Marcelo Camela – The Beautiful Story – Album Review
Fun fact…it’ll be five years since I started listening to the music of Marcelo Camela as of this October. Quite willingly I might add…it’s been a complete pleasure to witness his growth as an artist over the years; he’s always been an incredible musician from the very beginning, but undeniably, as is hopefully the case with many of you, experience & time continue to bring out the best in him with each new record.
What we’ve learned about Marcelo throughout the years aside from his tremendous talent and stalwart faith, is that at the end of the day, he is willing to explore and create in realms of sound & style we don’t always expect…and I love that about the guy. For a man that we first met through a devoutly religious and gorgeous instrumental record called Praise & Strings to be the same guy that made the savage EP called Metal back in May of this year…I mean…it’ll make you give your head a shake and wonder HOW! The skills are always on display…but Marcelo chose to prove he can thrive in a variety of styles and isn’t limited to any one dimension when it comes to making music…and you know that gets a full salute of respect from yours truly right here. I’m a massive fan of zero limitations and endless possibilities.
That being said…if you know your full history here at sleepingbagstudios and our ongoing adventures into Camela’s music…then it’s quite likely that you remember his name showing up on our top-ten list last year for his album Melodies In Motion. As I dust my shoulders off here, let me just say…these nominations are never anything I take lightly…I toil over making that list as perfect and accurate as I can throughout the year so that when our top-ten list gets released, I can stand behind every artist/band on it – and Marcelo deserved to be there in 2019; he made an undeniably incredible record. Not only were the songs themselves amazing, but it was all written from a place that sounded right where he belonged – like he was on his own personal quest to “Make Like Look Beautiful” through his music, & achieved it.
So was I…hmm…almost terrified when he released the monstrous material on his Metal EP earlier this year, thinking that maybe the beautiful side of his sound had been stomped out by distorted chaos and musical mayhem? Not exactly…though it did cross my mind just how much I felt like he got it right on Melodies In Motion, and how much of a departure away from that style of sound the Metal EP was. Like I said before, I’m all about expression and exploration when it comes to music – try EVERYTHING you can and everything you want to – we’re all here for a limited time, so get to work! But just like everyone else out there, there’s obviously music that connects to me quickly, music I can appreciate, and then tunes that just don’t gel at all. Marcelo’s never had to worry about that last category – his skill alone will always have me appreciating what he brings to any record, he’s as incredible as musicians get, truly – but we all have our favorite styles or gears when it comes to multi-dimensional artists like this. It makes me think of one of my own favorites from the Electro-side of the musical realm, Aphex Twin, who said something to the effect of how a person would have to be literally insane to like his entire catalog of songs because of how vast the range of styles were…and that fact that even HE didn’t like every track. As I listened to Metal…I was blown away by the commitment, depth of sound, and extremely talent on display in a much more aggressive style than I’d heard Marcelo play full-on in so far…and while I’d never shy away from a Metal record of any kind…somewhere in the back of my mind, the question of when we might see or hear that beautifully melodic side of Camela’s music show up again continually nagged me. I’m okay with a short departure…I just didn’t want it to be ousted altogether…and there was no way to know for sure at the time the last EP came out. Metal could have just as easily marked an entire shift in sound for Marcelo Camela as it might be just a short trip into another sonic dimension – it’s only time that’ll tell that story as it marches on, and we wait for what comes next to confirm or disprove all this.
As golden tones began to pour out of every pore in the speakers surrounding me as “The Land Between The Lakes” started up Marcelo’s new album The Beautiful Story…what else can I say? I was stoked to hear that the melodically-intense majesty & magnificence of his music was the very first thing I heard. Eventually, as I’d go on to discover throughout this lineup of songs, The Beautiful Story becomes quite the hybrid between what he latched onto with Melodies In Motion and the Metal EP – but as this album began, I certainly couldn’t have been happier. “The Land Between The Lakes” isn’t just a good start – it’s a GREAT start and a fantastic first impression as the gateway into this new record. The sheer amount of heart & melody you’ll find in this opening song alone is worth the price of admission folks, that I can tell ya for sure – I heard “The Land Between The Lakes” and felt like I fell in love with Camela’s music all over again immediately. For real, before you’re even fifteen seconds into this first tune, you will feel the significant amount of sincerity and heart you’ll find in the inspired melody that flows throughout “The Land Between The Lakes” – and for you fans of the guitar-world out there, you’ll absolutely hear the amount of skill you want radiating from the frets of Camela’s axe and songwriting with the structure & execution that’s built to keep you engaged & excited about what you’re hearing at every moment. It’s a wonderful opening to the album; every time the record cycled around again on repeat, I’d hear “The Land Between The Lakes” start it all up again and willingly sit for another go through the entire set-list.
