John 5
Season of the Witch


3.5
great

Review

by Simon STAFF
March 3rd, 2017 | 18 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A Creature Feature that doesn't hold back.

At this point in John 5’s career, it’s easy to assume people know him for the virtuoso guitar player he is, having played with David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, as well as flexing his muscle on 7 solo albums -- with solo records being something John has gotten pretty good at doing over the years. John 5 has had a good run of albums, it has to be said, and making an instrumentally guitar driven album that’s engaging is no easy challenge; it can be a turbulent process and dishearteningly difficult finding a balance that showcases the artist’s large skill set, whilst crafting an album that’s actually enjoyable to listen to. Because there’s nothing more frustrating than hearing someone shamelessly shred for 40 minutes with little else behind it. This tends to by why I normally avoid an album like this, but John is a rare exception and someone who knows the balance well, having built a discography of high quality albums. His ability to shift from style to style is seamless, and is never conveyed in a contrived or pretentious manner -- but more importantly, it’s always been enjoyable to listen to.

Up until 2014’s Careful With That Axe I thoroughly enjoyed every single release by John; his knowledge on the guitar appeared to be bottomless: blending bluegrass, blues, jazz, rock, metal, funk -- you name a style, he’s implemented it at least once on his solo records. The problem with the album in question is it felt like the first proper misfire in John’s squeaky clean discography; it lacked the panache and excitement everything previous created, falling prey to being forgettable and, for the first time, a little formulaic and predictable. His solo’s sounded vapid, and the music leading up to them were rudimentary at best. So, it comes as a weary surprise that three years on from that album we have a new record, and a rather important one at that, as it will reveal if John has ran out of juice -- and should have realistically called it a day after God Told Me To -- or if album number 7 was simply a minor slip up.

Thankfully Season of the Witch is a much more interesting offering than its predecessor, with some great ideas at the heart of the record, and the occasional pitfall made. Despite my initial worry with where the album was going, it quickly deviates from the norm. The album kicks off with a great opening track, that sets a really dank and ominous mood. I actually thought this was going to be something that really pushed the envelope and focused more on being a score of sorts than a shred-a-thon, but I was instantly disappointed that it shifted into “The Black Grass Plague”: a track that opens with Mr.Lowery shredding on autopilot; solos that you’ll have heard him comfortably play a million times over by now. The track does redeem itself somewhat later on as it goes into -- as the song title suggests -- a blue grass style, but it’s the bulk of John’s riffing that leaves the track in the dirt. In spite of this track though, and the album’s rocky start, it doesn’t represent the rest of the LP, and John doesn’t use his “play it safe” riffing continuously, opting for more interesting ways to deliver his parts than a rehash of derivative ones found on the previous album.

And that’s what made John 5 albums so damn fun to begin with, he used to create a crazy solo, but offer you it in a really exciting way; with compositions that twist and turn into frantic roller-coaster rides. Thankfully that’s largely present here: the likes of “Now Fear This”, for its face-meltingly impressive solos, and “Season of the Witch“ holding the beans for being beastly feats of endurance and precision; while tracks like “Making Monsters” and “Here’s to the Crazy Ones” are so well constructed, they feel reminiscent to the God Told Me To days, where melody was just as important as finesse. And this is Season of the Witch’s biggest asset, there’s more to the songs than being full-throttle all the time: the quiet jam section of “Guitar Tits and Monsters” was a surprising and enjoyable shift in sound, while the Black Sabbath inspired outro of “Making Monsters” was a great way to close the track. However, the best track on this record is “Ode to Jasper”, weighing in at just over 1 and a 1/2 minutes, this gentle, atmospheric post-rock piece shows a side to John I’d like to see more of. Unfortunately, there is a few weak moments here and there: the likes of “Ddd” and “Hell Haw I.GR” are basically just dull fret-wanking exercises that don’t offer a great deal of promise, and while the album generally avoids the mundane solo sequences I mentioned earlier, they do appear in songs every now and then, which breaks up immersion.

