John Petrucci details Terminal Velocity track by track: "These songs had to have a message. And the best way to do that is through melody"

John Petrucci
(Image credit: Olly Curtis/Future)

From the galactic-sounding guitar effects and insistent, propulsive riffing and ear-nagging hooks of the title track to the majestic journey of the album-closer Temple of Cicadia – which weaves spindly six-string passages between arhythmically chugging riffs and incorporates a clean midsection colored with harmony-laden licks – Terminal Velocity is a masterful presentation. 

It’s a diverse, invigorating illustration of how guitar pyrotechnics can be arranged to create what Frank Zappa called “impossible guitar parts” that neither come across as self-indulgent excursions or detract from the enjoyability of the songs – and ultimately landed Petrucci the no. 3 spot on our list of 2020s best guitar albums.

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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,, Revolver, Inked, and other publications and websites.