I first heard of Thomas McRocklin when he was doing a guest lesson for Dave Weiner's Guitopia site. The small world aspect of that, is that Dave Weiner who runs Guitopia plays in Steve Vai's band. When I looked in to who Thomas was, it turns out he was just a kid when Steve Vai took him under his wing.
McRocklin formed the young group Bad4Good, and then left the musical spotlight for some time. About a year ago Thomas re-emerged on the music scene, and started putting out teaser videos on YouTube and Instagram. The riff I had heard in the Guitopia lesson turned out to be Clear Skies - a track off McRocklin's new EP.
For months Thomas teased that a new album was coming out, and it's finally here in the form of New Beginnings. The beauty behind all of the YouTube videos, and especially all the clips on Instagram, was that you got to discover who Thomas was through clips of him as a kid and talking about his one of a kind Ibanez guitars.
You could also see New Beginnings get made in the process. From glorious shredding to chilled out jams, the occasional mistake that drove McRocklin crazy, and a lot of cool custom guitars, it's been an exciting year to watch it all come together.
The album is 6 tracks long, and features a uniquely Thomas McRocklin tone. You can hear the distinct Ibanez sound, along with calls to the past (i.e. Vai, Satch, and others), but at the same time the album is filled with ear candy used tastefully. Whether that be beautiful delays, fun guitar stutters, or other weird keyboard effects, this album is fun to listen to.
On the track Square Dreamz you have a lot of quirky video game sounds, and sections where the rhythm guitar sounds like a machine that's playing in odd rhythms. In Clear Skies' outro there's a myriad of delays that'll make you feel like you're soarinig. The title track oozes that super direct, very string-y Ibanez sound, and it sounds fantastic because Thomas is using low gain. All the notes come through cleanly, so you can hear the leads and chords crystal clear.
Through watching him online and listening to the album, you can see that Thomas is insanely talented, but thankfully doesn't sound like a shredding robot on the album. New Beginnings is technically awesome, but also musically enjoyable. You'll be able to listen to this album over and over again and pick up new things each time.
Head to Bandcamp to support great instrumental guitar
I'm not 100% sure why Thomas McRocklin left the music scene, but I sure am happy that he's returned. I think it's worth it to head to Thomas' Bandcamp page and pick this album up.