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From high-octane thrash-metal assaults to lonesome country ballads: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Rebecca Lovell and Megan Lovell of Larkin Poe perform during Celebrating GRAMMY Nominees: Larkin Poe at The GRAMMY Museum on January 21, 2020 in Los Angeles, California
(Image credit: Timothy Norris/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the music industry have been incalculable. Entire countries remain on lockdown, derailing all touring plans, closing music stores and shutting billions of people into their homes indefinitely.

Fortunately though, this brutal pandemic and its cataclysmic effects on the world haven't stopped musicians from creating. Pandemic or not, guitarists of all kinds are still dropping terrific new tracks - whether they're new creations borne from self-isolation/quarantine, or pre-planned releases of material that's been in the works for much longer. 

Whether you need a high-octane thrash-metal assault or a lonesome, aching country ballad to soothe your nerves and keep you company in these nerve-wracking times, we've got you covered!

Give a listen to our favorites of this strange moment below. 

Larkin Poe - Holy Ghost Fire

From the second Rebecca Lovell's swaggering, bluesy opening riff proudly announces itself, you know that Larkin Poe mean business with their new song, Holy Ghost Fire.

The second single from the roots-rockers' forthcoming album, Self Made Man, this song turns everything - the hooks, choruses, riffs, solos and fuzzed-out bass - all the way up to 11. Not to say that we're complaining. (JM)

Theraphosa - Stigmata of the Purest Pain

You could forgive our scepticism when we received an email with the subject line, ‘Tired of waiting for new Gojira? This should fill that void nicely.’

Yet this trio of French brothers - ‘in blood and blood shed’ - channel the sound of their countrymen with aplomb, with ominous grooves, crushing tones and lyrical lead playing from Les Paul-wielding frontman Vincent Dubout.

Keep an eye out for debut album Transcendence next month. (MAB)

Jamie Lenman - The Future Is Dead

The UK’s alt-rock chameleon served up a surprise slice of rabble-rousing riff-rock this week, with the kind of main hook that wouldn’t sound out of place on RATM’s Evil Empire - those credentials further bolstered by the addition of rhymes from Penshui’s Illaman.

Recorded before the coronavirus pandemic struck, it’s terribly close to the bone now - but those riffs are just irresistible. (MAB)

As I Lay Dying - Destruction or Strength

Californian metallers As I Lay Dying have unveiled Destruction or Strength, a previously unreleased track recorded during the sessions for their 2019 album, Shaped by Fire. The band is donating all proceeds from the single to hometown charity Feeding San Diego and their road crew who, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, have had to deal with the economic impact of multiple show cancellations.

Musically, the track features some truly impressive fretwork from guitarists Phil Sgrosso and Nick Hipa, who trade harmonized riffs that guide the song seamlessly from heavy one minute to melodic the next. A blistering guitar solo (starting at 2:43) rounds this track off as one the week’s best six-string listening experiences. (SR)

Brutus - Sand

Celebrating a year since hugely accomplished sophomore release Nest, the Belgian post-metallers’ latest effort is awash with their trademark delay and reverb-drenched guitar tones, bonded to furious thrash rhythms from drumming vocalist Stefanie Mannaerts.

Whether you’re into punk, post-rock or hardcore, you’ll find something to like here. (MAB)

Havok - Post-Truth Era

Thrash metal four-piece Havok have released another single from their upcoming fifth studio album, V. Post-Truth Era contains guitar parts clearly inspired by the work of thrash forefathers Metallica, and showcases the impressive songwriting abilities of guitarists David Sanchez and Reece Scruggs.

The track is a high-octane audial assault (in the best possible sense) and indicates the forthcoming album to be one of the band’s best ever. (SR)

Picturesque - ATTN

American quartet Picturesque are experts in fusing pop melodies with a post-hardcore sound, and they’ve done it to perfection on ATTN:, a track which comes ahead of their upcoming album Do You Feel O.K?.

The track is rife with catchy drop-tuned riffs and even features a pretty jaw-dropping solo courtesy of guitarist Dylan Forrester. Well worthy of a mention on this week’s list. (SR)

Jason Isbell - Only Children

Few living singer/songwriters can hit you as hard with a single sentence as Jason Isbell. Only Children - the third single from his upcoming new album, Reunions - finds Isbell in top form, mournfully looking back at his memories with a friend who has since passed away.

The vocals, which Isbell shares with his wife and bandmate Amanda Shires, are stunning, but what really caps the song off is its solo, which vivdly evokes both the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia and profound melancholy out of nothing more than a handful of notes. (JM)

Overrider - Ansible

We can’t reveal a whole lot about the mastermind behind this anonymous project, other than to say they’re closely affiliated with Guitar World. What we can tell you is that this is the first track to be taken from the electronic-guitar outfit’s debut release cyc|er, and it crams a hell of a lot into three-and-a-half minutes.

Ansible starts all glitchy - closely channelling Nine Inch Nails and 65daysofstatic - but soon gives way to golden-era Smashing Pumpkins octave riffs and post-rock tremolo picking, all overlayed with “live coding experiments”. Terrifyingly clever stuff. (MAB)