From six-string chess matches to Christmas shred, Blues Lawyer and beyond: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

White Reaper
(Image credit: White Reaper/YouTube)

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.

White Reaper – Fog Machine 

What is it? The second single to be lifted from the upcoming album from Kentucky-based garage punk band, White Reaper, who are gearing up to release their fourth studio album, Asking For a Ride, in January. The track itself boasts a bounty of high octane riffage and energetic lead work, the ear-turning intricacies of which are matched only by the head-spinning chess game that seems to be going on in the accompanying music video. 

Standout guitar moment: Fog Machine – and, indeed, the fictional game of chess – comes to a fore around the two minute mark, with guitarists Tony Esposito and Hunter Thompson trading pentatonic uppercuts, rapid-fire jabs and harmonized licks. Who wins? We’d argue it’s a draw.

For fans of: Turnstile, The Orwells, strategy-based board games

– Matt Owen 

Paramore – The News 

What is it? The new single from Paramore’s hotly anticipated upcoming album, and a sonic exploration of the helplessness, anxiety and overwhelming emotional toll that one experiences when keeping up with the 24 hour news cycle. Theories that the direction of their previous single, This Is Why, was just a one-off have been debunked, with The News leaning further into angular rhythms, string-skipping licks and rhythmically complex motifs. 

Don’t worry, there is still room for some good ol’ Paramore riffing, along with what sounds like a chorus cameo for a pitch-shifter. Whatever the case, Paramore’s new album looks like it could be their most experimental yet, and judging by what we’ve heard in first two singles, we’re totally here for it.

Standout guitar moment: The chorus guitar chords are particularly punchy, and those pitch sweeps that bubble away just beneath the mix help add some tasty six-string nuance.

For fans of: Hayley Williams, Bloc Party

– Matt Owen

Steel Panther – 1987

What is it? The least progressive band in all of planet rock – by design – have dropped the first single from upcoming album On the Prowl, and it’s a power ballad of guitar-solo-on-a-mountaintop proportions, paying homage to the era Steel Panther eternally embody. Opening with a rare acoustic moment from Satchel, the track’s video ends up a borderline commercial for the band’s new 1987 guitar and pedal – but we’ll be damned if that solo isn’t outrageously tasty.

Standout guitar moment: At this stage, Satchel really knows what makes the hair-metal genre tick, and his scale runs are pure ’80s excess in the best possible way.

For fans of: Whitesnake, Scorpions, Bon Jovi

– Michael Astley-Brown

Hammers of Misfortune – Don’t Follow the Lights

What is it? One of the standout tracks from Overtaker, the raucous new album from Bay Area metal purveyors, Hammers of Misfortune, Don’t Follow the Lights eschews subtlety for a no-holds-barred, instrumentally packed-to-the-rafters five-minute romp, with the electric guitar work of John Cobbett and Leila Abdul-Rauf taking center stage. Like the rest of the album, Don’t Follow the Lights has a ‘70s-flavored ‘80s thrash metal sound with a glorious modern production. It’s utter chaos, and we love it.

Standout guitar moment: The lead runs from the 3:28 mark, while relatively simple, provide a streak of melody amid the track’s otherwise cacophonous arrangement

For fans of: Slough Feg, Unleash the Archers

– Sam Roche

George Lynch & Jeff Pilson – It's a Wonderful Life

What is it? Well… you ain’t gonna hear the local school choir singing this one in the town square. It's a Wonderful Life sees classic-era Dokken members George Lynch and Jeff Pilson join forces once again for a hard-hitting, wall-shaker of a tune that’s perfect for those who want to get into the Christmas spirit, but from more of a devil’s horns angle than a Michael Bublé angle.

Standout guitar moment: Lynch wails on this song for all its worth, but it’s his wall-of-concrete-and-titanium rhythm tone – especially when he first enters the song – that really gets us here. Christmas has never sounded so threatening!

For fans of: Dokken, Mötley Crüe, Poison 

Jackson Maxwell

Zeal & Ardor – Firewake

What is it? Sub Pop’s singles club has released two new songs from Swiss avant-garde metal troup Zeal & Ardor, and the A-side is an absolutely punishing slice of modern metal, delivering some of Manuel Gagneux's most serrated riffs and tones to match, all atop a bold, unbridled rhythm section.

Standout guitar moment: As is often the case with modern Z&A, Firewake delivers an absolutely savage breakdown, sandwiched between the track’s One-like machine gun palm-muting.

For fans of: Rammstein, Ghost, Amenra

– Michael Astley-Brown

Day Wave – Cold Like Me 

What is it? This summer, Day Wave – AKA producer-songwriter Jackson Phillips – dropped this third studio album, Pastlife, which further cemented his position as an atmospheric craftsman of the highest order, cultivating streams of soundscaped six-strings and collating them in various soundbites of guitar-heavy indie pop. A deluxe version has just dropped, meaning even more of that goodness is now at our disposal – guitar goodness that is most present in melancholic romp, Cold Like Me.

