Elmo Karjalainen: The Free Guitar Album, Limited Edition (KC Sound KC-013, 2015)

Free Guitar Limited Cover Color_05240359.jpg
Free Guitar Limited Cover Color_05240359.jpg

Elmo Karjalainen: The Free Guitar Album, Limited Edition (KC Sound KC-013, 2015)


The second solo album by the guitar player Elmo Karjalainen. This is a Limited Edition containing eight original tracks, plus three tracks with alternative solos. All compositions by Elmo Karjalainen. Available only as a physical CD from this shop.

Released June 11, 2015. 

Weight with bubblebag 99g

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Christer Karjalainen: drums and percussion on "She Sleeps on the Moon"

Elmo Karjalainen: everything else (guitars, bass, keyboards, drum programming, voices)


01. Instrumetal 4:28

02. Don´t Quit Yer Day Job 4:49

      Clark-san (spoken) 0:18 

03. Incontinental Breakfast 4:17

04. She Sleeps on the Moon 5:29

05. Algorhythm 4:22

      Noises 0:39

06. The Gentle Art of Listening 5:58

07. The Bolero Unravels (I Come Undone) 5:43

08. Relax 3:25

09. Don´t Quit Yer Day Job (alt. solos) 4:49

10. Algorhythm (alt. solos) 4:22

11. She Sleeps on the Moon (alt. solos) 5:27

CD in jewelbox, with 4 page leaflet. Weight with bubblebag 98 grams


Sleeping Bag Studios wrote this review:

"The album starts out HOT! Elmo Karjalainen comes out absolutely crushing the guitar licks on the opening of The Free Guitar Album with “Instrumetal.” Intense and mind-blowingly well-played – Elmo starts off this album with a masterpiece guitar epic that tears the place up from left to right. There is no way you can follow a song like this with anything disappointing to follow…my years of experience have taught me that you can’t get it this RIGHT like Elmo does on “Instrumetal” and come anywhere close to writing something so horrendous we’d turn it off after setting a precision-standard of gold-star excellence like he does on this first rock song on The Free Guitar Album. And even though these guitar-stars tend to often program the drums in their songs…the ones that do it well do it VERY well…and I love what Elmo has put into this opening tune.

Between the sounds of “Instrumetal” and the following-cut “Don’t Quit Yer Day Job” really reminded me of a certain guitar hero of my own; actually many of them would. And sure…some people will tell you there’s no difference between a Vai or a Satriani…to me there always has been. If this doesn’t remind you of Steve Vai’s skill and song-writing style, particularly around the Sex & Religion and maybe earlier like Alien Love Secrets type-Vai…that’s what I hear in the hard-cutting edge in the music of Elmo. BUT…dear readers…the reason why I’m suggesting it would be Vai as an influence would be because of his relationship with Zappa…and the amount of sheer ATTITUDE you could hear in the music they played; and you can hear that in Karjalainen’s playing – this is a man that can really make the guitar speak to you and convey all the passion, emotion & all-things-ROCK in his music.

Of course to be mentioned in the same breath as any of these references truly speaks to the level of skill, power & precision of Karjalainen’s work. It’s extremely well-deserved – this man has clearly put his life into learning his craft and every second of it shows on this recording. After another Vai-esque break in the music through “Clark-san” informing us that we’d be listening to an instrumental track coming up, we launch into the sonic-stratosphere once again with the push/pull of “Incontinental Breakfast.”

You know something? I love instrumental songs simply for the fact that someone out there has to at LEAST put some words in as a title. “Incontinental Breakfast?” I mean…c’mon! If that’s not an indication of a man who’s spent some time in the Zappa catalogue I just don’t know what is…definitely an nod to some humour if you were to ask me! The beginning of this cut comes out so smooth that you literally have no idea how hard it’ll get – it comes out of nowhere. And so I’m sitting here, laughing out loud & loving the music, thinking to myself – ‘how bad could this breakfast have possibly been?’ as the music transforms into creative-chaos controlled perfectly by Elmo. Well done sir…you’ve certainly got me smiling…and man is this album stockpiled with an audible respect for the genre or what? Awesome.

