Witherfall's Jake Dreyer: "We don't sit down and say, ‘We've got to make this the hardest thing to play ever.’ It just happens to sometimes come out that way"

Jake Dreyer of Witherfall
(Image credit: Stephanie Cabral)

“We wanted to do something that had no boundaries,” 29-year-old guitar phenom Jake Dreyer says of Witherfall, the LA-based progressive power metal group he formed with singer Joseph Michael in 2013. 

Both artists have logged time in plenty of other acts – Dreyer’s resume includes stints as a hotshot shredder for everyone from White Wizzard and Iced Earth to Demons & Wizards and Kobra and the Lotus – but, he says, “when it came to songwriting, a lot of the projects and bands we've worked with would say, ‘Well, this isn't our style…’ So we just decided to do our own thing that wasn’t really bound by any style.”

That “thing,” became Witherfall, who recently released their third full-length effort, Curse of Autumn, a dark, gripping and instrumentally intense rollercoaster of a record.

Dreyer, as usual, takes the lead with plenty of wild riffing, inventive melodic passages and acrobatic, warp-speed soloing in raging tracks like The Last Scar and The Other Side of Fear, but there’s classical-tinged instrumentals (Deliver Us into the Arms of Eternal Silence), towering epics (…And They All Blew Away) and gentle, acoustic-oriented fare (Curse of Autumn, The River).

As for how he and Joseph composed the varied tunes? “We do it like they did in the '70s – no file trading or Pro Tools or anything like that,” he says. “We just get together with an acoustic guitar, a pen and paper and a ton of wine. Super old-school.”

This time around, Dreyer’s immense guitar work, mostly on an early-'90s Ibanez UV777 GR seven-string, is matched by an equally prodigious rhythm section consisting of stalwart Witherfall bassist Anthony Crawford, who has played with “everyone from Allan Holdsworth to Justin Timberlake,” and drummer extraordinaire Marco Minnemann (the Aristocrats, Joe Satriani, Steven Wilson). 

“These guys are just amazing,” Dreyer says, adding that “it’s a real pleasure when you work with players that are able to execute everything you hear in your head.”

In the case of Witherfall, that means plenty of head-spinning prog-metal, but also much, much more. “Our influences are across the board,” Dreyer says. 

“To be honest, metal is one of the things we listened to least for inspiration this time.” Rather, he continues, “There was Queen, Pink Floyd and fusion stuff. A lot of classic rock. Early Dream Theater. It’s just kind of this huge mishmash of styles.”

Dreyer laughs. “So it’s not like we sit down and say, ‘We've got to make this super-technical, or the hardest thing to play ever.’ It just happens to sometimes come out that way.”

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Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.