Review Summary: [I]The Devil Knows My Name[/I] captures John 5 at what might be his finest moment to date. Combining prog-rock epics with hard rock zeal, this is instrumental guitar rock like anyone would want it.
Stereotypical as I may be in my disliking to shred guitar, I can’t help to every once in awhile completely rock out to one bombastic, over the top solo or another. That said, 40 to 60 minutes of tapping and sweeping was always a bit much, next to the fact that the testosterone levels of shredders seem to sky rocket, pretty much forgetting that they’re actually writing a song. Of course there are plenty of tasteful guitarists out who can also underplay when necessary, and don’t have the need to cram as many notes in a three minute space as they can.
John Lowery, AKA John 5, is part of the latter category, being a ghost guitar player on more records than one might expect, not to mention working with several multi-platinum artists, Lowery has always been something of a hidden gem.
If a good guitarist is reconized by being able to play in whatever situation they find themselves in, Lowery is king. Flowing effortlessly from chicken-picking and bluegrass to industrial, metal and a little from everything in between. As versatile as that sounds, most guitarist could not keep that trick interesting for longer than one album before falling into repetition. John 5 is the exact opposite of this. His debut solo album was somewhat lacking, not because the aforementioned styles weren’t present, but rather because what he had in technicality, he lacked in his songwriting, particularly for instrumental music. If anything, hooks are more important in instrumental guitar music because of the lack of catchy vocal lines. By the time he released his second album, Songs For Sanity
, Lowery more than made up for whatever was lacking on his debut, with catchy choruses and a diverse palette of styles that were effectively used. The question is, how can he keep this interesting on a third album?
Enter The Devil Knows My Name
, an album title which one would more easily connect to Mötley Crüe than an instrumental guitar record, the album brings the rock just as much as the Crüe can.
The progress Lowery has made on this album is immense. Where his last album featured a set of very diverse and shorter songs, Lowery chose for a different style on The Devil Knows My Name
, to positive results. To those familiar with the first song of his last album, The high energy rocker ‘Damaged’, this album carries a very similar feel al the way throughout. This is a good thing because Lowery strayed from the three to five minute songs to longer compositions, while not really expanding much on the complexity of the song structures. Due to the fact that the songs keep rolling, especially rhythmically, retains it from giving the listener that sense of awareness of how long a song is. Lowery also packs this with catchy choruses and epic guitar melodies throughout, in such an amount that there is room for them to sink in, but not be irritatingly present or overused.
Though primarily focused on the rock and metal side, this record, like the last, also showcases Lowery’s affection for country and bluegrass. The improvement here is that Lowery effectively meshes them with the rock and metal songs, creating a neat hybrid. On occasion where he does not choose to rock, Lowery still succeeds by adding or blending new genres into his country style. Rehashing some of his own melodies in ‘Bella Kiss’, Lowery makes up with it by adding some neat clean guitar tapping along the lines of Minus The Bear. ‘Young Thing’ brings the guitar boogie of Chet Atkins, which gives Lowery a nice break from his own country style for a more jazzy tune.
Undoubtedly his finest work to date, the biggest con of The Devil Knows My Name
is the fact that it is still an instrumental, guitar orientated record full of the usual pyrotechnics and “wankery” affiliated with the genre. However, if you enjoy this kind of thing every once in awhile, this album is nothing short of an intense and enjoyable ride.