The gorgeously dark & beautiful melody of “She Sleeps On The Moon” is like Elmo’s own rock-ballad opus akin to “For The Love Of God” from Vai’s Passion And Warfare. Excellent solo-work on a constant basis – ‘Mo’s a real pro there’s no doubt about that whatsoever this far into the album and my instincts of excellence to follow moment one on this album have proven true as every second reveals itself. I mean…listen to him SHRED apart “Algorhythm!” This guy’s axe could slay an axe-murderer; I’d bet on Elmo every time. Right around the three-minute mark of both “She Sleeps On The Moon” and “Algorhythm” hold some of the best moments on this album…the solo that starts up about three-and-a-half into “She Sleeps On The Moon” is just deadly awesome. The punishing stop/start drumbeat of “Algorhythm” would damn near take a mathematician just to play guitar to it…yet here again we find Elmo unrelenting, confident and completely triumphant.

And yeah…okay…I know “Noises” isn’t supposed to be a standout so much as a quick break in the madness…but I loved it. Less than forty-seconds of subtle sounds burbling in the background distance…it serves its purpose like the snack between meals.

Hahaha…alright…so…get this…I gotta interrupt this whole thing for a moment with a quick fun-fact about Elmo cause I just looked up his social media to see where he’s coming to us from. Turns out…he’s from Finland…but the best thing I read about Elmo? Apparently the man himself is ‘almost totally unlike David Hasselhof’ – what can I say other than I knew there were at least trace-elements of The Hof in him. There are at least trace-elements and particles of The Hof in us all, isn’t there?

“The Gentle Art Of Listening” sees Elmo back to the serious-side on this slow-burning beauty. This song has such an excellent churn and grind to it…it’s nearly a droning-effect on the listener…but like the title suggests, this tune pulls you in closely and just as you might expect it would churn away forever, Elmo switches it up on you once again. Blasting off into incredible solos that command attention…this guy should absolutely be playing the same massive stages as the true rock-virtuosos of our time. His touch on the strings is so insanely authentic…listen to his work from the fourth-minute on forward during “The Gentle Art Of Listening” and hear how this guy lets the notes buzz in and out, or ring through clearly; his instincts never let him down – Elmo makes completely captivating instrumental rock.

The light & airy ending of “The Gentle Art Of Listening” makes way for the low-end heavy groove and onslaught to come in “The Bolero Unravels (I Come Undone)” which sounds like a complete war between countries raised and finished within this one song – or at the very least one epic game of Risk. It sounds like the march of doom…or like whatever is in Elmo’s way should seriously consider getting OUT of it… Really huge sounds on this song and when you realize you’re nearly at the end of The Free Guitar Album it’s almost like walking out of the dark movie-theater into midday sunshine…you get that ‘what just happened and where am I’ feeling when coming out of “The Bolero Unravels (I Come Undone).”

And yet…somehow it’s like Elmo Karjalainen knew that this is exactly how I’d feel, and in his gentle wisdom provided us with a hazy, dreamlike final song with “Relax.” Nice right? Seriously…this final cut displays just as much mastery as the up-tempo rock songs do if not even more so…Elmo has nowhere to hide in this final song and you can hear every perfect note with crystal clarity and its incredible way revealing genuine emotion through its melody.

What else can be said? From start to finish…this is one jaw-dropper of an album and full of astounding highlight moments in musicianship. If you like to hear real skill and the perfect love of the musical craft on full display…and you dig on instrumental-rock…do yourself a huge favour and go pick up The Free Guitar Album – you need this one".

Alex Faulkner writes the following in The Faulkner Review:

"Elmo Karjalainen is a composer/musician and, in particular, a virtuoso guitar player hailing from Finland. He has become recognised as one of the best guitarists in his native land through his work with Finnish metal band Deathlike Silence, as well as his solo album Unintelligent Designs. He currently plays in two bands, Seagrave and Conquest, and has recently toured with a band of national fame, Kilpi.

