Instrumental records are often tailored to one specific audience over another, whether it be fans of jazz or heavy metal enthusiasts, but that’s hardly the case with the new virtuosic guitar album Lifting the Curse by Darren Michael Boyd. Though most of the material on Lifting the Curse qualifies as rocker approved, with tracks like “Circle of Sixes” and “Music in the Murder House” serving up some of the best metal grooves I’ve heard in a really long time, there’s scarcely a moment where we’re able to tell what Boyd is going to do with his one of a kind slaying behind the six-string. Songs like “Was it something I said?” and “This song won’t get played on the radio” defy genre parameters all at once, while others here like “Tails & Entrails” and “The Earth is B flat” promise guitar buffs anything and everything they wanted to hear this season.
The low-end wallop of the bassline in “Notational Witchery” is far more captivating than any of the neo-metallic cosmetics one would find on a standard instrumental rock or metal LP, and as far as I’m concerned there’s as much to be said about the other elements in the music here as there is any of the guitar parts. Boyd clearly steals the show on plenty of occasions in Lifting the Curse – after all, with the chops he has in tracks like “The Earth is B flat” and “Little Toad,” how could he not? – but he was careful to stop short of making a one-note record for sure.
I hear a lot of Dave Mustaine in Boyd’s style of play in this album, and frankly, his thrashy grooves in “Circle of Sixes,” the title track, “Music in the Murder House” and “Tails & Entrails” are something that is more than a little refreshing to hear in 2020. There’s chunky riffing all over the place in Lifting the Curse, recalling bits and pieces of old school Megadeth carnage like “Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good!” and “Into The Lungs Of Hell” in the lumbering “Little Toad,” but at no point does any of the material descend into predictably trite print-work. Boyd is too adept a player, and more prominently, too smart a composer, for that to ever be the case in this tracklist.
If what I’m hearing in Lifting the Curse is just a taste of what is still to come from this deeply gifted guitarist in the future, then you can bet on Darren Michael Boyd staying on my radar (and a lot of other critics’) throughout the 2020s. There aren’t as many skilled players in the rock game as there once was, but if Boyd’s influence can provide any sort of gateway for other artists looking to create similarly thought-provoking instrumental work, his making this fantastic debut will be all the more noteworthy. He’s got a lot of raw potential still to be refined in his sophomore affair, but as I hear it, he’s one of the more important indie guitarists to watch right now.