Since she rocketed to prominence as the featured guitarist for Michael Jackson's ill-fated "This Is It" tour and the subsequent movie, Orianthi has been hailed by everyone from Steve Vai to Carlos Santana as one of the best young axe slingers to come along in years. So when her major label debut album "Believe" landed in 2009 its pop sensibilities brought her a ton of fans in the tween crowd but the album's sole shredder, a duet with Steve Vai titled "Highly Strung," left fans of that side of her work wishing for more. Now those fans' prayers have been answered with the release of "Heaven in This Hell" on March 12 on Robo Records.
Even at her most poppy, Orianthi wore her influences on her sleeve and one listen to "Heaven in This Hell" is a virtual "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" essay of the past 3 years of Orianthi's career. As touring guitarist for Alice Cooper, Orianthi has picked up a strong sense of musical theatrics from rock's best theatrical performer. Songs like "Heaven in This Hell" and "Filthy Blues" blend some strong blues rock guitar with the theatrical vocal delivery that has made Alice Cooper a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.
Even more evident is her time spent with Eurythmics frontman Dave Stewart over the last year. Stewart not only produced the album, he co-wrote many of the album's best songs with Orianthi. Stewart's fingerprints are all over "Heaven in This Hell." In his hands, even the album's closest nod to the pop sensibilities of "Believe", "If U Were Here With Me", owes a lot more to early Melissa Etheridge or "Nick of Time" era Bonnie Raitt than it does Taylor Swift. Under Stewart's
But the biggest surprise on "Heaven in This Hell" is "How Do You Sleep?" There's never been any doubt that Orianthi could sing, but nothing in her back catalog prepares you for the powerful bluesy soul vocals she shows off on this song. While she's not quite at that level yet, "How Do You Sleep" is enough to make us crave a future guitar and vocal collaboration between Orianthi and Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard.
While "Heaven in This Hell" is a whiplash inducing roller coaster ride of genre switching, like a good roller coaster all of the twists and turns leave you grinning like a madman when the ride finally stops. At 28, Orianthi has the potential to be a force in music for decades to come. If "Heaven in This Hell" is any indicator, she's playing her hand just right, soaking up the wisdom of the greats her guitar talents have allowed her to share a stage with and channeling those influences into her own unique brand.