Tropical Depression

Sergio Michel

Cold War Relic, 2021

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I stumbled upon guitarist Sergio Michel through a Facebook post, and discovered he was not only an up-and-coming musician, but also had a relatively new album, Tropical Depression, on the market. Reading up on Michel intrigued me enough to check out his work.

If I had to sum up Michel’s work on this album, it would be three words: work in progress.

There is no doubt that Michel is a talented guitarist and songwriter; tracks like “Kick Rocks” and “Art Deco Freakazoid” offer plenty of proof of this. Often with tongue planted firmly in cheek (“White Girl Needs” being a prime example), Michel rips through 19 songs in just under 50 minutes, often showcasing his talent as a guitarist well.

Where Tropical Depression suggests that Michel is still honing his craft falls into three categories. First and foremost, the production work needs a few coats of paint—specifically, pod down the rhythm guitars, pod up the lead guitar and vocals, and cut back a bit on the vocal echo. Often, it was difficult to ascertain what he was singing due to the overall mix, so if there was a message in the song, it got lost. Similarly, on tracks like “The Fight,” the overmix on the rhythm guitar overrides the vocals and drum work, which is a shame, while on others like “Difficult Man,” the rhythm guitar is mixed so hot that it’s difficult to hear the chord progressions.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Second, I’d advise Michel to expand on some of the ideas he’s working on. “Midnight” is, simply put, a brilliant track, but it feels like it wasn’t fully developed as a song—as if there was more of a story to tell musically. While I’ve always been a proponent of the concept of “tell your story and leave” in terms of songwriting, it’s a bit of a letdown when, to the listener, it feels like only part of that story was told. With numerous songs clocking in at under three minutes, they serve more as vignettes, and while they leave the listener wanting more, it leaves them unfulfilled as well.

Finally, Michel needs to tighten up the backing vocals, which occasionally seem to go slightly out of tune. “South Beach Nights” is a very good song, but the backing vocals occasionally going flat, unfortunately, take away from the overall power of the track.

This all may read like Tropical Depression is not a good album; in fact, there is plenty on this disc to celebrate. The groove laid down on the all-too-short “Time Has Come” suggests that Michel is destined to become a name to deal with in the hard rock/guitar hero scene. If Michel can learn from the missteps on this one, I have a feeling his next release will be opening some eyes in the industry, making them wonder how they missed him all these years.

And there are moments of sheer brilliance on this one. “Aurora Technicalis” features some of the best production and clearest vocal work on the album, laying down a solid groove that ends all too quickly. Likewise, “Heavy” is a track that lives up to its name, creating a sonic powerhouse that locks the listener in.

As it is, Tropical Depression is a good, but flawed, effort. The promise of Michel’s talent is clearly evident on this disc, and I’ll be eagerly awaiting to hear what he has to offer.

Rating: B-

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