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A Guitar Player’s Backing Track - 52%

Apteronotus, March 3rd, 2013

What happens when you have music that is serviceable while simultaneously uninspired? If “Volume I” is any indication, then the result is surprisingly disappointing.

“Volume I” suffers primarily because Eric Pellegrini's songwriting is almost solely guitar- oriented. However, this album is not a vanity piece. Rather, it is a genuine effort at balanced melodic death metal which fails to manifest itself as such because Pellegrini develops songs only through the instrument with which he is most familiar, the guitar. As metal is generally very guitar-oriented, this makes for an inoffensive album, but one that is substantially flawed and derivative. While the drums, vocals, bass, and even rhythm guitar all sound passable; they do very little for the music other than serve as an enervated accompaniment.

This instruments-as-background-sounds problem exists even on the final outro, where one would expect the sense of direction on the album to be at its height. Instead, “The World is A Stage” features fine albeit programmed drums, acting as a mere accompaniment. It feels like there is no person behind the drums, no emotion even. We have various beats and fills that are there just without purpose other than making it sound finished. Instead of being slightly off in this respect and raising the question of whether a real drummer would do this, it screams loudly that no drummer would do this. “Volume I” is like this for much of its duration, and it isn't limited to the drumming. While nothing in the instrumentation crosses over into the realm of sounding overly offensive or bad in of itself, a real harm is still done because of how mechanical, routine, and predictable this backing-track style makes the album.

The exception is of course the guitar work and it is here that the album is at its strongest. Still, Pellegrini adheres conservatively to the scènes à faire of melodic death metal. Some chugged riffs, some harmonizing, some melodic tremolo riffing. Without being a backdrop like other aspects of the music, the guitars are still very predictable and routine with only rare signs of personal flair. Consequently, the album’s zenith is still a point far from excellence, which is important to consider because of how lifeless the remainder of the instruments are.

In the solos, you can hear this all quite clearly, they are unimaginative yet competently played. The first half of the solo on “Discrepancy” isn’t far off from a guitar player practicing scales over a metronome. Some arpeggios also come in as expected, but with a tinge of neoclassical influence showing some of that personal flair. This is a sign that Pellegrini is creatively trapped in the confines of melodic death metal. For example, the best and most creative bit of the album is the clean section in “Discrepancy” where we get nice neoclassical melodic layering. An earlier example is in “The Black Feathered Vixen” with a similarly influenced clean section that is a bit sloppy, but still one of the album’s high points.

While competent in the vocal department tonally, Pellegrini's delivery fails for feeling emotionally blank and constrained by the guitar melodies. The whispered style on “Ringmaster” and various flirtations with double tracking fail to improve this problem. The raspy style of vocals are very pedestrian for this kind of death metal, and it appears that Pellegrini can effortlessly maintain that sound. Unfortunately it sounds like he phoned it in. Moreover, the fact that the vocals are more intelligible than in most death metal is an enormous disservice here because it draws attention to the incessantly exasperating lyrics. To understate the problem, the lyrics are the weakest element on this album. It absolutely detracts from the music when you hear lines like: “I refuse to lie, I will keep my wits about me” “I fucking hate, you ripped my heart apart” and “I, want you back, in my life, come to me, mi amore.”

In essence, “Volume I” serves more as backing sounds for Pellegrini to play guitar over than as something meant to be listened to as an album. This would have been fine, were it not for the problem that the backing music supports some really generic guitar work.

Originally written for: http://theoakconclave.blogspot.com/

Eric Pellegrini - Vol. 1 - 60%

Obscurum, February 10th, 2013
Written based on this version: 2012, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

Vol. 1: the debut by Eric Pellegrini, and what a tiresome debut it is. Being a "band" comprised of a single member, to whom the band takes its name from, Eric performs all the instruments, and that acts as a double-edged sword. He has prowess in certain areas, and a complete lack-of in others. I feel as if he tried too hard when recording this, as the structures and instrumentation come across as generic and worn-out; everything's been done before by other bands, except better. He certainly has talent playing guitar--that's a given--but his vocal ability ... well, that's just awful. The bass merely exists, and the drum programming ranges from decently generic to somewhat acceptable, namely when it's programmed to do blast beats. Boring, truly boring.

