Photo credit: Antoine Julien
Think rock is dead? Think guitar based music is dead? I don’t think so. Sure, it’s not what it used to be but then again nothing is. Rock and pop have evolved and changed, as all good things are supposed to.
There are plenty of songs in the new millennium that prove guitar based music is alive and kicking. Here are just a few examples of guitar based songs from the past 21 years that sound great and do a really good job promoting the guitar as a central instrument in a song’s arrangement.
One Thing – Finger Eleven. A great song and honestly, it was a toss up for me between this one and Paralyzer. I just think One Thing is more original and has more feeling than Paralyzer, although the guitar playing is excellent in both songs. This Canadian band has been around for some time and started out as Rainbow Butt Monkeys. They started their journey to fame after winning a radio contest in the mid nineties. I think they did well to change their name. I used to live in the Toronto area and remember hearing them on the radio (97.7 CHTZ FM) before they became famous. They were awesome then and have kept improving with time. I simply love the subtle finger style playing in this song, played so masterfully and with such feeling and emotion.
Suicide Messiah – Black Label Society. This band is fronted by Zakk Wylde, former guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne. It’s a super heavy song featuring Wylde’s typical superhuman guitar playing. This song will melt your face and is well worth a listen if you love guitar.
It’s Not Over – Daughtry .. yeah, Daughtry. The former American Idol contestant is probably the most rock oriented top ten finisher on that show and one of the more successful in terms of commercial success. This song is really good and the guitar playing is exceptional. Don’t believe me, well take a listen and be impressed. The song also has quite a nice rock edge to it and of course Chris Daughtry’s singing is amazing in this song, as it is in all of his songs.
Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson. Not to be outdone, the original American Idol champion really rocks in this song and the guitar playing is really good. Confession: I really like a lot of Ms. Clarkson’s music even if it is not the genre of music I typically listen to.
Hail to the King – Avenged Sevenfold. This California based metal band has been around for a couple of decades and has put out a lot of great music. I’ve been totally impressed by the guitar in every song I’ve ever heard by them. Hail to the King features an incredible intro riff as well as an amazing guitar solo. A derivative of that excellent intro riff repeats throughout the song,. The vocals are outstanding in this song. Avenged Sevenfold is the kind of band that gives you hope for the future of rock and roll.
Take What You Want From Me – Post Malone featuring Ozzy Osbourne. Post Malone is a very popular rapper who teamed up with Ozzy to release this song a couple of years ago. The intro is very reminiscent of Ozzy’s early solo work. You will hear a pretty impressive guitar solo toward the end of the song. It is actually quite a good song and Ozzy sounds great as usual – well, I’m pretty biased when it comes to Ozzy and Black Sabbath. The production quality is first-rate.
Kryptonite – Three Doors Down. This Mississippi based band had a lot of success in the first decade of the new millennium but have faded from the scene. That’s too bad because they put out some great music. This song is my favorite on this list. Nothing too complicated guitar wise but it sounds really good and is pretty innovative. The drumming and vocals are real standouts. The video is hilarious and I never get tired of seeing it.
I Don’t Know – Sheepdogs. Another Canadian band, these guys hail from Saskatchewan and are part of revival of seventies sounding classic rock. They sort of sound like CCR. This song is really catchy and features some really good guitar and bass playing. It has a really swampy, down on the bayou feeling. The video features a lot of footage from Woodstock and other seventies scenes. As someone who grew up in that era, the song and video bring back some fond memories. The bass player is playing a Rickenbacker in the video so he gains instant credibility in my books.
Best of You – Foo Fighters. One of my favorite bands, featuring Dave Grohl on vocals. He is an absolute monster live with killer guitar playing abilities and an amazing rock and roll voice. He started out in the music business as the drummer for Nirvana. The guitar in this song is pretty straight forward but the song is typical Foo Fighters aggressive pop; kind of punk pop. Whatever you call it, I love this band. I’ve seen them in concert once and they definitely put on a great show.
Wrong Side of Heaven – Five Finger Death Punch. This Nevada based band has been around since 2005 and has put out a lot of great music but understandably, they are not everybody’s cup of tea. This is a great song featuring very poignant lyrics, haunting and mesmerizing rhythm guitar, and grab-you-by-the-throat singing. The video is very touching, featuring war veterans suffering from PTSD. As is typical for Five Finger Death Punch, the guitar solo is simply astounding. Heavy metal with a message – very impressive.
