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July 31, 2023

Boston’s Extreme on ‘Rise’ again with new album, tour

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“Rise” thumps along nicely for two minutes. The lead track from “Six,” Extreme’s first album in 15 years, “Rise” makes use of a tough riff, big chorus, and furious stomp. But the first half of the song is purely prologue to Nuno Bettencourt’s guitar solo.

Bettencourt’s guitar breakdown is a Frankenstein’s monster built out of blues-on-speed, neo-classical metal, triple time prog rock, and thrashy and trashy grunge (and a ton of indescribable-and-infinitely -complex flourishes).

“There are two ways to solo, one is that you are thinking, ‘How can I show off here, how can I impress people,’ and I think that’s the bad way to go,” Bettencourt told the Herald. “The other is that it doesn’t have to impress anybody else. But it has to excite you… There’s a feeling that you get and it’s the same feeling you got when you first started to play.”

Bettencourt knows he’s on to something good when he gets that teenage jolt. He got it when he came up with the solo on “Rise.” So did a million other listeners.

The song has been streamed millions of times – and heralded the return of the dearly missed Boston band (Extreme comes home Aug. 5 with a gig at Roadrunner). Youtube clips analyzing the solo have been streamed in equal numbers. Many have declared it “the solo of the century,” which seems both ridiculous and (if you’re into Eddie Van Halen style guitar) perfectly credible. It wasn’t until a few friends and heroes chimed in that he realized “Rise” was connecting on a massive level.

“I was getting texts from peers, people like Steve Lukather and Brian May, and they’re telling me, ‘Hey, this is really cool,” Bettencourt said. “I thought, ‘What the hell is going on? Something is different here.’ I know they were raving about the solo, but it’s not just the solo.”

The thing is, the “Rise” lead is one of half a dozen jaw droppers on “Six” – try the awkward, awesome mess of notes on “Thicker Than Blood” next. But “Rise” was paired with a video that saw Extreme back in action, thrilled, locked in and blasting off. It wasn’t an iPhone-shot video of someone at home covering “Eruption” note for note. It was a rock band flouting their chemistry and charisma.

“We follow this new generation of guitar players on Instagram or Facebook and they’re in their studio or their bedroom blowing your mind playing guitar,” Bettencourt said. “You like it or throw a comment down and move on with your day. All the sudden you get a rock band in a video who is all in emotionally.”

“I think what people saw in the ‘Rise’ video was the mythology of rock ‘n’ roll that’s been missing,” he added.

Extreme has never been able to replicate the majesty of Queen or bombast of Van Halen. But they’ve done a hell of a job trying. And trying – what Bettencourt called “a band being all in” – matters a lot.

“Rise” might not be the solo of the century. It might not even be the best solo on the new album. But it’s great that it’s inspired people to passionately debate rock mythology five decades after “We Will Rock You.”

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