For the most part, this is rather thrashy death metal with periodic changes in song structuring, as to be expected. The guitars, being the highlights of the album, encompass several tones and styles: at times, very melodic and pleasant, others they are thrashy and unoriginal, and sometimes they resemble deathcore chugging ... oh, God, no. Solos abound, and plenty of emphasis on them, but without any real flair or quality, as with the rest of the music, generic. Quite an abundance of noodling and showing-off, but not being sloppy or lazily performed, unlike the vocals--hit and miss. "True Karma" is an example of the some of the finer riffs to be found on here.

The drums are alright, I suppose. They vary from extremely fast blast beats to the common uptempo pounding of thrash metal, with the occasional down-tempo sections, such as those found in the closing track, "The World Is a Stage". They do their job of maintaining the backing rhythm fairly well, but aside from that, they don't perform anything fancy or memorable--could be worse.

Vocals are the usual death metal growls and yells, and the main culprit for the tedious listen this album causes. There's absolutely no originality in them--none. Songs like "System of Power" clearly show this; I find them humorous to an extent, they're that bad: too simple are the patterns they follow, and repetitious. Even worse, at times Eric does the dreaded multi-tracking on them, and coupled with the growling and yelling, gives the impression that he's shouting at himself, which only adds to the disappointment. Were this an instrumental release, it would've been a lot better, still far from a masterpiece.

Vol. 1 shows that if Eric were to refine his style (maybe throwing in some more variation) and perhaps a full band, leaving himself to handle the guitars, he could end up releasing something somewhat desirable in the future, and not come across as yet another unknown band with nothing to set them apart from the rest.

Solo demo showcasing a talented guitarist - 45%

Zodijackyl, January 8th, 2013

Eric Pellegrini is certainly a talented guitarist with some good ideas and a knack for throwing together some interesting guitar parts. The focus of the music seems to be on the guitar work - the vocals are just there, they don't add much of anything. The music is backed by a very mechanical sounding drum machine that sounds like some basic MIDI samples - something that I'd lament on a demo, but will outright complain about on anything else.

The production overall is pretty dry and inconsistent - the guitar tones vary throughout, from a chunky, crunchy chugging tone to a few different sweet tones for the solos. The guitar work is a little bit inconsistent, but seems pretty honest and it's clear that this guy is a good guitarist. The vocals don't have much depth. The drums could be lower in the mix considering that they're not the best sounds, but they are written fairly well to follow the guitars and do what they need to do. The drum solo/intro in "The Ringmaster" is interesting, but with the poor tones, it is pretty irritating.

The songwriting is choppy - a clean neo-classical guitar section is wedged between blasting death metal sections on "The Black Feathered Vixen". He has a decent idea of how to mix up different parts, but the death metal sections often seem forced, either that or everything but the death metal sections seem forced - guitar solos comes from nowhere more randomly than in a Necrophagist song. The death metal parts are inconsistent but I don't they come naturally, the lead guitar work, melodies, and prog-tinged stuff seem to be his forte, so I'm not quite sure why he's doing death metal. The rhythm playing and vocals are alright, but the death metal riffing isn't what stands out here. I suppose it's better than generic prog-guy wankery the whole way through. Amidst all this disjointed nonsense, there's some great lead guitar work, like the extended solo later in the aforementioned song. His talents make it pretty easy to look past the shortcomings.

The different songs more or less show different takes on similar concepts and ideas. I wouldn't call this a full-length, it's more of a demo showing songwriting and guitar skills of a capable musician who could do some good things with other musicians. Eric Pellegrini is a capable and talented musician, this album isn't anything special on its own, but he could easily exceed it if he were in a proper band. This isn't an album I'd go back to listen to, but if I was looking for a guitarist, I'd know where to look.