DEREK SCHILS – Halfway Home

  • 9/10
    DEREK SCHILS - Halfway Home - 9/10


Wheezin’ & Wailin’ Records
Release Date: September 1, 2006

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

For a guitarist just starting out, a guitar instrumental release, especially as a debut, is a good way to go and typically makes for a good start. Think about it … no vocalist required and typically said guitarist can play all of the instruments. For the typical music listener, guitar instrumentals might be considered overdone, and most people in that category consider themselves as having heard one too many. Guitar aficionados, on the other hand, can never get too much of a good thing … guitar!

Nevertheless, Atlanta, Georgia’s Derek Schils has chosen the path of the guitar instrumental release as his debut. Thankfully, Derek keeps things interesting throughout and ends up coming up with a winner!

There’s not much to say about this clean-cut, mild-mannered looking, neighborly guy who has been playing guitar since he was eight years old. He has all of the usual influences (Rhoads, Van Halen, Schon, Becker, MacAlpine, Vinnie Moore, etc.) from the 80’s for motivation. Derek became interested in shred/technical type playing, but never necessarily became a huge fan of the Neoclassical genre. Instead, he became more interested in players like Greg Howe, Michael Lee Firkins, Paul Gilbert, Satriani, Vai, etc., all technical players who can rip when they want to, but who also focus on keeping the music lighthearted and fun. On his debut release, Halfway To Home, Derek manages to capture the lighthearted spirit of his idols by using melody and feel as his friends, and in a lot of places makes his guitar speak … giving it, in a sense, a voice.

The release starts out suspiciously as the opening seconds of the title track, “Halfway Home,” starts out with some lighter Jazz-like chords before breaking into a mid-tempo “shred-aholic rip fest.” Right out of the gate, listeners should be able to appreciate Derek’s use of advanced techniques, melody, and his inherent “feel” to almost give his guitar a “voice.” “Feel” is a tough noun to describe to someone who’s not an avid guitar worshipper, but in part, it’s the ability to play the right note(s) at the right time, and Derek has plenty. His technique and songwriting keeps things interesting, varied, and fun without sounding like a carbon copy of Satriani, Vai, etc.

There really isn’t a bad song on this ten-track debut, but some of the most memorable moments include “Asweep At The Wheel,” with a tempo that is slowed down a notch, but ends up sounding more passionate with a grittier riff. “Crunching Numbers” is a catchy, air guitar gyrating, high throttled shredder full of staccato runs and … plenty of melody and feel! The other track gaining huge popularity is Derek’s cover of the theme song for the late 60’s cult Japanese animated series Speed Racer. Derek makes use of the wah-wah pedal (much akin to Gary Hoey) to phrase the vocals of the Speed Racer theme song in “Go Speed Racer,” which any young to middle-aged adult male will appreciate. The production throughout is also worth mentioning as it sounds clear and airy, almost live which adds to the overall experience.

If gaining Metal Express Radio’s attention isn’t enough of a convincer, then how about the fact that Derek’s playing has also captured the auspices of Guitar Nine Records, who have listed him in the October/November 2006 edition of their “The Undiscovered” feature column? Bluntly stated, this release ranks in the top five of the best, independent guitar instrumental releases of the year 2006. Let’s hope someone signs him to a major label and allows him to record a release with a full band behind him!

Derek Schils – All Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Programming, Producer
Cliff Benoit – Keyboards, Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Programming on “Em Blues”


  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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