A lightning-fast and clearly innovative player

To anyone not that familiar with John 5’s work beyond his teamings with Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson, the idea of him as a solo instrumentalist may come as a surprise.

But long before he changed his surname to a numeral, he was swinging the plank with David Lee Roth, Lita Ford and others, and The Art of Malice is his fifth solo release since 2004.

5’s number five showcases the depths of his talent and the diversity of his playing that his work with Manson and Zombie may not so clearly display. Not surprisingly, he chooses to open with the brisk metal of “The Nightmare Unravels”, immediately showing his chops as a lightning-fast and clearly innovative player. He is quite a breathtaking guitarist, but if the whole album had been like this it would become very boring very quickly. Fortunately, John 5 breaks up the shredtastic array of face-melting arpeggios and scales-based fret-blazing with other moves. On “Can I Live Again?” he adds some cool slide playing and on “J.W.” and “Steel Guitar Rag” he steps out with some blues and ragtime workouts (not to mention the country feel he invokes in “Wayne County Killer”). The Art of Malice also serves as something of a tribute to the guys who influenced him: “Fractured Mirror” is an Ace Frehley cover and “Ya Dig” — featuring Billy Sheehan — is a Van Halen-inspired piece. Combining the solo from Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker” with the riff from “Rock and Roll” in “Portrayed as Unremorseful” is also a clever touch.

Whatever one may think of the other bands he’s played in (including Halford’s 2wo, by the way), there’s no doubt that John 5 is a spectacular and talented guitarist. The Art of Malice doesn’t exactly break any rules when it comes to instrumental shred albums and doesn’t have the same cross-over appeal that Vai and Satriani do, but guitar fans will certainly dig it.

1. The Nightmare Unravels
2. The Art of Malice
3. All Will or Spite
4. J.W.
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