Gianluca Ferro is a prolific and prodigiously talented guitar player and teacher. This is his twelfth record in fourteen years as former member of prog metal band Arkhe, collaborator and solo artist. New record, "Unheimlich" revolves around the concept of man's evolution and disembodiment from nature with the title roughly translating from German as unfamiliar, uncomfortable and eerie.
His guitar playing is somewhat otherworldly too in its proficiency and lack of rough edges almost as if he himself is a guitar playing machine. I'm not sure Ferro is placing himself at the centre of this rumination on human discomfort in, and dislocation from reality but the "Unheimlich" title isn't just creative use of a dictionary. Thought has gone into the presentation of this 60 minute plus exercise in technical guitar playing although using electronics to suggest the future is hardly original. When employed as background textures on the plaintive acoustic number and yes Eastern flavoured, "Moroccan Dilemma" or the Vangelis esque arrangement of 'Life In A Raindrop' they add depth. Though strangely enough remind most of Vince DiCola's score for the 80s Transformers movie, really.
A familiar gripe about prog is that esoteric scales and modes are flashed for no real musical purpose other than elitist self gratification but Ferro at least attempts to make a point on "Unheimlich". This doesn't stop guitar passages becoming odes to self-indulgence such the opening to 'Overture 1089 X 9' but these moments are forgivable. Other acts keen to explore man's uncertain place in the world he has created are Fear Factory and Symphony X and sure enough their influence can be heard quite keenly on songs like 'Metanfenasia' and 'Ulam Spiral Dysphoria' with their blend of hammering riffs, oblique synths and lengthy lead guitar passages.
Without lyrics any narrative suggested by the liner notes is really left to the listener to fill in but there's little space in these songs for that with all the fret pyrotechnics. Ferro is without doubt an excellent guitar player but the songs on "Unheimlich" can lack character: simultaneously living up to the aesthetic dictated by the subject matter and the stereotype of guitar virtuoso's producing soulless albums.