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About Toby Knapp
A virtuosic American guitar player in the mold of lightning-fingered, neo-classical six-stringers like Yngwie Malmsteen and Uli John Roth, Toby Knapp emerged in the early 1990s with an aggressive style that drew as much from thrash and death metal as it did the more melody-forward approach of power and progressive metal. Scooped up by Mike Varney's guitar-centric Shrapnel Records at the age of 18, Knapp would go on to prove himself to be a versatile player over the decades, issuing numerous solo albums (Guitar Distortion in 1992, Polarizing Lines in 2006, Blizzard Archer in 2019), and delivering molten blasts of power (Onward) as well as black (Waxen) and death metal (Darken) with his myriad bands.
A native of Wyoming, Knapp set his sights on the guitar at the age of 13, having basked in the amplified glow of Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Ritchie Blackmore. Progressive rock and extreme metal proved to be influences as well, with Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Mercyful Fate, and Slayer playing a role during his formative years. Self-trained and determined to emulate his arpeggiating heroes in the Shrapnel family, Knapp began recording on his own and was featured in a column in Guitar World magazine called "Hometown Heroes." The article caught the attention of Mike Varney, who was quick to sign the talented young guitarist to his label. Knapp issued his debut album, Guitar Distortion, in 1993; it was released overseas via Roadrunner. Despite garnering praise within the community, the album fell on deaf ears, as hard rock and heavy metal had fallen out of favor with the arrival of grunge and alternative rock.
Knapp spent the ensuing lean years teaching guitar and performing regionally, continuing to perfect his technique. He left Shrapnel in 1995 and began releasing instrumental records via underground indies like Wild Rags and Defiled Records, and started the black metal group Darken, who issued an eponymous LP in 1997. In 2000, he teamed up with vocalist Michael Grant, bassist Randy LaFrance, and drummer Jon Pereau to form the melodic power metal group Onward, inking a deal with Century Media in the process. The band's debut long-player, Evermoving, was released in 2001, with a sophomore effort, Reawaken, arriving the following year. Conflicts within the band, as well as with Century Media, resulted in Onward ceasing operations before they could cut a third record, prompting Knapp to take a much-needed break from the music business.
He returned in 2006 with the instrumental solo LP Polarizing Lines, which was issued via Metabolic Records. The following year saw the release of The Neverending Sun, which featured the demo tapes for Onward's lost third album, and Fumaroth, the debut from Knapp's new black metal project, Waxen. Two more solo outings, Misanthropy Divine and The Campaign, arrived in 2009 and 2010, respectively, with Static Warfare dropping three years later after another short hiatus.
Knapp roared back in 2014 with a new Waxen LP, Agios Holokauston, which was released via Moribund Records, and a flurry of new and archival solo and collaborative outings. That year also saw the arrival of New Fathoms Down, a new Onward LP that was built around 12-year-old analog cassette vocal tracks of frontman Michael Grant, who had passed away in 2012. Knapp started a new speed metal project, Where Evil Follows, in 2015 and released Portable Darkness. In 2016, Waxen issued their third full-length effort, Weihung Auf Satan. A new solo effort, The Architect of Paradox arrived later that year, with the eponymous debut from Knapp's latest black metal/thrash endeavor, Affliktor, dropping in 2017. Later that year, he joined English power metallers Necrytis, co-writing and recording all the guitar parts for their Pure Steel Records debut, Countersighns. 2018 was another busy year for Knapp, with Waxen issuing Terror Decree, Necrytis dropping Dread En Ruin, and a new solo contract with Moribund Records. His first instrumental LP for the label, Blizzard Archer, arrived in early 2019. ~ James Christopher Monger
- Big Horn, Wyoming