“It was pretty daunting at the outset”: Misha Mansoor’s Virtuoso Mega Shred is the five-solo, guest-laden metal guitar instrumental of the year – and it was written for a guitar promo

Jackson Virtuoso Mega Shred
(Image credit: Jackson)

Jackson launched its latest American Series model the Virtuoso last week. The electric guitar itself might have arrived in an attention-grabbing Shell Pink, but the thing that really caught our eye was the accompanying star-studded promo video. 

Dubbed The Virtuoso Mega Shred, the clip features Periphery guitarist Misha Mansoor, Marty Friedman, Revocation’s Dave Davidson and next-gen players –Heriot’s Debbie Gough and Erra’s Clint Tustin – taking solo turns across a single evolving track. In the process, they showcase a killer selection of monstrous, yet highly individual, lead guitar styles.

Initially, we were just impressed that in an era of virtual trade shows and Instagram teasers in the place of product launches, a guitar company had both the nerve and the budget to commission an original track , particularly given it’s composed by Mansoor himself, no less.

However, the Virtuoso clip represents a wider change – not just in the way that guitars are being marketed, or Jackson’s confidence levels (which are apparently sitting on an 11/10 right now) – but for metal guitar itself. 

Firstly, the lineup is stellar. It whips through a breathless cross-section of metal guitar talent past and present and offers a sort of ‘show don’t tell’ acknowledgement of the robust health of the genre in 2023.

Friedman takes the limelight. As a forward-thinking virtuoso with bonafide classic metal credentials, he has the precision chops to compete with the new brand of YouTube hyper-shredder. He does not go easy on the kids, either, finishing his building levelling solo with a casual pick toss (the shredder’s mic drop).

Marty Friedman playing in the Jackson Virtuoso Mega Shred clip

(Image credit: Jackson)

Davidson brings an underlying hint of death metal menace and classic rock sleaze to proceedings; Gough wrangles an entire menagerie of animalist wails over sludge riffs and Tustin brings the metalcore pace with some lightning-fast runs, interspersed with colorful, unexpected bends.

Against that backdrop, Mansoor is the ideal composer and fifth soloist – a player who helped shape the present state and popularity of contemporary metal. 

He’s also comfortably sandwiched between a strange blend of Meshuggah might, Dream Theater’s prog technicality and the gargantuan tones (and experimentalism) of the new generation. 

“It was a very different challenge from what I have to do normally,” Mansoor recently said during Jackson’s Shop Talk press conference.  “Being an instrumental song, you want it to be interesting enough to where it doesn't sort of overstay its welcome…

“But mainly I wanted to write sections for each of the artists that would show that like, ‘Hey, I've done my homework. I think that you would have fun with this,’ and then try to make that all flow from beginning to end.”

Debbie Gough playing in the Jackson Virtuoso Mega Shred clip

(Image credit: Jackson)

At its simplest level, that’s the song’s greatest success: it is fun, it is memorable and, most importantly, it inspires you to play guitar.

Jackson is pitching the Virtuoso as a do-it-all tool for a metal scene that both looks and sounds more diverse than ever before. It’s palpably aware that the once high barriers that confined the genre are falling and that presents a big opportunity for the firm’s profits.

However, that very fact – that we’re at a new high water mark in metal’s popularity and variety in 2023 – is genuinely worth celebrating in itself. 

This is probably why The Virtuoso Mega Shred resonates so strongly right now – and, yes, we’re aware how crazy that sentence sounds.

We’re at a strange crossroads, where shred guitar is cool again. Where Steve Vai can drop in on a Polyphia single and it somehow just works, where Marty Friedman can jam next to Heriot’s Debbie Gough and look awesome doing so. 

Misha Mansoor playing in the Jackson Virtuoso Mega Shred clip

(Image credit: Jackson)

Even outside of the genre, a distinctly non-metal musician like Phoebe Bridgers can don a B.C. Rich Warlock and sing a melancholic folk tune with a straight face. This is the world we live in now.

We’re still unsure if The Virtuoso Mega Shred is the worst title we’ve ever heard, or the best one. Regardless, it’s an awesome time capsule of the state of metal guitar in 2023. 

Now, can anyone cover the whole thing? We’d do it ourselves, obviously, but we lent Marty Friedman our last pick...

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.