Jumping Darkness Parade

EYAL’S TOP UNDERRATED GUITARISTS

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I’ve always hated top-whatever lists. Best guitarist, best band, best blowjob, best double anal with a horse, whatever. I think that those lists are pretty much all slanted by politics, or bought and paid for. I first got that idea in my head when Titanic won as many Oscars as it did. There were so many movies that year that were far more deserving of the title that my faith in the award system died.

Jump forward about ten years. I just got back in town from the Revolver Golden God Awards. I’ll just say that I’m stoked they exist. Metal needs that in the U.S. I have no issue with their nominees and obviously you can’t pick everyone so this is definitely not directed at them. Again, THIS IS NOT DIRECTED AT REVOLVER MAGAZINE, but the concept of picking “best shredder” or “shredder of the year “is just one of those things you can’t accurately do with the amount of talent that’s out there. You want to nominate Zack Wylde or Dave Mustaine? Okay. That’s cool. Those guys have earned it. But when you leave the circle of greats and legends, how exactly do you pick a BEST shredder? I mean am I alone in thinking that when so many amazing guitarists are overlooked that the award itself loses its meaning? What guitarists am I talking about? Okay… I’ll name a few. In my opinion these guys should be winning all the awards. If I left someone out, it’s because either I haven’t heard of them, I’ve heard them and I don’t think they’re among the very best, I forgot to mention them, or I’ve heard them and I know for a fact that what you think is shredding is just studio trickery.

So here it is. My personal list of whom I think should be winning all the metal guitar awards. Am I biased? Maybe. But I’d like to also think that considering what I do for a living that I’m a good judge of competency in the field. This is in no particular order. These guys all rule for different reasons. (DISCLAIMER: Sorry that there aren’t videos for every dude I mention, but sometimes finding quality footage is tough.)

1 – Jeff Loomis, Nevermore. Do I need to say more? You guys already know. And if you don’t, maybe this video will help. BTW – I would include Chris Broderick in this list, but he’s in Megadeth so even if you don’t know guitar, you would assume (correctly) that he rules.

Jeff is great on multiple levels. He follows in the tradition of true metal shred/songwriting that players like Marty Friedman and Jason Becker started. His take on dual guitar lead work in the early 2000s still destroys what current death/prog/core guitarists edit together in their lame attempts to win the guitar Olympics.

2 – Emil Werstler, DAATH, Levi / Werstler. Am I biased? Maybe. But I knew he was one of the best before he was my friend and before I convinced him to join DAATH. I realize that Emil is all over the site today, but fuck you if you’ve got a problem with it. This is my list. Anyways, here’s a video of him fucking around while we were at Jason Suecof’s house recording The Concealers.

First of all his technique is untouchable. Down picking, alternate, sweeping, economy, harmonics, etc. He’s got it all down. His harmonic understanding is beyond anyone I know besides music professors. He can play with superiority in multiple styles such as metal, jazz, and blues which people spend their entire careers trying to master. Beyond all this technical stuff, his style fuses elements of all those other genres into metal, which gives him an immediately recognizable sound. I would consider Emil untouchable.

3Chris Arp, Psyopus, Assjack. This guy’s playing will go over most of your heads. I mean that with all due respect. This guy’s playing goes over pretty much everyone’s head. Including guys in some of the best tech bands in the world. I included two videos because I didn’t know which one was better. They’re both just insane. Sorry I couldn’t find better footage, but this gets the point across.

This is a man who has mastered tapping. This is a man who has also mastered harmony. This is a man who has created his own style of guitar playing. It’s completely abstract and very difficult to take in but I assure you, nothing is random. This is a dude who went to jail, took a piece of cardboard, drew a fretboard on it, and wrote a Psyopus record like that. Try to explain that to me. How the fuck does that work? Have you ever heard a Psyopus record?

4 – Jason Suecof, Producer (Chimaira, Devildriver, DAATH, Trivium, Bury Your Dead, Crotchduster, Capharnum, Charred Walls of the Damned, etc.) You think you haven’t heard his playing, but really you have. While some bands he records are amazing players, some really aren’t. I won’t mention whom, but if you listen to albums he’s produced and hear solos that just don’t sound like the dude in the band for whatever reason, then guess what? It probably isn’t. It’s probably Jason.

