In the last two columns I talked about how to use the Dorian and Locrian modes when writing metal riffs and solos. For this column, I’d like to take a look at another mode – one that doesn’t get used all that often in heavy metal – Lydian. To do this, I thought it would be cool to take a look at a real-life example. ‘Genesis/Genocide’ is one of my own compositions and it features on the new EP Classified from Sydney power/thrash band Darker Half (of which I’m currently a member). It’s a fast thrash song and the solo section incorporates a number of different modes and tonalities – one of them being Lydian.


Lydian is the fourth mode of the Major scale and its formula is 1-2-3-#4-5-6-7. So essentially, it’s a major scale with a raised fourth degree. While overall it’s a ‘major’ mode (since it contains a major third) and thus would appear unsuitable and too ‘happy’ for heavy metal, the presence of the #4/b5 tritone gives it an eerie and mysterious sound that, I feel, sounds pretty cool in a metal context. Exercise 1 is the rhythm guitar part of an excerpt from the solo section of ‘Genesis/Genocide’. It’s a fast, alternate picked and palm muted thrash riff in the key of E Lydian. The parent scale here is B major, and so the notes of E Lydian are E-F#-G#-A#-B-C#-D#. Note how the riff is derived entirely of these notes, as it moves through what is essentially a I-IIIm Lydian chord loop.

Hear Exercise 1


Since the riff is based off E Lydian, obviously Lydian was the most appropriate scale choice to solo over it with. While the full solo from ‘Genesis/Genocide’ has plenty of fast shredding and technical playing, for this Lydian section I took the opportunity to get my Vai on and play some slow, melodic phrases. Pay particular attention to the expressive techniques used here – slides, bends, vibrato, etc. As I mentioned, while you don’t hear Lydian too often in heavy metal riffs and solos, when it’s used in this manner I think it can have a great effect.

Hear Exercise 2

You can hear these excerpts online at I’ve also included the full track so you can hear the solo in context.

'Genesis/Genocide' - Darker Half

Check it out!