Sound — 10
September, 2009 - Michael Angelo Batio unleashed another spectacular guitar-driven album, albeit this time with a twist: vocals. This is the first solo album from MAB since forming his label M.A.C.E. Music featuring a vocalist in relatively unknown Warren Dunleavy Jr. But, after listening to "HWS 2" the word "unknown" is likely to be history sooner rather than later. Mr. Dunleavy's voice is like a chameleon in the way he covers songs on "HWS2". Whether he's rumbling like Mustaine on "Symphony Of Destruction" or hitting the ceiling ala' DLR in the Van Halen compilation "EVH" he hits his mark on every track with conviction. The album also features has another unusual twist. The last song on the 'HWS 2" is a track (the "MAB Forum Shreddathon") compiled of thirteen of his own MAB Forum Members. They laid down their riffs, sent them to fellow MAB Forum Member and writer/mixer/masterer Maxxxwell Carlisle. This was quite an opportunity for MAB's fans to show their chops to the world. And more importantly, quite the gesture on Michael's part offering this first-of-its-kind "fan track". Michael performs all guitars, bass, and keys except the "guest" performances. The drums were laid down by drumming wizard Joe Babiak. Other "guest" artists on "Hands Without Shadows 2 - Voices" include Mark Tremonti and Bill Peck (featured on track #4 "Metallica Rules"), Vinnie Moore and George Bellas (featured on track #6 "Symphony Of Destruction"), and David Shankle (featured on track #9 ("On The Double") is the only original full-length song on the album. The track listing is as follows: 01. Dial In That Frequency 02. Tribute To Dimebag 03. Clapton Is God 04. Metallica Rules 05. EVH 06. Symphony Of Destruction 07. For Jimi: All along The Watchtower 08. Tribute To Randy 2: You Can't Kill Rock and Roll 09. On The Double 10. MAB Forum Shreddathon
Lyrics — 10
Since this is a "tribute" album with the only three original songs being instrumentals, the lyrics are composed by various other artists. Warren Dunleavy Jr. does not disappointed and listeners are truly in for a treat throughout the album. Check him out. An amazing talent who has surfaced here, courtesy of MAB.
Overall Impression — 10
If you liked "Hands Without Shadows" by Michael Angelo Batio, you'll love this one too. The vocals are a bonus, but the guitar phenom that is MAB is alive and well in "HWS 2". It is highly recommended. Three-tier madness on track # 2: Crisp, tight acoustic intro; melodic electric overdrive from MAB's guitar; then head-pounding chords. Warren nails "Cowboys From Hell". Although I'm not a fan of Clapton (song #3), I can appreciate what MAB has put together here. It's like Clapton on steroids, but with a smooth coating supplied by great production and vocals. Very tasteful and energizing, kind of like cold orange Gatorade on a 90 degree day. Pedal-notes-galore and then some, and a driving presence throughout by Michael. Metallic Rules! This song rocks hard, and I'm sure he'll have fun playing it live around the world. This is one of those songs where you're going to push the limits of your speakers. Wait until you hear Warren's voice on this! Unbelievable. If you're a Metallic fan you will be blown away. This song features additional killer riffs courtesy of shredder buds Mark Tremonti and Bill Peck. Joe's drums are tight and un wielding. Michael's guitar work on the Metallic medley blows Kirk's away, so sorry. Eddie Van Halen would be proud on song #5 ("EVH"). Now, although I personally think it's hard to mimic DLR, and there have been tons and tons of VH cover bands over the years paying homage to one of the greatest guitar-driven rock bands of all time thinking they can do so, there is certainly reason to listen here. Warren Dunleavy proves his point as a vocalist who can do anything he wants. And MAB can certainly do ANYTHING he wants on guitar. He can play anyone's riffs, anyone's chord progression. Of course, EVH is no exception, except MAB takes it to the next level. No one in the world can play the way MAB play it. Again, all keys on "HWS 2" are courtesy of MAB and he pulls it off flawlessly. The "EVH" compilation (#5) is a cool and welcomed addition to the track listing consisting of "Panama", "Eruption", "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love", "Jump", "Unchained", and "Runnin' With The Devil". "Symphony Of Destruction" is a symphonic shredfest with featured notes courtesy of the great Vinnie Moore and George Bellas. Warren sounds great in this track. Really a "no-fear" sound filled with conviction. Michael's lighting bolt fingers sound inhuman here. The one is worth the price of admission. Killer riffs slice and dice your ear canals until they explode. Three cheers for Michael's tribute to Hendrix! "For Jimi: All Along The Watchtower". I love the drumming introduction, and throughout this piece. You can hear the stamina, and Mitch Mitchell would be proud. This was a great choice from the JH catalog and certainly leave you wanting to hear more Hendrix performed by this lineup. Michael twists and turns with tasty takes and ungodly phrasing. The first time I listened to "Tribute to Randy 2: You Can't Kill Rock and Roll (track #8) I got a chill up my spine. This is one of my favorites on "HWS 2". This is MAB's second recorded tribute to the late, great Randy Rhoads, and hopefully not his last. This recording lineup of Batio, Babiak, and Dunveavy could record all Randy's music in one album and I could die a happy man. Warren sounds killer on this song. And as gifted and humble a musician as RR was, I'm sure he would be in awe of MAB's guitar prowess. Long live Randy Rhoads. Track #9 (On The Double) is destined for greatness. This is (unfortunately) MAB's only original on the album and is mind-blowing. If mark 2:43 to 3:03 were a mass murderer, it would be Jack The Ripper. This whole album is pure, unbridled Batio at his finest. Rock on~ fullshred