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Album Reviews : John 5 – The Art of Malice

By on July 5, 2010

John 5 has long been one of the only solo shredders that I can listen to more than ten minutes of without wanting to rip my ears off. Unlike many, John 5 doesn’t use his solo albums as an opportunity to simply show off his guitar skills, but instead as an outlet to play what he cannot within his other bands; Rob Zombie and previously Marilyn Manson.

While there certainly is a decent chunk of the usual, full-on shred here, it is counterbalanced by his love of acoustics and melody in general.  “Portrayed as Unremorseful” and opener “The Nightmare Unravels” are the usual John 5 affair with a combination of heavy, stomping riffs and speedy solos but it’s tracks like “Can I Live Again” that show his true versatility with a slow, acoustic groove that’s full of the passion that creates precisely the type of mood needed to even out the tone of the album. That’s not to discredit his heavier tracks though. There are some seriously infectious melodies included in there; “The S-lot” in particular. Just like on his last couple of albums, the rockabilly influences are out in full force with several hillbilly shred fests (“The Art of Malice” and “Steel Guitar Rig” to name a couple), used as segues to break up the heavier material. “Ya Dig” brings a bit of classic prog rock into the mix, and rightfully so considering Billy Sheehan is on bass duty for that one. And it’s all topped off with a note-for-note cover of Ace Frehley’s “Fractured Mirror” which might not be anything great, but is definitely a surprise.

While his past solo albums have been in more or less the same vein, ‘The Art of Malice’ sees John 5 hit the balance that he has been aiming for. The main problem with this album though, and it’s one that has plagued most of his releases, is that he can’t quite blend the various different tracks together to create a smooth fifty minutes of music. Individually each track is great, and the styles complement each other nicely, but the transitions between metal and rockabilly are so jarring that the tracks often feel like they’re out of order.

Regardless, it’s a fun, memorable rollercoaster ride that really proves he is a much more talented guitarist, and writer, than his other bands show. If you’re yet to give this guy a listen then ‘The Art of Malice’ is the place to start. You’ll be surprised. 7.5/10

Band: John 5
Album: The Art of Malice
Year: 2010
Genre: Metal/Rockabilly
Origin: USA
Label: 60 Cycle Hum Records/Riot!

1. The Nightmare Unravels
2. The Art of Malice
3. Ill Will of Spite
4. J.W.
5. Ya Dig
6. Can I Live Again
7. Portrayed as Unremorseful
8. Steel Guitar Rig
9. Wayne County Killer
10. Fractured Mirror (Ace Frehley cover)
11. The S-Lot <- Reviewers choice
12. The Last Page Turned


Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.