U.K. magazine recently rounded up legendary guitarist Marty Friedman and Arch Enemy's Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis for a little round table discussion about the state of metal and shred guitar in general (video below). Three dudes who are known to be some of the best guitar players out there, and whose contributions to metal range from shreddy solos to the fattest riffs of all time, agree on one thing- shred for the sake of shred is total garbage!
Friedman said it's all about the content of what the player plays and not how fast they play it, which is entirely true. Who will remember some six minute song with only shred and no memorable riffs?
"Can I go on the record with something? I fucking hate that word ['shred']."
"I look at this way… That word has come up a lot more recently, for whatever reason. It seems like there's an interest in guitar more than there was, like, maybe, say, five or seven years ago, and if that brings more interest to us and guitar and rock and heavy music and exciting music, you can call it whatever you want. But when I grew up, that word meant guys who sucked. 'Cause I was always of the mindset that, when you don't have anything interest to play, you play fast. And it happens to my playing very much. Like, if I'm nervous, or if I don't really know what I'm doing, I just play fast. And that's what shredding is to me. It has nothing to do with music. Cheese, you're shredding cheese. It's not cool."
Amott calls shredders basically a circus:
"If you look at heavy metal, two of my favorite bands, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden the guitar players in those bands are not the best guitar players in the world and they're not really shredders, but they play great solos and they have great songs and great melodies. That's kind of where I would like to see Arch Enemy… Instead of being like a circus, or a freakshow or something."
And Jeff Loomis weighed in with a very brief, but poignant, thought that really sums up what this whole conversation was about in the first place:
"I think ultimately it comes down to the music, which is the most important thing."
I think as avid music fans, we'll remember the occasional sick solo or something like that, but when a band's discography is made up of nothing but wank… well, who cares?