Elmo Karjalainen: Age of Heroes (2017)

Finnish composer and musician Elmo KARJALAINEN has a present in the bands Kilpi, Seagrave and Helena & Kalevi and a past in Deathlike Silence. In addition he has a solo career going, which so far have produced 4 albums. “Age of Heroes” is the most recent of these, and was self-released by Karjalainen in early 2017.

Karjalainen’s forte is instrumental music, revolving around his skills as a guitarist. He is renowned for his shred guitar talents, but perhaps unlike a few other solo guitarists around he doesn’t restrict himself to this specific type of playing, as he’s also capable of producing material of a rather more delicate nature. This and more is well documented on this album.

When that is said, this is the kind of album that mainly will find favor among those who enjoy instrumental music where the guitar is the dominant instrument. From the powerful, djent-oriented escapades to careful, dream-laden affairs not light years away from the more atmospheric laden excursions of David Gilmour, the guitar solo and the guitar sound is the dominant element throughout.

Karjalainen does take care to include a bit more to his material though. Floating keyboard textures or occasionally a hovering organ presence is a mainstay in the greater majority of compositions, and while the drums may leave a bit to be desired in terms of complexity they are still light years away from the steady, ongoing programmed drum patterns I have encountered on other instrumental guitar productions. In a positive way, just in case that wasn’t obvious. He also takes care to not always have a race to produce as many notes as possible in the shortest amount of time, with some fine flowing guitar solo runs included also in the more intense cuts on this album. And in that context: This is a good album of it’s specific kind, and there really aren’t any tracks here that merits a description as weak.

When that is said, this isn’t the kind of album that will appeal all that much beyond the usual crowd of guitar enthusiasts either, Karjalainen doesn’t quite have the knack a guy like Satriani had at the start of his career to create those playful, fun and quirky tunes that brought guitar albums out from the alleyways and into the stadium – to put it that way. Some moments of brilliance here and there will have a broader appeal, but all in all this is more of a niche production, for better or for worse. Mix and production isn’t quite up to the standard many expect these days on all tracks either, although this may as well be a matter of personal taste. For me at least, some of the songs had something of a closed in feel to them. Nothing major, but one of those small details that may or may not be due to personal taste.

All in all, Karjalainen has made a long but good album, and provides a vast array and a great variety of instrumental guitar on 15 cuts here, with two additional more or less humorous spoken word tidbits that may or may not get the listener laughing. Those who enjoy instrumental guitar albums and ones with a fair bit of variety as to the material explored should find this production to be generally appealing.

My rating: 7/10

Track list:
Warm Welcome, How Can Less Be More?, The Colour of Greed, Chikken Noodul, A Fertile Discussion, The Grassy Gnoll, Blue Eyes, Party Political Speech, Age of Heroes, A Meeting of the Gods (And This Guy), Sunset, Return of the Silly English Person, Falling for Falafels, Lost in a Foreign Scale, Three Days of Peace, Limiting Rationality, Breathe

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