Wolfgang Van Halen’s favorite guitarist tears it up while death metal has never sounded more alive: this week’s essential guitar tracks

Aaron Marshall, and the Guitar World Essential Guitar Tracks logo
(Image credit: Schecter Guitars)

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…

Intervals – mnemonic

Since Wolfgang Van Halen named Aaron Marshall (aka Intervals) as his favorite guitarist on the planet, Marshall’s star has risen, and deservedly so. Now, with his first new material in three years, he gives his newly minted Schecter signature model a serious workout with an infectious slice of melodic progressive metal.

It’s rare that we call instrumental rock anthemic, but there’s something uniquely vocal about Marshall’s chops, which blend rhythm and lead in a way that updates the EVH ‘everything all at once’ template for the social media guitar generation. Hooks for days with tone and technique to match. (MAB)

Sophie Lloyd – Imposter Syndrome

The road to Sophie Lloyd’s first studio solo album (due November 10) has been littered with countless examples of fretboard mastery and a handful of A-list collaborations. Now, Lloyd has linked up with Lzzy Hale for Imposter Syndrome, the title track of the album.

Not only is it an apt title from the Kiesel signature artist – who recently spoke to Guitar World about her own struggles with having to block out such feelings in the wake of her meteoric rise through the guitar ranks – Imposter Syndrome is a triumphant reminder of just why Lloyd is one of 2023’s standout guitarists. (MO)

Santana feat. DMC – Let The Guitar Play

Carlos Santana is no stranger to successfully reaching across the (genre) aisle – after all, this is a man who turned a collaboration with an of-the-moment pop star into one of the biggest (and most unlikely) hits of the 1990s. New single Let The Guitar Play teams Santana with rap icon DMC, and finds each legend giving each other plenty of space to do what they do best. Darryl McDaniels brings his impeccable, scene-setting lyricism, while Santana puts on an absolute tone clinic.

The latter has repeatedly talked about how just a single note can be the axis around which the soul of a whole song spins, and the crystalline clarity and drama of the one he hits at around the :24 mark shows exactly what Santana means, and why he remains a paragon of soulful lead playing. (JM)

Note: This track is currently only available on YouTube, so no playlist for you this week.

Philip Sayce – Oh! That Bitches Brew

Sayce returns with a pummeling rock track that uses all of the riffs. The Led Zeppelin influence is inescapable here, with hints of Good Times, Bad Times in the punching stop/start riff, all complemented by some monstrous percussion and Sayce’s unignorable, almost piercing tone. (MP)

Unprocessed – Blackbone

When thinking about the guitarists and bands who are pushing prog music into new territory, the mind immediately springs to Polyphia, Animals As Leaders, Ichika Nito, and a handful of others. Manuel Gardner Fernandes and his band, Unprocessed, deserve to be mentioned in the same breath. 

If their previous single, Thrash, was “a moment for modern guitar playing”, Blackbone continues the precedent, showcasing Fernandes’ pinpoint percussive slap technique and virtuosic phrasing. There are also some battering ram chugs, as well, just for good measure. (MO)

HEALTH – Children of Sorrow (ft. Willie Adler)

LA industrial experimentalists HEALTH have a knack of attracting killer collaborators, featuring everyone from Soccer Mommy to Trent Reznor. But the addition of Lamb of God guitarist Willie Adler’s god-like palm-muted chops lends Children of Sorrow an otherworldly thrash vibe that sounds like nothing else. It’s expansive, hypnotic and thoroughly disconcerting. (MAB)

Sleater-Kinney – Hell

The hard-hitting first preview from Little Rope, the forthcoming LP from punk legends Sleater-Kinney, does a phenomenal job of balancing the band’s trademark dual-guitar attack and the more offbeat, electronic elements they’ve incorporated (to some consternation from longtime fans) into their sound in recent years.

When Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker get into Sabbath-y lockstep with one another before the last verse, though, it should be more than enough to reverse the thinking of anyone of the opinion that Sleater-Kinney just don’t have it anymore. (JM)

Slift – Ilion

Slift’s mind-expanding mastery of heavy dynamics, six-string flair and psychedelic experimentalism marks them out as one of the most exciting metal bands we’ve heard since Mastodon cracked the skye. No wonder Sub Pop has scooped up the French crew for their forthcoming third album, Ilion

According to Slift, the eponymous lead single represents the album as a whole. “It depicts monuments to ancient gods rising skyward from the dusty desert floor of a dying planet, battered by fierce winds. It's about the people condemned to live on this desolate land. And about the murderers of this world, who leave it for space and the hope of a new world, in a frantic crusade which will lead them to madness.” To which we would add, “Yes, but with guitars…” (MP) 

Alluvial – Bog Dweller

As Alluvial kick off their tour with tech-metal champs TesseracT, Wes Hauch demonstrates why he’s one of the most trusted names in heavy, with the kind of right-hand precision that requires more than just woodshedding; there’s something superhuman about the anatomy of that wrist.

Haunch’s otherworldly chops and sophisticated ear set the stage for Bog Dweller’s groaning pre-bent riffs, which churn your stomach and pummel it at the same time. Meanwhile, those pinched lines are Dimebag incarnate, and the solo is so precise it’s scary. Death metal has never sounded more alive. (MAB)

Kvelertak – Morild

Norway’s premier hard-rocking, heavy-metal loving punk hybrid monster gift us… Morild. It’s the closer of the new album Endling (the ending of Endling, if you will) and comes accompanied by a short but unsettling film, which was reportedly six months in the making. 

Like the video that accompanies it, the track is ambitious, morphing in and out of a tangled – yet, nonetheless, grooving – web of harmonic leads constructed from intricate layers of pedal tones and hammer-ons. Later, we’re treated to a series of Iommi-esque riffs and it somehow finishes in an euphoric melodic punk singalong. (MP)

Torres – Collect

Mackenzie Scott, who records under the name Torres, has put together quite the teaser for her upcoming What an Enormous Room album. First single Collect has an absolute belter of a riff that puts the humbuckers on her Telecaster to very good use. (JM)

Dope Lemon – Derby Raceway 

Since 2016, the Dope Lemon moniker has been Angus Stone’s musical outlet of choice, giving the seasoned singer-songwriter (who once went by the pseudonym Lady of the Sunshine) the medium to wade through alternative, indie and borderline psychedelic waters.

The self-produced Kimosabè – his fourth album to date – is a continuation of Stone’s trip into this sonic territory, with Derby Raceway excellently showcasing the key components of his irresistible sonic DNA: hypnotic hooks, infectious layering and no-nonsense fizzy riffs with some subtle grunge to boot. (MO)

Also on this week's playlist...

  • Joe Bonamassa – Is It Safe to Go Home?
  • FIDLAR – Nudge
  • Ida Mae – American Cars
  • Hinayana – Triptych Visions
  • blink-182 – Dance With Me
  • Rosie Frater-Taylor – Hold The Weight
  • The Lathums – Thoughts of a Child
  • Wayfarer – A High Plains Eulogy
  • Laura Jane Grace – Dysphoria Hoodie
  • Vixen – Red
  • English Teacher – Nearly Daffodils

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Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, 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.