very ambient, almost Floyd-esque track totally devoid of drums and instead going with synths and fretless bass reminiscent of the intro of ‘Into the Machine’. It is just over two minutes in length but a very enjoyable two minutes it is.

I have to be honest, summing up this album for me is not easy. The first run through and listen to the album as a whole confused me, the similarity in guitar tone through every track started to grate on me as we got into the final two thirds and it all started to blur into one long track. BUT, as I went back through and listened to each track individually, things became clearer. I started to hear the melodies, I started to pick out the song structures and began to really appreciate the hard work and skill that has gone into the making of this musical work. Would I run out and buy it?? No comment! Would I recommend anyone else to buy it? Absolutely! If rock guitar instrumentals are your thing, then this is one of superior quality compared to many others I have heard.

Reviewer-Simon Larkin

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