I was recently talking to a friend about the great rock guitarists, and in particular Nancy Wilson of Heart. Every time her name comes up in conversation, or every time I hear “Barracuda,” I get my codpiece in a bind because Wilson never seems to get her due. So in light of this I recently revisited a couple of those silly (and always picked-apart) Best Guitarists lists.
In 2011 Rolling Stone assembled its old-timey “100 Greatest Guitarists” list, which contained exactly two women: Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell. I mean, I can tick off a short list of female guitarists worthy of mention without even trying: Lita Ford, Kim Gordon, Leila Abdul-Rauf, Donita Sparks, Annie Clark, Marissa Paternoster (OK, I had to double-check the spelling on that one), Marnie Stern, Joan Jett, Kelley Deal…
SPIN produced its own list in 2012, and that publication’s slightly more forward-thinking assemblage—which included guitarists like Carrie Brownstein and PJ Harvey—also excluded Nancy Wilson. The only time she does seem to get mentioned is on those idiotic “Best Female Guitarists” lists. Piss on that. The absence of female guitar players on most lists is appalling enough, but to exclude Nancy Wilson is absolutely mystifying.
So, why am I droning on about this in a metal column? Well, besides Wilson being one of the great guitarists of the last four decades, I also happen to think Heart—particularly Nancy and her sis Ann—have influenced far more hard rock and metal bands than they get credit for. Imagine Ann’s pipes in any number of modern metal bands. And listen closely to those first two Heart records. Hell, just listen to “Sing Child” and “Crazy On You” off Dreamboat Annie and you’ll hear loads of brilliant axe-slingery and six-stringery. I’ve got your back, Nancy.
You could call Eight Bells’ second album, Landless, prog (I’m certain they wouldn’t mind), but it’s far less stuffy and spartan than a lot of prog progenitors. It’s fluid and beautiful, and feels soothing in the same way Tool records are soothing to me—not a bad thing.
I talked with guitarist Melynda Jackson and bassist Haley Westeiner about a month ago, and they think of themselves as “musical soulmates” (new drummer Rae Amitay lives in Chicago, and also bashes for Immortal Bird). That assertion makes sense if you’ve seen the band live, and it definitely comes through on Landless. The tripped-out instrumentalism of Jackson’s former band SubArachnoid Space seeps its way into songs like the 13-minute title track, but there’s far more structure and vision.
Landless—out on Battleground Records brings together black metal, psychedelia and prog in one vast, gray underworld. And it’s well worth dwelling there for a spell. And it’s worth seeing the band live as they continue their tour with Voivod and Vektor through February.
Holy Grail – Times of Pride and Peril (Prosthetic Records) Holy Grail follows up 2013’s Ride the Void with another helping of technical power metal. The odd-timings and musical proficiency on “No More Heroes” may frighten you, but the hooks will keep you coming back. This is definitely metal being forged in sunny Southern California vs. the cold gray of England.
Anthrax – For All Kings (Megaforce Records) I bought Anthrax’s 2011 LP Worship Music because it was on sale for seven bucks, and it turned out to be one of my favorite metal records that year. With Joey Belladonna back in the fold, the thrash titans are positioned to keep their legacy iron clad. For All Kings is loaded with the classic metal riffing of Worship Music, and Anthrax is playing with a hunger that’s leaving the rest of the Big Four in their dust.
Terra Tenebrosa – The Purging (Debemur Morti Productions) Originally released in 2013, The Purging is being reissued on French label Debemur Morti Productions, and let’s hope it leads to these Swedish black metallists slicing up a few more ears. This is wicked, dynamic stuff, with ambient sections that will lull you, and catchy riffs that will jerk your head back. Satan? I want more.
Tiny Knives – Black Haze (Eolian Empire) Last month we premiered the track “Past Tense” from Portland three-piece Tiny Knives right here on HEAVIÖSITY, and Black Haze hasn’t left my player since. It’s weirdo sludge in the spirit of the Melvins with just the right touch of riot grrrl rippage. You’d do right to hole yourself up for the rest of the winter in a basement filled with drugs, Pop Tarts and Tiny Knives.
Deströyer 666 – Wildfire (Season of Mist) These Aussies are more metal than your granddad’s hip. This is fiery, traditional heavy metal in the spirit of what your uncle listened to. Wildfire mixes death metal with classic thrash—heavy and hooky, and just enough Satanic verses to keep it from reaching too pure of ears. “Hounds At Ya Back” indeed.
Twisted Sister – Under the Blade
David Bowie – Station To Station
Tiny Knives – Black Haze
VHÖL – Deeper Than Sky
The Only Ones – Even Serpents Shine
Mark Lore makes dad jokes on Twitter.