The Top 25 Modern Metal Guitarists

#8: A.J. MINETTE (THE HUMAN ABSTRACT)

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A.J. Minette

MetalSucks recently polled its staff to determine who are The Top 25 Modern Metal Guitarists, and after an incredible amount of arguing, name calling, and physical violence, we have finalized that list! The only requirements to be eligible for the list were that the musician in question had to a) play metal (duh), b) play guitar (double-duh), and c) have recorded something in the past five years. Today we continue our countdown with The Human Abstract’s A.J. Minette…

Listening to The Human Abstract is like listening to a full classical symphony arranged for metal band instrumentation — it’s musical poetry where every note is a metaphor, every phrase an eloquent sentence, every song a story without the need for any lyrics at all. Sure, A.J. Minette can shred circles around plenty of players, and he can do so in a manner that’s instantly more tasteful, artful, and, most importantly, more purposeful than your garden variety shredder. But that’s not what makes Minette stand out; if you see The Human Abstract live, or even listen to them on record, you probably won’t be that impressed with his technical skills as a guitarist (though, to be sure, they do exist). Rather, what makes Minette our #8 Top Modern Metal Guitarist is his ear for composition and arrangement, his knack for making The Human Abstract’s songs into expertly constructed embodiments of melody and feeling that don’t rely on technicality to impress. He’s a master architect, a skilled carpenter, the subtle behind-the-scenes engineer of all that is The Human Abstract.

Sometimes it’s the absence of something that makes you realize what you had before, and in the case of The Human Abstract it was A.J. Minette, composer extraordinaire, who left the band after their debut album, Nocturne. The one and only Minette-less album, Midheaven, is a decent prog metal record in its own right, but lacks that classical touch, those carefully constructed arrangements with guitar lines weaving in and out of each other in contrapuntal motion, dancing gracefully with all the other instruments. The rest of the fellas in The Human Abstract would make a fantastic band on their own, to be sure, but Minette is the X-factor that makes the group special.

After leaving The Human Abstract to pursue a Masters Degree in Guitar Performance at The University of Southern California, Minette returned to the band in fine musical form in 2010. We visited The Human Abstract in the studio while they were recording Digital Veil with producer Will Putney, and we were blown away by the process we witnessed: Minette had every instrument of every song on the album completely mapped out in MIDI on his laptop. From his seat in the co-producer’s chair on the studio couch, he essentially acted as a conductor would, guiding the band through performance from start to finish.

Where many guitarists are resigned to impressing with brutality or technicality, A.J. Minette takes the high road by displaying intellect through clever writing that, unfortunately for his detractors, is difficult for the untrained ear to recognize. He’s undoubtedly one of the most talented songwriters and guitarists of our generation. Whether The Human Abstract continue on as a band for decades or not, Minette’s talents will take him pretty much anywhere he choses to go.

-VN

“Elegiac” Baroque-style cover by MS reader Imre Beerends:

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