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“Thoughts & Scares” by Guitar Virtuoso Darren Michael Boyd

Just in the wake of the jarring drum element entering the master mix in “Slow Dancing with Death,” it’s more than obvious what kind of carnage listeners need to be preparing themselves for in the new album Thoughts & Scares from the one and only Darren Michael Boyd this January.

Although there’s something rather intriguing about rock that has a traditional sensibility to it with regard to lyrics and music, Boyd has made quite the career out of stripping away the additional cosmetics a lot of other players would rely on when making powerful heavy music – hence why Thoughts & Scares sounds as complete as it does even without any lyrics or a singer to present us with a narrative.

To be fair, songs like “Toad Rage,” in all of its bluesy swagger and dirge-like swing, wouldn’t work as well with a singer saddling the riffs with a lot of introspection nor linguistic analyses we’ve heard a hundred different times in just as many ways over the years in metal and rock. From “Proof of Monsters,” our record-opener, to the more conceited “Where the Crawdads Scream,” this is an LP that is going to get our attention through means too many rock artists have abandoned in the 21st century. 

“Kickintheballs” and “Abusement Park” share many of the same sonic elements in their construction, but there isn’t a single instance in either song where it feels like Boyd is drawing from the same well over and over. There’s an ambitiousness to his composing style that doesn’t allow for a lot of revisiting past themes, for better or worse, but in the futuristic tone of songs like “A Waste of Perfectly Good Sadness,” it makes sense why our leading man would be putting as much stock into the here-and-now as he is in this album.

Where a lot of other solo artists, especially in instrumental rock music and post-metal, are comfortable getting into the same formula just to expand upon an emotional undertow more than anything else, this is a musician who has to venture outside of the painted area whenever possible – because the story he needs to tell is ever-changing, not unlike the lives we live every day. 

If “Broken Glass and Disappointment” doesn’t grab you, I’m almost certain that “Misty Mundae,” the title cut, or “Galactic Blood Ritual Roadshow” is bound to when listening to the stellar new album from Darren Michael Boyd this winter. I’ve admittedly been a bit of a metalhead since I was a teenager, and the young fan in me resonated with the youthful intensity that even the slower tempo tracks are presenting in every instance here. Thoughts & Scares isn’t quite as intimidating a listen as its title would want us to believe it is, but if you’re among those who think they’re going to compete with the energy Darren Michael Boyd has to offer here, I do believe you’ve got something to fear in his magnetizing – and often addictive – style of play. 

Mindy McCall

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