I’ve always wanted to learn to play guitar. I confess that I’m probably too clumsy to do that, though. So, I live vicariously through the amazing work of others, and this year has really seen some emotional and technical feats in guitars. My list isn’t necessarily about the most technically proficient players out there, but it is about the guitars that have stuck with me and remain in my head. Here is my top 10 list for 2016.
10. Henrik Danhage/Tom Englund of Evergrey
Album: “The Storm Within”
Evergrey has always been known for the vicious dual guitars at front and center of their music. While they are not the most technical you will hear, it is the most comforting and nostalgic sound to hear these two musicians play together again. Having the classic lineup back is such an amazing thing, at least for Evergrey fans.
9. Robin Armstrong of Cosmograf
Album: “The Unreasonable Silence”
Guitars don’t always have to be the riff based monsters from prog metal to get my attention. On his latest Cosmograf album, Robin continues to show keen insight in a Gilmourish style of emotional guitars. His solos are always spot on and his guitars in general are very meaningful in composition.
8. Luke Machin/Elliott Fuller of Maschine
Luke and Elliott are two players whose style is smack dab between metal and rock. On their latest album, they moved away from the overly technical, dirty trappings of their debut, and embraced an edgier rock style with lots of solos. I’ve found myself amazed at how much they have matured since their first album.
7. Charlie Griffiths/Richard Henshall of Haken
No list of best guitars is complete without Haken. On “Affinity”, the pair, along with the new bassist, have leaned a little more towards djent than ever, but not far enough to sound tired. Their riffs are precisely timed and composed, and, especially on “The Architect”, absolutely explosive.
6. Bjørn Riis of Airbag
Airbag is a relatively recent love of mine. Their tendency to Floydian atmospheres is so sublime for me, but this latest album added many other twists to that formula. Bjørn’s guitars are as emotive and super well composed as ever, leaving guitar licks to spare lying all over your brain. I especially like him because he reminds me of the late Piotr Grudziński of Riverside.
5. Douglas Skene/Mitch Coull of Hemina
Djenty riffing has always been the way of Hemina. On “Venus”, though, these two guitarists supply what might be their heaviest riffs yet, but they also have learned restraint. These two characteristics combined make for an incredible listening experience.
4. Sakari Ojanen/Jussi Poikonen of Oddland
Oddland’s sophomore album is shockingly heavy at times; all thanks to the skills of Sakari and Jussi. We’re talking massive riffs, yes; but we are also talking incredibly fast guitar licks that wax and wane with the music to produce truly melodious soundscapes, the like of which sometimes escapes other prog metal bands. Crushingly heavy, but also delicate and precise are the names of the game here.
Album: “Handmade Cities”
I wasn’t overly familiar with Plini until recently, but his guitar chops have really impressed me to no end. This guy can transition from hefty riffs to delicate finger work in a split second, all while somehow sounding melodic and beautiful. His newest album is a short but concise picture of guitar perfection.
2. Jerzy Antczak of Georgius
Album: “String Theory”
Jerzy, while providing vocals, is also the guitarist on the latest Georgius effort. He is well known for his soulful guitars in the band Albion, but there is just something about the lengthy, driving solos of “String Theory” that has captured my imagination. The guitars are never too overbearing, yet Jerzy uses his guitars to express emotions that his words cannot. His performance is truly spectacular.
1. Javier Sepúlveda
Album: “Pulse of Nature”
Ever since I heard Javier’s “Pulse of Nature”, I knew this album would be my favorite for guitars this year. Whether it’s the fantastic metal riffs throughout the album or the addictive guitar licks in almost every song, Javier has proven that he is master at performance and also composition. His guitar compositions are the kind that you can instantly recall in your mind, even if you haven’t heard the album in a while. Javier deserves much more attention than he’s getting for his passionate nostalgia trip of an album.