Album review: GUS MONSANTO – Karma Cafe


[Release date 05.09.16]

Brazilian Gus Monsanto may not be a household name in terms of wider rock recognition, but since at least 2004 his name has cropped up repeatedly on other people’s albums, mainly metal-related.  He’s worked with French band Adagio and ‘Revolution Renaissance’ formed by Timmo Tolkki after he’d left Stratovarius.  More recently he sang on the GRTR! ‘Album of the Year’ in 2013 by Code Of Silence which also spawned current Eden’s Curse drummer John Clelland.

‘Karma Café’ is a chance for Gus to catch up with his own solo material and he’s assembled a group of South American musicians to fashion a proudly homespun release.

There’s nothing wrong of course with this approach but any album – especially a solo debut – will rise or fall on the strength of the tunes.  Gus is a great singer, at times evoking the power of Jeff Scott Soto, or the sensitivity of LaBrie, but it’s the lack of original and – frankly – darker material that is missing here. It’s all a bit too upbeat.  The album reveals that behind an overt metaller there’s a pop rock stylist struggling to get out.

Openers ‘Karma Café’ and ‘No Candle Left In The Box’ are perfunctory melodic rock workouts, inoffensive but inconsequential and ditto ‘Fire And Dynamite’.  Only ‘Elephant In The Room’ really trips the switch in terms of what might have been and ‘Change The World’ is the other main standout in this collection.

Understandably there’s a variety of moods and styles on this album, that also means there’s a lack of consistency.  The album will therefore have most appeal to those who have enjoyed Monsanto’s previous outings with other bands and who like his particular style.

I suggest if you wish to discover more after hearing this, Lord Of Mushrooms (‘Perspectives’, 2012) and Code Of Silence (“Dark Skies Over Babylon”, 2013) are good places to start.  ***1/2

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

Album review (Code Of Silence)

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