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Koksal, Cem: Set Me Free!!

Cem Koksal is a very well known guitar virtuoso in Turkey. He has been playing the guitar for a long time, he's been in cover bands and he's played many a show. Set Me Free!! is his debut solo album, and it's a 'solo' record in the true meaning of the word. Koksal wrote all the music and lyrics himself (except one song), and he recorded, mixed and produced the album in his own studio. On the album, he plays all the guitars from acoustic to rhythm to lead, bass, and he does some backing vocals as well. Behind the mic, we have Turkey's best metal singer Murat Ilkan of Pentagram/Mezarkabul fame. Last but not the least, Murat's brother, Aykan Ilkan, performs the drums.

This is one of those albums that has great appeal value for guitar fans mostly, since Cem Koksal plays coherent, melodic guitar solos with incredible depth and harmony. Some people compare him to Yngwie Malmsteen, but I believe it's only those who equate every neoclassical guitar run with Yngwie. Cem Koksal's style of playing differs from many shredders who are all about alternate picking over incessant sweeping on the neck of the guitar. Koksal is exceptionally tasteful. He picks the strings of his instrument with admirable restraint, never sacrificing the songs for show or pyrotechnics. His riffing and soloing are characterized by melody of the highest calibre, powerful expression of a myriad of influences ranging from Back to Vivaldi to Malmsteen, and some hidden Turkish music traits here and there.

Through the 59-minute disc, we hear plenty of diverse songs. The first track, "Set Me Free!!", has an outstanding bass line that is complemented by a nice harmonic guitar solo and Murat Ilkan's somewhat aggressive vocal delivery. The first instrumental cut is the intro track for "Blood on Blood". This is a nice acoustic piece that is seamlessly woven with the main song. Koksal's rapid-fire rhythm workout and precise timing reaches a height of excellence when Ilkan joins him with soaring vocals. The album slows down for a moment on the next song, "Winding Road". This one is a nice ballad beginning with great acoustic guitars only to pick towards the end when Koksal goes for another solo that is loaded with tons of emotion. Murat Ilkan sings radically different than he does with his own band Pentagram (aka Mezarkabul); this disc has certainly allowed him to go into a different musical territory. The short "Dreams", co-written by Ilkan, would rival with the best Euro power metal bands out there thanks to the song's nice double-drum bass and Ilkan's powerful vocals. The duo further expand on this style on "Men Made of Iron", but Murat's vocals are so emotional, even while hitting the high notes, you will immediately notice his talents as a singer!

"Earthquake Part 1" and "Earthquake Part 2" are also linked. The lyrics are unquestionably inspired by the horrible earthquake that happened in Turkey taking the lives of thousands of people. The first part of the song is purely instrumental -- a riff-laden piece that displays an immortal melody line at the same time. It takes a lot of chops to do this song justice. The second part, however, goes back to Koksal's neoclassical roots, as the lyrics once again hit really hard. More classical numbers are kept for the latter part of the album: "For Amadeus" is Koksal's thank-you to Mozart, as it is a nifty variation of Mozart's "Requiem". This is a really amazing song, kind of like the new Steve Hackett in a sense. It feels like there's this huge orchestra behind Koksal playing in perfect harmony with the guitar. The most progressive composition on the album has got to be "Ruthless" -- Koksal blends his talents with his technique and great sense of melody on this one. Every guitar fan should give this number a listen.

The album closes on a sad outlook on "Life" -- a 10-minute epic piece. The lyrics on this one are the most emotional in my opinion. Also, the song is quite different from its predecessors; it kicks off with acoustic guitars that recall Timo Tolkki's solo material for a moment. The original running time of the song is a little over six minutes actually, but there is so much atmosphere going on here. Cem Koksal re-released his album as Just Set Me Free!! in Turkey with a different cover art, bonus songs in Turkish, etc., so give that version also a shot if you can track it down.

Track Listing
1. Set Me Free!! (6:10)
2. Blood on Blood - Intro (2:34)
3. Blood on Blood (5:07)
4. Winding Road (6:00)
5. Ruthless (4:03)
6. Dreams (2:40)
7. Men Made of Iron! (4:32)
8. Earthquake Part 1 (3:03)
9. Earthquake Part 2 (5:41)
10. For Amadeus (5:48)
11. Violin Concerto No I in Db-Minor (3:18)
12. Life (10:22)

Added: April 11th 2005
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: More Information
Hits: 4833
Language: english

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