** As featured in issue 12 **
Sometimes there's nothing more refreshing than taking a look at something different to expand your horizons and introduce some new ideas into your metal guitar playing and riff writing. To show you this in practice, this lesson I've decided to do a guitar style profile of Misha Mansoor of the “Djent” metal band Periphery. Those of you familiar with my own style will know that this is far from the sort of thing I play, but looking at some of the great ideas Misha has has spurred me towards using some of these Djent guitar concepts in my own style.
Misha himself has drawn his own influences from artists like John Petrucci, Meshuggah, Sikth and even the ethereal fusion of Allan Holdsworth and now puts them all together in the hugely popular band Periphery. As I mention in the video, checking out the bands self titled album, and this year's Periphery II: This Time It's Personal is essential to really get what this is all about. Then again, this isn't just about Periphery, you should definitely go and check out other bands in this style, such as Tesseract, Aliases, and even Animals as Leaders.
In this lesson I'm playing a 7 string guitar tuned AEADGBE, but these idea would still work quite well if you just tuned the low string on a 6 string down to A (AADGBE). There are no rules when it comes to tuning for the extended range instruments and Misha is known to play in various tunings like, CGCFAD, AGCFAD, and even a drop D 6 string with an added low 7th string BDADGBE – these tunings are always used to help inspire creativity, so give some of them a try.
When you really look at the A section of this, it would be easy to say, “well this riff shifts between 7/8, 11/8, and 7/4” but if that were actually the case then the drum accents would fall here giving you a rather jolting feeling when listening. In actual fact, the riff is played over a basic 4/4 groove and the rhythm fights the pulse (rhythmic displacement). These need to be felt rather than thought, so a long session listening to Meshuggah will help here. The basic idea is to have a series of riffs that fight the beat, then line-up again for the repeat.
On beat 3 of bar 1, you have a trademark of this style, and that's the clashing sound of two notes a semitone apart, it sounds great when you have these ring into each other to create a dissonant high frequency contrast to the lows chugging rhythms. Sometimes Periphery will have a second guitar just playing this interval high up on the neck as little rhythmic stabs or dissonant melodic parts. Check out Insomnia from Periphery's self titled album at 0:42 onwards to hear this in action.
Bar 4 really highlights one of the more finger twisting elements of this style as we have a descending run that skips strings, shifts positions and uses open strings for some big intervalic skips. These ideas sound great, but they're definitely not the sort of thing you can just improvise, so learn this one carefully, or try and write your own series of licks that you can pull out whenever a riff calls for it. As an example of this, if you look at the second time bar, this lick changes slightly as I move right up the neck for some left and right hand tapping ideas. This idea is also quite complicated and needs to be taken slowly.
The B section to this piece is obviously physically easier to play, but in the grand scheme of things, this is just as hard to play as rhythmically this part is a nightmare. As I've already mentioned in this article, these riffs really need to be felt rather than counted, but this riff can be a real pain if this is the sort of riff you're not used the hearing. This is very much in the style of Meshuggah, but can be heard in the music of plenty of other bands such as Matiias Eklundh's Freak Kitchen, it can bring a really modern sound to your playing if it's something you can get on top of. Use the tab provided carefully and you should have this one down in no time at all, but playing it up to speed will be the real battle. Remember, feeling it is the goal, but it has to be accurate and you need to be play it the same way every time so that you can synch up with the bass and drums.
Until next lesson, keep rocking!