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From extreme-metal riff fests to A-list acoustic collabs: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Guitarist Bill Steer of Carcass performs at The Warfield on March 23, 2016 in San Francisco, California.
Carcass's Bill Steer (Image credit: Miikka Skaffari/FilmMagic)

Rejoice, dear readers, for it is finally that time of the week again. No, it’s not the weekend just yet, but what we do have for you is basically the next best thing – yes, that’s right, it is time for Guitar World’s weekly essential guitar tracks round-up.

What’s on offer today, we hear you ask? Well, allow us to get you up to speed before we guide you on through this week’s carefully curated collection.

The last seven or so days have seen the arrival of Journey’s first single in over a decade, filled-to-the-brim with killer leads, a technically fierce fretboard exploration from The Neal Morse Band, the long-awaited guitar-heavy return of Australian indie-rock outfit Gang of Youths, a brutally brilliant riff-fest from extreme-metal icons Carcass and an oh-so virtuosic acoustic cover of a pop hit from Mike Dawes and Tommy Emmanuel.

Sound good? Yeah, we thought so too. Let’s dive right in then, shall we?

Bullet For My Valentine – Knives

Bullet For My Valentine are notoriously difficult to pigeonhole. Their debut album, 2005’s The Poison, has a sound deeply rooted in metalcore – albeit with emo-tinged lyrical stylings. Their sophomore offering Scream Aim Fire explored thrashier territory, while on the other end of the metal spectrum, their most recent album Gravity featured notably poppier-style arrangements.

But with their forthcoming seventh album, the Bridgend quartet are leaving little room for interpretation.

“This is the beginning of Bullet 2.0,” enthuses frontman and founding member Matt Tuck. “It signifies where we are right now. The music is fresh, it’s aggressive, it’s more visceral and passionate than it’s ever been.” And aggressive, visceral and passionate it is.

The album’s debut single Knives dropped last week – we expect a chorus of praise from BFMV purists – and boy, does it deliver on the heavy. Tuck and co-guitarist Michael “Padge” Paget set the tone for the album with a furious open string-centric main riff – upon which the entire track’s arrangement is built – occasionally changing course with some monstrous chug work and squealing pinch harmonics.

“I think it’s the most ferocious side of Bullet For My Valentine that I’ve ever known,” says Paget. “It’s time for us to put out a really angry, heavy, aggressive record.” (SR)

Mike Dawes & Tommy Emmanuel – Somebody That I Used to Know

Nearly a month to the day that he dropped his blockbuster team effort with Jack Gardiner and Plini, UK fingerstyle wizard Mike Dawes has unveiled another A-list collaboration, this time with acoustic legend Tommy Emmanuel, for a fresh take on Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know.

Revamping the cover that we used to know, Emmanuel sprinkles some bluesy spice onto Dawes’ hypnotic arrangement, which is now bolstered by some extra lead lines, octaver and neat harmonic tuning-peg turns. Check out the 2:50 mark for some serious percussive swag and jazz-inflected chord changes.

It’s been nine years since Dawes’ original cover went viral, but this new incarnation makes it feel fresh once again. (MAB)

Gang of Youths – the angel of 8th ave. 

Australian indie-rock group Gang of Youths have released their first song since 2017, titled the angle of 8th ave., and they've marked their long-anticipated return with a bang.

It’s one of the more memorable studies into how the electric and acoustic guitar can work together to paint a stunning sonic picture, with the instantly-catchy-yet-innocently simple gain-y guitar riff conversing with some of the cleanest stripped-back strums to ever have left a studio.

Vocalist David Le’aupepe is on hand to show that his songwriting form has not slipped an inch in the five years that have passed, with his ever-poetic, story-like lyrics and booming cavernous vocals undoubtedly one of the track’s show-stopping centerpieces. In fact, so hypnotic is the command of his voice that you’ll be forgiven for letting the delicate layering slip under your radar on first listen.

Play it again and you’ll pick up on all the delicious nuances Gang of Youths have crammed in. Those synths, for example, which sit just right in the mix, or those bite-y guitar riffs that build momentum with the drums as the track gallops towards its harmony-laden finale. An impromptu arpeggio here, a one-off lead lick there, and it’s all carefully pieced together like some glorious sonic tapestry.

