[Richie’s Ibanez RGD-7 string guitar is in Standard tuning: B E A D G B E,
and his Strat-type custom guitar is in Drop-B tuning: B F# B E G# C#.]
In this lesson, Richie Allan breaks down several sections from the title track of the Heavy Metal Ninjas album, Interstellar Abduction:
Introduction (0:09 – 0:39)
The intro to ‘Interstellar Abduction’ consists of clean guitar chords, paired with an interesting multi-delay effect, which plays back each echo two octaves higher and in reverse. The part starts out with a C power chord with a doubled fifth, which establishes the key of the progression. One of the fifths in the voicing is then moved up a half step to the minor 6th of the key, establishing the minor tonality. From there, Richie moves to a B augmented triad with a D on top [which can also be viewed as a Cmin(maj7) chord].
Notice how with each chord, the tonality of the piece becomes more specific; we started out with 5th interval, which could have implied a major or minor tonality, and then confirmed what is most likely a natural or harmonic minor tonality with the addition the minor 6th interval (at this point we could also be thinking of Harmonic Major, though it is less common in this musical idiom). Finally, the addition of the raised 7th degree (B) confirmed that we are in C harmonic minor!
In bar seven, we jump up an octave to a C minor triad in its second inversion. In the following bar, we’re back to a Cmin(maj7) chord, although the third is omitted, so we have to assume the minor tonality of the chord based on the context in which it is presented. In a similar fashion, the next chord again only implies the lowered third degree, suggesting a Cmin7 chord, which temporarily shifts us form a harmonic minor tonality into a natural minor tonality.
In bar 10 we have a gorgeous Fmin9 voicing, which is then followed by an Abmaj7 in bar 11, which again has an implied third degree. After that we have B+ and Bsus4 triads, which are only differentiated by one note moving down a whole step on the B-string (G to F). Bar 15 presents a tasty Abmaj7 voicing, which is then followed by a Cmin(maj7) in bar 16.
The final chord of the progression, also in bar 16, can be named in a number of ways. Most importantly, however, it functions as the V chord of the key, which is pulling us back to the tonal center of C minor. Viewed as such, we’re dealing with a G augmented triad with a Bb on top. It’s interesting to note that Richie plays the same voicing a major third up in bar 5, referencing the symmetric nature of augmented chords. [Any augmented voicing can be moved freely around the neck in major thirds and will contain the same notes – give it a try!]
Remember that there are numerous ways to analyze and name these chords. The purpose of the analysis is to provide context to these different sounds, to explain how they function within the tonality of C minor, and to make it easier to recall specific voicings in the future. All of these tools can be utilized in your own songwriting arsenal!
Second Verse (1:16-1:46)
The second verse riff continues in the same tonality as the intro chords, with all notes falling within the key of C harmonic minor. Note that the two melodies in measure four are identical, but played an octave apart. What really makes this section shine however, is its driving, polyrhythmic groove.
Although the underlying time signature is 4/4, there’s a repeating pattern of seven 16th notes cycling against the 4/4 pulse, so that each time the pattern repeats, it lands on a different beat. This powerful effect adds movement to the underlying groove. The pattern is interrupted by a sixteenth note triplet run at the end of measure eight to round off the end of the riff.
More Features With Richie Allan
- Heavy Metal Ninjas: Richie Allan Lesson – Design
- Heavy Metal Ninjas: Richie Allan Lesson – Istagey & Melodyk
- Heavy Metal Ninjas: Richie Allan Lesson – Propulsion (Coming Soon)
- Heavy Metal Ninjas: Richie Allan’s Gear (Coming Soon)
[Special thanks to Peter Boyle for his transcription editing!]