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From rapid-fire nu-metal to neo-neo-soul: here are this week’s essential guitar tracks

Troy Sanders (left) and Bill Kelliher perform live with Mastodon
(Image credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Though the warmer weather (at least in our neck of the woods) has us ready to kick up our feet and rummage through our closets for beach towels, the guitar universe hasn’t been taking a break – far from it.

This week seemed to grace us with a particularly large amount of guitar greatness, from Christone “Kingfish” Ingram’s hot-rodded homage to his Delta roots, to Naia Izumi’s shimmering neo-neo-soul, a hypnotic meeting of the musical minds from Cory Wong and Dave Koz, and a wall-shaking slice of nu-metal from Nonpoint, this week had it all, guitar-wise.

Scroll down to check out those killer tracks, and a whole lot more.

Naia Izumi – Voodoo

In the wake of the Instagram guitar boom, neo-soul has become the buzzword in exemplary playing. But Naia Izumi – who rose to prominence after winning NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert in 2018 – has a guitar style so beyond many of his contemporaries, we can only describe it as neo-neo-soul.

Voodoo makes Izumi’s idiosyncratic approach plain to see. But as if his deft fingerpicking approach, lashings of shimmer reverb and outrageously tasty chord inversions weren’t enough, this choice cut from the LA-based guitar wizard traverses time signatures with astonishing ease.

The combination of math-rock-like elasticity and R&B-infused melodicism is utterly entrancing, and we have no doubt that his forthcoming debut on Sony Masterworks will ascend to even greater heights. (MAB)

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram – 662

Only 22, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram has already made his mark as one of the best, and undoubtedly most exciting, blues guitarists in the world. On 662 though, Ingram takes things all the way back to the place that shaped him, his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Anchoring the song with a hot-rodded, Delta–by-way-of-Chuck Berry riff, and punctuating the proceedings with sweet touches of high-gain, fleet-fingered blues guitar glory, Ingram gives a perfect tribute to the birthplace of the blues, showing all the while that the genre is still incredibly vital. (JM)

Mastodon – Forged By Neron

Arriving ahead of DC Comics’ new Dark Nights: Death Metal soundtrack, this new Mastodon cut sees the Atlanta quartet deliver a true-to-form volley of legendary riffs, earworm melodies and an out-of-this-world electric guitar solo, to boot.

Joining Brent Hinds and co on the wider release are the likes of Soccer Mommy, Chelsea Wolfe, Manchester Orchestra, HEALTH, IDLES and more, so it’s likely to be eclectic, to say the least.

“We are super excited and honored to be part of the Dark Nights: Death Metal soundtrack!” says Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor. “We’ve all been fans of DC Comics and the Batman universe since we were kids, so it really means a lot for us to be able to add something to that world.” (SR)

Yngwie Malmsteen – Wolves at the Door

Whatever you think of Yngwie – and opinions regarding the perpetually leather-panted neoclassical gun-slinger are reliably polarized – his original music carries several guarantees.

There will be sweep picking, and it will be delivered at dizzying speeds. The harmonic minor scale is going to get the workout of its life. And there will be a meticulous attention to articulation that, to this day, remains largely unparalleled on the instrument.

Wolves at the Door, the first taste of upcoming studio album Parabellum, delivers on all counts. Harking back to his all-conquering Rising Force heyday, Malmsteen’s latest is a thrash opus that – should bpm ever be measured in terms of sheer horsepower – reaches top speeds that would surely rival any of the shredding Swede’s five Ferraris.

The fretboard fireworks that light up the track’s opening 40 seconds are followed by a characteristically theatrical vocal performance, as the scallop-keen Strat-man declares his intention to defeat the devil. Which means, for a couple of minutes at least, Malmsteen’s leads take a backseat to his larynx, but the three-minute mark brings a Bach-on-steroids breakdown that soon erupts into a truly audacious display of sweeps and alternate picking.

It’s hardly going to convince unbelievers, but it’s further proof – as if any were required – that Malmsteen is still very much master of his domain. (MAB)

Cory Wong & Dave Koz – Today

In true Cory Wong fashion, the funk guitar god has wasted no time in diving headfirst into yet another collaborative project – shortly following the release of his most recent, talk show-turned-studio-album Cory and the Wongnotes – joining forces with sax legend Dave Koz for a smooth new single, Today.

Taken from the pair’s upcoming album The Golden Hour, Today sees Wong – who released a whopping eight albums last year – lock into a snappy Strat sound that hypnotically see-saws between chords while Koz curates a masterful melody on the curved soprano sax. 

Wong’s band is equally on top form, with Petar Janjic’s elite drumming maintaining a tight-knit show while the brass and woodwind session powerhouses weave a dreamy sonic soundscape for Koz to explore.

Dotted with unpredictable rhythmic pickups and some tasty call-and-response exchanges, there is no room for any fast right-hand rhythms or lead-line acrobatics – but that’s okay. Instead, Today slows things down to maximum effect, and will probably be the smoothest thing you’ll hear all week. (MO)

August Burns Red – Pangaea (feat. Misha “Bulb” Mansoor)

Appearing on a brand-new 10th Anniversary Edition of 2011’s Leveler, August Burns Red’s new take on Pangaea sees Periphery axe-slinger Misha “Bulb” Mansoor contribute a sweep-ridden, two-handed-taptastic guitar solo, infusing the classic cut with a refreshing dose of virtuosic lead playing.

