One of the best curses of the modern music journalist is the sheer amount of music that’s out there; it leads to a really weird feeling, where you’re happy for all the great tracks and albums for you to check out but sad that you’ll never have enough hours in the day to cover all of them. Case in point, the progressive/neo-classical powerhouse that is Etherius. These guys exploded on to the community’s stage with their excellent single, “The Soothsayer”, which you can check out here, and are promising to follow it up with an EP called Thread of Life that sounds damn impressive. Luckily, we’ve managed to grab lead guitarist Jay Tarantino for a brief chat on what makes Etherius work, giving you a worthy peek into what you can expect from their own music.
And to be honest, this list makes me feel happy because it mentions Iced Earth‘s Something Wicked This Way Comes. Early Iced Earth is criminally underrated in the contemporary progressive/power/heavy metal community; while their later works leave a lot to be desired, their early albums are downright incredible. Add more common, but still excellent, choices like Dream Theater and Metallica to this list and you’ve got yourself one sweet Anatomy! Read on down below for the full thing and don’t forget to pre-order the EP here (or here or here).
Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Ozz/Diary of a Madman
I picked both of these albums because they came out so close to one another. This was my first introduction to classically influenced guitar playing mixed with metal. Randy Rhoads completely blew my mind. The riffs are iconic and his solos are so precise and well composed but they never lack emotion. Blizzard of Ozz has a live, off the cuff, rock and roll feel to it, while Diary has a darker, more composed, neoclassical metal vibe to it. The layering of guitars on Diary really taught me a lot about double tracking. I also learned a lot about how to orchestrate guitar parts from Randy’s mixing of acoustic and electric guitars, often within the same song, to create this huge sound. Etherius does a lot of this and I attribute that to Randy’s influence on me at a young age.
Testament – The Legacy
It’s no surprise that Alex Skolnick is also heavily influenced by Randy Rhoads as well. You can hear it in his leads in “Burnt Offerings” and “The First Strike Is Deadly.” He played some amazing solos on this record and he was only 18! But the real MVP on The Legacy is Eric Peterson. He is a criminally underrated guitarist with an incredibly fast and precise picking hand. To me, he wrote some of the most iconic riffs in thrash metal. The opening riff to “Over The Wall” kicks you in the face and is the perfect way to start an album. Lastly, Testament also inspired me to blend Middle Eastern sounding passages into thrash metal.
Dream Theater – Metropolis Part II: Scenes From A Memory
My introduction to Dream Theater. The music has the progressive elements of bands like Rush and Yes, with the heaviness of early Metallica. Before this, I had no idea what an odd-time signature was. I learned a lot from this album about experimentation and how to combine complex music with great songwriting and hooks. Forcing myself to learn some of John Petrucci’s solos improved my guitar chops and gave me the discipline I needed to become a better musician.
Iced Earth – Something Wicked This Way Comes
Jon Schaffer has the fastest right hand in all of metal, another very underrated guitarist. Matt Barlow is arguably one of the greatest singers in metal history. To me, he’s right up there with guys like Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford. The songs on this album are aggressive and angry, yet mournful and pretty at the same time. Schaffer’s melodic riffing has probably influenced me more than anything else, and his ability to tell a story through music always inspires me. Iced Earth is a band that should be as big as Maiden or Metallica.
Metallica – Master of Puppets
The first time I heard “Battery,” I couldn’t believe people could actually play that fast! Much like Randy Rhoads, Metallica taught me about musical arrangements and how to layer guitar parts. They took the dual guitar attack that bands like Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest were doing before them and brought it to another level. Learning any riff on this album should be mandatory for any beginning guitarist because it will instantly make you a better musician.