"Stranger Inside" (K-Scope; 2008)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Having spent most of my life focused on guitarists it has been difficult to truly “hear” and understand keyboards/synthesizers in the metal, rock and progressive contexts. Slowly but surely that understanding has evolved as I’ve listened to a diverse set of genres, groups, and artists that have either predominantly used keyboards or used keyboards in a complementary way.

Richard Barbieri, keyboardist and synth-guru extraordinaire, has just released his second solo effort “Stranger Inside.” As an important member of Porcupine Tree, it is Barbieri who adds all kinds of color and shades to Steven Wilson’s songs. While Porcupine Tree would probably be a great band without Barbieri, it goes without saying that Barbieri’s presence and contributions in Porcupine Tree make it a stellar band.

“Cave” starts the album off with vim and vigor. World beats and electronic percussion support “Byzantium” and its exploratory flights of fancy. The epic “Hypnotek” percolates, builds, stops, restarts, diverts, and retraces in a satisfying way that’s not really been done before. Mellow vibes via “All Fall Down,” “Abyssn,” and the title track add textures for more contemplative moods.

Each track on “Stranger Inside” has its own identity and embodies the diverse musical history he’s had. The best aspect of the disc is that it displays Barbieri’s songwriting skills. “Stranger Inside” also shows the depth of sonic resources Barbieri has at his disposal. No wonder the Porcupine Tree albums are a treat to listen to.

“Stranger Inside” was produced, written, and performed by Richard Barbieri. The disc was mixed by Steve Jansen (ex-Japan) and mastered by Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, No-Man, Blackfield).

Richard Barbieri secured contributions from Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) on drums for a couple of tracks, Danny Thompson on bass for one track, and Steve Jansen on percussion, programming and arrangements.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2008 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11 Jun 2018 20:14:11 -0400.