Icy winds blow over the beginning of “Pretty Dreams” as it settles into its subtle demeanor and quaint, comforting sound. The strings that Marcelo has added into this song was a true masterstroke – like it’s literally the piece of the puzzle that makes the complete picture when it comes to “Pretty Dreams” – or at least, maybe it’s between that and the melodic tinkling that sparkles along the surface – or maybe it’s the cinematic glow & warmth that continually develops as it all plays on…you could choose any one of these elements as the most defining attribute of what you’ll hear and you’d get no argument from me. We’re all bound to connect to what we connect to – all I’m tellin’ ya is you’ll find a smorgasbord of sound that’ll head straight to your heart on “Pretty Dreams” – this is a spectacularly sweet gem on The Beautiful Story. Overall, this is probably the most mellow song you’ll find on this record by a fair margin – but make no mistake, every ounce of the effort has been put in to make this as stunning as it truly IS. As many times as I listened to this record, I kept coming back to “Pretty Dreams” being a strong candidate for my favorite cut of the bunch…I just think it’s beautiful in the most captivating & sincere way you’ll ever find a song to be – I was mesmerized by this tune, every single time. At the end of the day, I’m much more of a melody-guy than a Metal-head…so keep that in mind – “Pretty Dreams” is the kind of song that speaks to me, but I can’t imagine a world where the experience wouldn’t be the same for YOU. “Pretty Dreams” will bury itself right into your heart, nestle right in there, and call it home.
I also felt like “None Like You” came out stunning…but almost in a completely unexpected way this time around. What stood out to me most on this song was the ambience, background, recording, production, and percussion…”None Like You” really gets you listening to the entire atmosphere, and I love that about this cut. Guitar-wise, believe me, Marcelo ALWAYS stands out…so don’t get me wrong, you’ll love what you find here from him too in that sense – but LISTEN to how organic & natural “None Like You” ends up sounding around the soaring solos will ya? To be truthful, I wasn’t always sold on the strings that eventually pop up on this cut in comparison to the rest…I like what I heard, but if I’m being 100% honest with ya, “None Like You” already had everything it needed goin’ on long before they show up for the short moment they do; I think the brief appearance they make also confirms that Camela likely felt the same way. The facts are that he’s found a whole other hook at that point on “None Like You” that could be a completely different song or the stem of a whole new avenue – and ultimately I think he made a really good call in flashing it for a moment to preserve its existence, but choosing not to let it become the dominant factor or tarnish what had already been going so incredibly well for him on this song. There’s a brilliant amount of character, tone, and texture combined throughout “None Like You” that stands out in all the right ways…it makes for one of the most intimate moments you’ll find in the lineup on The Beautiful Story, where you feel like you’re right there in the room with Marcelo playing. The man’s technique is off the charts and you really get to hear it in an impressively organic way here.
