From avant-jazz mini-symphonies to cabaret-tinged stadium-rock: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Alex Turner performs with Arctic Monkeys at Cala Mijas Fest on September 1, 2022 in Malaga, Spain
(Image credit: Pablo Gallardo/Redferns)

Welcome to Guitar World’s weekly roundup of the musical highlights from the, erm, world of guitar. Every seven days (or thereabouts), we endeavor to bring you a selection of songs from across the guitar universe, all with one thing in common: our favorite instrument plays a starring role.

Polyphia – Ego Death (feat. Steve Vai)

What is it? Only just one of the most anticipated tracks of the year and the biggest guitar collaborations in recent memory, which sees prog pioneers Polyphia link up with electric guitar royal Steve Vai. On paper, it sounds like a true clash of the titans, and that’s exactly what it is in reality. Tim Henson and Scott LePage are in typical form with their classic brand of boundary-pushing playing, while Vai adds his own whammy bar-fueled flair and scintillating six-string spice.

Standout guitar moment: For once, Henson’s riffing doesn’t get the nod here. Instead, it’s got to go to Vai, who grabs Ego Death by the scruff of the neck and ups the ante with a sound-scaping solo filled with trademark bends and operatic runs. 

For fans of: The guitar in general

– Matt Owen

Drowning Pool – A Devil More Damned

What is it? A fresh cut from Drowning Pool’s forthcoming album, Strike a Nerve. 21 years after their debut full-length Sinner – and the seismic heavy metal classic Bodies contained within – the Dallas, Texas quartet show that two decades have done nothing to quell their unshakeable thirst for a groove. A Devil More Damned has a pungent air of early Noughties nu-metal, however it’s repurposed for the 2020s, its knockout combo of electric guitar riffs delivered in pristine quality by a stellar production.

Standout guitar moment: The track predominantly takes place in the lower registers of the guitar, though a series of high-string bends from the 3:35 mark show that guitarist C.J. Pierce has leads in the locker.

For fans of: Disturbed, Soil, Mudvayne

Sam Roche

Paramore – This Is Why 

What is it? It’s been five long years since the last Paramore album dropped, and owing to that extended period of waiting, it was only natural that the band's comeback would be put under the microscope. This Is Why is a surprising single, to say the least, and while it may not be typical Paramore, it’s a great song in its own right: groovy, guitar heavy and filled with some neat rhythmic and instrumental parts.

It’s a bold move, and one that might not sit comfortably with Paramore fans who tune in for razor riffs, up-beat anthems and one-listen-and-your-hooked bops. Having said that, we expect this mature-sounding effort to be a massive grower – it’s already grown on us. Besides, any band that doesn’t experiment with their sound every now and then… Well, where’s the fun in that?

Standout guitar moment: The chorus’s two-part, part-melodic, part-rhythmic work of two six-strings is very nicely put together, and though it’s not as accessible as some other Paramore riffs, it definitely is one of their cleverest.

For fans of: Hayley Williams, Yungblud

– Matt Owen 

Jakub Zytecki – Heart

What is it? Fresh material from Polish virtuoso-producer wunderkind Jakub Zytecki, and his first since 2019’s groundbreaking Nothing Lasts, Nothing’s LostHeart takes a heavier turn thanks to some bludgeoning eight-string riffs, but it’s beautifully balanced against Zytecki’s expansive ambient production style and dextrous yet melodic leads.

Standout guitar moment: The moment That Riff drops would be too obvious. Instead, we’ll highlight Zytecki’s clean, koto-esque tapping – it’s a signature technique we’ve heard from him before, but never over such a brutal backing. It’s these irresistible juxtapositions that will keep us guessing until a new full-length drops.

For fans of: Plini, Polyphia, Cloudkicker

– Michael Astley-Brown

Arctic Monkeys – Body Paint

What is it? The second tune we've heard from the English stadium-rockers' highly anticipated new album, The Car. Just as twisty and difficult to pin down as the song that preceded it – the gutsy, majestic ballad There’d Better Be A Mirrorball Body Paint shows that, while the Arctic Monkeys are still smirking a bit at those who pine for the return of the riff-rock stompers that made the band one of the world's biggest, they haven't fully ditched their six-strings for string arrangements. 

