Sound — 4
Orianthi commands respect. The Greek Australian guitar virtuoso (of which there can't be many) has worked with Prince, Alice Cooper and the late Michael Jackson in the space of only a few years and doesn't look like stopping there. Session players are known for their reliability and adaptability but only a gifted few can produce the goods when they're artistically liable. Boredom often reigns. Given her record and indeed her records, of which there have been two previously there's no doubting Orianthi's competence but on "Heaven In This Hell" she unfortunately lacks the creative spark needed to be a recording artist. Hopes are high to start with; first excursion "Heaven In This Hell"'s robustly pentatonic, Audioslave-style riffs are endlessly hummable. "You Don't Wanna Know" and "Fire" will impress guitarists with an eye for technique - especially solo junkies as they cross a few She notches up a few victories for the slowly dying practice along the rest of the way, but things start to unravel soon after these opening moments. The tack really changes around the half way mark. The electric guitars take a step back and the saturated popstar sound of her previous material comes right to the fore. The sound is fine in and of itself (if rather tepid) but the contrast from the heavier start is stark and the album never quite recovers. Soppy ballads like "Another You" and "If You Were Here With Me" are dispensable regardless of context but the hooks on other tracks towards the end unfortunately begin to sound very, very intentional.
Lyrics — 3
That session musician feeling resurfaces in the vocals and the lyrics, in that they fill the gaps where vocals and lyrics ought to be but leave it at that. The voice is well-trained but indistinct from hundreds of other pop starlets from the last 10 or 15 years. This works to start with as most of our attention is on the guitar but the voice needs to come into its own when the backing settles into generic pop templates and Orianthi, figuratively speaking, misses the cue.
Overall Impression — 4
The talent is undeniable, but on this showing it's just not the right kind of talent you need to make your own music. It's practical rather than creative. It's hard to shake the idea that each section has been labelled before it's been created hook goes here, riff goes here, solo goes there and that's what'll make good music. At the end of the day it doesn't, but "Heaven In This Hell" could be a lot worse if it weren't for the playing of a gifted instrumentalist.