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Pinnella, Michael: Enter By The Twelfth Gate

The Symphony X keyboardist finally breaks out on his own: he's taken the trolley down to where Jens Johansson, Jordan Rudess, Vitalij Kuprij and Tomas Bodin have each long since staked their claims as solo artists. Naturally, I feared the worst: wanking!

I donned my crash helmet, prepared for new, perchance lethal sojourns into reckless diatonic noodling on surface streets. As a fan of electronic and keyboard-centered music since the mid-1980's, and of vintage fusion for almost as long, I'm not exactly keen on "shred" keyboarding — though many of my heroes like Rick Wakeman, Jan Hammer, and Jens Johansson can slice through a mix with the ease of skinning an orange. It's all about the approach, which is why Kuprij doesn't do much for me: leaving out notes can be just as important as playing all of the notes. And there I was, with my helmet and cold 20oz. Pepsi, ready to be run over by volleys of ascending chromatic scales with no safe harbor between the pavement and slavish semitones consigned to one purpose, and one purpose only: to do me in like cheap roadkill.

{Later, that same evening…}

Boy, was I wrong. On Enter By The Twelfth Gate, Pinnella's done anything but that of which he'd been prejudged, and now I sit, humbled. While it won't be an endcap, an end-all, to keyboard albums in terms of content & execution, it doesn't have to be. Even the most energetic tracks don't get too near shameless wailin' terrain: "The White Room," the title track, "Live For The Day," and "Cross The Bridge" are moderately high on ambition, but nil on pretense. These are upbeat compositions with quieter sections and as much piano action as synth. Bass lines are left-hand parts, the drumming is very natural (and may or may not be programmed), and sequencer backup isn't prevalent — a very "live" affair, indeed. The kicker: a few of the monophonic solos on the aforementioned tracks echo Gerard keyboardist Toshio Egawa's soloing style, and it's highly unlikely that either of these two gents is familiar with the other's repertoire! Take a listen to the last Gerard release, Power Of Infinity, and you'll hear what I mean (this is no bad thing, either). What Pinnella does do that Egawa does not, is perform in classical mode: three movements from his "Piano Concerto" (taking into consideration they're his), and one of Alexander Scriabin's etudes — "Étude: Opus 42, no. 5" — bank on the renderer's precision and sound fabulous.

Dare I say it? Considering the nature of the work presented here, Wakeman buffs are going to like Enter By The Twelfth Gate quite a bit! Pinnella's "virtual analog" sounds are also more than adequate. If there's a minus to counter any one plus or two, it's that the album's forty-five minutes are fleeting ones. The artist will no doubt realize there's an audience for this sort of music, and compose a follow-up.


1. The White Room (5:23)
2. Edge Of Insanity (4:24)
3. Piano Concerto #1 mvt. 1 (5:11)
4. Enter By The 12th Gate (4:30)
5. Falling From The Sky (2:55)
6. Welcome To My Daydream (3:22)
7. Piano Concerto #1 mvt. 2 (2:26)
8. Piano Concerto #1 mvt. 3 (2:19)
9. Live For The Day (3:36)
10. *Scriabin Etude Op.42 no5 (1:50)
11. Moracan Lullaby (1:50)
12. Departing For Eternity (1:24)
13. Cross The Bridge (4:55)

Total time – 44:23

Added: March 8th 2005
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Related Link: Inside Out Music Dot Com
Hits: 2637
Language: english

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Pinnella, Michael: Enter By The Twelfth Gate
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-03-08 06:18:15
My Score:

It's just unfair to ask a classical music fan to review this record. After so many childhood years lost on classical piano lessons, just one listen to Michael Pinella's debut solo CD Enter By The Twelfth Gate was an ample reminder of why those lessons were dumped in favor of cycle racing and then motorcycling.

Pinella is best known for his work on keyboards in Symphony X, so of course, you'd expect a strong progressive metal album. But no - this is a classical work, and there isn't a bar - not a note - of metal on this record. Remember how Wakeman and Emerson tried to do something like this in various ways, and with varying success? Well Michael Pinella just came rushing out of the twelfth gate and his debut CD just may eclipse those artists' best efforts.

"Scriabin Etude Op.42 No. 5" is Michael's rendition of an Alexander Scriabin piece. Scriabin was a Russian composer and a friend of Rachmaninoff, and like his compatriot some of his pieces were underpinned by heavily complex bass clef lines. Michael's deft handling of those left hand parts is a showcase for his musicianship and the only disappointment was that he cut it off after less than 2 minutes of what I remember as a 3 to 4 minute piece. On the other hand Pinella's piano concerto in 3 movements is spread across the CD on tracks 1, 7 and 8, but programming your CD player to run them one after the other yields 10 minutes of a pure classical piano concerto complete with a sampled orchestral backdrop which is so realistic you'll have to listen carefully - several times over - before deciding whether it's real or not. The title track also starts out as a classically styled piece but it morphs into something more modern with a strong synth line. "Edge of insanity" is a still more contemporary, high-energy piece led by a synthesizer, supported by piano, mellotron-like choirs, and bass guitar and drums.

And those bass guitar and drum lines are also keyboard patches. So even though there wasn't a drumstick swung in anger, you can still hear the organic touch and it sounds so much better than programmed percussion.

Twelfth Gate is 13 tracks in 44 too-short minutes of inspired compositions, flawless execution and rich music with a relaxed tension that will keep you coming back for more. The three thinks Michael pinella does best are musicianship, musicianship and musicianship - and this album is a wonderful listen and belongs in any serious collector's classical or symphonic prog collection.

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