#14: EMIL WERSTLER (DÅÅTH, LEVI/WERSTLER)
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 Emil Werstler from Dååth and Levi/Werstler…
Once upon a time, Emil Werstler made a “Betcha Can’t Play This” instructional video for Guitar World, and that video showed him playing so fast that he had to make a second video, this one in front of a live audience, just to disprove some naysayers who accused him of speeding up his performance in the original clip. I love that story, because if you knew nothing else about Werstler or his work, you’d still know that this is a guy who play with such speed and technical skill that other guitar professionals literally can’t believe his abilities are real.
Of course, if speed were Werstler’s only virtue, there’d be no place for him on his list. But he also happens to be a musician of incredible inventiveness who is able to play an intimidatingly wide array of styles — the true reason we’re so head over in heels in love with his playing.
Werstler has what seems like an increasingly rare gift in the metal world these days — to make the familiar somehow seem unfamiliar again. It’s all in the way he always makes a point to inject a dose of creativity into the tropes we love, to turn expectations on their ear and make sure he’s not just giving the listener something we’ve all heard a million times before. Sure, he can play a reasonably standard-sounding, epic shred solo with the best of ’em — see “Subterfuge” or “Wilting on the Vine” for examples — but in just a few short years, he already seems to be moving past that shit, as though he were aware how good he is at ’em, and is seeking out new challenges. Check out the wobbly ray gun solo on “Indestructible Overdose,” or the smoove, sexy one on “Double Tap Suicide,” both from Dååth’s 2010 self-titled release — these are in no way, shape, or form the solos you’d think you were gonna get when the song starts.
But the dude’s love of unusual guitar sounds no-seriously-betcha-can’t-play-this technique is never displayed at the expense of the structure which makes his music so damn catchy. Levi/Werstler’s Avalanche of Worms succeeded where so many instrumental albums fail for just this reason — it was always surprising, but it wasn’t just a mindless, deedily-doo shredfest, either. Every time some kid sends us some insanely boring tech band that spent way too much time learning to burn up their fretboards and not enough time learning to compose listenable music, I want to send them a sampling of Werstler’s work.
As you’re probably aware, Werstler recently joined Chimaira as their new bass player. And as much as I love Chimaira and am stoked to have Werstler in that band, I’ll even more stoked when he gets back to playing six strings instead of four. Unless they’re gonna start giving him extended bass solos, in which case, I guess we’ll see him again whenever we get around to doing our list of the The Top 25 Modern Metal Bassists.
THE LIST SO FAR
#15 — Colin Marston (Krallice, Behold… The Arctopus)
#16 — Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains)
#19 — Vernon Reid (Living Colour)
#20 — Misha Mansoor (Periphery)
#21 — Alex Skolnick (Testament)
#22 – Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved)
#23 — Synyster Gates (Avenged Sevenfold)
#24 — Chris Letchford (Scale the Summit)