Following the critical praise for his first solo album Unintelligent Designs, Elmo decided on making this follow-up (the title is literal, the digital version of the album is free!). It consists of ten instrumental tracks that showcase Elmo’s unique style and versatility as a guitarist, as well as a compositional style that encompasses a wide array of influences and genres.

Opening track, Instrumetal (that’s a pun, not a typo), is a blistering start to the album. Swirling low-end riffs interlock with tight drum patterns played at a formidable tempo, before Elmo unleashes his lead guitar skills over the top. Playing a simple high-end melody, it’s not long before he is whizzing up and down the neck, though it is until the last minute that he truly lets rip with an astonishingly fluent solo.

His style is reminiscent of guitarists like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen, though he also cites less obvious influences like Jeff Beck and the late Danny Hatton. Elmo also has a strong sense of humour, which emerges in track titles like second track Don’t Quit Yer Day Job and the following Incontinental Breakfast, which is preceded by a rather amusing spoken word intro in a stereotypical English accent.

Musically, the former is a mid-paced track with a loping, half-time groove for the most part, with some intricate sections of complex drumming and guitar work. The soloing here is free and unrestrained, capturing Elmo’s quirky side perfectly. Incontinental Breakfast has a similar feel to begin with until an intense middle section featuring thunderous double-kick and stellar guitar playing.

She Sleeps On The Moon is a big contrast, showing Elmo’s more mellow, melodic side. His classical influence is displayed in the harp-like minor key arpeggio that floats through the track and, for the first half, his playing is subtle and understated. As the piece progresses, he takes the melody all over the neck, though it sounds crafted and structured rather than random virtuosity for its own sake.

The complex time signature of sixth track Algorithms shows his prog rock influences (he cites Genesis as one of his favourite bands). Starting with a circular, looping high-end riff, the beat continually shifts under your feet as we say farewell to 4/4 time, temporarily. The main section is in 7/8 but the use of syncopation and displaced accents make it a challenging but exciting listen. I loved the ascending bassline that enters halfway, before Elmo begins yet another mindblowing solo. After this, it all becomes eerily calm before building up again, this section containing some exceptional drumming. This track especially shows Elmo’s musical command and understanding.

Noises is literally forty seconds of noises, more evidence of Elmo’s sense of humour! The Gentle Art Of Listening , the eighth track, is one of the more epic on the album. It proceeds at a stately pace with a simple but powerful three-note lead guitar melody. This sounds gorgeous when the harmony part is added, but the simplicity doesn’t last….
For the middle section, the beat stays in 4/4 but, again, the clever use of shifting accents disturbs the natural momentum and the listener finds his attention thrown from side to side. These subtle complexities make the music rather gripping and addictive, and I loved the choral sounding synth towards the end.

Ninth track, The Bolero Unravels (I Come Undone), is an interesting idea for a piece as it is based on the famous insistent, repeated rhythmic motif of Ravel’s Bolero (nice pun on the composer’s name there). It takes that idea and becomes brooding, mid-paced prog-metal, showing the strong relationship between classical and metal, which is not acknowledged enough.

This classical influence shows in the album’s closing track, Relax. It is another expression of a gentler, more melodic side and his compositional craft. It consists of a haunting, arpeggio-based guitar part, with a sparse but beautiful lead guitar melody that floats over the top, which he then extemporizes. It has a soothing, hypnotic effect that brought to mind Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross and makes for a lovely ending.

Overall, this is a very accomplished album of sophisticated metal/prog rock, that showcases not only his remarkable abilities as a guitarist but also his musical range and understanding. The music is not merely a vehicle to display his playing prowess, but intricate, structured and controlled composition that stands up to repeated listening. This album will appeal hugely to fans of (prog) rock, metal and guitar music in general".

