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Full Throttle Rock

Album Review: Mike Campese - Chameleon

Posted on March 31, 2014 at 9:40 PM

Mike Campese – Chameleon

Written by Dave Smiles

I’m biased; I love guitars. Those picking up the instrument for the first time may find the six strings daunting and certainly be overwhelmed by the seven and eight string models. Max Cavalera modified his to five strings and Scott Ian to four. Some have pickups, some have humbuckers, not to mention the various effects and amps available. There is, however, one thing that can’t be marketed - the personal feel from the musician. This brings us to the versatile virtuoso Mike Campese and his eighth album Chameleon.

Mike Campese is fluent in various styles of music, has written for numerous guitar magazines and online sites, released instructional DVDs, done session work and is a guitar teacher. He was also a member of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

On the surface his music may be for fans of the Satriani, Vai, and Malenstean school of shredding, but upon further inspection it’s apparent this CD has something for everyone.

The track, To the 9s, shows Campese incorporating various levels within his shredding, allowing his playing to breathe. Flashback is a melodic ballad and brings some soulfulness to the shredding. Campese is a master of capturing the listener and taking them on an emotional melody ride of high and low, fast and mellow. In the title track, Chameleon, he takes things down a notch, creating an ominous mood, complemented perfectly by his vocals.

She Burnt the House Down shows some emotion in his playing, while Pasta and Bananas is one for the ‘prog’ fans who like odd metres and quick changes in form and tempo. A track that’s sure to interest fans of Rush, King Crimson, Dream Theater, Iron Maiden.

Guitarists have made the instrument sound like guns and insects, in Vegas (Playing the Slots) Campese makes his sound like a slot machine. The track Kilauea (named after a Hawaiian volcano), could be set to challenge Van Halen’s eruption and is a reminder of just how cool the guitar is.


Every guitar shred album needs a song title like Funky Monkey Man. This has some pretty cool guitar work on it and is another chance for Campese to contribute some singing to the album.

With Firefly in a Bottle and Meant to Be it’s time to lay down some strong grooves and catchy melodies and take on some jazz. Do it For the Cats kicks off with a wah drenched melody before setting an infectious jazzy rhythm. This track features special guest Vernon Ried from Living Colour and the two guitarists trade off some jaw dropping solos throughout.


Form and structure isn’t always fully understood by non-musically educated people, which may make listening to instrumental music a bit daunting for them. Campese’s use of recurring passages and themes, like in the track Raise the Bow, makes his music more accessible to the musical novice.

Overall, an enjoyable album that shows just how much the guitar can offer. I look forward to checking out his previous releases. I might even grab one of his instruction DVDs, though I’ll need a lifetime of practise to reach his level of expertise.


Categories: Album Reviews

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