Pat O'Brien (guitarist)

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Pat O'Brien
Pat O'Brien of Cannibal Corpse.jpg
O'Brien performing live with Cannibal Corpse.
Background information
Birth namePatrick Q. O'Brien
Born Hebron, Kentucky
Genres Death metal, melodic death metal, technical death metal, progressive metal, power metal, thrash metal, heavy metal
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Associated acts Cannibal Corpse, Spawn of Possession, Slayer, Monstrosity, Nevermore, Chastain, Ceremony, Jeff Loomis, Prizoner

Pat O'Brien (born 15 December 1965) is the lead guitarist for the death metal band Cannibal Corpse, as well as a former member for the heavy metal band Nevermore, and a former touring musician with the thrash metal band Slayer. [1] [2] [3]

Death metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. It typically employs heavily distorted and low-tuned guitars, played with techniques such as palm muting and tremolo picking, deep growling vocals, aggressive, powerful drumming featuring double kick and blast beat techniques, minor keys or atonality, abrupt tempo, key, and time signature changes, and chromatic chord progressions. The lyrical themes of death metal may invoke slasher film-stylized violence, religion, occultism, Lovecraftian horror, nature, mysticism, mythology, philosophy, science fiction, and politics, and they may describe extreme acts, including mutilation, dissection, torture, rape, cannibalism, and necrophilia.

Cannibal Corpse American death metal band

Cannibal Corpse is a death metal band from Buffalo, New York, now based in Tampa, Florida. Formed in December 1988, the band has released fourteen studio albums, two box sets, four video albums, and two live albums. The band has had little radio or television exposure throughout its career, although a cult following began to build after the release of the 1991 album Butchered at Birth and 1992 album Tomb of the Mutilated. As of 2015, they achieved worldwide sales of two million units for combined sales of all their albums, making them the top-selling death metal band of all time.

Thrash metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music characterized by its overall aggression and often fast tempo. The songs usually use fast percussive beats and low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with shredding-style lead guitar work. The lyrical subject matter often deals with criticisms of The Establishment, and at times shares a disdain for Christian dogma resembling that of their black metal counterparts. The language is typically quite direct and denunciatory, an approach borrowed from hardcore punk.



O'Brien was born in Northern Kentucky. He graduated from Conner High School in Hebron, Kentucky in 1983 and currently resides in Tampa. He is of Irish and German heritage. His hobbies involve hunting and target shooting. [4]

Conner High School

Conner High School is a 9-12 grade public school located in Hebron, Kentucky. Conner is part of a larger campus that includes Conner Middle School and Goodridge Elementary. The Boone County Area Technology Center also sits on the same campus. Conner is accredited by the Commission of Secondary Schools of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and by the State of Kentucky.

Hebron, Kentucky Census-designated place in Kentucky, United States

Hebron is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) in Boone County, Kentucky, United States. The city is named after the Biblical city of Hebron. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 5,929. It is the home to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, which serves Cincinnati and the Tri-State (Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana) area.

O'Brien got his first guitar when he was 11. His mother bought him an acoustic guitar for Christmas. Later, when he started to practice more he received his first electric guitar, a Gibson SG copy. His father also bought him a 1974 Gibson Flying V. [5] His influences include AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Mercyful Fate and Metallica. [6]

AC/DC Australian hard rock band formed in Sydney in 1973

AC/DC are an Australian rock band formed in Sydney in 1973 by Scottish-born brothers Malcolm and Angus Young. Their music has been variously described as hard rock, blues rock, and heavy metal; however, the band themselves describe their music as simply "rock and roll".

Black Sabbath British heavy metal band

Black Sabbath were an English rock band, formed in Birmingham in 1968, by guitarist and main songwriter Tony Iommi, drummer Bill Ward, bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler and singer Ozzy Osbourne. Black Sabbath are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. The band helped define the genre with releases such as Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970), and Master of Reality (1971). The band had multiple line-up changes, with Iommi being the only constant member throughout its history.

Deep Purple English rock band

Deep Purple are an English rock band formed in Hertford in 1968. The band is considered to be among the pioneers of heavy metal and modern hard rock, although their musical approach changed over the years. Originally formed as a progressive rock band, the band shifted to a heavier sound in 1970. Deep Purple, together with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, have been referred to as the "unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal in the early to mid-seventies". They were listed in the 1975 Guinness Book of World Records as "the globe's loudest band" for a 1972 concert at London's Rainbow Theatre, and have sold over 100 million copies of their albums worldwide.

As a guitarist, O'Brien is formally trained, having studied classical guitar. He gave lessons at Buddy Rogers Music, a music store in Florence, Kentucky, where he encouraged his students to listen to jazz, classical, fusion, country and blues and not focus solely on metal. He recalls that his interest in classical guitar probably came from a concert of Andrés Segovia he attended with his father. [7] Segovia remains O'Brien's favourite guitarist and his main inspiration.

