Wow! I can’t recall having been this enthusiastic about an instrumental guitar release since I stumbled upon Andy James’ In the Wake of Chaos and Guthrie Govan’s Erotic Cakes last year. Super group Strings 24 is the brainchild of the three Italian axemen Frank Caruso, Stefano ‘Sebo’ Xotta and Gianluca Ferro, and the band name stems from the fact the they all play 8-string guitars (yup, eight metal wires each). They have quite different backgrounds and playing styles, but the 12 tracks they’ve managed to put together for their first release show all the signs and strengths of unity and homogeneity.
What we get here is an electrifying mixture of heavy riffing, great licks, sweeps and arpeggios galore … AND superb melodies that are far more than simple excuses for thousand-notes-a-second solos and general guitar masturbation. These are imaginative and engaging compositions ranging from flat out rockers like ‘Running in the Wind’ and ‘Psychedelic’, metal monsters like ‘Schizophrenic Disorders’ and ‘Double D’, a couple of ballads in the shape of ‘G String Song’, ‘Flown’ and ‘Besides Nowhere’ as well as a a cover version of the theme from Spy Hunter (‘Go Down Peter’).
I’m sure each of these players have any number of guitar heroes that I could list as inspiration, but if I were to name a few that I discern in this hurricane of notes and chords, it would be the tasteful tone and restraint of Jose de Castro and Porty, the testosterone riffing of Tony Hernando, Andy James and Rusty Cooley plus the groove and overall mastery of genres of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. In sheer enthusiasm and playfulness, however, they are rivaled only by C.P.R. (Coven-Pitrelli-Reilly) and their self-titled album from 1992.
This being an instrumental guitar album, however, it is a format that has its limitations and can only yield so many novelties and surprises, and it would be difficult for me to give the highest rating possible to any album in this genre. Although I could have been without the not very bluesy 'Remember Blues' and the tongue-in-cheek 'Go Down Peter!' (the only track that actually does sound a bit like a mere backing track for a bit of improv jamming), this is still a solid album. My only real complaint is the terrible cover art that may prevent a good number of people from singling this one out for a trial listening.
All in all a very pleasant surprise from this Italian trio that will be hard to oust from my playlist in the weeks to come and definitely an album that I will recommend highly to any fan of instrumental guitar music. Kudos to Lion Music for picking up this one.
Recommended tracks: ‘Double D’, ‘Schizophrenic Disorders’, ‘Mystical Thoughts’, ‘G String Song’.