Aside from the gorgeous instrumental layering, exquisite production value and stunning vocal work, there is so much more to unpick. At the end of the day, it’s probably best to keep the summary (relatively) simple: it’s a really, really good song. (MO)

Carcass – Kelly’s Meat Emporium

Metal guitar has few more distinctive voices than Bill Steer, whose unique ear has guided British legends Carcass to god-like status in death-metal circles.

With Kelly’s Meat Emporium – the first single to be released from Torn Arteries, the band’s first album in eight years – Steer’s well of hammering riffs and exotic scale-infused lead lines shows no sign of depleting.

KME is a masterclass in rhythmic intensity and lead intrigue – it’s old-school songwriting nous fortified by contemporary production, and the resulting aural punishment is quite, quite exquisite. (MAB)

The Neal Morse Band – Do It All Again 

Taken from upcoming album Innocence & Danger, The Neal Morse Band’s latest single Do It All Again is bound to strike a chord with fans of technically impressive soloing, high-gain riffage and tasty songwriting. In essence, there’s something in there for everyone.

It’s almost nine minutes long, meaning there’s more than enough tasty guitar parts to go around to quench all your guitar-based thirsts. From the opening passage, which begins tame then suddenly explodes into a fiery barrage of high-end licks, to the deliciously melodic, bend-infused extended solo effort, Do It All Again is a non-stop exploration of the fretboard.

As you can imagine, given its lengthy run-time, there’s more to this track than just its excellent lead-based six-string escapades. There are some neat chordal constructions tucked underneath as well, with the stripped-back sections serving up some cool interplay between Randy George’s bass guitar and Mike Portnoy’s drums.

Keep your eyes and ears peeled for Innocence & Danger, which is set to serve up both a half-hour and 20-minute long epic when its released on August 27. (MO)

Journey – The Way We Used To Be

Returning with their first single in over a decade, Journey have shared The Way We Used To Be. A quintessential classic rocker, the track sees guitarist Neal Schon’s gain-heavy leads weave in and out of Arnel Pineda’s vocals throughout, once again reminding us of the group’s musical and compositional maturity. 

And there’s soon to be more where that came from, too. In an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this year, Schon explained that the band’s 15th studio album is “coming along”, and “really shaping up”.

He also hinted at embarking on a new musical journey with, um, Journey: “We aren’t afraid to go to new places. It’s easy to stay safe and write where we have always been. We have a bit of that so we don’t lose everyone, but at the same token, this is a new chapter of Journey. I want to go where we have not gone before.”

Whatever happens, we’re looking forward to what’s to come. (SR)

Quicksand – Missile Command

NYC post-hardcore vets Quicksand this week announced new album, Distant Populations, and this raucous first single.

The release marks the group’s first recording as a three-piece following the departure of guitarist Tom Capone, but judging from Missile Command, they’ve lost none of the serrated edge that left its mark on a generation of bands that followed their '90s heyday.

Built around a droning groove from Sergio Vega – who now performs double-duty with Deftones – and bolstered by a monster production from Will Yip, Missile Command dives and soars dynamically, but really lets loose when Walter Schreifels emits guitar wails so utterly primal, we can only assume they were a direct inspiration for the pterodactyl-like creatures that appear in the track’s video. (MAB)

Conor Albert – Moonlight feat. Mac Ayres

It seems that, with every day that passes, a new wave of “next big things” emerge on social media raring to take their respective genre by storm. Conor Albert has been knocking on the door for quite some time now, but with his new track, Moonlight, the South London-based multi-instrumentalist and producer has officially booted said door clean off its hinges.

Fans of Albert will be no stranger to his sonic direction, which blends jazz, fusion, hip-hop, electronic music and almost everything in between. Moonlight is no exception to this, with Albert executing an instantly catchy, super-infectious guitar hook that works alongside Ayres’ groove-inducing vocals over some tasty extended chords. 

Oh, and those neat melodic bass parts that are filled with chromatic runs and clever harmonies? They’re played by Albert, too. And the drums? Yep, you guessed it. Heck, he even produced the track, which, if you listen to – and we implore that you do – sounds like it's been engineered by a seasoned studio dweller who knows all the tricks of the trade.

When his guitar-playing, bass-slaying, drum-beating and production prowess are all taken into consideration, there’s only one question left that needs to be asked: Is there anything Albert can’t do? (MO)