When you hear that a super-talented guitarist with incredible technique is releasing an album in 2020, it can be easy to roll your eyes. The shred market is saturated with legacy players and young upstarts, all looking to take the guitar to new heights of speed and insanity.
That’s why Nothing Lasts, Nothing’s Lost, the debut full-length solo album from Polish prodigy Jakub Zytecki, is such a breath of fresh air.
Zytecki honed his chops in prog-rock outfit DispersE, touring the world and releasing three albums of atmospheric progressive-oriented rock. Zytecki, who co-founded the band when he was just a teenager, often takes a back seat to the melodic vocals and keyboard lines in that band.
On Nothing Lasts, Nothing’s Lost, Zytecki steps more firmly into the spotlight - but don’t expect blasts of non-stop shred. Instead, the young axeman constructs dreamy soundscapes out of frequently clean guitar tones.
Sure, there’s the occasional spot of blindingly fast arpeggios and tremolo picking, but it’s always in service of the mood as songs build and release tension.
“I wanted to release a record that was a little bit weird, beautiful and psychedelic and also hopeful at the same time,” he says, and it really shouldn’t be too surprising that Zytecki does this by avoiding the usual style of acrobatics.
While he undeniably has the horses under the hood, listening to others show off holds little appeal to him. “I don’t really listen to guitar music,” he says. “I’m not even sure if I like it, to be honest. Obviously I was listening to shred players when I was younger, but now I listen to ‘producer’s music,’ like a lot of electronic-style.
"I listen to music with some kind of a statement and message that’s different from just super-technical stuff. I find that quite boring.”
The album gets a star power boost from Fredrik Thordendal on Creature Comfort. Thordendal has made a career out of pushing metal to the extremes in Meshuggah, but hanging with Zytecki seems to have brought out his softer side.
Keyboards and reverb build over a thumping bass line while distorted rhythm guitars are pushed to the background and Thordendal comes in with angular single-string phrases that border on the edge of jazz.
“It was my dream to have Fredrik on this album. Fredrik was always kind of a symbol for the most evil music you can possibly imagine,” Zytecki says.
“Meshuggah is the most heavy thing you can possibly listen to, and I really like the idea of juxtaposing him to my album, which is not like that at all. He didn’t like that solo at all! I was trying to persuade him that the solo was great and he eventually agreed to send it. It required some talk.”
With such a wide assortment of tones required to construct his eclectic vision, Zytecki turned to his usual axe, a Tele-inspired Mayones Legend model that’s fully loaded with single-coil pickups. “It has a pre-amp delay, which pretty much works as a gentle compression,” he tells us, “and I find that really helpful with clean tones, so I use that pretty much all the time.”
It’s an iconoclastic sound, and Zytecki finds himself in an odd place - too metal for some, not metal enough for others. It makes the future of his solo career a scary but exciting thing to consider.
“I’d love to try and step out of that guitar metal bubble and tour with some electronic producers or pop acts and see what happens,” he concludes. “We’ll see if there are going to be any opportunities to do that.”