Robertas Semeniukas’ new album Backstage Stories is a 20-track tour de force of grandiose, crunching guitars occasionally accented by his Lithuanian vocals, delivered rapid-fire on the opening track, “Kai nieko nebelieka,” as if he’s rapping. During certain points he snarls his lyrics with such emotion that not being able to understand him is actually a little frustrating. You have no idea what he’s singing, but he certainly seems to mean it.
Google Translate helps with the titles at least. The second track is a pleasing, softer standout number that includes (as many do) a duet with a female singer. It’s entitled “Nesustok,” which means “Don’t Stop.” “Kai Tu Sugrisi I Namus,” another melody-heavy duet, is translated into “When I Return You Home.” The songs titled in English are predictably instrumentals. The best of these is “Flying High (S.V.J.S.),” a showcase for Semeniukas’ nimble fret-hammering. (To be exact, only 8 of the songs have vocals.)
An album titled “Backstage Stories” might bring to mind the depraved misadventures of a drugged-out rock star, but these songs are too well-crafted to come from anything so chaotic. The best of the bunch are the thrusting “Per bangas” (“Through the Waves”), the forlorn “Journey Home,” and the thunder-stomp of “Eat My Dust” (featuring Mr. Jumbo.) The kaleidoscopic music video of dueling electric guitars superimposed over flames and abstract graphics is included below.
Semeniukas considers himself a composer, producer, arranger, guitarist and singer all-in-one. Listening to the ambitiously polished jams on Backstage Stories makes this more than believable. He’s collaborated with numerous other famous musicians, composers, and producers, both Lithuanian and otherwise. Apart from performing in large arenas in his native country, he’s also frequently takes part in musical projects for television. He’s performed at music festivals across North America, Scandinavia, and even Russia.
However, stepping out into your own spotlight can still be the scariest place to find yourself. Semeniukas takes inspiration from many while attempting to remain unique. He elaborates: “As a musician and guitarist I used to play and record with the different bands and artists for many years…It took me many years to finally pursue recording a solo album, which would have plenty of guitar compositions and my vocals could be heard. For this album I was inspired by my guitar heroes: Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Jeff Beck, Slash, Guns N'Roses, Queen, Metallica, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin and many others.”
Pshaw! Living up to that roster should be no problem at all. Backstage Stories is as good of a place as any to start.