Black metal has gone orchestral and nu-disco shred is back, baby: This week’s essential guitar tracks

Dre DiMura
Dre DiMura (Image credit: Press)

Hello, and welcome to Essential Guitar Tracks. As you may well know, 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.

Our goal is to give you an overview of the biggest tracks, our editor’s picks and anything you may have missed. We’re pushing horizons and taking you out of your comfort zone – because, as guitarists, that’s something we should all be striving for in our playing. 

So, here are our highlights from the past seven days – now with a Spotify playlist…

Dre DiMura – Digital Delirium

Back in July, Dre DiMura comprehensively bulldozed genre boundaries with Crisis Fatigue, his attempt at pioneering a new genre of guitar playing that we collaboratively dubbed nu-disco shred. The article and the track took off. Now satisfied he’s found his calling as a guitarist, DiMura has dropped its followup – and it’s a dancefloor-filling shred banger.

Digital Delirium is built around a mind-bending double drop D-tuned tapped refrain with a capo at the 12th fret. There’s your hook. But the chops only get more outlandish as the track builds: there are wild alternate-picked runs, whammy warbles and tapped arpeggios, mixed by Josh Deguzman (SZA, Khalid). It’s a brave new sonic landscape, and we are very much here for it. Full album, please. (MAB)

The Smile – Wall of Eyes

Typically not the most prolific of rock’s creative partnerships, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood have announced a second LP from their side-project, the Smile – barely a year-and-a-half after the trio’s debut full-length. The sophomore album’s first single – the astonishing, almost-operatic eight-minute epic, Bending Hectic – was always going to be a hard act to follow, but its newly-released title track does the job admirably. 

The song’s central component – a bossa nova-like acoustic riff courtesy of Yorke – drives it with a purpose, ensuring the song itself doesn’t get overshadowed by another one of Greenwood’s always-stunning string arrangements. And just when you think you’ve got Wall of Eyes pinned down and figured out, Greenwood throws in some truly inscrutable, discordant fingerpicked figures toward its end. It’s a joy to be taken down this strange, dark road… (JM)

Zac Brown Band and John Mayer – Neon (Live)

We’ve all heard John Mayer’s fingerstyle workout Neon – heck, we’ve probably all tried to conquer it – but we guarantee you’ve never, ever heard the song quite like this.

With the help of Mayer himself, Zac Brown gives the track a shot of adrenaline, transforming it into a funky, groove-filled romp that wouldn’t sound amiss on one of Cory Wong’s records. Of course, Mayer brings his A Game with nearly 13 minutes of blues-y rondos and a litter of infectious solos. (MO)

Heriot – Soul Chasm

If you thought Heriot would temper their sound after signing with Sony’s metal offshoot Century Media, well, you’d be very wrong. Soul Chasm is as enthrallingly brutal as anything we’ve heard from the UK crew.

Guitarists Erhan Alman and Debbie Gough (one of the stars of Jackson’s Virtuoso Mega Shred clip) construct a savage-yet-cathartic aural bludgeoning, with Gough’s siren-like, whammy-laden central solo tugging and turning you in a delightfully disorientating fashion. Expect to emerge confused and calloused, yet somehow cleansed. (MP)

Ihsahn – Pilgrimage to Oblivion

Ihsahn has always pushed the envelope. But merging black metal with an orchestra? That takes his sinister innovations to a whole new level.

His forthcoming album, simply titled Ihsahn, seeks to merge his two loves: the guttural picking and incendiary blast beats of Emperor and scores inspired by the likes of John Williams and John Carpenter. Pilgrimage to Oblivion is the result, and it is as white-knuckle as heavy music gets, the orchestra only enhancing the sonic malevolence. (MAB)

Julian Lage – Omission

Has Julian Lage abandoned the life of the rarified jazz elite to become a sensitive coffeehouse folkie?! We kid, obviously, but the maestro’s acoustic-driven new single, Omission, does have a distinctly pastoral vibe.

