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1980's Power Metal With Guest Vocals Out the Arse - 80%

TheStormIRide, July 3rd, 2012

Tommy Vitaly is an Italian power metal band named after their composer and guitarist. The band's newest release in the classic power metal realm boasts a lot of guest musicians and vocalists. Some of the genres biggest names appear on this release. I, personally, have never listened to any of Vitaly's work prior to this album. I wasn't even vaguely familiar with any of his projects (the other projects being the eponymously named Vitaly and Sseven Gates). Seeing that David DeFeis of Virgin Steele fame was on board, I decided that it was worth checking into.

Tommy Vitaly's work is definitely a 1980's power metal album with a slight neoclassical flair at times. Wait, was this released in 1980 or 2012? This album just oozes with that good old feeling of nostalgia. I mean, it feels like I've listened to this album before. It's not ripped off music from a bygone era or even rehashed riffs that have been done to death by the millions of power and traditional metal bands either. There's just a very solid feeling of familiarity with this release. The choice of a few guest vocalists, notably Carsten Schulz (of Domain and Evidence) and Todd La Torre (of Crimson and more recently Queensryche, though he hasn't actually recorded with either band), keeps that 1980's vibe going strong.

The biggest highlight of this album is definitely the guitar work. Vitaly shows some pretty awesome chops with the solos and solid Power Metal riffing with a bluesy vibe, akin to Feinstein's "Third Wish." The solos are artfully crafted and sound like a less flamboyant version of Yngwie Malmsteen. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. While Vitaly doesn't shred for the entire length of the album, he does have a knack for writing riffs and solos that weave together better than wicker baskets. None of the solos are too over the top or take away from the traditional and bluesy feel of the album. The band slows down occasionally, but the only real ballad, "Forever Lost" featuring the vocal talents of DeFeis, shows some acoustic strumming with some Guns 'N' Roses styled soloing over top. The guest guitar solo by David Shenkle, while really cool, is unnecessary because of Vitaly's ability.

The rest of the music on the album is pretty standard for the genre. If you've ever listened to some of the bands that the guest musicians are from, then you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. The drums don't stray away from standard power metal fare too often: mostly running on the double bass when the music is fast and then a standard rock beat when it slows down. The bass is there, but it's nothing special. The keyboards add an airy feeling to the music without sounding too majestic, epic and whatever other terms people use to describe pompousness. Guitars aside, the music is pretty much straight forward traditional metal a la Manowar.

The vocals are what should draw most listeners into checking this out. Guest vocalists include the previously mentioned David DeFeis (Virgin Steele), Carsten Schulz (Domain, Evidence Once) and Todd La Torre (Queensryche, Crimson Glory), as well as Zak Stevens (Savatage, Circle II Circle), Michele Luppi (Vision Divine) and Mats Levin (Yngwie Malmsteen, At Vance, Abstrakt Algebra). That's a lot of big name singers associated with some of the greatest power metal and traditional metal acts of all time. Unlike most other albums featuring guest vocalists, Tommy Vitaly did not feel the need to change song structures, tempos or moods to fit the vocalists, rather the vocalists adapted to Vitaly's song writing style.

David DeFeis puts on a hell of a performance on the sole ballad of the album, with his amazing range and depth of emotion. Todd La Torre and Zak Stevens also did a great job with their respective tracks. Michele Luppi and Carsten Schulz's vocals, although fitting the vibe, just didn't do it for me. Schulz's vocals have always got under my skin, being a little too whiny for my liking. Luppi's vocals on "Idol", while performed with excellence, are a little too happy: "I was born to be an idol!" Too much repetition in the lyrical department on "Idol" annoyed me on every listen. Overall, the vocals are very well done and fit the music perfectly. From the mid era Malmsteen styling of Levin to the mid range bellows of Stevens, a little bit of each delivery is present.

The production on this album is excellent and everything fits perfectly into place. The biggest flaw with this album is not in performance at all, but rather with the guest vocalists. Whereas bands like Avantasia have a little continuity with a main vocalist and the guests jumping in and out and left and right, Vitaly's vocalists just did their songs and moved on. I think Tommy Vitaly would benefit by finding a singer and sticking with him for an entire album. The album as a whole almost sounds like a compilation because of having different vocalists on each track. Even if the singers would come together for a big finale at the end of the album, I think it would be an improvement.

Tommy Vitaly's "Hanging Rock" is an excellent piece of 1980's tinged power metal. The neoclassical flair and selective keyboard passages keep this album from treading into complete nostalgia. This is a very fun release and a throwback to the glory days of metal. Recommended to fans of the bands mentioned in this review and to any fan of neoclassical power metal. If Tommy Vitaly can continue to attract big names in Metal, then he should continue to use that to his advantage. A little more solidarity in the vocal department could go a long way. I, for one, am excited to see what the future holds for Tommy Vitaly.

Written for www.metal-observer.com