There is a special place in my heart for acoustic renditions of rock music. Back in 1989, MTV Unplugged showed how it is done as artistes like Nirvana and Bryan Adams stripped down some of the finest songs down to their core.
The show may have come and gone, but the trend has thankfully never gone away. Here are six of my recent favourites showing their other side. One rule before we begin, songs that started off as ballads do not count!
Black Mirrors – Günther Kimmich
Alternative rock group Black Mirrors hails from Brussels and first made waves with their brilliant garage rock EP Funky Queen. Their psychedelic leanings make their music perfect for the acoustic treatment, which they have fully embraced in their latest releases.
Slowing down the uptempo Günther Kimmich is their best move by far. Against the backdrop of steady drums thrum and bluesy guitar slides, Marcella Di Troia’s vocal truly soars above the hypnotic atmosphere.
Rival Sons – Too Bad
Excuse me please, but do you have a moment to talk about Rival Sons? I admit bringing up my favourite band too much and too little, but it is impossible to discuss unplugged without their name in the picture.
Live from Haybale Studio brings together three of their best acoustic originals, Too Bad, Jordan, and Do Your Worst. Dozens of amazing others float on the Internet, including Jay Buchanan’s covers of Wild Horses and Hopelessly Devoted to You that I need on a studio album pronto.
Halestorm – Chemicals
Volume is not the only hallmark of rock n’ roll. Halestorm can tell you that much and more in their little acoustic adventure, released on YouTube late last year.
In the absence of heavy riffage, it is usually the vocalist who gets the spotlight. But here, the rest of the band gets to show off their underrated bass lines and raw vocal talent in stunning harmonies. Chemicals has never sounded better and somehow, louder.
Architects – Doomsday
Holy Hell is the first Architects album without guitarist Tom Searle, and it is an indescribable experience to hear the band’s gut-wrenching tribute in acoustic form that allows it more sorrow than rage.
What if I completely forget? What if I never accept? Cause when you fade away, it’s like a brand new doomsday. The piano reprise revisits their powerful lyric in the clarity of its lull, and it is especially haunting.
Beartooth – Clever
Metalcore meets folk and country in this ambitious EP, transforming my favourite heavy tracks entirely with the introduction of vocal harmonies, lap steel, and violin.
I love Beartooth, but this is weird. That was me months ago, before their Blackbird Session eventually grew on me. The venture impresses especially with Clever, where Caleb Shomo’s restrained vocal truly shines a light on its meaningful and emotive lyrics.
Zakk Wylde – N.I.B.
It is Zakk Wylde playing Black Sabbath on a Hello Kitty mini-guitar. I have nothing to add.
This list is by no means exhaustive, nor is it a best-of. I’d be looking forward to your recommendations of any unplugged rock anthems worth listening to below. x