Album Review: John 5

god told me to (60 cycle hum records)

Ex-Marilyn Manson guitarist and member in Rob Zombie, John 5's God Told Me To is his sixth solo album. Taking elements from his past material as well as moving in new directions, this record really defies any genre, and showcases one of the most talented and underrated modern guitarists.

The follow-on from 2010's The Art Of Malice, this ten track, instrumental album shifts between John 5's well-known and loved blend of electric guitar, speed metal style, and his newly found acoustic guitar sensibility. In fact, the album is split roughly half and half electric/acoustic, deliberately contrasting the gentleness and violence of certain tracks with the grace and brutality of others.

Initially announced back in 2011, promotions for the album began when John 5 digitally released four singles, the first being a cover of Michael Jackson's Beat It which was put out on August the 29th, 2011, what would have been Jackson's 53rd birthday. Beat It might seem like an odd cover to feature, but imagine a slightly heavier, industrial version of the song with more technical aspects, and the result is a great interpretation. However, with the guitar playing the vocal line, I felt the track was lacking Jackson's vocals, and the famous Eddie Van Halen guitar solo was performed exactly the same way. All brilliantly executed, but nothing that pushed the boundaries.

The album opens with an instantly recognisable John 5 song, Welcome To Violence. Erupting in a similar vein to that of Slayer's Angel Of Death, it reveals the true definition of 'face-melting' guitar shredding, and an exploding riff played at super-human speed. Displaying extreme discipline and finesse, this is one for the headbangers out there, reminiscent of the days of The Big Four.

Moving onto the first acoustic track of the record, Ashland Bump is a real foot-stomping Blues number oozing with that raw, swampy grass-roots feel. It conjures up images of a small group jamming on a front porch somewhere in Southern America, yes it's a little stereotypical, but I can't help it. Yet more of John 5's diversity and skill is demonstrated here with relentless guitar plucking and captivating slide guitar. The real stand out acoustic track for me is The Castle. Opening with some mesmerising guitar hammer-on's and pull-off's at fast pace, beautiful pinch harmonics enter the soundscape creating a hazy, dream-like ambiance. Again, John 5's musicianship, technical knowledge and abilities come into play as he uses every part of his guitar, knocking and tapping the body with great assurance and majesty.

Skipping to a whole other genre, the acoustic Noche Acosador, brings an exotic quasi-spanish flavour to the album. Influences of the Flamenco guitar style feature here, with rhythmic 'chopping' of the strings to represent the foot-stomping move in the Flamenco dance style. The pulsating plucking of the guitar is almost hypnotising, with some darker, more sinister tones and nuances helping to contrast against the highly polished performance and production. This is definitely something I could (and will) sit down and listen to, and I doubt i'd be able to stop my feet from tapping. It's just got that energy and vibe about it.

The more mellow tracks on the album include The Lie You Live and Creepy Crawler; a heartfelt, melancholic ballad, while the rest of the record is zapped back to life with each alternate electric song, particularly the high-pitched guitar squeals and ominous nature of The Lust Killer. The instrumental genre of this album is what really hits me, each song striking me with the possibility to feature in a film or computer game soundtrack. It has perfect dynamics of tension-building and resolve mixed with subtle tonalities and powerful blockbuster-type sections.

What's really exciting about God Told Me To is the new direction that John 5 has taken. The acoustic half of the album has enabled John to explore a new dimension of his sound and character, opening up doors for new fans and keeping old ones engaged with the familiarity of his previous, heavier style. For me, the mix between acoustic and electric is stimulating, however I feel that others may be irritated by the ever-shifting styles, not able to fully indulge into one or the other. One thing that is clear, though, is the phenomenal technique of John 5. He's a guitarist that can easily occupy the league in which the likes of Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Van Halen and Malmsteen currently reside, and for me, that's enough to appreciate this album with high regard.

God Told Me To will be released on May the 8th 2012.