Here’s the thing about Jason. He has no formal training. He couldn’t tell you what scale a solo run is or what key a riff is in, but he will hear a Marty Friedman solo once and pretty much play it note for note on the guitar. He is hands down one of the best guitarists I have ever encountered. His ear is unbeatable and his tone is the closest I would ever come to describing as perfect. If his career wasn’t what it is, he’d be a guitar god in some band laying waste to all other guitarists.

5 – James Malone,  Arsis. I know that a good number of you love Arsis. I know that not enough of you do. I know you know that they are shredtastic but I’m not sure that you guys understand that James Malone is the closest thing these days we have to Chuck Shuldiner reincarnated. I know his playing inside and out. I was in Arsis for about six months and recorded two of their CDs. This guy understands music on the level that only guys like Reinert and Suecof do. His tone is unparalleled. You can plug him into any amp, with any guitar, in any setting, and he will always sound like himself. And his tone is amazing. He filled in for us once and on the same gear, same guitars, same settings somehow his tone just dominated everything. The man channels power and genius through his guitar in a way I’ve never ever experienced otherwise. I could tell you that he’s technically amazing, but you already knew that.

6 –Paul Masvidal, Cynic. Now that he has a column on MetalSucks you guys may be getting to know him, but even if you already did, I’m betting a lot of you didn’t realize that he is one of the best out there. Cynic isn’t about flash, and so it’s hard to sometimes realize that what he’s playing is far beyond what most people consider shredding. Like Emil (and by the way, Paul is a huge influence on Emil), Paul seamlessly fuses true jazz-fusion with metal. It’s one thing to play some scales in the wrong key and think its jazzy, its another thing to play as jazzers call “outside” in a style of music that looks down on “outside” playing and have it fit. If you listen to Cynic’s guitar parts you will realize that not only is Paul a technically amazing player, but he is a master of harmony and counterpoint. You know that stuff that all the tech bands try to do that ends up sounding like it was programmed? Paul is the real deal version of that. And he’s overlooked, because there’s nothing flashy or flaunted about it. Every note, chord, line he plays is there to serve the composition.

7 – Ryan Knight, The  Black Dahlia Murder / Ex-Arsis. Have you heard the solos and lead playing on the new Black Dahlia Murder album? Have you heard the solos on “We Are The Nightmare” by Arsis? If not, then you should. This guy is a master of tasteful legato playing. Check out this clip –

On top of his extraordinary solo skills, I have never encountered a tighter rhythm player. His right hand is like a machine. His legato and tapping chops are among the best, as you can see from the video above. My guess as to why he’s not better known is because either some publicist fucked up, or there’s just not enough footage of him out there. This is my attempt to right that wrong.

8 –Frederic Leclercq, Dragonforce. In April of 2009,DAATH toured with Cynic and Dragonforce. We were really looking forward to this tour because we knew that every band on the bill would have something exciting and different to offer guitar wise. We also knew that we would finally be on a tour where the audience appreciated badass guitar playing. Everyone knows who the Dragonforce guitar players are and we were really curious to see what they were actually all about. What we found was really stunning. The best guitarist in that crew is actually their bassist Frederic Leclercq. Not that the other dudes are slouches by any means, they can certainly hold their own, but Frederic is just on another level as a guitar player. We figured this out when we saw him play a guitar solo every night. Check out this footage. Mind you, there’s a keyboard solo going at the same time but you’ll get the point. It was hard for me to find anything on this fine gentleman –

This guy’s tone and phrasing is impeccable. He has that studio perfect tone every single time he touches the guitar. Such finesse. Not only that but he is an excellent legato player. This guy is a world-class guitarist and very few people even realize it. Tone like that is the mark of a great player.

9 – Frederick Akesson, Opeth. Yes, you guys know that the guys in Opeth are amazing musicians. Amazing writers, amazing band, amazing everything. The compositions are so air tight and organic that I think the sheer virtuosity contained within their music is sometimes overlooked. Frederick is another master of superimposing non-metal playing over metal music. That’s a good part of why he’s perfect in Opeth. This is a guy who, like Emil, can and will shred you in almost any style of guitar playing. From the most insane sweep passages to the most gut wrenching wah melodies, Frederick’s tone is always full of emotion, expression, and conviction. This guy not only shreds your face, but he’ll make you feel it. Watch him completely dominate this guitar solo –

-EL

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