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Robertas Semeniukas

Backstage Stories

Review by Gary Hill

Robertas Semeniukas hails from Lithuania and seems to have quite a following in his homeland. After hearing this album, I understand why. The music here is quite strong, and his guitar playing is exceptional. The range of sounds seems to be bordered by fusion, metal, guitar-star stuff and melodic 70s rock. It should be noted that most of the album is instrumental, but a few tunes have vocals. Other than one cover, those vocals are in what I assume is Lithuanian. I have just a couple complaints about the set. First, there is one song here that I just don't think works as well as the rest. Secondly, I think this is a case where less would have been more. I know when CDs first came out, the idea was to pack as much music into it as possible. This set is about 80 minutes long. I've begun thinking that the old 40-minute vinyl LPs were really about the ideal length for an album and too much can be overkill. I'd say this would be a stronger set it if had been split into two albums instead of just one. Still, the music all generally works well. It just gets a little samey near the end, and having a bit less music would have solved that.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Kai Nieko Nebelieka
The meaty guitar jam that opens this thing is so strong. The vocals are fast paced and rocking. I believe the lyrics are in Lithuanian, so I don't understand what he's singing about, but it rocks, either way. This is a strong tune and a great opener.
Nesustok
I love the more melodic groove that opens this track. It reminds me a bit of Led Zeppelin. As the vocals join, they are done as a duet with a female singer. This tune is intricate and quite 70s-like. The number is a cool one for certain. This thing rocks out pretty hard later along the road.
Flying High (S.V.J.S)
Now, the grind that opens this is decidedly metallic. This has some great guitar sounds and lines, and the whole thing really brings an even harder edge to the set. The tune is an instrumental that makes its way into the kind of territory occupied by the music of guys like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. Then again, I think that might be what the initials in the title refer to.
Gitaru Selsmas
Screaming hot hard rock is on the menu for this instrumental piece. It's another that lands in the metal zone. It's also purely on fire.
Kai Tu Sugrisi I Namus
I believe this is played ukulele at the start. It's a mellower tune with vocals. It has a real playful folk music vibe to it, at least in the early portions. It gets more layers of sound added to fill out the arrangement later. A mellower drop back movement further down the road is classy. This is very much a melodic rocker that is classy.
Per Bangas
This one is another melodic rocker, but with more of an emphasis on the rock side of the equation.
Killer Boogie From China
Here we get another instrumental that calls to mind Satriani and guys like that. It's a high energy rocker that works quite well.
Journey Home
Mellower and quite intricate sounds lead this number into being. The tune works out into something that leans toward fusion. This is melodic and quite tasty. It is another instrumental that lands in the Satriani and Vai vein.
Buna Tau
Piano starts this cut. Vocals come in over the top in balladic fashion. While the lyrics are not in English, for some reason this makes me think of Dire Straits quite a bit. As some melodic guitar joins that comparison seems even more valid.
Stormy Day
This one powers in with a real metal edge to it. It's a smoking hot rocker with some killer guitar work built into it. The dropped down movement brings a different angle to this instrumental. When it powers out from there, we're taken into a downright progressive rock-like jam for a time.
You Gotta Move
This down-home, back-porch blues number gets a great telling here. This makes me think of the Rolling Stones version to a large degree, but I think this is even more old-school traditional. The harmonica is a nice touch, and the vocals on this number are in English.
Eat My Dust
A major contrast to the previous piece, this thing fires in fast paced and metallic. It works into some more fusion-like territory as it continues.
Negerki Broleli
I like this rocker a lot. It is edgy and hard rocking, but also melodic. The vocal hooks are so catchy that you might find yourself singing along whether you can speak Lithuanian or not.
Icebreaker Comes To Town
This makes me think of the band Jackyl to some degree. This instrumental number works through quite a few shifts and changes in a decidedly metallic arrangement.
Asian Sky
Another instrumental, this has healthy helpings of both fusion and Satriani. It's quite effective with a great soaring musical vibe.
See Jam
The funk is brought to the proceedings with the start of this piece. This cut seriously lands in the zone of fusion. It's a powerhouse that works really well.
Song 4 Editoo
There is some country and some old school jazz built into this melodic instrumental. It's a bit more laid-back than some of the rest are. It still has some cool guitar work built into it. It also brings some variety to the table.
Dream Song
Here we get another Steve Vai like number. This is solid, but the formula is beginning to wear a bit thin. This is one song that would benefit from having this broken into two releases instead of just a single one.
Silo Kopa
More of a melodic tune, this is again very much in the Satriani and Vai school of music. It's another that suffers a bit from the length of the release.
Nebilia Lankoj

The opening movement of this features weird atmospherics along with world music styled vocals. The cut grows out from there to a cool fusion meets prog jam that is melodic. Those vocals return beyond that movement. This track definitely goes on too long. If there's a song I would have just plain left off of this set, it would be this one. For that reason, having it as the closing number seems a bit of a mistake to me.

 
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