Album review: ORIANTHI – Heaven In This Hell

ORIANTHI - Heaven In This Hell

Spinefarm Records [Release date 11.03.13]

You don’t get endorsement by Carlos Santana and Steve Vai, and become the King Of Pop and Alice Cooper’s ‘must have’ lead guitarist without having two things – a) talent and b) image.

And in those departments, 28 year Greek Australian singer, songwriter and six string slinger Orianthi Panagaris has the necessary attributes in spades.  Unfortunately her time in the Michael Jackson spotlight was cut short by his untimely demise, but the rehearsal video ‘This Is It’ demonstrates the impact her stage presence would have had on numbers like ‘Beat It’.  Never one to miss a trick, wily old fox Alice Cooper took her under his wing as part of his touring band for his last two world tours.

But Orianthi has sights set higher than being the hired eye candy guitarist of choice and on her third album ‘Heaven In This Hell’ she shows her hand.  She’s made an interesting choice in bringing Dave Stewart in as producer.  I say ‘interesting’, because while an aficionado of great female vocals and a whiz behind the desk, his productions have always struck me as rather clinical and he’s not generally associated with rock acts.

But in the production department there can be no complaints, he captures quite magnificently some wonderful guitar lines and gets some excellent vocals out of Orianthi.  Pat Benatar springs to mind on several occasions – no faint praise.

But, and there are several ‘buts’, fans will be hugely disappointed to find that 5 of the 12 tracks made up Orianthi’s 2011 self-released EP ‘Fire’.  And the other ‘but’ is the material.  All co-written, and a fair chunk with Stewart, it just doesn’t set any fires racing. It’s perfunctory, but that’s about the extent of it.

And I’m sorry to have to say it, but it’s all a bit ‘American Idol’.  In theory, it should tick all my boxes – Benatar style soft rock, great guitar work, superbly played and recorded, but somehow it failed grab me by the nuts.  A gentle squeeze perhaps, but not a lot more.

It’s hard to figure out just why.  I’m not sure on this occasion we can blame Stewart, although ‘Heaven In This Hell’ is undeniably formulated.  Ultimately I think it’s down to the somewhat clichéd material.  Every rock album needs ‘attitude’ and that’s the vital missing ingredient.  Close, but on this occasion, no cigar.  ***1/2

Review by Pete Whalley

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