If you listen to the Steve Vais and Joe Satrianis of the world out there, you’re certainly familiar with the idea of having that core concept or central theme inside of an instrumental song to build around – which can be a seriously important aspect of this entire style of music when connecting to the masses out there. Listen to how Camela makes the magic happen in this regard on “The Closer You Get” – because THIS is how you do it RIGHT folks…the man is beaming spectacular sound from every string and radiating melody at every moment throughout this electrifying & highlight performance he puts into this song. I’ll put it to you this way…there are songs that require a whole bunch of words to back up what you hear or inform you about what you’ll experience – and there are songs like “The Closer You Get” where the music completely speaks on its own behalf. I listen to a song like “The Closer You Get” and my first thoughts are, “well…how would ANYONE out there hear this any differently than I do?” Awesomeness is universal, is it not? In my opinion, we should all easily be able to hear just how incredible a cut this is. While there are probably at least a couple cuts on this record like “Forever,” “Never Really Gone” or “Pretty Dreams” that would give this song a run for its money in terms of my number-one favorite from The Beautiful Story – I would seriously be looking at “The Closer You Get” as being the single to lead people in. This is the kind of instrumental song so strong that you’ll be singing along with it, even though there’s not a word being sung – the hooks are so lively & vibrant – it’s what real single-worthy sound is all about. “The Closer You Get” is executed so flawlessly and structured to deliver epic portions of audio-entertainment in every second of its 4:48 in length…definitely the kind of song that will get the attention it deserves one way or the other; either it’ll be the single to be the gateway in, or it’ll be one of the main heroes of the set-list that listeners look forward to time & time again as they spin this record.
As I’d mentioned somewhere around the beginning of this review, The Beautiful Story becomes a hybrid experience that sonically combines elements of the last two records he’s put out – and you’ll hear the extreme bite of his gnarly side begin to roar on “Reflections Of Nowhere” instantly as it begins. With the exception of the tiniest melodic breaks around the 1:45/3:40-ish areas, and its opening thirty-seconds or so, this cut pounds away and fully reminds us that this is the same guy that put out the Metal EP just last month! The chill of the opening four tracks subsides and breaks away like an earthquake separating the ground beneath you, erupting into a fiery disposition & completely different chapter of sound on The Beautiful Story. It is…without question…the switch you honestly won’t see coming and one of the boldest transitions in sound & style that you’ll hear on any record this year, I can promise ya that. Is there risk in this move? Of course! It is bound to throw listeners for a serious loop as Marcelo breaks away from the melodically-inclined beginning of The Beautiful Story and dives headfirst into a much more aggressive set of storming emotions & sounds on “Reflections Of Nowhere” – I ain’t gonna lie, it comes right outta left-field and you’d never see it coming on that first spin through. Ultimately, in the context of the story this set of songs goes on to tell through an extremely smart structuring of this lineup – this whole shift represents an enormously important chapter of the overall tale he’s telling.
And if you think you’ve experienced the most savage part of Marcelo Camela’s sound on this album so far with “Reflections Of Nowhere” – buckle up tight folks, because he’ll create an even more gigantic & behemoth song in “The Cruelty Of Circumstances” right afterwards. He’s viciously attacking those frets like you won’t believe until ya hear it for yourself, with all the storming chops and punishing drums to back up his every move – Marcelo pulls no punches and makes no apologies as he commits to the grimmest & grimiest of the songs you’ll find on this album. There’s a reason for that…again, if you’re listening close, even without words, this album tells a verifiable story as it rampages from one extreme to the other; “The Cruelty Of Circumstances” is definitely a strong reminder that no story out there is all sunshine & rainbows, you feel me? This track is not for the faint of heart, that much I can tell ya for sure – it’s the audio-equivalent of a freakin’ defibrillator with the strength to bring the dead back to life. And perhaps that’s the point…maybe that’s what Marcelo is expressing here…maybe he’s raging against the machine and “The Cruelty Of Circumstances” and throwing every ounce of power he’s got into his guitar like he’s screaming out into the void in a desperate plea to reverse said circumstances. I think that feeling of helplessness can quite often rival, be equal or similar to, the intense feelings of rage & rebellion – and quite often, you’ll find one certainly leads to the other. “The Cruelty Of Circumstances” embodies what so many of us bottle up inside, and eventually explode out into the world as a result; I think it’s definitely a cut for the Metal crowd out there, but a master-class in controlled chaos for sure.
