Guest blogger Calum ‘Rocks On’ Robson likes his metal fast and furious.

And one of rushonrock‘s regular reviewers throws the spotlight on shredding this week with a special feature looking at fret burning par excellence.

Read on for a thorough examination of  the art of super-charged axe slinging…

The Art (?) of Shredding

What is it that captivates us?  What countless rock fans want to hear is the clear resonation of a guitar, bursting into an entanglement of shredding that enhances the music on the whole, but there’s a big misconception as to where good shredding lies.

Hordes of fans love to see the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen, Slash, and Kirk Hammett who we all know can play guitar with exceptional technical ability and charisma.

Within the society of shredders (if I can call it that) there’s a huge emphasis on speed. You might say that’s obvious.  But has this occupation of being the fastest shredder on the planet led to the music being left behind in the individualistic and egotistic motive of the common shredder?

Showmanship is a concept that is too often confused with blatant boasting and self-indulgence.  For instance, we like to see the strident abnormalities of Cory Taylor and the powerful presence of Till Lindermann as front-men, but their passionate performances don’t give off the tainted arrogance of some shredding guitarists.

Well, hell, I don’t play guitar so I don’t know whether there’s an unexplainable power that takes over or not.  If there is, then this power has to be refined, otherwise it’s going to be nothing but a flailing mess.

When I reviewed Obituary a few months ago, it was unfortunately the case.  The shredding work of Ralph Santolla was fast.  Fast is the only description that can be given, and even that isn’t necessarily a positive comment.  While he stood, back arched in relaxing posture, he plugged away monotonously, at seemingly arbitrary notes that careened into separate melody.  Put him on a podium on his own.  He’d be more suited there.

There are others.  Dragonforce is an obvious example.  The unbearable video for Through the Fire and the Flames epitomizes the degree of hedonism that gives shredding a bad image.

The portrayal of their incredibly fast guitar work (documented on various cameras) does nothing but alienate music as an art form.  It ceases to be art and delves into the realm of competition.  The mentality of ‘Ooh, who’s faster?’ is a damaging one.

I will admit, there’s some fantastic guitar work out there; coherent, powerful and beautiful.  Speed metal really incites an irrational adrenaline for more, but at the same time shredding is a game that requires subtlety, even in such a genre as this.

The likes of Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian, Rhapsody of Fire and many other speed and power metal bands, there must be a level of grounding; something rooting the shredding to the essence of the music.  A lot of the time it is done well.

Staying within the frame of the song is something I want to hear when it comes to shredding.  This doesn’t necessarily mean full blown restrictions on its usage though.

The concept of noise music is something that ducks and dives in and out of tune, but that’s another pan of screaming crabs to control in an articulate manner, and quite similar in the respect it has to be utilized intelligently.

It’s a cliché, but power corrupts easily, and something else other than pure pace is needed to throw the music forward.  Those who want to concern themselves with the race to the finish line, fair enough, there’ll always be an audience who will be loyal.

But, through the entanglement of notes, overdose of ego and shroud of prestige instilled in many shredders, comes the message; don’t forget the music.

Calum Robson