A lot of rock fans have been complaining about a lack of guitar anthems in the last few years, but luckily for all of us, a man by the name of Darren Michael Boyd is answering the call in his new album, 2019’s Lifting the Curse, and all nine of its stately suite-like songs. Boyd presents a breathtaking instrumental collection in Lifting the Curse’s title track, “The song won’t get played on the radio,” “Music in the Murder House” and “Circle of Sixes,” and though none of these songs stands out as overwhelmingly experimental, to say there are no conventional structures in this LP would be quite the understatement indeed.

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Where some artists would colorize their melodies with lyrical lashings designed to explain as much as they are to evoke, Darren Michael Boyd has no use for singing in his first studio album. In all reality, I think words would have got in the way of the larger narrative he’s trying to get into our heads with the textured assault of “The Earth is B flat,” “Notational Witchery” and “Tails & Entrails.” Some things just can’t be interpreted through linguistics alone, and in the case of Lifting the Curse, the emotion in this tracklist is simply too potent for any crooner to break down.

While there are certainly a lot of blistering leads in this record, there isn’t a lot of actual guitar excess to come between the audience and the artist here. In tracks like “Little Toad,” “Was it something I said?” and the title cut, we’re getting black and white grooves flanked with lush fretwork that is always accentuated by an equally spellbinding instrumental backdrop from the band, and though some critics might argue that there are loose ends in short songs like “Music in the Murder House” that could have been extended, I think efficiency is what makes Lifting the Curse such a stone cold listen time and time again.

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I can definitely see where this album, and specifically Darren Michael Boyd’s style of playing guitar, could sell well with both the rock and metal scenes in 2020, which is really saying something when taking into account just how far apart those two groups have grown since the early 90’s. The technique is more metal here than it is rock (in most cases, at least), but the compositional tone is far more accessible than anything the metal community has released in an exceptionally long time.

Try as you might (and I’m certain you will), but I don’t believe you’re likely to find another instrumental LP that is quite as thrilling as Darren Michael Boyd’s phenomenal Lifting the Curse is in February 2020. From the first time we hear his fingers dance across the fretboard to the very instant the notes disappear into the universe from which they were originally born, this record gives us a reason to stay glued to the edge of our seats in anticipation, and no matter what genre of music we’re talking about, that’s not easy to find nowadays.

Michael Rand 

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