Top 10 Shred Albums of All Time
Wow … had to dust off the ol’ cassette deck for this one! Sure, faster shredders may have been left off this list, but arpeggio for arpeggio, these 10 albums strike the finest balance between tasteful melody and “no way did he just play that!”
Note: For those of you born after 1985, a cassette is a small, flat plastic cartridge that contains a spool of 1/8" audiotape. Cassette players, although now nearly obsolete, are most commonly found in cheap rental cars.
10) Greg Howe (Shrapnel, 1988) Greg Howe A funk-savvy speedster, Greg Howe injected the shred scene with some much-needed shake and soul. The funkdafied “Kick It All Over” kicks off the festivities, and the following track, “The Pepper Shake,” offers a spicy display of Howe’s legato and alternate-picking chops.
9) Speed Metal Symphony (Shrapnel, 1987) Cacophony Speed Metal Symphony, a mighty opus featuring first-chair guitar virtuosos Marty Friedman and Jason Becker, uses “speed metal” rhythm beds and shifting time signatures to help break up the cacophonous onslaught of all-out shred.
8) Michael Lee Firkins (Shrapnel, 1990) Michael Lee Firkins A unique shredder, Firkins employed hybrid picking, subtle whammy wobbling, and country-flavored intervallic leaps to craft some surprisingly listenable tunes.
7) Powers of Ten (Warner Bros., 1992) Shawn Lane From his debut, the now out-of-print Powers of Ten, to his fusion work on Tri-Tone Fascination, the late Shawn Lane exhibited a tremendous sense of melody, even while melting picks with his incendiary technique. If Eric Johnson were a pure shredder, this is what he might sound like.
6) Surfing With the Alien (Relativity, 1987) Joe Satriani Just how badass is Joe Satriani? Well, his list of students includes Steve Vai. And “Satch Boogie” was (and still is) the only shred tune that FM radio would touch. But the real highlight of this release is Side 2, which contains the gemini-like clean and distorted tones of “Circles” and “Lords of Karma,” as well as the clean-toned two-handed tapfest “Midnight” and the hypnotic “Echo.”
5) Passion and Warfare (Relativity, 1990) Steve Vai Remember the cute MTV video for Vai’s “The Audience Is Listening”? What school-age guitar player didn’t want to live out that fantasy? Melodic, flashy, humorous, and filled with hooks, Passion and Warfare is the bar by which all other instrumental guitar albums are measured.
4) Edge of Insanity (Shrapnel, 1986) Tony MacAlpine The album that launched Mike Varney’s Shrapnel Records, Edge of Insanity shows off Tony MacAlpine’s fearsome shred chops not only on the six-string (“Quarter to Midnight”) but also on the ivories (“Chopin, Prelude 16, Opus 28”).
3) Mind’s Eye (Shrapnel, 1986) Vinnie Moore Only one year after Yngwie unleashed his fury on U.S. shores, Vinnie Moore responded with the “Oh yeah? Check this out” release Mind’s Eye. On “Daydream,” Moore demonstrates his grasp of classical themes and motifs; then, on “The Journey,” he shows he can do it with “feel.”
2) Live: Extreme Volume (Shrapnel, 1988) Racer X In the mood for a steaming bowl of notemeal? Check out this 1988 live release from shred poster boys Paul Gilbert and Bruce Bouillet. The best part? There was no pretense of cultural significance with these guys; Racer X was simply speed for the sake of speed.
1) Rising Force (Polydor, 1985) Yngwie Malmsteen I’m laying it on the line right now: Yngwie J. Malmsteen was, is, and always will be the greatest shredder of all time. Hell, he invented the genre with his 1985 debut. The standout track “Far Beyond the Sun” was far beyond what any guitar player had ever imagined possible.
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