Sunday, December 27, 2009

Metal Heroes Part Deux

Opeth aren't the easiest band for a guitarist of somewhat-less-than-moderate talent to emulate. I love them, and I do my best with what little tab exists, (not that much of it is any good since they seldom use straightforward chords and most tabbers have ears of tin), but when I play much on my own I find myself barre chord riffing and experimenting with slower, simpler melodic lines. No surprise, then, that I love the music of both Swallow the Sun and Daylight Dies. Both of them make some of the most melodic, simple, and massively heavy music out there.

I really don't know what to write about Juha Raivio and Markus Jamsen (of Swallow the Sun) or Barre Gambling and Charlie Shackelford (of Daylight Dies) or Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy (of Paradise Lost) as players, except that they are exceptionally tasteful and understated players more interested in making beautiful music than in showing off their chops. Not that they have no chops, mind you. There are plenty of moments that show their technical abilities. Most often, however, they spend their time in service to the overall compositions and the atmosphere of the songs.

I think part of my love for these bands and their guitar work lies in the stately tone they get from their guitars and the way that their music shows that off. They all use a lovely, saturated, sustaining high-gain sound with a nice, full midrange rather than the scoop and chunk of most modern American metal. There's also some nice air and reverb in the mix without it going all cavernous and echoey like a lot of classic metal or early death metal bands.

Too many times it seems to me that guitar players get recognition mostly from having impressive chops that will sell a lot of equipment and magazines to new players who are impressed by speed. These guys remain under the radar, especially in the US music media, because they are more musicians than guitar celebrity spokesmodels. No one is going to buy a magazine chock full of their riffs because they aren't players who can be distilled into a page full of riffs, solos, and rhythm figures. They are more about chord progressions and melodies. Playing their music, which is not too difficult to pick out on your own, teaches you more about music theory and how to think outside of scales and keys and go for those little moments of transformation within the scope of the song.

I should also mention here that all of the guitar players I have mentioned so far have the good fortune to play with excellent, musical bass players who, in contrast to the norm, often play more complex lines than the guitars they are 'supporting.' Pretty much all of these guys are in ensemble bands where the whole is far greater than the individual star power of the parts.

Next up...a shift into the folkier side of metal.

ETA: I've been thinking about this post a bit and have concluded that Mackintosh and Aedy are much more riffy a unit than the other two bands, but the part of their music that sticks with me most is not the riffs, but rather the more lyrical parts. So I cheated a bit. I can live with that.

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