Total Guitar

Fear Of The Dawn

The tones and techniques of Jack’s eclectic new album

- Words Amit Sharma Portrait Eleanor Jane

1 Taking Me Back

The big single, released back in October last year, is a near-perfect presentati­on of everything guitar players love about Jack White. The opening fanfare of harmonised feedback is brief and abrupt, exploding into the same idea played on the lower string, bouncing from A to B before moving down a step from G to A. It’s a simple enough idea, though it’s White’s finishing touches that give it gravitas – from its behindthe-beat feel to the descending slides that follow on from the main punches. In the video, he is seen playing a blue sparkle custom Telecaster through a pedalboard that includes a Triplegrap­h – the octave pedal he co-designed with Coppersoun­d a few years ago – as well as other favourites like his Mantic Flex, a Bumble Buzz and a Game Changer Audio Plasma Coil.

2 Fear Of The Dawn

With its up-tempo swing and minor sensibilit­ies, the main riff throwing an open E against minor sixth and perfect fifth intervals, the album’s title track could very well be one of its heaviest. There’s a meaty, almost synth-like fuzz on its rhythm parts and other extreme effects that venture beyond traditiona­l guitar playing and into the world of sound design. Though only two minutes and two seconds in length, the track features a considerab­le amount of lead playing – White unleashing his inner Ritchie Blackmore for the grand finale before its jam band ending. Electrifyi­ng stuff!

3 The White Raven

Though its opening riff feels more like the kind of thing Tool guitarist Adam Jones would come up with, The White Raven quickly unravels into something unexpected­ly electronic in execution – the guitars, bass and synths calling and answering each other in ways not too dissimilar to different sections of the same orchestra. The solo starts with some Tom Morello-esque envelope filtering before some big A-minor pentatonic bends up around the 12th fret with a thick and creamy type of fuzz engaged. Closing with the same idea it started with, you can’t help but wonder what this would have turned out like if White had continued in the same vein, but it’s a strong track neverthele­ss.

4 Hi-de-ho (with Q-tip)

Having recruited a band of hip-hop session musicians for 2018’s Boarding House Reach, while also citing the genre as “the new punk rock” expressing an equally “dangerous side of music”, this collaborat­ion between White and American rapper Q-tip isn’t as much of a curveball as some might think. That doesn’t make it any less ambitious, however, navigating together sludgy fuzz, feedback and world music before arriving at a D Aeolian funk line and a mid-section vamp that goes from D-minor to A-minor.

5 Eosophobia

From its delay-effected acoustic intro to its reggae shuffles and scratchy punk rock chords, there’s a lot to take in before Eosophobia has even reached its first minute. Moments later there’s a single-note riff section which switches from B7 to Amaj7 arpeggios with some clever usage of delay to double up countrifie­d staccato lines, not a million miles away from what Nuno Bettencour­t was doing on his Flight Of The Wounded Bumblebee solo from Extreme’s second album. All in all, it’s a track that stands as one of Jack’s most eclectic to date.

6 Into The Twilight

There’s definitely a hip-hop and funk feel to certain sections of the album’s sixth track, even if the large majority of its guitars are centred around D major and F major chords voiced through an early glam rock kind of crunch. The octave-layered singlenote D minor pentatonic lines, for example, are reminiscen­t of the grooves typified by 90s acid jazz bands like Jamiroquai, while other parts are more experiment­al, incorporat­ing a cosmic collage of noises and sound effects.

7 Dusk

Only 30 seconds long, with a watery vibe or phase effect over its B Aeolian motif, Dusk is a moody interlude that fades in and out of nowhere. For vinyl listeners it opens side B with ethereal modulation and minor key contemplat­ion.

8 What’s The Trick?

You can’t have a rock album without a song in G, which is exactly why What’s The Trick? fills its own sonic corner on the record. Using what sounds like a killswitch and lots of fuzz to almost imitate Tom Morello playing the main riff from Guns N’ Roses’ Paradise City, it’s a song with an abundance of attitude – White almost rapping some of his lines at points, before kicking in his octave fuzz for some screaming Hendrixian leads.

9 That Was Then (This Is Now)

Arguably closer to The White Stripes

than any of the other songs on this record, That Was Then (This Is Now) has a riff tailor-made for conquering festival crowds, built around single-note lines in A Ionian and A Mixolydian. That all changes halfway through as White sings the title lyrics, gearing into punk rock power chords and highly compressed drum loops – the singer-songwriter showing self-awareness of his own sonic evolution through the years.

10 Eosophobia (Reprise)

It may very well be a reprise, but this tenth track could very well stand as White’s defining guitar hero moment on the album. Starting off with the staccato arpeggios using the same single-note slapback heard earlier on, the guitarist then whips through some E minor pentatonic runs that – thanks to the repeats – feel almost synth-like in delivery. There’s then a shift to a reggae groove in B, the guitarist using bends to cry in the style Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana before cranking up the fuzz even further for his final searing lead. Truth be told, this could very well be the greatest White has sounded on guitar.

11 Morning, Noon And Night

Built around the B Dorian scale, the lower octave layers heard on this penultimat­e track are what give it such a unique sense of weight. During the chorus section you can hear White adding the sixth string to his second fret B power chord, adding a lower fifth interval to thicken out his overdriven guitars even further. The guitar solo halfway in is quite possibly the closest White has ventured towards jazz fusion, using outside notes likes the minor second in a phrase playing off the two higher strings, as well as flat five dissonance­s. In all fairness, it’s a side of White we’d all love to hear more of.

12 Shedding My Velvet

Showcasing a more minimalist­ic approach to lead guitar than the tracks building up to it, Shedding My Velvet features some melancholi­c ideas in E Aeolian around its hip-hop grooves and muted bass lines, as well as a rhythmic octave line that descends from a G played twice, down to an F# and finally the root. There’s a final taste of those layered single-note octave lines before the sombre acoustic outro that rounds off one of White’s finest solo releases to date.

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The Fear Of The Dawn cover art, created by Jennifer Dionisio.
Kind of blue The Fear Of The Dawn cover art, created by Jennifer Dionisio.
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