As ever, it’s not just the beauty of the changes with Lage – it’s the riches he finds in between them. The dialogue Lage creates between his acoustic (a lot of rhythm, with some truly dazzling fills and arpeggios) and electric (gorgeous background color) parts is spellbinding. (JM)

LEAP – Burnt Matches

It’s a testament to the generational talents of alt rock outfit Leap that, despite having only released an EP worth of material, it doesn’t sound ridiculous to suggest they have already developed a sound worthy of filling arenas – they are quite literally ready-baked for the biggest venues in the game. 

No doubt such gigs are in store for the four-piece (and probably sometime in the very near-future, at that), but for now, Leap are putting in the hard miles, releasing belter after belter to an ever-growing fanbase.

Burnt Matches is no exception to their flawless form thus far, leaning into a more anthemic direction that still makes room for a killer guitar solo. Do not sleep on these guys, whatever you do. (MO)

Mei Semones – Wakare No Kotoba

The Brooklyn-based guitarist uses spider-fingered math rock patterns as the basis of a densely knitted combination of influences that pull in everything from jazz to J-Pop. It’s a free-flowing, colorful – almost floral – approach to guitar work that meanders and blooms.

In the process, it enables Semones to naturally weave in new elements, like a string section and occasional passages of Japanese lyrics, to create something entirely different. (MP)

Porno for Pyros – Agua

Ahead of their farewell tour next year, Perry Farrell’s other band have dropped a new single, the first from an upcoming EP made up of newly recorded, previously unreleased material.

Agua is taken from the sessions for the band’s second album, 1996’s Good God’s Urge, and bears all the breezy alt-rock hallmarks of that era, with campfire acoustics and a psychedelic wah solo from Peter DiStefano. (MAB)

Abdallah Oumbadougou – Le Iwitian Ourgueza Gueakelen

Tinariwen were the first to bring “assouf” – a unique form of guitar-driven music played by the Tuareg people of North and Central Africa that’s also known as “desert blues” – to Western audiences, with Mdou Moctar subsequently taking the genre to new commercial and artistic heights. One of its lesser-known, but equally important, figures is the late Abdallah Oumbadougou.

For the uninitiated, the newly-released (and previously unreleased) Le Iwitian Ourgueza Gueakelen is a stellar introduction to the genre’s acoustic side, with Oumbadougou’s rich, melodic, and up-tempo leads contrasting beautifully to the ever-present rumble of the song’s subtle low-end – a desert blues hallmark. (JM)

Friko – Crashing Through

Bouncing and woozily melodic, the first single from Chicago two-piece Friko’s debut album drops discordance alongside brainworm hooks.

Guitarist Niko Kapetan’s trem bar interludes and Jazzmaster call to mind Dinosaur Jr. in the noisier sections, but there’s a rough warmth that recalls ’00s indie-pop names like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, or Modest Mouse. (MP)

Chris Stapleton – What Am I Gonna Do 

Country icon Chris Stapleton recently dropped his new album, Higher, and you probably know what that entails – namely, nearly a full hour of sumptuous slide licks and heavenly acoustic work. That much is clear from record opener What Am I Gonna Do, which includes an abundance of both. (MO)

Also on this week’s playlist…

  • Judas Priest – Trial By Fire
  • J. Mascis – Can’t Believe We’re Here
  • H.E.R. – The Glass ft. Foo Fighters
  • Enterprise Earth feat. Darius Tehrani – The Reaper's Servant
  • Dirty Sound Magnet – Insomnia
  • Defects – Broken Bloodlines
  • Dave Mason/Joe Bonamassa – Dear Mr. Fantasy
  • Better Lovers – Two Alive Amongst the Dead
  • South of Salem – Static
  • HAWXX – Death Makes Sisters of Us All
  • Rosie Frater-Taylor – Give & Take

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Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism from Cardiff University, and over a decade's experience writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as 20 years of recording and live experience in original and function bands. During his career, he has interviewed the likes of John Frusciante, Chris Cornell, Tom Morello, Matt Bellamy, Kirk Hammett, Jerry Cantrell, Joe Satriani, Tom DeLonge, Ed O'Brien, Polyphia, Tosin Abasi, Yvette Young and many more. In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.