It’s been a devastating week, as Eddie Van Halen’s passing casts a shadow over the guitar world at large. But if there’s one thing Eddie would have wanted, it’s for guitarists to keep playing, and to stop at nothing to improve their abilities and further the instrument as a whole.
Those are exactly the kinds of artists we set out to share in our round-ups of Essential Guitar Tracks, and we’ll be doing the same this week.
We’ve got mind-blowing virtuosic prog from returning champ Plini, a hybrid of Indian and classical metal like you’ve never heard before courtesy of Tezaab, plus the kings of hard-rock themselves, AC/DC, back in the saddle once more.
King Edward may have passed, and there will never be another like him, but there are countless loyal subjects eager to carry the torch. Enjoy.
Plini – I’ll Tell You Someday
As one of the foremost proponents of contemporary virtuosic guitar, Plini is never really in any danger of disappointing, but the first track to arrive from just-announced new album, Impulse Voices, is still an astonishing listen.
Described by the Aussie wunderkind as “a big, warm, instrumental hug”, I’ll Tell You Someday continues the djent-fusion template set by 2018’s Sunhead EP, but traverses a more expansive sonic landscape – his airy, vocal leads soar one minute, and simmer and soothe the next. In short, it sounds absolutely huge. (MAB)
AC/DC – Shot in the Dark
One of the biggest rock bands in the world are back with a bang. This week’s Shot in the Dark – released ahead of upcoming studio album Power Up – marks the band’s first release without rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, who sadly passed away in 2017 aged 64. Despite this, longtime AC/DC producer Mike Fraser recently confirmed that we will hear Malcolm’s riff contributions on the record.
The track’s about as AC/DC as can be, but why change something that doesn’t need fixing? Angus and Stevie Young are on fine form, utilizing those mammoth open chords that have been so instrumental to their sound over the years.
Get a load of Angus’s supercharged leads during the solo section (2:07), too. The Aussie rockers are as electrified as ever. (SR)
Mdou Moctar - Chismiten
Tinariwen may have been the first group to bring the hypnotic beauty of Northern African Tuareg guitar music to the ears of the rest of the world, but we have a feeling that Niger native Mdou Moctar is primed to take the music to the next level.
Having just signed to venerated indie label Matador, Chismiten is the first single from Moctar’s as-yet-untitled new album, set for release sometime next year.
Ahmoudou Madassane provides the perfect foundation for the song with his engrossing rhythm work, while Moctar sets the fretboard on fire with his freewheeling leads, which arc in dazzling shapes and patterns around Madassane and the incredible rhythm section of Moctar’s band – Michael Coltun on bass and Souleymane Ibrahim on drums.
For many reasons of course, but also for Moctar’s forthcoming album, 2021 can’t come soon enough. (JM)
Omar Apollo – Dos Uno Nueve
This ode to traditional Mexican ballads is something of a departure from Apollo’s futuristic, electric-led R&B, but provides the perfect opportunity to bust out his and co-guitarist Oscar Santander’s formidable acoustic chops.
A flurry of flamenco-esque alternate-picking runs and harmonized leads complement Dos Uno Nueve’s sultry vocal performance. It all goes to highlight Apollo’s staggering versatility, which is set to be documented on a new live release, Apolonio, filmed at Prince’s Paisley Park. Given he’s already been hailed as 2020’s answer to Prince, it should prove a spellbinding performance. (MAB)
Corey Taylor – Kansas
It’s safe to say that Corey Taylor’s debut solo album CMFT spans a wide range of stylistic influences. From the straight-up high-octane rock ‘n’ roll of HWY 666 to the ambitious rap-rock crossover CMFT Must Be Stopped, it’s clearly designed to keep you guessing.
One standout track from the record comes in the form of Kansas, a melodic soft-rocker that evokes Eagles vibes with straightforward guitar lines, gorgeous vocal harmonies and an awe-inspiring sense of feelgood.
A triumphant key change before the brilliant, feel-driven guitar solo lifts the track to another level, continuing into the final chorus and serving as a tremendously satisfying outro. (SR)
Tashi Dorji - End of State, Part III
It’s incredibly rare to come across a guitarist whose approach to the instrument singlehandedly alters what you think it’s capable of, but Bhutan-born, Asheville, NC-based guitarist Tashi Dorji is one of those needle-in-a-haystack talents.
For the uninitiated, his discography – in both size and stylistic scope – can be quite intimidating, but Stateless, his beautiful new album of steel-stringed acoustic improvisation, is a fantastic place to start.
End of State, Part III – an instrumental masterpiece that walks a near-impossible line between beauty, dissonance and a visceral understanding of the current state of the world – is a stunning highlight.
In a recent discussion about Stateless, Dorji said that he doesn’t want his music to be categorized in any specific way, and we certainly won’t try to. Putting any kind of label on a record this far-reaching, eye-opening and freeing would be doing it an immense disservice. (JM)
Artur Menezes – Come On (feat. Joe Bonamassa)
This LA-based Brazilian firebrand straddles the line between classic and contemporary blues-rock, and Come On is the perfect calling card for his red-hot pentatonic approach.
Besides the AC/DC-ish main riff, a soulful octave fuzz-led breakdown showcases Menezes’s dynamic playing style, while a guest spot from Joe Bonamassa is indicative of his rising star in the guitar world. (MAB)
DevilDriver – Vengeance is Clear
The California heavy metal outfit just released the first half of their Dealing with Demons double album, with the second half to be released at a to-be-confirmed later date. This installment, however, is enough to keep fans happy for the meantime, offering 10 tracks of sheer destructive power.
Vengeance is Clear – the record’s second track – is a groove-oriented metal tune underpinned by rock-solid guitar riffs throughout. With precise breakdown chugs and harmonized leads, this metal banger’s got it all. (SR)
Szlachetka - Old Soul
From Music City comes this refreshingly warm and gentle piece of Americana.
The latest single from Matthew Szlachetka’s upcoming album, Young Heart, Old Soul, Old Soul was inspired by the wide-ranging crowds Szlachetka would see gather for The American Legion Hall in East Nashville’s ”Honky Tonk Tuesday" nights.
Driven by stirring acoustic fingerpicking, Old Soul preaches inclusivity and acceptance, and will have you longing to seek the communion of live music once again. (JM)
Soara - Tezaab
Indian classical music and metal don't cross paths too often, but two-piece Soara fuse the two into an enigmatic fusion with debut EP Dharm.
Its lead single, Tezaab, is a lyrically thought-provoking look into the scourge of acid attacks in several Asian and African countries. To highlight the issue further, the track’s video above features an interview with acid attack survivor Anu Mukherjee.
According to Soara, the COVID-19 pandemic has starved the Acid Survivor Saahas Foundation (ASSF) of funding sources. You can make a donation directly to the charity here.
Guitar-wise, Tezaab is packed full of full-throttle seven-string riffs, and the odd rapid-fire flurry of notes, beneath the foreground of classical Indian microtonal singing. (SR)