So if you ask any number of people, “Who are your top five favorite rock guitarists?” Not wrong by any means, but you would probably get answers like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Satriani, Eddie Van Halen or Dimebag Darrell. While there are many exquisite guitarists around the world, MICHAEL ANGELO BATIO tends to fly under the mainstream radar. BATIO has just released his newest effort More Machine Than Man (out now, Rat Pak Records).
BATIO is from Chicago, Illinois and I bet you would be surprised that Dimebag of PANTERA was inspired by his techniques. MAB may have been the guitarist who invented or at minimum, perfected the sweep picking technique. Sweep picking, for those who don’t play, is essentially a technique whereby a chord or series of notes are held down with the fretting hand and taking the pick, essentially “sweeping” across the strings in one motion, thereby playing individual notes insanely fast. His trademark is a double necked guitar, which can be played by each hand at the same time.
On stage, he is a one man show, essentially playing to a soundtrack. You might think it a bit odd and initially it is, but because he is such a personable guy on stage and once he starts to play and you pick your jaw up off the floor, you will forget all about said soundtrack. I got the opportunity to meet this cool guy at the gig and he waited until every fan had an autograph and photo with him before he took off for the night. He really appreciates his fans. He is super nice as well.
Now let’s talk about More Machine Than Man. BATIO has produced a raw and raunchy set of thirteen unique tunes. Most of these are in your face, but all strictly badass. Fast paced efforts like….well, everything, but all completely and uniquely his. More obvious on this disc than others is the deep, more PANTERA-like step down tuning. Like practically all of MAB’s efforts, the album is lightning quick \m/etal \m/astery. The blitzkrieg begins with a familiar tonality called “Laser Guided” leading to “The Badlands”, which has a cool video of BATIO walking and playing in the desert. “Put All Fear Aside” is a battle between fast paced speed metal and then the next tasty mellow tune is “Dreamin’ of 1986”. Only 1:47 seconds, I actually love this song as it illustrates MAB’S guitar mastery and diversity.
“More Machine Than Man” comes in at numero cinco. BATIO pushes us off the primary slope by taking us on a screaming roller coaster ride. He then slowly and deliberately becomes delicate and climbs an even larger hill than at the start, pushes us over the edge again and then into the primary foray of sweep picking nastiness. Blistering. “Beyond the Outer Limits” comes in next. BATIO does a nice mixing job with some great deliberate bass and \m/etal drumming tracks, and second guitar. There are an infinite number of slices to the axe pie on this baby.
In seventh position, “The Two Sirens” is positioned to give us a great rhythmic, toe-tapping adventure. Stirs up memories of some old PRONG tunes. “AVTD” is the most unique tune on the album, with some killer bass lines. It’s the only effort with any vocals and those being “Audio-Visual-Technical-Digital”. I completely enjoyed its uniqueness. “The Countdown is On” arrives next with masterful sweep picking arpeggios. This man doesn’t do anything half assed. Every space is filled with complete insanity.
“Rhythm Reprise (I Pray the Lord)” is a slow paced and tasteful tune interspersed with keyboard and the occasional synchronized tubular bell. It’s a great place to slow down and catch your breath. The album ends with bonus tracks “21st Century Beck”, “Charlie Went to Chicago”, and “No Backup Plan”. Assuming his tribute to Jeff Beck and Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”, respectively, “Backup Plan” pulls in the finale with a more deliberate effort.
MICHAEL ANGELO BATIO has knocked a home run out of Wrigley Field with More Machine Than Man. It is definitely a raw and in your face achievement. I think all the tunes are great. Some of his past albums seemed to drag on a bit, but I don’t feel that way with this one at all. Crank it to 11. Salude’.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “The Badlands”, “Dreamin’ of 1986”, “Beyond the Outer Limits”, “AVTD”
-MARK “\M/ETAL \M/ESSIAH” EHRLICH