JamSphere: Elmo Karjalainen: “The Free Guitar Album” delivers hard-rocking riffs and wicked tones!

Posted By: Rick Jamm, Posted date: June 22, 2015

"Elmo Karjalainen does not just embody technical guitar prowess - his is a very deep exploration of all the possibilities on a guitar, and it pushes the envelope of instrumental imagination - very evident on the tracks "Don´t Quit Your Day Job" and "Noises". But "The Free Guitar Album" as a whole will make you realize that Elmo Karjalainen is not simply a guitar player, he is a living extension of the instrument itself. I think these days too many people think that the point of music is 'hooks'. If you refuse to listen to any music that doesn´t have some kind of hook or catchy riff that makes you tap your foot or nod your head, you will lead a very sheltered musical life.

In this album, Elmo Karjalainen will make you nod your head and tap your feet, but moreover he takes a much  more mature approach to music, and creates a combination of catchiness on certain pieces ("She Sleeps On The Moon"), raw power on some ("Instrumental"), and sheer emotion in others ("The Bolero Unravels" and "Incontinental Breakfast"). You aalso have the absolute delicacy and wonderfully simplec omposition in "Relax", and then the wondrous power and experimentation in "Algorhythm", which showcases some moments that can only be described as divine.  

Everything plays and revolves around Elmo´s guitar-work, as he isn´t afraid to show off his immense talent with the guitar, breaking out into Rock-Fusion riffs or Metal licks, spontaneously, and then switching forward to breakneck shredding or a calm solo. On this album Elmo Karjalainen shows that he is representative of creative rock guitar players. But he is more than just a guitar player, he´s a musician; his technique is sublime, and his musicianship and abobe-the-norm, melodic sense, is superb too. 

The song structures on "The Free Guitar Album" are intelligent and evolve in unpredictable ways, but are never too comples for the listener´s ears. He delivers hard-rocking riffs and wicked tones, while maintaining a clear melodic sense and integrity that makes the compositions come to life. Elmo Karjalainen´s songs are very well thought out; not the endless repetitive licks you hear from so many others. His sound is unique and very inventive.

This is definitely the album to get for people who are new to Elmo, and/or instrumental guitar-rock. This is all instrumental, except for the odd spoken interlude. It contains some awesome melodies and techniques... and whatever the hell you ever thought could be done with an electric guitar!"

 indiebandguru wrote the following under "Elmo Karjalainen - Guitar Skills from Finland":

"Becoming a master of your instrument takes tons of hard work but also there has to be some in-born talent that needs to be nurtured and exposed to the world.  The guitar is probably the most played instrument in the world.  It is a tough skill to learn and even harder to excel.  We recently discovered Elmo Karjalainen who has done just that.

Hailing from the home of many quality metal guitarists, Finland, Elmo has now offered some solo work to highlight his skills.  Born in 1979 he has been learning how to play for almost his entire life.  Some fame came his way with the Finnish metal band Deathlike Silence and his more recent bands Seagrave and Conquest and even Kipli.  Elmo put out his first solo album,Unintelligent Designs to critical praise and now is about to follow it up.

On June 11th Elmo released his followup record  "The Free Guitar Album".  The 10 track opus is full of examples of a truly skilled guitar player.  On “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” Elmo plays with some interesting effects as the song builds to a crescendo of mass hysteria that will drop your jaw.  There are some slowed down pieces like “She Sleeps On The Moon” that show the diversity and prove Elmo is not a one trick speed pony.  The energy returns on “Algorhythm” with some powerful playing and some strong drums that fit perfectly with his guitar.  The album closer “Relax” does just what the title says by creating a smooth lullaby that seems to mesmerize your mind.  Learn more about this talented individual at: http://elmojk.com/"

 AmandaSays wrote the following review:

"When Elmo approached me to do a review of his new guitar album, not only was I super flattered, but excited! Elmo is a talented guitarist and musician from Finland, and any album of his was bound to be a treat for the ears!

I wasn’t mistaken!