Standout guitar moment: Day Wave relies on a web of tightly knit, heavily panned lead guitars to carry the track along with an appropriate level of bounce, and it’s the abundance of interweaving individual six-string lines – from the root note stabs, see-sawing licks and jangly drones – that get the nod here.

For fans of: Newdad, Circa Waves, KennyHoopla

– Matt Owen 

Obvurt – Halfway From Theory

What is it? Remember Obvurt, the band whose guitarist relearned to play left-handed after a car accident which rendered him unable to play? Well, they’ve just released their debut album, Triumph Beyond Adversity, and boy is it inspiring, given its back story. Philippe Drouin, who refused to let a life-changing accident affect his life in the long term, is on fine form throughout, offering a bounty of frenetic drop-tuned riffs, which run the gamut from thrashy alternate picking numbers to chuggier, palm-muted stabs, and it’s all on show on the record’s fourth track, Halfway From Theory.

Standout guitar moment: The harmonized guitar riffs are the most notable compositional element here, offering a welcome sense of melody to a track whose mission statement is total destruction.

For fans of: Omophagia, Cradle of Filth

– Sam Roche

Blues Lawyer – Chance Encounters

What is it? The propulsive distorto power-pop earworm of a lead single from the brilliantly named Oakland, California quartet’s forthcoming third LP, All in Good Time. The high-gain snarl + bubblegum hooks combo is not a new one, but when you do it as well as it’s done on Chance Encounters there is, as Stevie Wonder once said, no way the band could lose.

Standout guitar moment: The lead tones here are just sublime across the board – from the opening rumble of feedback to, especially, those grimy, hook-y fills that weave their way in and out of the picture throughout.  

For fans of: Spoon, Hüsker Dü, Yo La Tengo

Jackson Maxwell

The Lord & David Pajo – Nazarite

What is it? The Sunn O))) amp destroyer partners with one of his biggest influences, David Pajo, for this Slint-inspired spoken-word mood piece, currently available only on Bandcamp. It’s a meditative slice of clean guitar for its first half before a clutch of impossibly heavy distorted drones kick in. There’s only one man who can summon such unholy tones, and that propels this track far beyond the mortal realms of Spiderland.

Standout guitar moment: Honestly, those octave fuzz power chords give us chills. They also make us want to round up all our amps and run them at full tilt in our local rehearsal space.

For fans of: Slint, Sunn O))), Boris

– Michael Astley-Brown

NOFX – My Favorite Enemy

What is it? The second track from NOFX’s new record, Double Album, My Favorite Enemy finds a band of punk rock veterans who remain at the top of their game decades after their inception in 1983. Driven by simple powerchord lines behind feel-good vocal hooks and harmonies, Fat Mike and co have taken a don’t-fix-what-ain’t-broke approach with this one, utilising the tried and tested tropes of punk to deliver a timely reminder that the genre is very much alive and well.

Standout guitar moment: Octaved leads are, again, a staple of the punk rock formula, but Aaron "El Hefe" Abeyta places them expertly throughout My Favorite Enemy, adding occasional extra bursts of melody.

For fans of: Bad Religion, Pennywise, The Vandals 

– Sam Roche

We Are Scientists – Lucky Just To Be Here

What is it? The glimmering third single from the New York indie duo’s forthcoming album, Lobes. Lucky Just To Be Here builds slowly, with a measured, cinematic first half that builds into a feverish, cathartic, and rewarding climax. 

Standout guitar moment: The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Walkmen (deservedly) get a lot of the hype, but it was Keith Murray who wrote one of the gnarliest guitar hooks of the 2000s NYC indie boom, and he can indeed still write ‘em. With a simple single note-based hook and a wee bit of multi-tracking, he sends this song racing down the freeway just past the three-minute mark, with nowhere to go and the windows wide open.

For fans of: U2, Phoenix, Cocteau Twins

Jackson Maxwell

Hellripper – The Nuckelavee

What is it? The most Scottish blackened thrash metal you’ve ever heard: inspired by legends of the Scottish Highlands, James McBain has channeled the kind of mythological riffery heard on classic Metallica and Iron Maiden cuts, but upped the tempo, increased the scream factor and crafted a witches’ brew that will be just the tonic for fans of NWOBHM and black metal alike.

Standout guitar moment: After letting rip with a barrage of pentatonic leads, McBain drops a savage harmonized solo worthy of Murray and Smith.

For fans of: Iron Maiden, Metallica, Death

– Michael Astley-Brown

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Matt Owen

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.