Toxicity – System of a Down. Based in California, of Armenian descent, this band is absolutely fantastic. The drumming in this song is outstanding. The guitar goes from super heavy to melodic. No real solos to mention but the guitar work is stellar. You either love or hate Serj Tankian’s singing but there is no doubt that it is unique. Another one of my favorite bands, System of a Down features some very good musicianship in almost every one of their songs. Also check out Chop Suey, Aerials, U-Fig, and Lonely Day, if you are not familiar with this band.
Ten Thousand Fists – Disturbed. Based in Chicago, this band was relatively obscure for many years but had a large and loyal following. They really hit pay dirt with their incredibly successful cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence but they have been around a lot longer than most people realize. Ten Thousand Fists from the album of the same name features David Draiman’s astounding vocals and some fantastic guitar work, as almost all of their songs do.
Fall to Pieces – Velvet Revolver, acoustic version video by Myles Kennedy and Slash from Guitar Center Sessions. Originally recorded with Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots fame on vocals, who passed away a few years ago. This acoustic version features Myles Kennedy singing and Slash of Guns and Roses fame on guitar. He is a living legend and someone whom I consider as one of the top ten living guitarists in the world today. The acoustic version is better in my opinion. It does however sound an awful lot like Sweet Child O’ Mine in certain sections.
Save Me – Shinedown, this Florida based band has put out some incredible music over the past twenty years. Save Me, features Brent Smith’s superlative singing and some very impressive guitar and bass playing, including a nice guitar solo.
Are You Ready – Creed. Another Florida based band that was quite successful in the early two thousands but unfortunately broke up after the singer, Scott Stapp, ran into a few personal issues and ended up forming his own band. Featuring tremendous guitar playing by Mark Tremonti and Stapp’s powerful vocals, Are You Ready, is a great power pop song from their album Human Clay, a very remarkable album from an era when great music was in very short supply.
Blurry – Puddle of Mudd. I love the guitar harmonics in this song. To me, it sounds like a couple of guitars playing off each other throughout the song, with the slightest hint of harmonics – a very cool and subtle effect. The singing in this song is very impressive and the lyrics are very interesting; demanding yet respective of the person he is singing to.
I Hate Everything About You – Three Days Grace. Another Canadian band, and a very talented one at that. I love their music and they do a great job of furthering my country’s great musical heritage. The intro to this song is really good – a chorus of a few simple chords repeating but played with such feeling and intensity that it simply draws you right from the beginning of the song. The musicianship throughout the song is top-notch. The standout for me is the bridge at the 2:30 mark, followed by a half rest, then into the intro riff and the chorus again. Songwriting at its finest. The singing in this song is unbelievably good and a real treat to listen to. Another great song to check out by this band is Never Too Late.
Send the Pain Below – Chevelle. From the video, it looks like this song is about overcoming pain when snowboarding. Watching the video is like playing a game of Amped on my old X-Box – really fun to watch. This power trio features very solid drumming and bass. The lead singer is also the guitar player. Nothing terribly intricate guitar-wise but very solid and very catchy playing. A great song indeed. Another good song to check out from them is The Red, from the same album; a song about anger management.
I Stand Alone – Godsmack. Based in Massachusetts, this band has been around since the mid-nineties and have put out a ton of really great hard rock songs over their decades-long career. I Stand Alone was featured in the movie the Scorpion King. As is typical with this band, this song features smooth yet powerful vocals, a great rhythm section, and stellar guitar playing. The future of rock is in great hands with the likes of Godsmack.
Fake It – Seether. I’ve never heard of a South African band before Seether but am I ever glad I did. What a fantastic band, who got their name from a Veruca Salt song of the same name. The story is that they liked that song so much that they named their band after it. Seether is a great song and worth a listen if you get the chance. Fake It, is a really aggressive pop flavored hard rock song featuring solid singing, bass and drumming, and of course, outstanding guitar playing. Another band that gives me hope for the future of rock and roll.
Last Resort – Papa Roach. One of the best rock songs of the last 21 years in my opinion, the guitar playing in this song is really good. A very heavy tune with a message. This California band had a lot of success with this song but I think they are somewhat of a one-hit wonder but what a great song to have as your signature song.
This is only a sampling of songs that I think exemplify great guitar playing from the past two decades. It’s in no way an exhaustive list and is presented in no particular order. I wrote it after reading an article in which Gene Simmons claimed rock is dead. I wanted to counter that argument and I hope this article accomplished at least part of that goal.
I left out country music mainly because I am not all that familiar with country and will leave it for a future article.
References for this article were only what was displayed on Google when I researched an artist’s name and a little bit of Wikipedia. I already knew a lot of the back stories of many of these bands from years of hearing about them on the radio.