In 2020, they were a fledgling band testing the waters of hardcore; today, End of an Empire has matured into a vessel sturdy enough to brave more turbulent waves. With their second album on the horizon, we’re not just diving into the premiere of their new track, “Painting Shadows,” but also exploring the understated craftsmanship behind their top ten underrated guitar solos.
“It encompasses the past couple years we’ve had, with the common thematic thread being a loss of control of life—or things not working out the way that we had hoped,” remarks the band on their upcoming album. Evidently, it is an oeuvre reflecting the multi-faceted discord of the past years—personal, societal, and existential.
The record, a web spun by professionals, was captured at KDrums Studios in Auckland, NZ by Tom Broome, with a sprinkling of additional recording by Joram Adams in Wellington. Further refined, it was mixed by Matt Livingstone (of Antagonist AD fame) and mastered to audio finesse by Dave Baxter (of Avalanche City).
Sam, the lyricist of the band, explains that “Painting Shadows” started off as a soul-searching endeavor. “This was obviously a pretty personal thing for me,” he shares. Confronting the controversial reactions of his evangelical relatives to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sam originally penned lyrics capturing a sense of misguided victimization. Yet, as a band, they chose a different path.
“People were looking for nefarious intent (painting in shadows that weren’t there), rather than taking care of their neighbours and getting through the pandemic collectively.”
The lyrical evolution was a sort of alchemy, transforming the base metal of societal fear into the gold of collective hope. Phrases like “They prime with fear” and “Then stain with blame” echo the double entendre that painting lends to the song—a creative and tradesman-like activity that colors both canvas and reputation.
It is no coincidence then that “Painting Shadows” caps off the album, serving as the denouement of a narrative arc: a tale of shattered plans, existential burdens, and the bittersweet realization of no longer feeling at home in a world of unpredictability.
Hamish, the band’s guitarist, had the deliberate intent to keep it “mid-paced and simple.” The music underpinning “Painting Shadows” is an exercise in restraint, but not at the expense of emotive depth.
“I chose to lean into that Dad-rock energy, and it feels totally appropriate in the context of the song as a whole.”
Being the only guitarist in the ensemble, Hamish ventured into the liminal space of the solo, discovering his comfort zone across 10 bars. “It’s probably one of my favorite songs to play on the album,” he admits, a sentiment backed by the rhythm section’s flare—courtesy of Rowan and Jerome.
End of an Empire’s forthcoming album comes as a mirror held up to a collective psyche scarred by global upheavals and personal trials. The band’s journey from their debut to this conceptual sophomore album speaks of their evolving response to an ever-changing world—a world where sometimes the best laid plans unravel, but where one can always choose to paint hope instead of shadows.
Given their new song has the aforementioned Dad-rock guitar solo (which the band loves), they’ve come up with ten underrated guitar solos. Check it out below.
Blacklisted — Matrimony
This solo is over in a flash, but is included here because it’s just so unsettling. The jarring nature of it really adds to the unease of the track. The song feels like a painful exercise in getting tension out, and the guitar solo is the icing on the cake here.
Abel — Fire Walk With Me
This song feels like a modern pop-rock take on a Southern Spiritual song, so when lead guitarist Dan Bishop breaks out into a solo that feels like it would be at home with Aerosmith, it’s a surprise in the best possible way.
The Living End — Rat in a Trap
Chris Cheney is a monster of a guitarist, but the final track of The Living End’s 2018 album Wunderbar is far from one of their most well known. This solo is gorgeous in how it starts completely isolated from any other instruments, then sits perfectly atop the rolling toms.
Zwan — Honestly
After The Smashing Pumpkins broke up in 2000, Billy Corgan made a swift return with his new band Zwan, a project that seemed full of hope and promise. Alas, it was not to be, but for a brief moment there we got to see a different side of Corgan. The solo from this killer single is a microcosm of that whole chapter—bold, audacious, positive, and over too soon.
Ignite — On The Ropes
From Ignite’s 2022 self-titled record, this solo appears off the back of both the choruses, and absolutely rips. The music video shows new vocalist Eli Santana (guitarist of speed/thrash metal bands Holy Grail and Huntress) tracking it in the studio, which makes perfect sense—a solo that feels as thrash metal as it is punk rock.
Pantera — A New Level
There are a lot of other Dimebag solos that get a lot more attention (e.g. Cowboys From Hell, Walk, Floods, or Domination), but the one from A New Level is my (Hamish) favourite Dimebag solo outright. I can’t even really explain why. It’s just fast, energetic, and has a ton of feel. I also love the different renderings he did of it live.
Advent — Weight of the World
Advent is a band known more for breakdowns and honest lyrics than guitar solos, but for their comeback single, guitarist Michael Rich unleashed a monster. Particularly great here is the nasty bend at the end, heading into the driving rhythm of the second half of the track.
Felt —Now She’s Gone
I (Jerome) like how this solo is played in unison with the vocal melody and flows nicely into the lyrical section that follows. With an already complex bed of instrumentals underneath, I think this guitar solo does a good job of standing out while still feeling part of the main groove.
This is a relatively young, up-and-coming blues player from Mississippi, who I (Hamish) reckon is one of the most underrated guitarists out there. My pick is that he’ll become one of the blues greats. There are a few solos in this song, and they all have incredible feel, and match the lyrical theme perfectly. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a guitarist who can move me the way Kingfish does.
Pearl Jam — Amongst The Waves
Mike McCready is channeling the best of 60’s/70’s hard rock guitar into this solo that really elevates this track to another level. The first half of the song is a competent slow rocker, but when we hit that bridge we get the chord drop, and McCready’s phrasing increases the energy without actually changing the tempo. Finishing with the descending harmonies—this one’s perfect!
Want to keep the beat going?
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