JOHN 5 – Songs For Sanity


Shrapnel Records
Release Date: September 13, 2005

Tracks: 12
Run Time: 44+ minutes

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Malmsteen and Satriani paved the way of acceptance for Heavy Rock instrumentals back in the 80’s, and since then, many have come along for the ride, creating a somewhat crowded sub-genre of music in today’s day and age, with many awesome guitarists (unfortunately) basing their sound and technique around someone else’s platform or shtick. Every now and then, however, a new player comes along to the instrumental party with a totally unique, innovative, and creative approach … the latest being John 5.

You’re likely familiar with John 5’s work in the past (originally known as John Lowery), although you may not realize it. John’s been associated with the best of the best in prior incarnations, including: David Lee Roth, Rob Halford (Two), Marilyn Manson (where his “5” moniker came into being), and most recently, Rob Zombie (Ozzfest 2005) and Paul Stanley (soon to be released solo record). Not bad company …

Arguably the hardest working guitarist in all of Metal, John first picked up the guitar at the tender age of 7 when Santa brought him his first axe for Christmas. Attracted to the slightly provocatively-dressed hotties in the T.V. show Hee-Haw, and even more so to the Bluegrass/Country & Western musical interludes included in the show, John found his inspiration to devote countless hours of practicing towards his new passion. After high school, John moved to California in 1989 to pursue his musical dreams, and was eventually discovered by Whitesnake’s Rudy Sarzo. One contact led to another, then eventually things started falling in place for John, and, as they say, the rest is history …

After parting ways with Manson, John decided to have a crack at it solo in 2004, and released his debut instrumental album, Vertigo, which definitely turned some heads from a critical standpoint, and sold way better than most people expected. Mixing various elements of Metal with old time Country & Western, John 5’s debut clearly showed that his capabilities and creativeness went way past his most recent affiliations.

Songs For Sanity essentially picks up where Vertigo left off … there are some straight very Heavy Metal tracks like “Damaged,” tracks that have a bit of Manson-like production tricks inter-mixed like “Soul Of A Robot,” a brief mingling into the Blues with “Blues Balls,” and a handful of tracks like “Gein With Envy” that delve into that wonderful, crazy-fast, serial-killer Country & Western mode that you just don’t hear much of anymore … sounding sort of like if the immortal Chet Atkins were to cross over the line and play Heavy Metal. All of these various genres, however, are placed on top of a Metal/Hard Rock platform, and with special guests Steve Vai and Albert Lee chipping in their 2 cents, John 5 somehow makes it all work.

For those unfamiliar, John’s playing style is a bit “unclean” … he has the ability to rip off some impressive solos, but he’s not necessarily a “shredder.” When stripping away the production add-ons from his music, the closest parallel that can be drawn to his playing style is Ted Nugent … complete control of the guitar, but not striving for absolute clarity, smoothness, or perfection. Instead, John just gets down to business and doesn’t waste any notes … all of them have a purpose and are headed towards a specific direction.

What John 5 has produced, in the end, is a very entertaining instrumental album with plenty of switch-ups and tricks to keep even the most demanding of listeners curious. Many talented musicians are out there making Heavy Rock instrumental albums, but none offer the variety and eclecticism that John 5 offers in Songs For Sanity (and in Vertigo for that matter too). John, openly admitting his daily struggles with Panic Attack Syndrome (PAS), divulged to Metal Express that the title Songs For Sanity goes hand-in-hand with his disorder … the album is a collection of songs that have helped him express and release his inner tensions and apprehensions … and making the album allowed him to stay ever busy in-between projects to keep his time and mental gumption occupied. PAS indeed can cause one’s outlook to become scrambled on any given day, and that may explain John’s penchant for integrating the various genres into his solo efforts … in the end, if PAS is the driver for John 5’s solo creativity, then to John’s dismay, it’s probably best for all music fans out there to hope that he never stumbles across the cure!

Do yourself a favor, and pick up both of these instrumental gems at your earliest opportunity … then simply sit back and enjoy!


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

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