Album Review: Pete Thorn II

Instrumental guitar albums can be so hit-or-miss. In one camp, you have guys trying to out-shred everyone, with a blistering display of testosterone. But most of those guys spend far more time working on their riffs and runs than on their songwriting, and thus we’re left feeling quite bored. Not surprisingly, those are the same guys who wonder why they never ascend to the ranks of legendary instrumental artists like Joe Satriani or Eric Johnson. They don’t understand why they don’t command the same level of adoration bestowed upon other instrumental heroes like Andy Timmons, Prashant Aswani, Marco Sfogli, and more.

Pete Thorn II
Genre: Instrumental Guitar, Rock
Musicianship: 4.0
Songwriting: 4.0
Production & Engineering: 4.0
Vibe: 4.0
Overall Rating: 4.00

Pete Thorn falls squarely into the latter camp with the distinguished luminaries highlighted above. Combining superb technical skills with an ear for gorgeous tone and the gift of superb songwriting skills, Pete Thorn II sets the bar astonishingly high for any instrumental releases set to follow this year. It’s easily as good as the finest work anyone mentioned above has ever released.

From the opening track, the aptly titled “Into Focus,” Thorn hooked us with a classic Satriani vibe, but delivered with his own guitar attitude. You’ll understand what we mean when you buy the record, and really, you should, because there is not a single weak point to be found on this glorious, ten-song record.

Songs combine rock grooves with killer guitar hooks and melodies, clever rhythm parts, as well as some cool keyboard textures, too. Thorn takes us on a great tone journey, ranging from modern high gain lead work to vintage hard rock riffs to ambient, spacey delay lines. He keeps the album fresh by constantly changing up his tones and tempos. And yes, folks, he shreds his ass off. We wouldn't be surprised if the working title for "Dirty Town" was something more like "Thorn Boogie."

Thorn demonstrates mastery of numerous styles, and his lead work remains fresh through the variety of styles in which he delivers his own kind of fury. At times, the variety of both sound and style reminded us a bit of Steve Stevens’ wonderful solo record, Memory Crash, though we think Professor Satchafunkilus is the voice whispering more ominously in the back of Thorn’s brain. Speaking of Stevens, though, Billy Idol’s gunslinger happens to play bass and keyboards on three of the tracks.

Just when you think you’ve had enough layers of mind-expanding guitar lines, Thorn delivers the beautiful acoustic guitar piece, “Rosemary,” before building the record back up as “Eye of Horus” delivers a slow burn and then leads into a funk rock continuation of the instrumental fiesta, followed by the dreamy “All is Not Lost.”

More remarkable is the fantastic job that Thorn did engineering and mixing the record! He played for the song and he mixed the record for the song. Guitars are part of the orchestration and arrangement, never jumping out at a ridiculous level above the rest of the music. The man who has played in support of some of the biggest pop rock stars has clearly learned a thing or two about making a record that engages people.

All performances on the record are superb, with numerous guest artists laying down drums, bass, keys, as well as a few guest guitarists lending some of their wizardry here and there including Lari Basilio, Tim Pierce, and Mark Lettieri.

You still reading this? Go order the damn record already. It’s fantastic! And addictive! Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Stand Out Tracks:
  • Into Focus
  • Dirty Town
  • All is Not Lost