Kress goes for big, dark chords—a kind of Anthrax meets Black Sabbath vibe—but instead of shredding or spewing rock clichés over the rhythm, he opts for some very cool repetitive lines. The middle solo is a bit of a mess, but everything else is simultaneously hypnotic and heavy.
Wielding spikey, Jeff Beck-like tones (reminiscent of “Led Boots”) amidst rabid punctuations of fractured licks, Vlad G unleashes quite a little guitar fest in just 1:52. The track doesn’t build to a crescendo, or incorporate other feels, but its spastic and relentless drive is still a thrill.
Duane Allen Harlick
Royal Oak, Michigan,
“Down” is about composition, arrangement, and production rather than guitar chops, but even shredders can learn something from how Harlick moves listeners through escalating moods towards a boisterous, jubilant chorus. Too many instrumentals this month were unfocused “note spews”—which is one reason why “Down” was such an inviting musical journey.
“Purely and Simply”
Starting with ambient pan pipes and a propulsive drum beat lifted from Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz,” Dimi builds “Purely and Simply” with agro riffs, a wah-driven melody, shred passages, and cagey tonal shifts. The guitar madness is pretty much pedal-to-the-metal, but Dimi’s arrangement lifts the tune from a conventional chops showcase to a powerful song.
“Peanut Butter Alliance”
Okay, the title got me first. (How could you not check out a tune with that name?) But it was the cavalry-charge-from-hell assault of speedy, punk-style rhythm guitars mixed with Brian May-inspired harmony solos that got Tiny Soliders to the Big Eight. These warriors take no prisoners!
San Diego, California,
“Eyes of Mars”
Yandall’s sweet octave lines and sparkling single-note melodies definitely set an upbeat, sensual mood—even if that mood veers dangerously close to sugary-smooth jazz. Happily, there are more than enough exhilarating moments where he stings a line or two, burns through a phrase, or picks a single, soaring blue note.
Queensbury, New York,
“To Hell With Sympathy”
Many readers may view this as standard black metal, but I was captivated by how the track’s driving riffs were juxtaposed with guitarist Katherine Burke’s eerie vocals. It sure beat hearing yet another clichéd onslaught of distorted screaming, and the dreamy parts give the guitars space to rage hard.
“Black Water” is a big step back to the hippie ballroom jams of the late ’60s. I loved the intro’s blend of howling, controlled feedback and meandering, Dead-like runs. There are also little touches of vintage Santana, the Allman Brothers, and other classic-rock heroes that keep the tune percolating.