“A Haunting Memory” was exactly what I needed after those last two cuts came storming at me – so shout out to Marcelo Camela for at least allowing me to catch my breath throughout the intro. He slows it down a bit in comparison to the previous cuts, and as a result, I think we get a bit more time to appreciate everything he’s put into the melodic aspect of “A Haunting Memory” to go along with the grinding malevolence that never seems to fully let up. As a result, you get a seriously insightful balance in this song…almost like you’re audibly witnessing the battle between the light & the dark – and you’ll find that it’s because of this, that “A Haunting Memory” will play like one of the most adventurous cuts on the entire album when you consider where it travels in sound from beginning to end & what it combines. A powerfully strong song even in its most low-key moments – either the melody will cling eerily to your bones and haunt your soul, or the amped-up aggression will take your attention by force – one way or the other, or both, “A Haunting Memory” is certain to be a standout track for many of you. Everything on this record is played with such unrelenting passion and commitment that you can’t help but feel the emotion in every note, even at its most extreme. “A Haunting Memory” is an excellent example of the hybrid aspect of Marcelo’s music and a memorable highlight of the versatility & diversity in sound that exists in both the lineup of songs throughout this record, and the songs individually too.
Of the odysseys into the extreme, “Lifelife” is also one of the most adventurous, meaty, and all-out engaging cuts you’ll find from that dimension of The Beautiful Story and its more aggressive half. Like I alluded to earlier on, no matter what side of Marcelo’s music you identify with, relate to, or connect to more – you gotta appreciate the way the man attacks the strings of his axe, delivers impeccable proficiency, and executes at such an extraordinarily professional level, every single time, no matter what the style or sound is. When it comes to epic cuts like “Lifeline,” you’ll find a perfect demonstration of how great instrumental music proves it doesn’t need a single word – this is the kind of song that tells a story of its own & communicates sonically. I think the ending of “Lifeline” alone would cue a lot of people listening in to the amount of thought and innovation that Camela puts into his music – listen to how the sound fluctuates as it fades out…like the “Lifeline” refuses to surrender, still kicking with life to the very last seconds. It’s clever attention to detail like that, even in the smallest aspects of a song, or the most miniscule moments, that can really stack up with the strength of the ideas surrounding them to deliver a complete experience…and that’s the difference Camela makes with the approach he takes to his music. A genuine thrill-ride of scathing & riotous Metal sound that couldn’t possibly be ignored, the gripping hooks of “Lifelife” are savagely entertaining, colorful, explosive…& they detonate continuously.
Structure is so key to The Beautiful Story, I can barely begin to even explain it. You’ll find it’s a huge factor in the adventurous nature of the songs themselves for sure – but the record in its entirety as well. Listen to the storm of sound break as “Resurgence” emanates soaring & surging melody in full bloom – like Marcelo has found his way out of the dark and back into the light, emerging more powerful than ever before. Listening to this guy light up the music around the 2:40 mark was a highlight for me, every single time I spun my way through The Beautiful Story – “Resurgence” is the audio-equivalent of the best slice of layer-cake you’ve ever had. Moment after moment, Marcelo keeps you right on the edge of your seat and locked right into every second of “Resurgence” – it’s another huge transition of sound from the set of songs that came right beforehand, but this is how you make the move convincingly. No one out there is gonna argue against the triumphant achievement in sound that “Resurgence” creates. After the adventure we’ve all been on to get to this point in The Beautiful Story, it audibly feels like we’re all collectively finding our way back to where we belong as we take this next step forward in the overall journey…you can feel the atmosphere brightening up. “Resurgence” still has a powerful amount of low-end crunch and grit to its sound that makes the transition of the album flow more gradually out of the chaotic storm of songs in the middle, setting the stage for what’s to follow through the switch. Everything about this track has an uplifting vibe to it…you really feel the “Resurgence” the title implies.
