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Michael Angelo Batio: Hands Without Shadows 2 - Voices

Label: M.A.C.E. records
Format: CD
Released: 2009
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 6/10

ALERT: Michael Angelo Batio can shred at blistering speeds. Don't worry if you forget, he'll remind you again. And again. And then some more, tossing out warp speed fills in the oddest places. His latest, "Hands Without Shadows 2 - Voices", is a kinda fun and entirely unnecessary compilation of tribute medleys, focusing on a bunch of more-famous guys with slower-yet-skilled fingers, like Dimebag Darrel (from Pantera), Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads (Ozzy), Mustaine and Friedman (Megadeth), and Metallica.


I'm probably in the minority amongst reviewers, but I don't hate this record. I dunno, I've always seen Michael Angelo as kind of a shredder circus act, and this album lived up to my expectations. It's probably fair to say that he's better-known for his guitar tricks than for his chops, with his double-necked, ambidextrous hammer-pull displays while upside-down on fire inside a shark tank (I'm exaggerating) - - this album does nothing but reinforce his image. While the tribute medleys are pretty straightforward, not very imaginatively constructed, while sticking mostly to the obvious same ol' bar band song choices - - they're still fun; they're still songs that Michael Angelo's target audience will know and love. I don't think there's a single cover song element newer than 1991, other than his oddly-placed, 45000-notes-in-2-seconds fills. Because the medleys aren't exciting mashup reinventions or improvements on familiar material, this album won't get many repeat listens.

That first listen to "Hands Without Shadows 2", however, was a good time for me, and held my interest from start to finish. Vocalist Warren Dunleavy, Jr. handles all of the well-worn material expertly, and other than the Christopher Cross-sounding 1983 synths, these are solid cover tunes. I think the ‘Panama’ portion of ‘EVH’ and the ‘You Can't Kill Rock n' Roll’ segment of the Randy Rhoads medleys really stand out.

The album's final track also deserves mention. ‘MAB Forum Shreddathon’ is a 35-hour-long instrumental (no, really about 10 minutes…I'm exaggerating again) featuring a non-stop run of ultrafast soloing from 13 players I've never heard of. While as a song it's the definition of metal guitar virtuoso excess, it appears to be a very cool gesture on Batio's part, allowing these lesser-known shredders to compose and show off on his album release.

Michael Angelo Batio obviously reveres his idols, appreciates his fans, loves to play, and wants you to enjoy yourself too. This record has plenty of flaws, but it successfully underscores on all of these points. Think of it like a Michael Bay Transformers movie: full of piecemeal metal constructs moving at dizzying speeds, without a lot of substance or reasons to go back for repeats, but if you can lighten up and switch off your brain, that first viewing/listen can be a fun time.

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