If eclectic, guitar-inspired music is your bag, then feast your ears on Rabea Massaad’s licks, which run the gamut across multiple genres. Genre-hopping aside, Massaad’s chops are endless, as evidenced by his record, The Totemist, which is a sublime amalgam featuring soaring solos, immense songsmith, and chops that will leave your jaw on the floor and have you dreaming endlessly for hours after you’ve heard it.
Massaad is also an accomplished producer, meaning that his records are not only inspiring but also sound fantastic. And so, while you’re reading the list of ten albums that changed his life, see if you can find any of these sounds in his approach. Are any of your favorites here, too?
# 10 – HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I by Michael Jackson (1995)
As long as I can remember, I’ve been a huge MJ fan. I’ve always loved his music and the focus on groove and hooks. As we all know, MJ has an Insane talent and approach to his music, coming from many beat-boxed ideas turned into grooves. It was an early introduction to focusing on rhythm and attitude and how important rhythm is in music.
By the time I was old enough to be into music of my own, the History album had come out, and some songs such as “Stranger in Moscow,” “Earth Song,” and “Scream,” along with a lot of hits that, I must include this album even though I was still years away from picking up the guitar. MJ and this record provided a ton of musical education for me.
# 9 – Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water by Limp Bizkit (2000)
I heard this album before I started playing guitar, but I didn’t realize that it influenced my approach to writing heavy guitar riffs and defined the ‘heavy’ sound in my head in the early stages of writing songs with my band. The grooves and cool use of delay guitar to create parts were super inspiring.
I focused on the music on this record rather than the vocals. But there have been many times I’ve written a riff and listened to something I’ve come up with thinking; I can hear the influences, and Wes Borland is up there for me as I think his guitar parts and riffs are super cool.
# 8 – Rage Against the Machine by Rage Against the Machine (1991)
Until I heard this album, I’d separated solo virtuosic guitar from band guitar parts. I listened to bands with ‘lead players’ for the guitar only and then to bands for the overall songs, etc., but when I heard RATM, I was gobsmacked at how you can merge the two in such a cool way.
I hadn’t heard heavy pentatonic riffs with cool effects and awesome lead parts in one package. Admittedly, I was late to the RATM party, young and naive to the guitar world, and had only been exposed to very limited amounts of guitar music. But I was immediately hooked and learned as much as I could. Realizing heavy isn’t always in the amount of gain you used!
# 7 – Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd (1975)
My Dad is a huge Pink Floyd fan. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been playing Floyd albums and was educated by my Dad as to why they’re the greatest band ever to do it (his opinion, of course), but I can’t say I disagree, to be honest. They’re truly one of a kind, ahead of their time, and when I heard Wish You Were Here, specifically “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” I think it changed my like for them into love.
The atmosphere, tension, and release of this song are something I’ve used as a benchmark ever since. It’s perfect in my eyes. David Gilmour can say so much with so little when it comes to guitar. There are many Floyd albums that I have great appreciation for, but Wish You Were Here has it all for me. I’ve listened to this album in many different places, situations, and states of mind, and it never lets me down. I’m always inspired after and always get lost in its world from start to finish.
# 6 – The Extremist by Joe Satriani (1992)
This was my first introduction to ‘guitar music,’ by which I mean the main focus is the lead guitar for the entirety of a record. I’d only been playing guitar for a year and started to take it seriously! I was blown away by the melody and simplicity of some moments where the guitar takes a vocal-like approach.
Compared to my understanding of solo guitar then, it was about flashy guitar playing and notes everywhere. Joe Satriani demonstrated imaginative vocal-like phrases, bluesy vibes, and, most importantly, songs! They felt like full songs and not just a demonstration of skill! Which was a great lesson for me as a young guitarist.
# 5 – Make Yourself by Incubus (1999)
Discovering Incubus was a game changer. Up until this point, all I wanted to do was play lead guitar and shred. I was only focused on technical playing and hadn’t explored much about guitar effects or songwriting. But when I heard Incubus, especially this album, I realized how important it is to write songs and hooks and create a world for the listener to connect.