Standout guitar moment: We did say they hadn't fully ditched their guitars, didn't we? At about the three-and-a-half minute mark, frontman Alex Turner finally gives in to temptation, and helps close out this endearing bit of oddball cabaret with some tasty work on his Gibson Les Paul, punctuated with some glorious bends and funky phrasing.

For fans of: The Beatles, The Strokes, The Last Shadow Puppets

Jackson Maxwell

Disturbed – Unstoppable

What is it? The second single from Disturbed’s newly announced eighth album, Divisive. After unveiling the dipping their toes in the political pond with guitarist Dan Donegan’s “Fuck cancel culture” Schecter model earlier this year, the Chicago metal titans look set to once again to make sonic commentary on the state of the world.

“Partisan tribal warfare has become a part of our regular existence nowadays,” says frontman David Draiman. “It’s one big battle of the cliques. The whole idea of the record is to be a wakeup call for everyone. Our society has become addicted to outrage. Music is the best cure for what ails us, though. If only everyone reached out and used it.”

Standout guitar moment: It’s a song driven chiefly by thumping electric guitar riffs, and Donegan’s opening offering perfectly encapsulates the groovy, high-energy sound Disturbed have peddled all these years.

For fans of: Godsmack, Drowning Pool, Stone Sour

Sam Roche

Eliza McLamb – Doing Fine

What is it? An incredibly exciting new single from the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter. McLamb's 2020 Memos EP had lyrical knockouts and gorgeous melodies aplenty, but was instrumentally a bit skeletal at times, so it's a thrill to hear her backed by a full band.  

Standout guitar moment: Guitarist Jack DeMeo does brilliantly following the Laurel Canyon playbook of country-twinged folk-rock smoothness in the tune's first half, but kicks up the dust a little with some wonderfully spatty, distorted leads for the song's final minute.

For fans of: Phoebe Bridgers, Christian Lee Hutson, Lucy Dacus

Jackson Maxwell

Avatar – Valley of Disease

What is it? Swedish theatrical metallers Avatar last week graced fans with a true-to-form avant-garde offering from their yet-to-be-titled ninth album. A mid-tempo rager with a steady sense of groove throughout, Valley of Disease features an abundance of killer guitar work from resident axemen Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström, while enigmatic frontman Johannes Eckerström delivers some haunting and catchy vocal chants over the top.

Standout guitar moment: The solo from the 2:35 mark finds both Jarlsby and Öhrström flexing their lead chops, as they battle in the higher registers for guitar supremacy.

For fans of: Avenged Sevenfold, Arch Enemy

Sam Roche

Djo – End of Beginning 

What is it? A track lifted from Decide – the latest album from Djo, AKA Joe Keery, AKA Steve Harrington from Stranger Things. Just as Keery excels when playing a high school bully-turned-lovable monster slayer, his musical alter ego also has some serious compositional skills that go toe-to-toe with his acting chops. With an easy psychedelic breeze that blends elements of indie, End of Beginning is certainly a standout from Decide.

Standout guitar moment: Djo usually relies on electronic synths and quirky electronic sounds to assemble his dense sonic layers, and while there’s no shortage of that here, the whole song is held together by some deliciously smooth guitars and solid decorative lead work.

For fans of: Tame Impala, Dayglow, Soccer Mommy

– Matt Owen

Makaya McCraven – The Knew Untitled

What is it? One of the highlights from In These Times, the daring and spellbinding new album from jazz drummer, bandleader and composer Makaya McCraven. In These Times is not trad-jazz to be sure, and indeed one only needs to listen to this masterful mini-symphony to hear how McCraven has solidified his place as one of the genre's leading modern lights.

Standout guitar moment: McCraven pulls back his ever-luscious and many-layered arrangements starting at 1:32 and lets guitarist Matt Gold let 'er rip. Touching on the Blue Note masterworks of yore and the aggression of punk, with an avant-garde-informed free spirit and just a touch of rock showmanship, Gold takes this hypnotic piece to another plane with a searing, minute-and-a-half long solo.

For fans of: John Coltrane, Jeff Parker, Wes Montgomery 

Jackson Maxwell

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Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.

With contributions from