Mastodon/Baroness-esque prog-metallers Moon Tooth just dropped dizzying full-length Chromaparagon (pick it up here), and axeman extraordinaire Nick Lee (also of ’80s metallers Riot) breaks down 10 riffs that tempt him to do just what the headline promises. Take it away, Nick!
“At some points in the endless spelunking for new jams, we heavy music fans will stumble on a riff so feisty, so savagely original and creative it is just… upsetting. It doesn’t have to be super progressive, tech-savvy, excessively brutal, or tuned down to Z and played through 16 Emperor cabs (though it might help). Sometimes you can just tell when a player really nails it on some inspired, “sent-from-above (or below)” type genius. The rest of us just get left with the “why didn’t I think of that” blues. Here are some favorites of mine.”
1) Thin Lizzy – “Emerald”
I never get tired of this song. That riff that divides the verses is simply perfect. It’s got everything a riff should have and more. When the bridge comes in and they expand on it with the epic dueling harmonies… come on, dude, what else do I need to say?
2) Black Sabbath – “Cornucopia”
It’s hard to pick just one Sabbath riff. I’m going with the opening sludgetopian riff in this banger of a song, though. You listen to it and you wonder why people are still trying to “out-Sabbath” Black Sabbath over 40 years later. They already did this shit perfectly! You’re not topping this one.
3) The Jesus Lizard – “Boilermaker”
As soon as I heard the chorus riff to this song, I had to run to the nearest guitar and figure it out. Duane Denison’s got the coolest and weirdest taste on guitar. It’s simple, catchy as hell, and goes right for the throat.
4) Mastodon – “Capillarian Crest”
Unlike “Boilermaker,” this song makes me avoid eye contact with my guitars for a while after I hear it. We get upset with each other just thinking about the brain power that went into this one. Brent and Bill have easily executed some of the most creative guitar work in metal history throughout their career. Specifically Brent’s use of hybrid picking and lots of open string pull-off tricks completely revolutionized my outlook on what I wanted to do with the instrument.
5) Meshuggah – “Bleed”
Everyone and their mother was excited for obZen to come out, but I don’t think anyone expected these guys to change the game completely. That evil, galloping bastard of main riff made my stomach lurch the first time I heard it. Ever try to even air-guitar through that entire song? How are those guys human?
6) Melvins – “Roman Bird Dog”
Another band that is hard to just pick one riff from… I like that Buzz writes riffs that only sound like Buzz and, man, does he have a lot of gems. Seeing them play this song live made me feel like I was going to puke. I wish I could re-live it every day.
7) Pantera – “Primal Concrete Sledge”
That slippery bridge riff that ends in the fiery solo… Every time I hear that, my only thought is “goddamn it…” Dime was the whole package: solos, tone, attitude, and stage presence, but the riffs were still king!
8) Torche – “Piraña”
I love this band. I feel like anyone I show them to soon feels the same way. Once when I was extremely inebriated at one of their sold-out shows at Brooklyn’s Saint Vitus Bar, I foolishly yelled at Steve Brooks that his riffs made me cry. He looked very confused as to what that was supposed to mean. I still don’t have an answer for that, but it’s still true! This song has it all: catchy up-beat fun stuff, as well as disgusting sludgy barn burners. Warms my heart every time I hear it.
9) Zappa & The Mothers – “Magic Fingers”
This song hit me like a ton of bricks the first time I heard it. The verse and chorus riffs are both so tasty, so funky, so heavy, and I can hear Zappa’s solo at the end a thousand times and still notice new things in it. Moon Tooth started covering this song practically from day one. I absolutely love when we have time to keep it in the set.
10) UFO – “Rock Bottom”
Since I’ve started playing with Riot V, we have shared festival stages with Michael Schenker several times. The other Riot guys were so excited to see Schenker, but I wasn’t very aware of his music. Needless to say, I quickly found out what I was missing out on. He would close with this song and that riff is just so infectious. I’m singing it for a week after I see them! It inspires me to pick up the guitar and see if I can write a riff that will hopefully make some kid feel the same way one day.