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Low Budget Orchestra - "The Second Best" (CD)

Low Budget Orchestra - "The Second Best" CD cover image

"The Second Best" track listing:

1. Take On the World (5:49)
2. Settle for the Second (3:52)
3. Emperor's New Clothes (4:36)
4. Nothing Will Be the Same (5:45)
5. Stalemate (4:50)
6. Rather Than Words (4:45)
7. Juliet's Waiting (5:03)
8. Dream Another (5:36)

Reviewed by on May 10, 2009

"In the world of instrumental rock and metal, the rule is to make things interesting or risk being background music. While each track on this record has a different overall theme to the melody, the music too often doesn’t go anywhere. "

Imagine the sound of just one of The Devin Townsend Band’s ethereal keyboard-driven passages drug out over 40 minutes with programmed drums, a bed of rhythm guitars, and some guitar solos interspersed throughout, and you would be imagining this album. Low Budget Orchestra’s “The Second Best” is a fun album of good quality keyboard sounds, distorted rhythm guitar lines that sound like they were written by Joe Satriani, expert shred guitar passages, and several interesting lead guitar lines. However, it’s disappointing for several reasons – static melodic development, the lack of vocals in the midst of said lackluster melodic development, and the lack of memorable leads.

Mikko Muranen, the main man behind Low Budget Orchestra and sole musician on “The Second Best,” has put forth an atmospheric, somewhat transcendental, and well-produced collection of songs that covers little ground. The songs start out with dialogue taken from various movies and fade into textural keyboards with drums that remind one of the free-form jams of prog-rock pioneers Ozric Tentacles. Backing rhythm guitars and the occasional keyboard or guitar leads assist the songs, but the melodic development of each song centers around one or two chords or a single series of chords for the entirety of the songs. There are some expert guitar solos on several tracks and passages in songs like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “Rather Than Words” that are worth noticing, but the rest of the elements of the album drag on a bit much.

In the world of instrumental rock and metal, the rule is to make things interesting or risk being background music. While each track on this record has a different overall theme to the melody, the music too often doesn’t go anywhere. No doubts about it – Mikko Muranen is a great musician and a good producer. But the songs just don’t go anywhere. They feel like they’re building up to something, but stick to pacing the grounds of Joe Satriani instrumental shred-rock with lots of synthesizer backing them.

Grab this album if you want an excellent album to relax and maybe bob your head to, but don’t expect to be head banging.

Highs: Recording quality, considering the low budget, and the shred guitar passages.

Lows: The drums are the only "metal" thing about this album, the music doesn't go anywhere, and it's not the most interesting instrumental record.

Bottom line: Disappointing melodic development makes the songs stagnate, but the guitar shred parts are well-played and the keyboards are effervescent. Not the most original, but not bad.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)