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Bernth: "Maybe blowtorching my guitar was a bit dramatic, but it was a statement about all these articles saying 'guitar music is dead!'"

Bernth
(Image credit: Abraham Rowe)

Few guitarists are willing to scorch their fretboard like Bernth. As a longtime session shredder and YouTube guitar personality, the Austrian virtuoso naturally has a handle on warp-speed sweeps and tapping techniques, but when it came to promoting Elevation, his first instrumental solo album, one video upload found Bernth literally lighting up a prized Ibanez with a series of blowtorches to prove his point on the unwavering resilience of guitar music. 

“Maybe it was a bit dramatic, but it was a statement about all these articles that were going around, every single one of them saying ‘guitar music is dead! Nobody cares about guitar, especially shred guitar,’” Bernth says. 

Though the instrument’s finish bubbled and cracked against the flames, what’s more notable is how Bernth proceeded to pick up the singed six-string to melt faces with the adrenalized runs of Elevation’s suitably titled lead-off track, The Kindling. He says enthusiastically: “I think it’s proof that you can’t kill the guitar.”

Guitar culture may well be experiencing its phoenix moment, with guitar makers having seen record sales since the start of the pandemic. Bernth’s YouTube channel, meanwhile, has surged to more than 313K subscribers since 2020, with fans eagerly logging on to learn scale hacks and hybrid picking workouts.

While he’s happy to help his fellow shredders, producing weekly videos has also helped Bernth level up his own technique (“The channel is also about pushing myself and getting better”). It also inspired him to finally complete Elevation, an album four years in the making.

As you might expect from the uploader of vids like “Extreme guitar speed in five easy steps,” Bernth brings a dramatic storm of high-velocity arpeggios to pieces like When it Rains, It Pours, but Elevation also has him slapping out rhythmic, djent-style dissonance with a seven-string on Monolith and bringing a fluid finger style to ethereal pieces like Dopamine. Elevation’s most varied moment? A tribute to master violinist Paganini’s Caprice 24, which co-mingles neo-classical shred and armor-piercing trem-picking sections with a rollercoaster of EDM beats, mosh grooves and a gleeful symphonic metal finale.

“It’s, like, 24 songs in one. The biggest challenge was making it sound coherent,” Bernth says, adding that he hopes listeners will enjoy this manic take on Caprice as a unique twist on a classic, and “not just a technique demonstration.” This shouldn’t be a worry, though. Going by his YouTube numbers, at least a couple hundred thousand subscribers are eagerly anticipating a step-by-step video tutorial.

Gregory Adams

Gregory Adams is a Vancouver-based arts reporter. From metal legends to emerging pop icons to the best of the basement circuit, he’s interviewed musicians across countless genres for nearly two decades, most recently with Guitar World, Bass Player, Revolver, and more – as well as through his independent newsletter, Gut Feeling. This all still blows his mind. He’s a guitar player, generally bouncing hardcore riffs off his ’52 Tele reissue and a dinged-up SG.