Throughout high school, I was sucked deeper into the black hole of the Marilyn Manson universe. As I researched each band member, I remember stumbling upon John 5's entire solo discography. The country-fusion style was unique among other shredders and added a twisted Southern vibe to his already creepy facade. Of course, nowadays the axe man has aligned his chops with Rob Zombie, but I feel that his creativity and talent are fully shown on these solo LP's.
For his eighth release, the guitarist continues his skills down the eccentric and eerie path. The first few pieces alone set the mood for John 5's signature quirkiness with the intro track similar to the background music of your suburban neighborhood Halloween garage haunted house. As the spooky imagery begins to appear, the music takes a sharp left turn headed to the county fair as bluesy as fuck riffs are nailed out lickety-split fast on "Black Grass Plague." As laughable as this piece is stylistically, it's more proof that John 5 can take any genre and whoop its ass to make it shreddable enough for the metalhead's appetite. Next, "Guitars, Tits and Monsters" is as equally impressive as cheesy with an 80's vibe topped with wacky samples and a slow jazz-like outro. And the zaniness doesn't stop there as "Now Fear This" is topped with some subtle turntable scratching.
Previously released on 2005's Songs for Sanity, "Behind the Nut Love" is a sweetly American-flavored country ditty that reminded me of Jerry Cantrell's solo work. I could understand how some may be turned off by this style as the mere mention of country music to some metalheads is an instant turn-off, but I assure you that the rest of the record is more rock and metal-oriented. In terms of complexity, I would point towards "Here's to the Crazy Ones" as the most rhythmically and technically impactful. The closing title track also had some of my favorite riffs in abundance. For fans more loyal to Rob Zombie, this would be my go-to recommendation as the rhythm section and tone has a very industrial vibe.
With solo releases, I always feel inclined to mention the other contributors as they are often overlooked. While it is clear that the spotlight shines down upon John 5, his backing band deemed 'The Creatures' includes bassist Ian Ross and drummer Rodger Carter. While Tommy Clufetos kicked ass on previous John 5 records, I give these two featured musicians props for adding context and cohesiveness to the unpredictable guitar parts performed.
Considering speed and melodic shred solo albums have existed for decades, I think the takeaway question regards if a release boils revealed anything of original substance. Most of these compositions aren't all too groundbreaking when lined up beside John 5 records from the past, but I fully appreciate how each song has it's own unique flavor. Although there is now some serious competition in the market with modern guitar-based artists like Felix Martin or Animals as Leaders when it comes to technicality and composition experimentation, John 5's personality and diverse influences continue to shine through in his music and deliver drama to a genre which sometimes lacks character.