JON DONAIS: BIOGRAPHY
New Wave of American Heavy Metal
January 31, 2014 | Webmaster
As a co-founding member of Massachussetts' metal heroes Shadows Fall, Jon Donais has been instrumental in reviving the American heavy metal scene in the early 2000's by bringing metal out of the musical despair and dullness of the 90's alternative rock/nu-metal movement that dominated much of the mainstream rock scene in that decade. With Shadows Fall Jon helped bring back guitar solos to the forefront for a new generation of rock and metal fans who have grown without any guitar heroes of their own. Shadows Fall, along with other metal acts like Unearth, Lamb of God, Trivium, Killswith Engage and As I Lay Dying, ushered in what the press labeled a New Wave of American Heavy Metal. His bone-crunching riffs, furiously fast but melodic solos and incredible, distinct vibrato combines the influences of legendary metal guitarists such as Zakk Wylde and Dimebag Darrell with a new millenium thrash attitude and fierceness not seen since the 80's and early 90's when metal reigned supreme.
As a teen Jon was far more interested in the hard rock/metal of the 70's & 80's rather than the alternative rock that was popular in the mid 90's. Jon's musical identity was formed by a steady diet of metal and rock powerhouses like Pantera, Megadeth, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Guns N' Roses, Skid Row and Aerosmith. The raw and exciting energy found in these bands motivated Jon enough to pick up the guitar and pursue his own dreams of performing metal to the masses. His approach to the guitar is a culmination of various techniques and ideas found in the styles of Dimebag Darrell (Pantera), Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society), Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne), Warren DeMartini (Ratt), John Sykes (Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake) and Alex Skolnick (Testament).
By 1996 Jon and fellow guitarist Matt Bachand recruited other musicians from the local New England metal/hardcore scene to form Shadows Fall. After solidifying a line-up, the band, featuring Jon, Matt, drummer David Dremain, bassist Paul Danko, and vocalist Phillip Labonte (now of All that Remains), toured the New England area opening for national metal acts. In the fall of 1997 they released their self-financed debut album Somber Eyes to the Skys . The album was received well by music critics and metal fans and it caught the eye of heavy metal music label Century Media. After replacing LaBonte with vocalist Brian Fair from the metalcore band Overcast, the band released its first album for Century Media, Of One Blood on April 4, 2000.
Jon and the band's profile in the heavy metal community was increasingly growing with each new album release, and in 2002 Shadows Fall released The Art of Balance with new drummer Jason Bittner. The album garnered rave reviews by critics and the music video for the single "Thoughts Without Words" was put on regular rotation by national music video channels such as Fuse and MTV2. The album gave the band an opportunity to play Ozzfest, the touring U.S. metal festival headlined by the godfather of heavy metal himself, Ozzy Osbourne.
In 2004 The War Within was released with significant buzz, marking the band's first appearance in the Top 20 of Billboard's Top 200 charts and peaking at #1 in the Top Independant Albums chart. The album went on to sell nearly 400,000 in the United States with songs such as "What Drives the Weak" and Inspiration on Demand" appearing on active rock radio playlists. The song "The Light That Blinds" was featured in the smash videogame Guitar Hero II and in the same year Guitar World magazine included Jon and Matt in their list of the "Top 100 Metal Guitarists of All Time".The band garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance for the song "What Drives the Weak" in 2006. Shadows Fall was also nominatied for a second Grammy in 2007 with the leading single "Redemption" off of their 5th album Threads of Life. Jon and the band released their first concert DVD Madness in Manilla, the album Retribution in 2009 and Fire from the Sky in 2012 to critical praise and cementing their place in metal history as purveyors of true American heavy metal for the new millenium.
In 2013, Jon received what might be considered one of the highest honors to most metalheads: to play lead guitar for thrash metal legends Anthrax, a band consitently refered to as part of thrash's "Big Four" along with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. With a pivotal role in two important metal bands, Jon has proven to be a talented guitarist with a sharp focus in continuing heavy metal's legacy and inspiring new generations of guitarists to leave their own mark in the pantheon of heavy music.