Because the band had nu-metal roots, I connected to the groovy hip-hop infusion of the rhythm section. Still, the guitar parts are layered with effects, and Mike Einziger’s unique approach to layering effects and guitar parts throughout the record combined with the vocals focused on hooks and melody. I became a huge fan, and my focus shifted from being a ‘guitar player’ to a songwriter in a band. It made us want to be in a band and write great songs to share the experience on stage with fans.
# 4 – Koloss by Meshuggah (2012)
Another great example of being late to the party. I knew of Meshuggah way before listening to them. I’d heard Bleed and thought how intense it was. I think I was still young and less interested in heavy stuff. But when I heard Koloss, that all changed. That album, the sound, groove, and crushingly heavy tones hooked me. It’s one of my all-time favorite albums now. I loved how the riffs twist and turn and blur the bar lines all over the place, and they just made me want to get my head around them.
I love the drum parts equally to the riffs. They have helped me define what it is to be heavy in my music and the use of rhythm in my riffs! The guitar tone is disgustingly good, and I would happily listen to this album first thing in the morning to gear me up for the day. They are a truly unique band, the pioneers of modern progressive metal. Even though they’ve been going since the late ’80s, they have carved a huge niche in today’s modern metal, and it’s glaringly apparent how many bands model their sound on Meshuggah.
# 3 – Vulgar Display of Power by Pantera (1992)
I was very late to the Pantera party. I’d already been in bands and been playing guitar for a fair few years. But I’d never really been introduced to them. I didn’t realize how much I’d connect with Dimebag [Darrell] as a guitar player. I loved the attitude and ferocity in his playing and the riffs and sheer heaviness in this album considering when it came out.
His instantly recognizable tone, how groovy and powerful it was. When I first heard “A New Level,” that’s where I discovered “the grimace of joyful disgust.” I just wanted to learn the solos and riffs and became a big fan of Dime and Pantera after that. Ever since, I’ve considered myself a fan, and when we cover a new level live sometimes It’s always a great time! May the Abbott brothers rest in peace.
# 2 – III Sides to Every Story by Extreme (1992)
Nuno Bettencourt has been my number-one guitarist since I started playing, and for me, this is Nuno’s finest work as a songwriter and guitar player. I think because my Dad was a massive fan of a particular song, “Rest in Peace,” I heard this before I started playing guitar, but when I got into guitar and listened to this album properly,
The countless moments throughout where I was like, “How the hell do you play that?” and the unique note choice, rhythmic phrasing, and melodic imagination all over the album still inspire me today. I wanted to learn it all. I slaved over the tiniest detail to recreate the sound exactly as I heard it! The tone and attitude in the guitar work are impeccable, and this album greatly impacted my approach to writing guitar parts and solos.
# 1 – Sound Awake by Karnivool (2009)
This is my all-time favorite album by my all-time favorite band. This album changed my life in many ways. When I first heard it, within minutes, I was like, “This is my favorite band,” and they have been ever since. I remember thinking they had all my favorite elements of other bands I liked packed into one. I could hear bits of Floyd, Tool, Incubus, Meshuggah, etc., all carefully crafted and intertwined into their sound. I could write essays on why they’re my favorite band, but this album grabbed me, and hasn’t let go since.
Each song takes me on a journey; there’s such an emotional pull in their music that connects with me on a deep level. They redefined what I wanted to sound like as a songwriter and the sound of the band I wanted to be in. Up until hearing them, I’d been trying to write atmospheric progressive rock stuff. But when I heard Sound Awake, I was like, “They’ve completed it,” as it was exactly what I wanted to hear in the stuff I was writing. The tones and use of effects gripped me and truly redefined my sound as a guitar player. This album has been on regular rotation since I heard it back in 2009. My friend sent it to me and said, “This is Rabea music,” they didn’t know how right they were!
Rabea Massaad: 10 Albums That Changed My Life article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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