Florence, Kentucky City in Kentucky, United States

Florence is a home rule-class city in Boone County, Kentucky, United States. Florence is part of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky metropolitan area. The population was 29,951 at the 2010 census.

Andrés Segovia Spanish classical guitarist

Andrés Segovia Torres, 1st Marquis of Salobreña, known as Andrés Segovia, was a virtuoso Spanish classical guitarist from Linares, Spain. Many professional classical guitarists today were students of Segovia, or students of his students. Segovia's contribution to the modern-romantic repertoire not only included commissions but also his own transcriptions of classical or baroque works. He is remembered for his expressive performances: his wide palette of tone, and his distinctive musical personality, phrasing and style.


O'Brien started playing in a series of bands, sometimes as a touring musician and sometimes as a full-time member. Throughout the 1980s he played in heavy metal bands such as Chastain and Prizoner. In the 1990s O'Brien evolved from heavy metal to death metal. Between 1990 and 1992 he played in the Cincinnati-based death/thrash metal band Ceremony alongside Steve Tucker, Greg Reed and Shannon Purdon. They released a demo in 1992 entitled Ceremony, and an EP called The Days before the Death that did not come out before 2000 and for which O'Brien did the mastering with Mark Prator. After the band's breakup, O'Brien decided to move out of Cincinnati. He relocated to Los Angeles and searched for a new band. Through tape trading he eventually got hired by Nevermore, who at the time were looking for a second guitarist. [8]

Chastain (band) American heavy metal band

Chastain is a heavy metal project formed in 1984 by guitarist David T. Chastain and signed by Shrapnel Records.

Nevermore American metal band

Nevermore was an American heavy metal band from Seattle, Washington, United States. Formed in 1991, they are known to incorporate elements from various styles such as progressive metal, power metal, modern hard rock, classic heavy metal, and thrash metal. The band has been inactive since 2011, due to personal issues between the band members. In April 2015, lead singer Warrel Dane confirmed that Nevermore had not disbanded, and there was a possibility for them to continue in the next two years with another album. Dane's death in December 2017 ended hopes of a reunion.

O'Brien stayed in the band for two years during which they recorded the EP In Memory and the full-length The Politics of Ecstasy which both came out in 1996. He also toured with the band and took part in a video shoot for the song "What Tomorrow Knows" from Nevermore's eponymous debut album. However, he felt unsatisfied with the band, preferring to be involved in death metal. [9] Following his departure from Nevermore, O'Brien went through a transitional period where he briefly joined Monstrosity as a touring member but remained somewhat inactive for the rest of the time.

<i>In Memory</i> 1996 EP by Nevermore

In Memory is Nevermore's only EP. It was recorded in April and May 1996 and released on July 23, 1996. It features a Bauhaus medley. It was re-issued in 2006 with 5 bonus tracks, which are all demos of songs from the next full-length album, The Politics of Ecstasy.

<i>The Politics of Ecstasy</i> (album) 1996 studio album by Nevermore

The Politics of Ecstasy is the second full-length studio album by Thrash/Power Metal band Nevermore. It was released in 1996. The album is named after Timothy Leary's book of the same name. The first chapter of that book is entitled "The Seven Tongues of God", which is the title of the first song on the album. There is a spoken word sample in the track "Next In Line" from the Adrian Lyne movie, Jacob's Ladder.

<i>Nevermore</i> (album) 1995 studio album by Nevermore

Nevermore is the eponymous debut studio album by American heavy metal band Nevermore, released on February 14, 1995 by Century Media Records. It was singer Warrel Dane and bassist Jim Sheppard's first release after departing from their previous band, Sanctuary, in 1994. Having recruited drummer Van Williams and former Sanctuary touring guitarist Jeff Loomis, they formed the band Nevermore and began anew.

Cannibal Corpse

In 1997 he was approached by Cannibal Corpse through several relations. After auditioning for the band, O'Brien ultimately became a permanent member replacing Rob Barrett. [10] [11] He has been featured on every Cannibal Corpse album since Gallery of Suicide .

Since his involvement in Cannibal Corpse, O'Brien has been credited on some of the band's more technically complicated songs. One song which has been cited by other band members, both past and current, as the most difficult Cannibal Corpse song is "Frantic Disembowelment" from the album The Wretched Spawn . To this day the band has performed this song live only once. [12] O'Brien has often been complimented by his co-members and other musicians in the death metal scene for his proficiency. In the documentary DVD Centuries of Torment: The First 20 Years bassist Alex Webster stated that "Some of his rhythm parts are as difficult as a solo might be in another band." Drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz commended his contribution to the band's music, stating "He really is a vital part of the Cannibal [Corpse] sound. His songs are awesome and we definitely need his songs on our CDs."

O'Brien himself admitted that he tends to write more technical songs but often regards it as a by-product of the songwriting process rather than an aim in itself. [13] However unlike Webster and Mazurkiewicz, O'Brien does not take part in the composition of lyrics and instead focuses on the music.


