Skip to main content

From returning goth-rock titans to space-age prog epics: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Sophie Burrell
(Image credit: Sophie Burrell/YouTube)

This year has felt simultaneously like 10 days and 10 centuries, but its end is nonetheless rapidly approaching. Though 2020 brought with it many changes that affected all of us, thankfully, innovative, engaging new guitar music has remained a constant to console and inspire us throughout.

Even with the year almost over, brilliant new guitar music of all forms and persuasions is still arriving in waves, and we're still here to tell you about it all.

This week, we have the return of goth-rock giants Evanescence, the first release from six-string Instagram star Sophie Burrell, the long-awaited debut single from match-made-in-heaven Adrian Smith & Richie Kotzen, and a whole lot more.

So take your mind off the holiday rush, turn up the volume and plug into what's new and cool in the guitar universe.

Smith/Kotzen – Taking My Chances

Having celebrated his 50th birthday in style earlier this year with a mammoth, 50-song solo album titled – appropriately – 50 For 50, you’d think Richie Kotzen would be satisfied with his 2020 artistic accomplishments. 

Of course though, the ever-prolific Tele maestro had another card up his sleeve, getting his buddy – Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith – to set down his fishing rod and pick up his axe for Taking My Chances, the first track from what the pair promises will be a fruitful collaboration. 

Recorded in February 2020 in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the West Indies, Taking My Chances is stacked with the sort of ‘70s blues/classic-rock riffing you’ll want to play through an over-the-top, ceiling-high Marshall stack. 

For their tastily overdriven solos, Smith and Kotzen stay true to the melodically rich tune, while throwing in enough of their distinct six-string fingerprints that you’ll know who is who. Kotzen has said that he’s “ecstatic” about the recordings the duo have made together, and so far, we are too! (JM)

Sophie Burrell – Tranquility

UK-based PRS-wielding rock guitarist extraordinaire Sophie Burrell unveiled her debut single this past week – and it demonstrates precisely why the social media star has amassed such a huge following.

Tranquility is awash with smart playing touches, as Burrell deploys harmonic flourishes, split-coil spank, and some blazing runs on her beloved Custom 24 Wood Library, all topped off with a hugely vocal vibrato.

It’s fitting, then, that Burrell has been named PRS Artist of the Month for December 2020, and Tranquility’s addictive melody and emotive solos are testament to her evolution as a player and a songwriter. (MAB)

Evanescence – Yeah Right

News of a Covid vaccine has been welcome, but the real antidote to the trials and tribulations of 2020 has to be the announcement of brand-new material from the almighty Evanescence. The Bitter Truth will be Amy Lee and co’s first full record in over a decade, and rock-meets-electronic stomper, Yeah Right, is our latest taste.

While the guitar work in both the verses and choruses is somewhat minimalistic, that guitar solo demands the track a place in GW’s coveted essential guitar tracks roundup. It’s all about vibrato and note articulation, and it’s delivered expertly. (SR)

Frank Iero And The Future Violents – Sewerwolf

While the pandemic temporarily but promptly extinguished the flame of My Chemical Romance’s triumphant reunion, guitarist Frank Iero has remained busy. Together with his side band The Future Violents, he’s currently gearing up to release a brand-new EP, Heaven Is A Place, This Is A Place.

Following a recent cover of REM’s Losing My Religion, the group have now unveiled the EP’s first original, Sewerwolf. Drawing from a range of stylistic influences – mostly punk and hard rock – the quintet deliver a flurry of powerchord-driven lines and dissonant arrangements, and it’s got us pretty excited for what’s to come. We’ll have to wait until January 15 to find out, but this track should scratch the itch in the meantime. (SR)

Gabriel Cyr - Intergalactic Spaceship Race

2018’s Guitarist of the Year winner fully indulges his love of Rush in this space-age prog masterclass.

To say Intergalactic Spaceship Race is epic is an understatement. Veering from huge classic-rock riffs into break-neck dissonant thrash, progressive djent and even a ukulele solo(!), Cyr’s ambition is unparalleled – and, even more impressive, fully realized.

The unifying factor between the track’s disparate sections, of course, is Cyr’s incredible touch and feel, all of which reminds us exactly why he won the competition in the first place.

Intergalactic Spaceship Race is taken from Cyr’s new EP, Spectrum Exploration II – he’ll be sharing a video for every track each week, so keep an eye on his YouTube channel(MAB)

Julia Jacklin – baby jesus is nobody’s baby now 

Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin spent much of 2019 riding a well-deserved wave of acclaim for Crushing, her stunning sophomore effort. 

Lined with devastating, sparsely arranged stories of heartbreak and anxiety – delivered with piercing lyrical clarity – it was one of the year’s most unforgettable albums. This week, Jacklin has returned with a new stand-alone single, a sort-of Christmas tune titled baby jesus is nobody’s baby now.

With the table set solely by her tense, expressive acoustic strumming, baby jesus is nobody’s baby now follows an explosive holiday-season family gathering occurring against the backdrop of an undefined tragedy. Never one to do all the work for you, Jacklin lets the song’s unease creep in slowly but persistently, and – without resolution – leaves you dying to know what’s next. (JM)

Hedras - Parallel Dreams

Parallel Dreams’ pitch-axis-vibed intro may recall Joe Satriani’s classic Not of This Earth, but it’s soon dragged into 2020 with a brutally intricate drop-tuned breakdown.

It sets the precedent for Guatemalan virtuoso Hedras Ramos’s knack of combining classic shred – on Ibanez JEM and JS models, no less – with contemporary prog-metal, weaving eerie sustaining melodies with time signature shifts and mind-bending modal runs.

These dizzying displays ensure the track and new album Pagans are a celebration of all things guitar, past and present. We dig. (MAB)

Gemini Syndrome – Reintegration

LA alt-metallers Gemini Syndrome are preparing to release the yet-to-be-named final installment of their album trilogy, following 2013’s Lux and 2016’s Memento Mori.

Earlier this week, the four-piece dropped the album’s first single, Reintegration, describing it as “a fearless and transparent introduction to the idea of traversing death and being reborn; ultimately reintegrating with our true self, and being raised into the next degree of consciousness”. Some heavy stuff intellectually, but the guitar work’s pretty easy to grasp.

Huge-sounding riffs underpin the instantly catchy vocal hooks, reaffirming that the LA troupe’s larger-than-life-aesthetic matches their compositional ability. (SR)

Another Michael – I Know You’re Wrong 

This Philadelphia-via-Albany trio has been on our radar for awhile now, so the news of their imminent debut album – New Music And Big Pop is music to our ears indeed. 

The album’s second single, I Know You’re Wrong, is a superb, joyful piece of jangly power-pop, graced with some gorgeous and – thanks to the touch of an Electro-Harmonix Freeze pedal – beautifully atmospheric playing. If this debut isn’t on your radar for 2021, it damn well should be! (JM)

Spiritbox – Constance

Following their destructively satisfying July 2020 single Holy Roller, Canadian trio Spiritbox have emerged once again, this time with a far more mellow offering, Constance.

While its dissonant outro – in true Spiritbox style – renders it far from an ordinary composition, luscious and beautifully reverberant clean arpeggios throughout the verses ensure this track has something for everyone. (SR)