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Michael Pinnella - Enter By the Twelfth Gate CD (album) cover


Michael Pinnella


Symphonic Prog

3.40 | 29 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars This is one of those albums that's definitely more than "die-hard fans only", but especially since it's a first solo effort, I'd probably suggest that unless you are really into classically-oriented synth work, you should probably be a fan of at least one SYMPHONY X album before you get this one. Personally, I did enjoy MICHAEL PINNELLA's first solo album Enter at the Twelfth Gate, and think it belongs in the collection of any SYMPHONY X fan. Let me make it clear--this is not a metal album. Rather, this is classically-driven, with some funky rock thrown in there for good measure. There's a sense of humor and happiness that dominates even the darker sections of the music; I imagine some might find it "cheesy", but I'm not bothered. Some parts resemble modern video-game scoring, with the sudden jumps between themes and moods.

As a die-hard fan, I could tell from this that PINNELLA is the source of some of the intricate arrangements found in albums like V: The New Mythology Suite, in conjunction with ROMEO--though I did think I started to get an idea which part of the composing and arranging he is responsible for (more on that shortly). Also, PINNELLA provides some fantastic keyboard work from both a technical and atmospheric/emotional standpoint. While--of course--he spends some time showing off how fast he can go and what kind of classical training he has, PINNELLA's playing does not suffer from the sort of coldness and outright self-indulgence one hears from a keyboardist like JORDAN RUDESS. While only 1:24 in length, the emotional highlight of the album was the sweet, melancholy "Departing for Eternity", where, somewhat reminiscent of V's "Rediscovery, Part 1", PINNELLA's synth gently weeps.

Don't be scared of the idea of a synth-only album...the technology PINNELLA employs is pretty good, and the producton (with one little bitty exception) shines. A pretty convincing piano lends warmth to the sound. Also, I actually found myself checking the CD notes to see if he'd hired a session bassist--but no, that was actually PINNELLA himself. The synth drums don't come off sounding too much like a drum machine; rather, it's clear that PINNELLA took the time to write out all of the parts, and there's a clear RULLO influence in tracks like "Edge of Insanity", "Live for the Day", There might be some who wouldn't care for the tone of the electronic soloing synth--but if you are a fan of SYMPHONY X, you already know it and love it, so don't worry. The album is littered with some very creative chord sequences, arpeggios, and piano work--including PINNELLA's breaking out the (synth) Hammond to great effect in "Cross the Bridge"! That's an effect I definitely hope he carries over to SYMPHONY X more often if possible.

Ironically, what does hamper this album is the opposite of RUDESS' problem with staying on one thing and beating on it ad nauseum. Rather, PINNELLA has quite a tendency to jump around schizophrenically between themes, moods, and atmosphere, hardly staying on one thing for even a minute at a time, and (in my opinion) sometimes not seeming to spend much time in really planning out transitions. This is why I have an extremely hard time singling out favorite songs--because it seems to be made of a hundred tiny little "songlets"! Probably the most utterly jarring example of this mile-a-minute, ADD-type mentality (mind you, I myself have ADHD; therefore do not accuse me of slamming the category to which I belong!!!) is the sudden jump into a full-on Arab musical style in "Moracan Lullaby." Here, not only does the mood and theme change, but for once, the production itself drops dramatically out-of-step with the rest of the album. From this, I get the feeling that rather than PINNELLA, it is guitarist MICHAEL ROMEO that is responsible for the "bigger picture" of SYMPHONY X's songs and albums and perhaps PINNELLA who helps fill in the details and themes.

Ultimately, that's what this album really boils down to: details and themes. You come away with a feeling that you've heard something that's in a million pieces. Mind you, these are a million pieces of something good, something with real potential...but the feeling is that they have not been combined very well and that with some additional work, this could really shine. If you're a SYMPHONY X fan, I suggest having this around. If may want to wait for the next time around, when hopefully PINNELLA will assess his strengths and weaknesses and change his approach where necessary.

FloydWright | 3/5 |


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