The 10 hardest metal songs to learn to play, by iMonolith

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iMonolith know a thing or two about learning bastard hard songs. Drummer Ryan Van Poederooyen, guitarist Brian Waddell and bassist Byron Stroud all played with Devin Townsend in various permutations of the Canadian maverick’s bands, among others, while vocalist Jon Howard and guitarist Kai Huppunen have put in time with Threat Signal and Noise Therapy respectively.

While this supergroup undoubtedly have the prog metal chops,. their first single Hollow owes just as much to the nailed-on grooves as Pantera and Mudvayne. But that hasn’t prevented us from getting the five of them to reveal just which metal tracks tie even their expert fingers up in knots.

Here, then, are the hardest metal songs to learn to play by iMonolith…

Soilwork – Nerve

Jon Howard (vocals): “That high vocal note in the chorus was always a challenge for me. I had to put my nuts in a nutcracker to hit that shit. Hats off to Speed for nailing that chorus consistently live!”

Ozzy Osbourne – Bark at the Moon

Brian Waddell (guitar): “This song was one I tackled early into my guitar playing life. I went from Smoke On The Water to Jake E Lee. Obviously there was some difficulty, he was so underrated.”

Metallica – Fight Fire With Fire

Kai Huppunen (guitar): Ride The Lightning. This was the first metal album I owned. Some of the riffs in this song need serious left and right hand coordination.”

The entire Fear Factory back catalogue

Byron Stroud (bass): At the time I joined Fear Factory I was used to playing in SYL. In SYL I played a lot on [drummer] Gene Hoglan’s snare with him, so I could be heard amongst all the chaos. When I joined FF I was essentially the 2nd guitarist/bass player. I had to teach myself a whole new style in a very short time. I had to play everything exactly like the guitar. My right hand got a crash course in metal guitar picking. Those first couple months  were intense.”

Devin Townsend Project – Planet of the Apes

Ryan Van Poederooyen (drums): “I’ll never forget recording the ‘Deconstruction’ album in 2011 for the Devin Townsend Project. Dirk Verbeuren (Megadeth, ex-Soilwork) and I split drum duties. I was given the Meshuggah-esque, ‘Planet of the Apes’ to record. It’s 11 minutes of mind fuckery. Constant changes, time signatures and diaper filling moments. There were a lot of chart sheets used in the studio to remember that one!’

Meshuggah – Bleed

Jon: “I bet every metal head who plays an instrument has given this one a shot!  I tried on guitar, and drums. I failed like a bitch. Maybe that's why I'm the singer?”

Devin Townsend – Life

Brian: This one again isn’t difficult technically it was more a case of the same riff repeating and having only a slight change. The difficult part was not thinking about what's to eat after and paying attention or it's easy to get lost in the song.”

Slipknot – All Hope is Gone

Kai: “Love this song, and hats off for this riff. My pinky finger on my left hand wears a helmet and rides the short bus so the intro is a mess for me. I wish I had Mick Thomson’s brain and coordination.”

Strapping Young Lad - Skesis and Shitstorm

Byron: “Coming off the Fear Factory Archetype tour and having Devin hand me the demos from Alien. I almost cried when I heard Skeksis and Shitstorm. It was so chaotic and all over the place that I didn’t even know where to start to even learn the notes, let alone figure out what I was going to play. To this day, I’m not even sure how all of it even came together.”

Devin Townsend Project – Earth

Ryan: “This is a song off of the Z2 double album we did in 2014. It’s filled with blast beats, time signatures and Dev’s crazy arrangements. I do a part that has over 15 time signature changes that take place in the last minute of the song. We only had 6 weeks to learn the entire double album and this song took up a good potion of that time to get everything in order. There were plenty of ‘Fuck Me’s’ and ‘Fuck this’ moments… but I got it done, with the help of many chart sheetss and frustrating perseverance. This was also the time of my life that grey hair was introduced to my body!”

iMonolith’s debut single, Hollow, is out now