Hard Rock Haven’s Alissa Ordabai recently sat down with John 5 to speak about his new album The Art of Malice
If his previous album, Requiem, sounded like it was conceived and executed inside an airless tomb – so dense and taut was the material – on his new record John 5 relaxes his grip, introducing a touch of off-hand splendour to his lab-like modus operandi which has always been all about precision, precision, precision. And this new approach works wonders, as he lets the proceedings unfold on a grander scale, letting in more air and light, and starting to think in bigger, bolder compositional ideas.
The trademark swirls of notes dished out at a neck-breaking speed, his phenomenal chops, and a whacky sense of humour are all preserved intact, but on this release John 5 finally lets things breathe and move on a lighter foot, bringing in his flawless pop sensibility to strike an alluring contrast with his trademark penchant for some spooky fun and his virtuosic inclinations.
Billy Sheehan guests on “Ya Dig”, a racy, raunchy track where he and John trade some lightning-fast licks, but the real standout is “Ill Will or Spite” – an instantly rememberable hard rock anthem, masterfully composed, arranged and executed with some of the most spectacular guitar chops the world has ever heard.
What is also new on The Art of Malice is that here John 5 begins to treat his guitar almost like an orchestra of choice, using it as a vast soundboard to convey his new expansive compositional approach and his free, expanded vision.
There is a lot of shrewd savvy to how this record is paced and how one track is contrasted against the other. Touchingly introspective moments are juxtaposed against ultra-fast passages, letting the album breathe and change colour from delicate dark hues to most flamboyant showers of colour.
Nothing, however, prepares you for the final track titled “The Last Page Turned” – an acoustic piece of magic echoing Jimmy Page’s “White Summer”. Its eerie, brooding, profoundly reflective melancholy reminds us that behind astonishing chops and calculated brutality there had always been a deeply knowing, perceptive side to John 5’s talent. And while he could always somehow intuit the most disturbing and most mesmerising things in music and in the human psyche, with this release it becomes clear that over the last two years he’s managed to learn a great deal more.
Label: 60 Cycle Hum / Rocket Science Ventures
1. The Nightmare Unravels
2. The Art of Malice
3. Ill Will or Spite
5. Ya Dig
6. Can I Live Again
7. Portrayed as Unremorseful
8. Steel Guitar Rag
9. Wayne Country Killer
10. Fractured Mirror
11. The S Lot
12. The Last Page Turned
Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10