As with the previous album, the production goes for the organic, live experience, where you can tell they recorded as a full band. This was one of the few redeemable qualities to be taken from Careful With That Axe and it’s nice to see they’re continuing the trend here. As this goes beyond being just John now, the other members are heard a lot more predominantly. Sure, they’re never truly emphasised like John is, but it’s nice to hear other things going on if you choose to listen to it; and you can clearly tell the other two members have serious chops. It’s a solid record, and certainly a return to form. It’s just, at this point, because of how overused some of his chops are, it’s getting to the stage where he really needs to think about shaking things up or calling it a day on the project.

Great.

EDITIONS: DIGITAL/C̶D̶.

PACKAGING: N/A

SPECIAL EDITION: N/A



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user ratings (19)
Chart.
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2017


15511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Really happy this turned out as well as it did.



As always, constructive criticism welcome, guys.

Digging: Slipknot - We Are Not Your Kind

CalculatingInfinity
March 3rd 2017


9015 Comments


Damn this guy brings the nostalgia hard, remember when I used to listen to his stuff when I was 11 constantly.

MercuryToHell
Contributing Reviewer
March 3rd 2017


1336 Comments


This is one of those times where I wasn't gonna check the album, but then having read the review it feels like I should. Great review man.

SteveOffProbation
March 3rd 2017


1445 Comments


ewwwwwwwwww

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2017


15511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Cheers Mercury. It's solid af, worth a couple of spins, like.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2017


4833 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"dull moments here as well: the likes of “Ddd” and “Hell Haw I.GR” are basically just dull fret-wanking exercises that don’t offer a great deal of promise, and while the album generally avoids the dull" - too much dull, you can use a synonym for it



Great review! I wish he did more flamenco tracks, Noche Acosador was awesome. I like this more than Careful, but hoped for longer tracks.

Digging: Cloudkicker - Unending

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2017


15511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Haha never realised how many dulls I put in that paragraph! Hope it reads better. Cheers insomniac. And yeah, I know what you mean, there is quite a few filler tracks in this to pad it out.

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
March 3rd 2017


6732 Comments


you mention season of the witch only once by name, but careful with that axe six times. at first glance i thought you submitted this review under the wrong album. idk, it just seems heavy with the comparison

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
March 4th 2017


15511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Hey Johnny, cheers for the feedback. I know what you're saying, it is mentioned quite a bit. But the review is purposely based around the comparison of careful with that axe to showcase how season of the witch has learned from the mistakes off of the first weak album he's made so far.



I'll try and rein it in next time haha.

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
March 4th 2017


6732 Comments


that's fine but maybe at least mention season of the witch a couple more times to balance it out a bit?

Astral Abortis
March 4th 2017


6745 Comments


I think the name Careful With That Axe is just mentioned a little too much overall. You can find ways around having to namedrop it constantly. I'd suggest taking out at least one of them from the final paragraph - it's not usually a good sign to mention the same album by name twice in two sentences.

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
March 4th 2017


15511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

How's that?

Astral Abortis
March 4th 2017


6745 Comments


Comes off as lazy and annoying to read. Repetition can be used well, obviously, but having to read an album title more than once in a closing paragraph isn't really good writing "etiquette".

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
March 4th 2017


6732 Comments


yeah I'm having a difficult time articulating why it bugs me but honestly the review would benefit from adjusting what ovdeath and I are pointing out

edit: nvm looks better now

Mesm277
March 4th 2017


691 Comments


Is Beyond the Nut Love meant to sound just like Bella Kiss from The Devil...

Hawks
March 4th 2017


73061 Comments


Prob gonna check this. Dude was awesome with Rob Zombie when I saw them last year.

Digging: Dead Can Dance - The Serpent's Egg

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
March 4th 2017


15511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, saw rob in 2010 and john killed it. Was meant to see johns europeon tour last year but I was too ill to go in the end. I bet that was a great show.

JWT155
March 6th 2017


14394 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Fun record, nothing too memorable but very enjoyable from front to back.



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