The album kicks off at an energetic pace with “Instrumetal”, and true to its name, it’s a metal, daring ride, and one of the heavier tracks on the album, featuring a wailing guitar, and definitely displaying Elmo’s deft abilities to their advantage! I love the random humour thrown in at the end of this track, with an Indian accented chap saying “we may be human, but we’re still animals”, which is actually Elmo himself speaking, and it’s a tip of the hat to Steve Vai (Check out Vai’s song “Liberty”).

“Don’t Quit Yer Day Job” is probably one of my favourite tracks, it has a relaxed, slightly funky, Led Zeppelin feel to it, which I love, but don’t be deceived, heavier undertones will kick in later in the track, which do seem a bit randomly placed, but still don’t do the track any harm at all.

The majority of the album has a fairly laid back, sexy guitar feel, then the tempo changes considerably with “Algorythm” and “The Art of Listening”.  It’s cleverly put together, starting off at an energetic pace, then becoming deceptively chilled, and leading up to the slightly heavier tracks, and ending with a couple of soothing tunes, which make the whole experience very satisfying. The final track, aptly named “Relax”, is perfectly placed, too, it’s there to do just what the title suggests, right at the end, and I will admit, you’re definitely left wanting more!

All in all, a marvellous tribute to the world of rock, it’s an album for road trips, and chilling at the bar with a Bud, an album of varied moods and experiences, and proof that Finland is bursting with talent".

On brettstewart.net independent spotlight you will find another review, of which you can read parts here:

"The album opens up with an instrumental interlude, one that showcases Karjalainen’s prowess right out of the gate. It’s a long instrumental, though, and overstays its welcome after a few minutes. The minor blunder is quickly recovered on the eclectic ‘Don’t Quit Yer Day Job,’ an experimental tune with a lot of meat on the bone. ‘Clark-San,’ the following track, isn’t actually a song. It’s just an Englishman announcing the fact he’s on a record. It’s actually dryly funny, in that wonderful English way. I’m not sure if dry humor was the intent of ‘Clark-San,’ but I got a kick out of it that way.

‘Intercontinental Breakfast’ continues Karjalainen’s pursuit for innovative riffs and song titles. It’s not my favorite track because it feels a bit stale quickly, but ‘She Sleeps on the Moon’ picks up that ball and runs with it. That latter song is beautiful, an atmospheric jam doused in reverb and synthesizers. It’s a gorgeous ballad and it’s certainly the highlight of the first half of ‘The Free Guitar Record.

If you were getting lulled to sleep by the delicate ‘She Sleeps on the Moon,’ ‘Algorhythm’ is sure as hell going to wake you right back up. Karjalainen’s performance on each track is reminiscent of classic metal stylings. Also, his banter with a solid backing band shouldn’t go unnoticed, either. The bassist and drummer here are right on target and without them, this record wouldn’t be one half as interesting.

‘Noises’ is another oddball interlude, showcasing what seems to be a soundtrack for one of Thom Yorke’s daydreams. The classic rock-tinged ‘The Gentle Art of Listening’ then follows, shredding up and down in cascading waves of epicness. ‘The Bolero Unravels’ feels like the pinnacle of the second act of the album, toying with unique styles and melodies that feel fresh and compelling. Finally, the, well... relaxing ‘Relax’ closes the collection in blissful solitude.

‘The Free Guitar Record’ is most certainly worth the price of admission, or lack thereof. In fact, if you dig it, you should drop a few bucks Karjalainen’s way. A lot of effort went into this piece and it’s a wonderful experience".

themodernfolk.net has this review: 

"finnish guitarist elmo karjalainen shreds the guitar, and on his new album 'the free guitar album', he offers you a heap of thunderingly heavy, lightning fast instrumental prog-metal jams.

definitely for fans of yngwie malmsteen or steve vai type action, elmo could give any of those wizards a run for their money in some sort of supernatural guitar competition judged by demons. all types of guitar theatrics are present...sweep picking, tap solos, crazy effects".

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