Elmo Karjalainen – Age Of Heroes
Running Time 71:03
Review by Rick Tilley
Back in the far flung days of my youth I was a huge fan of instrumental albums, particularly those in the guitar shred genre. My love of these was kick-started by the playing of Mr Yngwie Malmsteen, who I thought was amazing. Now I know this will probably alienate many of his fans, Elmo Karjalainen included, but after seeing him live I was less impressed because that’s where I discovered that everything Malmsteen played was improvised, so the wonderful solos and passages he created on his albums were never recreated on stage! This led me to discover other guitarists that planned things out so that, in a live setting, songs sounded similar to their album counterparts. Joe Satriani, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman and, my absolute favourite, Tony MacAlpine blew me away with their technical ability and I spent many happy hours listening to their albums along with many others.
Over the years, whilst still buying the odd Satriani or MacAlpine release, my musical interest moved elsewhere and I haven’t heard an instrumental guitar album, or guitarist of this ilk, that’s really floored me for many years. That changed late last year when I started talking to Finnish guitarist Elmo Karjalainen. I had downloaded his ‘Free Guitar Album’ (Available on Bandcamp), which is superb, and he said that he would send me a copy of his new album ‘Age Of Heroes’ when it was finished and that it included some special guests that I would find very interesting! Elmo duly sent me a fabulous package through the post, which I thank him for most wholeheartedly, and it has been a mainstay on my stereo for about four weeks now. Quite simply, ‘Age Of Heroes’ has completely re-ignited my passion for this type of music. This man is absolutely stunning on the guitar and even though it says in the Press Release and info sent that he does improvise sometimes and that there are a fair few mistakes on show, the songs are so beautifully written that I really cannot see that as a problem and can he please point out the mistakes because, to my ear, absolutely nothing sounds fluffed on this CD.
Elmo doesn’t shred aimlessly like many guitarists, there is such a variety of musical styles evident here and all are played with huge passion as well as magnificent skill that I really cannot fault it. ‘Warm Welcome’ is a beautifully quiet and calm way to start, in fact very Pink Floyd and a perfect counterpoint to the following song. ‘How Can Less Be More’ is that song and the title is a homage to the aforementioned Malmsteen, who is one of Elmo’s favourite guitarists. He throws the kitchen sink at this song and in several places sounds very like the big man, but in my honest opinion better, because there are all sorts of other influences here as well, especially Steve Vai!
Up next is ‘The Colour Of Greed’ and this song includes one of the special guests, none other than Keyboard Maestro Derek Sherinian (Alice Cooper, Billy Idol, Dream Theater, Black Country Communion and many more). This is a stunning track and the keyboard/guitar battle is phenomenal. One of my favourite songs on this album is ‘Chikken Noodul’ which is next and this calms everything down again in a very eerie way. It sounds to me like it would be perfect in a 1940’s Philip Marlowe film. I don’t know why that is but I picture it every time I hear the song.
Next is ‘A Fertile Discussion’ and includes the wonderful Mattias IA Ecklundh (Freak Kitchen) on guitar. Their styles complement one another perfectly, in fact so well that he also pops up again later in the album on ‘Falling For Falafels. ‘A Fertile discussion also ends on the melody from ‘The Simpsons’
I could go on at length about all the tracks here because Elmo has supplied me with so much information and the CD Booklet also contains track by track descriptions but I want you to discover this album for yourselves and be taken to any number of places that it might conjure up in your imagination. What I do need to tell you though is that Elmo is also an extremely funny and intelligent man and there are several spoken interludes peppered throughout the album that will definitely make you smile. That humour and good nature also seeps into some of his playing when he wants it to and it’s a joy!
In 2016 Elmo got into the top 8 in Yngwie Malmsteen’s Guitar Gods competition in Miami and the eventual winners Janne Nieminen and Emil Pohjalainen also appear on the song ’A Meeting Of The Gods (And This Guy)’. There must be something in the water in Finland because all of them are utterly incredible. Whilst I love technical ability, which everyone playing here has in spades, what I miss with some of these types of albums is emotion; however, Elmo Karjalainen has got lorry loads of the stuff. Just imagine Vai and MacAlpine playing with Jeff Beck and throw in a little bit of Monty Python and you’re there!
He has said the next album will be purely acoustic and I, for one, cannot wait to hear what is going to happen. In the meantime please go and check out one of the finest guitarists and instrumental albums I’ve heard in twenty years. Absolutely mind-blowing
1. Warm Welcome
2. How an Less Be More
3. The Colour Of Greed
4. Chikken Noodul
5. A Fertile Discussion
6. The Grassy Gnoll
7. Blue Eyes
8. Party Political Speech
9. Age Of Heroes
10. A Meeting Of The Gods (And This Guy)
12. Return Of The Silly English Person
13. Falling For Falafels
14. Lost In A Foreign Scale
15. Three Days Of Peace
16. Limiting Rationality
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