John 5, aka John Lowry, has never really been given a chance to display his true talent throughout his music career. He has played with the likes of k.d. lang, Avril Lavigne, Lisa Marie Presley, and most notably, Marilyn Manson. Coping with family losses and mental issues, Lowry has always been known as ďthe Manson guitaristĒ, and not much else. We can thank legendary guitarist Les Paul for changing all of that. It was during a jam session with the 88-year-old guitar wizard that he was urged to release his own solo album. That was good enough for Lowry, as Iím sure it would be for any guitarist. With that undeniable boost, Lowry releases what can almost be considered a new outlook on life. Never has he released anything like this, nor has he even been associated or even thought capable of creating something like Vertigo.
John 5 Ė Vertigo (released 8/31/04 on Shrapnel Records)
Someoneís pulling on wires back hereÖ
Now letís take a slightly closer look at the life of the often over-looked John 5. John Lowry first came into contact with a guitar in 1978 when he was merely seven years old. After he was out of school he moved to LA and slipped in and out of various bands until 1996. By then he was finally picked up as k.d. langís touring guitarist. Only two years later he was caught in the middle of hell as lead guitarist for Marilyn Manson. Not only did he contribute on two Manson records, but also can take credit for 13 of the 15 songs from The Golden Age of Grotesque
. He had parted ways with Manson during March of í04, but not without some problems along the way. Two of his family members had dies during the final Manson tour, as well as his suffering from anxiety attacks. Now a year after parting with his former employer, Lowry has formed the band Loser
and worked with people such as Avril Lavigne and Lisa Marie Presley. But it was a fateful jam session with Les Paul himself when the decision was finally made to release a solo album, which brings me to where I am now.
I knew this guy had to be good after my guitar teacher put me onto him. To be honest, John 5 deserves much more credit as a musician than he gets. Most metal guys will rattle off names like Zakk Wylde, Alexi Laiho, John Petrucci, Joe Satriani, or Steve Vai when the talk turns to guitar. John 5 is easily on par with those clowns, and probably surpasses many of them. His playing consists of the most outrageous shredding you will ever hear. But you might ask, why buy an album to hear nothing but shredding? Well, Vertigo is a bit more than just shredding. Lowry mixes guitar virtuosity with creative melodies, stange techniques and effects, and countless genres to create a record that nobody has heard before. Alexi Laiho? This guy doesnít bother wasting his time with those supposed ďneo-classicalĒ shenanigans. He doesnít really stick to metal either. His playing spans across the brutal metal spectrum, industrial, country, jazz and blues, and some stuff I donít know what the hell to call. John 5 is one amazing guitarist.
The outlandish mix of genres is what makes this record such an interesting listen. I suppose the most accurate thing would be to say this is an Instrumental Industrial release. No matter what heís playing Lowry sticks with odd effects, strange atmospheres, and distorted guitar tones. Metalheads will identify all too well with songs like Needles, CA
, which chugs along with crushing brutality and face-melting metal solos. Zugg Island Convict
has somewhat of an older metal or even rock ní roll feel to it. Johnís Industrail roots are heard all over the record, most notably in tracks like Flatlines, Thin Lines
and Feisty Cadavers
. Other odd musical experiences mix genres and are near impossible to classify. The title track Vertigo
is a dark, depressing ballad that almost seems to contain everything Johnís endured during his life. Pulling Strings
begins almost funkish but ends up as a rock ní roll classic.
For the rest of the album John experiments with various styles of music and usually switches in the middle of songs. At first glance, Sugar Foot Rag
may seem to be a blues song, but John suddenly thrusts us into hickville USA. Dead Manís Dream
Öis just weird. Itís more metal/industrial than anything else, but itís definitely an odd song. He gives several performances such as those on Sweet Georgia Brown
, both old country or western style songs. The aptly titles Goodnight
almost sounds like a lullaby. All of these songs are made most unusual by John shredding - whether itís distorted, clean, or acoustic Ė throughout 90% of the songs.
This isnít just your mindless tremolo bar or fretboard wankery either. His shredding is well placed and thought out. He often favors adding melody and feeling to his songs over shredding constantly. Sure, the metal or industrial hits may have the insane metal guitar going for them, but on the other tracks John is creating haunting melodies, plucking away like heís playing a banjo, or making a nice bluesy atmosphere. This guy knows his music.
Keep in mind that this album is far from listener-friendly. Musicians will appreciate this album, but even they might find it hard to enjoy many of the songs since John skips around so many genres so often. There are songs I absolutely love and songs I just canít bring myself to listen to (a little something for everybody). I suppose itís a long shot to expect anyone to buy it because theyíre a diehard Manson fan, as this couldnít be farther away from Manson. I guess itís fair to say this record has more than itís share of musical shock value. Guitarists may find this album exciting and peculiar, but Iím sure most everyone else will find this too odd and inconsistent to enjoy. I hope you at least take advantage of the given uploads and sample some John 5. This guy is an unsung hero of the music world, and I think some of you out there can enjoy or at least appreciate this.
Recommended tracks (with uploads to sample with):
Flatlines, Thin Lines
Final Rating Ė 3.5/5
Something for musicians or even those who just enjoy something this insane. Have fun.