Pangaea has always been one of my favorite tracks on Leveler,” says guitarist JB Brubaker. "It may be the most progressive song on the album so it felt like a natural fit to have Misha from Periphery perform on the track. He delivered quite possibly the most head-spinning guitar solo that we’ve ever had on an ABR song.” (SR)

Sleater-Kinney – Worry With You 

Having pushed themselves musically in thrilling, unexpected ways – and, following the album’s completion, become a duo after the departure of drummer Janet Weiss – on 2019’s St. Vincent-produced The Center Won’t Hold, punk legends Sleater-Kinney are back with a new album, Path of Wellness.

For those who bristled at the decidedly 21st century production choices that defined the former album, the Path of Wellness’s first single, Worry With You, will likely come as a bit of a relief. 

Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein’s guitars stutter, strut and coil themselves around one another unobstructed, while their exuberant vocal harmonies – even on a track like this, which never quite puts the pedal to the metal – are as exhilarating as ever.

The loss of Weiss, and her incredible percussive power, is a significant one, but Worry With You shows that Brownstein and Tucker – now in their fourth decade as musical partners-in-crime – are still musically nimble and full of brilliant surprises. (JM)

Cardinal Black – Tell Me How It Feels

To celebrate the launch of his newly formed four-piece, Cardinal Black, Chris Buck has treated us to Tell Me How It Feels – the debut single from an upcoming EP, which will in turn pave the way for a debut full-length studio album further on down the line.

Buck, the Yamaha Revstar-wielding guitar sensation known for his slick Instagram clips and seriously popular YouTube videos, has joined forces with past collaborators Tom Hollister, Adam Roberts and Sam Williams for his latest project, resurrecting and rejuvenating a 10-year old trio that once caught the eye – and ear – of Steve Winwood.

Halfway through the track, after being treated to Hollister’s soulful vocals and some low-end chordal flourishes, Buck lets his Gold Revstar loose on a solo, using his trademark finger-and-thumb plucking technique to commute his way up and down the fingerboard to maximum effect. A sequel solo crops up later in the track, this time with Buck going to town on a series of awe-inspiring passages and wailing whole note bends.

If Tell Me How It Feels is anything to go by, Buck’s upcoming crop of tracks is going to feature a ton of tasty guitar work. We can’t wait. (MO)

Joe Hodgson – Till The Last Breath

Taken from his self-produced debut album Apparitions, Joe Hodgson’s most recent single Till The Last Breath sees the Northern Irish six-string slinger pay tribute to his late mother in an instrumental requiem filled with moving melodies and emotive slide passages.

Donning a Fender Marauder, Hodgson leaves no fret unexplored as he works his way up and down the fingerboard with elite accuracy, constructing exchanges that both create an “intimate, vulnerable mournful feel” and convey a “joy and thankfulness." 

As the music around Hodgson swells, so too does his playing, which channels his raw, unfiltered emotion in a series of slide-infused phrases and show-stopping licks.

Apparitions, which explores the theme of “how nothing ever stays the same” through a blend of rock, blues, Latin, jazz and funk, is out now. (MO)

Bicurious – Palapalapa

Not quite post-rock, not quite math-rock, this Dublin-by-way-of-Brest duo can be filed under the category of big-riffing instrumentalists à la And So I Watch You From Afar and Alpha Male Tea Party.

The first track to be taken from their upcoming debut is evidence of the pair’s imaginative approach to the two-piece format, flitting between quirky Battles-esque marches and monster Whammy-doubled fretboard-melters.

It’s technically impressive throughout – but the pair’s well-honed melodic and dynamic sensibilities ensure it’s catchy as hell, too. (MAB)

Dayglow – Balcony

Texas indie-rock phenom and Guitar World Sick Riffs alumni Dayglow – aka Sloan Struble – is gearing to release his sophomore album Harmony House, with his already released singles Close To You, Woah Man and Something all teasing a fierce follow up to his seriously impressive debut album, Fuzzybrain.

His latest offering, the ‘80s-infused, modulated-guitar-drenched number Balcony, sees Dayglow’s fine pre-album form continue in absolute spades, expertly layering everything from air-y synths, punchy drums, pumping bass stabs and decorative percussive trills over his catchy melodic hooks.

Ever the architect when it comes to lead licks, Dayglow slaps on the reverb and treats the track to a collection of ethereal melodic arpeggiated riffs, which give way to smooth double-stops and slick slides, reminding us that Struble is as much a well-versed guitarist as he is a generational songwriter. (MO)

Nonpoint – Ruthless

We’d wager this track takes the cake this week in terms of sheer energy. Kicking off with a killer guitar riff, Ruthless launches into an early-2000s-style, nu-metal-style ground-pounder, with enough attitude to get even the tamest of rockers moshing.

Among its six-string highlights is a dazzling solo around the 2:05 mark. Guitarist Jason Zeilstra delivers a wah-soaked lead passage, wrought with tasteful bends, rapid-fire alternate picking phrases and other melodic ear candy.

Ruthless is more than just a song,” says vocalist Elias Soriano. “It’s a story with attitude and purpose. This is more than just an anthem, it’s heart pounding, high octane jet fuel and our most irresponsible music ever.” (SR)