In April 2011 O'Brien filled in for Exodus' Gary Holt when Holt left the Slayer European tour to play with his own band. Holt himself had been filling in for the now deceased Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman since February 26, 2011, subsequently joining the band. [14]

Guest appearances

O'Brien made several guest appearances as lead guitarist. He collaborated on Leather's solo debut album Shock Waves which came out in 1989. [15] He played lead on the track "Balancing Act" which came out as a bonus track for the 1997 re-issue of Lethal's "Your Favorite God" EP. In 2006 he played lead guitar on "Render My Prey" on Spawn of Possession's album Noctambulant . In 2008 O'Brien played guitar on the song "Race Against Disaster" on Jeff Loomis's debut solo album Zero Order Phase . In the same year he made a guest solo appearance on Kataklysm's album Prevail . [16]


On December 10, 2018, O'Brien was arrested in Tampa for burglary on a house in the 4700 block of Windflower Circle near the Northdale Golf and Country and for assaulting a responding deputy. Reports showed that around 6:57 p.m., he entered a home without permission from its two occupants, who remain unidentified. After one occupant told him to leave, O'Brien pushed a woman to the ground, left the house and hid in the property's backyard until police arrived. A responding deputy gave him orders; instead of complying, O'Brien charged at the deputy with a knife. The deputy then tased him, taking him into custody afterward. He was booked into the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office on charges of burglary with assault or battery and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, and was being held without bail. The burglarized home is in the same area of a golf course where a house fire broke out about the same time at 16311 Norwood Dr. where O'Brien was renting. It was not immediately clear if the fire was connected to his arrest. [17] [18]

At O'Brien's court appearance on the morning of December 11, he wore an anti-suicide vest, with his wrists and ankles chained together. His bail was set at $50,000 and was told by a judge that he would need to pass a drug test to see if he could be bonded out of jail. O'Brien could face up to 30 years in prison just on the charge of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon. The burglary charge could see a fine of up to $10,000 and a maximum of life in prison. [19]

Flamethrowers and numerous weapons and ammunition were recovered inside O'Brien's home that had exploded. One neighbor said that he seemed "just like a regular neighbor. Get out of the car, go right into the house. That's about it." Another neighbor was terrified by the incident, but was thankful that the fire crew came in time to put the flames out before spreading to other homes. The owner of the home that O'Brien broke into, who did not want to be shown on camera, said that he thought that O'Brien was hallucinating when he spoke to him about the "rapture" and claimed, "someone was after him." The homeowner added that O'Brien seemed scared and at one point even hid in his closet. [20] [21]

A crowdfunding campaign for O'Brien was launched by drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz's wife Deana. She stated that he "does not have insurance, and lost everything that he owns. These funds will help him get back on his feet with the regular much-needed necessities like clothing, a roof over his head, and other daily life necessities that are needed." [22]

O'Brien was released from jail on December 14 after posting bond. [23] The day after the fire subsided, fire marshals found a massive amount of weapons, locked safes and potential explosive devices in O'Brien's possession. The list of weapons found included 50 shotguns, 10 semi-automatic rifles (including a couple variants of AK-47s), two Uzi-style rifles and 20 handguns. Other materials found were a number of locked safes, two flamethrowers, thousands of rounds of ammunition that were stored in boxes, several other weapons with their parts and three skulls. One of the weapons in particular was a sawed-off shotgun (off to about an inch past the stock) that was illegal to possess. The search warrant that was issued did not say that O'Brien had the proper paperwork for his cache. [24]

Cannibal Corpse issued a statement on their Facebook page expressing their respects for O'Brien, but would not release any further information regarding the incident, and that he "is getting the help he needs and appreciates the love and support from Cannibal Corpse fans around the world." They then said that O'Brien is looking forward to a future return to the band and that their tours and shows would continue as planned. [25] Erik Rutan of Hate Eternal was later announced as a temporary fill-in for O'Brien for future live performances.


O'Brien plays mostly Jackson Custom Shop V's (as of 2017) which are equipped with an Fishman Fluence Modern pickup in the bridge position and a Floyd Rose bridge. When on tour, he takes four guitars, one for the different tunings and a spare. In Cannibal Corpse O'Brien currently uses two tunings: A# standard and G# standard. [26] Both companies have released their respective Pat O'Brien signature model. [27] [28] Throughout his career O'Brien has always preferred to use V shaped guitar. Other guitars included in his collection are:

(Older Guitars Used)

For amplification O'Brien uses Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier (2 channel) amplifier heads with 4x12 cabinets, some of which are loaded with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers and others which are loaded with Electro-Voice EVM12L Black Label Zakk Wylde speakers. He also uses a number of effect pedals such as a Robert Keeley modified Boss MT-2 Metal Zone, ISP Technologies Decimator Noise Reduction, Dunlop Crybaby Wah and a Boss Octaver. [29]


Cannibal Corpse

Guest session

Jeff Loomis
Spawn of Possession

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