Guitar instrumental music in 2022 is as popular as it’s ever been and while there’s some tremendous talent out there, the majority of it seems to be just … just too pristine. Without taking away from their hard work and dedication to their craft, there is something about watching a duo of Abercrombie & Fitch models shredding sophisticated prog-metal through an amp modeller and Eastern Bloc designed, custom seven-string with weird looking frets, that, after a while, leaves me cold. Also, I’m old.
Andrew Lee‘s Heavy Metal Shrapnel addresses that overtly clean-cut shred by paying homage to that late eighties, early nineties sweet spot of instrumental metal music. The album title alone is a reference to Mike Varney‘s Shrapnel Records, which for decades cornered the market on guitar instrumental music and launched the careers of Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, Greg Howe, Paul Gilbert, and a ton more.
The songs on Heavy Metal Shrapnel reverently capture the sonic spirit of those classic Shrapnel Records releases. Lots of classically inspired shred over solid riffs. Lee manages to create compositions using that retro, raspy guitar tone, but does it in a way that doesn’t sound lo-fi.
If the album suffers from anything, it’s that there is a bit of samey-ness from one song to the next. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and may even be intentional. The same could be said for those Shrapnel releases from back then. That said, there are enough creative touches (his synth work is fantastic) and guest soloists to keep it interesting.
Heavy Metal Shrapnel is an album made for those of us who miss those glory days of shred where we would blast Racer X in the car and nearly kill ourselves from the distraction. The playing is impressive and retains the pick scrapes and string noise, those little disfluencies that remind you that you’re listening to a human being — and that’s what I feel is missing from today’s guitar music – this is a fun album.
Heavy Metal Shrapnel is out now.