Ivan Mihaljevic & Side Effects : Destination Unknown
by Joe Mis
If you are a fan of guitar rock and are looking for the “next big thing” you should seriously check out Destination Unknown by Ivan Mihaljevic & Side Effects. Hailing from Croatia, Mihaljevic is well respected by his music peers but not well know to the listening public on this side of the Atlantic. Destination Unknown may be the first step in bring Mihaljevic’s music to the masses in the USA.
Currently a member of one of the biggest rock acts in Croatia (Hard Time), Mihaljevic also spreads his music talents widely by collaborating with other artists and running his own solo project, Side Effects. His reputation as a talented musician grew quickly and early on in his career he opened for Paul Gilbert on one of his European yours, and has played on stage with the legendary Les Paul at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City.
On his second solo release, Ivan Mihaljevic displays a vast guitar repertoire from classical to metal and parades influences from Satriani to Malmsteen. Once can find no flaw in his playing, which is always passionate and enthusiastic whether laying down heavy riffs or delicate acoustic pieces. Ivan also has a deft touch with the keyboards, using them effectively and sparingly. He also sings lead vocals and does a fine job. His has a versatile voice and the makings of a solid front man. His songwriting skills are evident, but despite his massive presence the listener gets the sense that this is a “band” album, not a solo effort. Both bassist Majkl Jagunic and drummer Alen Frljak are key to the music, working well together as a rhythm section and stepping to the front when the music calls for it. This trio is definitely talented.
“Instant Star (Add Water)” opens the album on a guitar driven high, presenting a tongue-in-cheek view on the state of the modern music with biting lines such as “Tell me who you want me to sell you for your money.” Great vocals, intense bass and drums and a brilliant guitar solo make this one a real butt-kicker. An immediate gear and tone change hits you with “The Curse” – a mellow acoustic rock track with soft and clear vocals, good lyrics and a great bass line that builds to a heavier second half. Paul Gilbert / Steve Vai guitars open up the mostly instrumental and somewhat goofy “Choosh Pies” – the band seems to really be having fun on this track. Expressive vocals and heartfelt emotionalism fill what could be a “green” anthem in “Post-Apocalyptic Images.” Amazing guitars fill the massive instrumental “Dreamscapes” and prove Mihaljevic to be a “guitar god” in the making. Ivan sounds very much like Zak Stevens on the Savatage-TSO sounding “Shadows,” a simple guitar and vocal driven song.
“The Pirate Song” opens the second half of the album and has a very progressive metal feel to it, as well as a massive dose of Satriani. This track gives Majkl Jagunic and Alen Frljak a real chance to shine as they provide a very bouncy and upbeat rhythm line to a drive a fine instrumental.
The album is well engineered, although at some points the drums seem a bit muffled and the occasionally the vocals are buried by the instruments. The amount of talent and spirit of the performances easily makes up for any shortcomings. A long instrumental opening powers “Sorry Pt. 1.” This track is filled with very expressive guitars and bass, and features a few interesting tempo changes. Good old school vibes (and a healthy portion of Hammond organ) propel the hard rocking “Your Plane Flew Away” into hard rock bliss of the early 80s. Guest vocalist Marko Osmanovic sounds very much like a young Ian Gillan further adding to the old school sound. A beautiful and soft passage followed by only a handful of words comprises the elegiac “Sorry Pt. II.” The simplicity and grace of this short song may even bring a tear to the eye. The album wraps with the truly awe-inspiring and stirringly powerful “Hollow Wish.” This final track really displays Mihaljevic’s vocal and song writing ability, and features some of the finest guitar work on the album.
If you like melodic guitar driven rock, do not miss this album. Ivan Mihaljevic will be a force on the rock scene for many years to come. Despite many obvious influences of the greats, Mihaljevic manages to make music that is new, fresh and unique – and delivers it all with with technical excellence. With a little luck he may become a household name well beyond his native Croatia. Very highly recommended!
Genre: Hard Rock
Ivan Mihaljevic (guitars, vocals, keyboards)
Majkl Jagunic (bass)
Alen Frljak (drums)
Guests: Brett Garsed (2nd guitar solo on 5), John Denner (3rd guitar solo on 5), Phil Hilborne (2nd guitar solo on 9), Marko Osmanovic (lead vox on 9), Igor Tatarevic (keys on 4, 7,&11), Danko Krznatic (Hammond organ on 9), Josip Mihaljevic (keys on 5)
- Instant Star (Add Water)
- The Curse
- Choosh Pies
- Post-Apocalyptic Images
- The Pirate Song
- Sorry Pt. I
- Your Plane Flew Away
- 10. Sorry Pt. II
- 11. Hollow Wish
Label: 7hard Records
Web site: http://www.ivanmihaljevic.com/
Hardrock Haven rating: 9.5/10