And so, with the flexible design & structure of this album coming around full-circle back to the melodically-inclined & radiant style we know & love from Marcelo Camela, he dives right into it once again with “Not A Matter Of Deserving” and delivers one of the most emotionally-charged cuts you’ll find on the record. It’s the longest track on The Beautiful Story, but it’s filled with uplifting sound and enigmatic, shape-shifting melody that continually keeps you fully entertained. Would I have liked a few more bars of the breakdown around the four-minute mark? Sure! But that’s nit-picking at its finest and not my decision to make – again, I salute the attention to detail and diversity you’ll find in Marcelo’s music and the versatility he plays with. Besides…I think he more than makes up for making me want more of the breakdown with the stunning finale of “Not A Matter Of Deserving” descending beautifully into its subtle & graceful fade-out ending. Dude is capable of such radiant, neon-tones from his guitar when he wants to let that side of his music take the spotlight…which he will throughout quite a portion of “Not A Matter Of Deserving,” and in my opinion, these are the moments that quite often feel the most connected between the music & the artist creating it. You feel that he feels it, you feel me? Part of its melancholy, part of its serenity, acceptance, and true beauty as well…there’s a whole array of stirring sound, melody, and emotion that runs throughout this song that’ll draw you in to listen closely.
Like I’ve been saying…I’m never gonna discourage the freedom of creativity or how Marcelo embraces his Metal side when he wants to go in that direction…I’m just saying the magic of his musicianship can’t be ignored when you hear it in from its most melodic & sincere angles, like you do on “Never Really Gone.” If you can listen to this song and somehow come out not feeling like you could conquer the world five-times over, then you’re listening to it wrong; the uplifting & inspired sound that soars & surges throughout “Never Really Gone” is a true experience to behold in itself. Don’t get me wrong – this entire album is full of a ton of significant highlights for Marcelo Camela & his music once again, but “Never Really Gone” might very well end up being the most recognized one of the bunch when all is said & done and the dust settles from the court of public opinion. Personally, I think he’s outdone himself with what he accomplishes on “Never Really Gone” – I think it’s radiantly beautiful, I think it’s powerfully engaging, and the amount of skill on display is outright breathtaking. It’s another song on this album that takes you on a vibrantly remarkable & memorable journey from start to finish, morphing brilliantly along the way & transitioning to an even bigger sound as you listen. I think Marcelo has actually loaded up this whole record with a series of surprises along the way – and all ideas that stack up into one brilliantly complete experience overall. Notably, you’ve got moments like the delicate sound of “Pretty Dreams” showing up early, the eventual departure into explosive Metal moments, and the climb back outta the dark and into the light through songs like “Resurgence” and “Never Really Gone” – all these pivotal pieces of this record are 100% essential in making The Beautiful Story fully complete by the end.
“Forever” delivers on the finale you want in this record after everything you’ve experienced & heard. It’s the most edgy of his melodic cuts without diving into the Metal side of his sound – you get a much more progressive mix of alternative/instrumental style here that’s like, LOADED, with hooks everywhere. When you’re talking about fireworks in relation to music and a finale to a record – look no further than “Forever” for a highlight example of what it takes to finish an album off on all the right notes. The musicianship is extraordinary, but also a noticeable degree or two more accessible than most of what you’ll hear in his entire catalog – Marcelo will officially blow the rest of your mind at the end of this album with spectacular melody, passion, and heart beaming out of every string in his guitar. You feel that celebratory aspect of “Forever” – it SOUNDS like the audible form of achievement…of conquering a personal goal…of reaching the end of a quest, or uncovering a new personal best – however you might define it for yourself, you can feel it right in your bones…this final cut is energizing. Real food for the mind, body, and soul…just like great music should always be. At its core, “Forever” is rooted in pretty stylistic & slick Pop-inclined hooks that are comforting to our ears and readily accepted – Marcelo sparkles & shines bright as he finishes The Beautiful Story and emphasizes the ‘beautiful’ aspect of it all on this final cut perhaps more than any other song this side of “Pretty Dreams.” It makes for one last radiant & bold statement on behalf of the contrast in the material on this record, and how no matter you might battle or struggle for a moment or two in the middle of life, you can triumph by the end if you stay the course and put your heart & soul into every minute you’ve got your eyes open for.
The Beautiful Story comes out officially on July 29th 2020 – and we’ll be spinning something from this record before that on the SBS Podcast coming up, so be sure to tune in! Until then, stay connected and find out more about Marcelo Camela at his official homepage at: https://www.marcelocamela.com
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