“It’s Not Metal”: Lee McKinney Bends Minds with His New Instrumental Solo Album, 'Infinite Mind'

(Image credit: Sumerian Records)

Diehard Born of Osiris fans may be surprised by guitarist Lee McKinney’s debut solo album Infinite Mind. While his band is best known for its scathing, unrelenting metalcore, McKinney’s record is more fueled by bittersweet reflection than visceral aggression.

“It’s a bunch of heavy moments mixed with soft parts, but it’s not metal,” McKinney says. “I wasn’t trying to make the songs intense by using tons of distortion. I just wanted to generate particular emotions in the listener — everything from melancholy to joy to pure excitement.”

McKinney has wanted to make an instrumental album ever since he first heard Joe Satriani’s Surfing with the Alien and Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare. Having touring with Born of Osiris since high school, however, he put the solo album idea on hold for years. Then, in December 2017, when he submitted the songs for Born of Osiris’ latest album, The Simulation, he had ample time to put together a batch of eclectic instrumentals while he waited for the January 2019 release of the BOO album.

While there are jagged distorted guitar passages throughout Ultimate Mind, the album is best described as a transcendent mix of neo-classical rock, metallic jazz and prog. Mars Volta multi-instrumentalist Adrián Terrazas-González added sax on to various songs and Kinney played a variety of six- and seven-string Kiesel guitars run through a Fractal Audio Axe-FX unit. 

Without a chosen preset tone to adhere to, McKinney experimented with multiple sounds and effects and frantically dialed up accompanying noises, then used whatever he liked. “The record was like a rollercoaster ride from beginning to end,” he says. “It was all about experimenting and having the freedom to do it all on my own, from playing to producing.”

McKinney played all the guitar, bass, keyboard and drum parts on the album, and he tossed out dozens of song ideas before deciding on the eight tracks he wanted to record. The process was exhausting yet creatively rewarding. He especially enjoyed being able to fill in space on a song without having to worry about guitars dominating the mix. “If I have some wild shit going on instrumentally with Born of Osiris and then we put some crazy vocal part on top of it, the whole thing can be a mess.”

McKinney wrote on guitar, keyboards, even drums. His only rule was to make sure every part could be replicated onstage by a touring band. “With modern recording, you can easily doctor something that’s so fast and intricate you can’t possibly play it onstage,” he says. “Lots of musicians do that. I just don’t see the point.”

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Jon Wiederhorn

Jon is an author, journalist, and podcaster who recently wrote and hosted the first 12-episode season of the acclaimed Backstaged: The Devil in Metal, an exclusive from Diversion Podcasts/iHeart. He is also the primary author of the popular Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal and the sole author of Raising Hell: Backstage Tales From the Lives of Metal Legends. In addition, he co-wrote I'm the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax (with Scott Ian), Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen (with Al Jourgensen), and My Riot: Agnostic Front, Grit, Guts & Glory (with Roger Miret). Wiederhorn has worked on staff as an associate editor for Rolling Stone, Executive Editor of Guitar Magazine, and senior writer for MTV News. His work has also appeared in Spin, Entertainment Weekly, Yahoo.com, Revolver, Inked, Loudwire.com and other publications and websites.