When discussing the next generation of progressive metal guitar players who are taking the electric guitar to new heights, the names of Tim Henson, Scott LePage and Manuel Gardner Fernandes immediately come to mind – and for good reason.
Through Polyphia, Henson and LePage have redefined prog metal instrumentalism, thanks to a virtuosic blend of conventional shred skills, near-unprecedented fretboard creativity and boundary-pushing chops that seem to know no limits.
It’s a similar case for fellow prog titan and Ibanez endorsee Fernandes, whose distinctly percussive fingerstyle playing approach is currently heading up the musical exploits of German outfit Unprocessed, who recently brought together the three aforementioned electric guitar heroes for one epic track.
Titled Die on the Cross of the Martyr and lifted from Unprocessed latest studio album, the four-and-a-half-minute guitar masterclass pits the trio of generational talents in a no-holds-barred battle of the ‘boards, delivering late (but very, very valid) contenders for 2023’s finest guitar solos.
Perhaps the remit of the observation should be extended somewhat, because Die on the Cross of the Martyr features some of the finest progressive guitar playing of the past 12 months, period.
Being an Unprocessed track, Fernandes takes the lead with some furious accented tapping lines – decorated with just the right amount of harmonics and whammy bar wiggles – which merely get more and more mind-bending as the track progresses.
After following up his intricate leads with a flurry of loose riffs, Fernandes gives the floor to Henson, who traverses the eight strings of his chosen axe – as seen in the separate playthrough video below – for a run of mesmeric melodies and furious open-string beatdowns.
LePage brings the track to a close with the help of some tight Whammy pedal action, leaping registers as quickly as he leaps fingerboard positions by way of some box-bending scale runs and dizzying bends.
Like we say, it’s a pretty sensational piece of guitar music, and it’s prompted some understandably excitable observations from viewers. One commenter, for example, perhaps summarized it best by saying: “3 God-tier guitarists on one track like this. God damn what a time to be alive!”
But that’s precisely what the response the trio were after. In a press statement, Unprocessed labeled their new track as “the ultimate guitar nerd’s wet dream”.
What’s perhaps just as interesting as the chops is Henson’s guitar of choice: a curiously styled eight-string Ibanez that seemingly takes visual and functional cues from his recently released Fishman-loaded signature guitar, the TOD10.
Now, we know Henson is a fan of eight-string guitars – in fact, he once developed a signature eight-string that never made it to market – so is the first sign of yet another addition to Henson’s signature arsenal?
Well, that tidy Tree of Death fingerboard inlay would certainly make this model a shoo-in for Henson’s current run of signature models. After all, both the TOD10N and TOD10 flash the ornamental fingerboard design, so it would make sense for any future models to do the same.
Whatever the case, that's a whole conversation for 2024. For now, we plan to close out the year with Die on the Cross of the Martyr on repeat.
Unprocessed's new album, ...and everything in between, is available now.