Paolo Monti has announced that Music For Sad Headbangers will be his last recording as The Star Pillow. The Italian guitarist/ambient noise-maker has produced 14 titles since December 2007. In addition to his solo works, he’s collaborated with pianist Federico Gerini, Detonazione front-man Bruno Romani, video director Roberto Beani and others.
This new disc is a fittingly lush end to a distinguished run. Monti is on record saying that he didn’t anticipate live performances when he launched the project. Eleven years later, it’s a wonder he ever had a doubt. Music For Sad Headbangers showcases an accomplished artist capable of expressing melancholy, angst, contemplation and pure joy.
The album opens with “Bruno Martino is my Tom Araya,” a comparison of his friend and collaborator with the Slayer vocalist. It launches with a guitar blast fitting of a track that name-drops the man Hit Parader ranks as the 58th all-time best metal vocalist. But like a lot of Monti’s work, it shifts back and forth between distorted guitar and quiet, introspective drones.
“Departures” is next, a fittingly emotional piece. Intentional or not, it is a perfect goodbye to the Star Pillow brand. Guitars fed through electronics bring a uniquely wiry quality to ambient music. The tension is wound more tightly, even when the composition is as calming as this one is. It’s a mesmerizing 11 minutes and change.
“Circle of Events” is the album’s major highlight. Monti is a talented guitarist, which isn’t always obvious when the electronics are turned up. When he plays his guitar more conventionally, as he does on this one, we hear a whole other level of humanity in his music. Our focus shifts, from the head-in-the-clouds feel of his drones to a deeply personal expression of love for simply written and performed music. The contrast will stop you in your tracks.
The album, and our time with The Star Pillow, ends with “Sad Headbanger.” It shares the same deliciously languid pace featured on “Circle of Events.” The difference is that it builds, eventually dissolving in a mess of distorted static. A perfect ending to a beautiful story.