Guitarist Toby Knapp began taking the instrument seriously at age 13 after seeing the Led Zeppelin concert film "The Song Remains The Same". In his early years he heavily studied and emulated the guitar styles of Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Ritchie Blackmore. Knapp was also intrigued by progressive rock bands including Rush, Yes, King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Early in his development he was introduced to the neoclassical rock music of Yngwie Malmsteen and began incorporating more advanced techniques into his playing. Simultaneously Knapp was heavily inspired by the extreme musical work of artists such as Venom, Mercyful Fate, Voivod, Celtic Frost, Slayer, Kreator and Bathory. Knapp learned to play drums and bass guitar and began recording demo tapes and submitting them to guitar magazines and record companies. With no knowledge of how to enter the professional music business, Knapp set his goals on being discovered by and signed to Mike Varney's Shrapnel Records Group. Shrapnel was the home of many of the world's top guitarists and Knapp had heard that Varney listened to every demo tape submitted despite receiving hundreds of tapes per week.
In 1991, at the age of 18, Knapp was featured in Guitar World's "Hometown Heroes" column and within a year was contacted by Shrapnel Records' President Mike Varney who quickly signed Knapp to his label. The result was his 1993 debut album "Guitar Distortion" which was produced by legendary Apocrypha guitarist Tony Fredianelli and featured the virtuosic drumming of Ray Luzier (David Lee Roth, Korn, George Lynch). "Guitar Distortion" was also released in Europe and Asia by Roadrunner Records. "Guitar Distortion" received favorable reviews published in "Guitar For the Practicing Musician" magazine. Knapp taught and gave guitar clinics at respected music schools such as MusicTech in Minneapolis resulting in endorsements from ADA amplification and S.I.T. guitar strings. The timing of Knapp's entrance into the recording industry couldn't have been worse as progressive metal and instrumental music was losing it's popularity due to the onset of grunge and the "Seattle Scene". Knapp stayed busy in this time period teaching upward of forty students per week and performing regionally (Wyoming, Montana) on a consistent basis. In 1994 Feral House Books published "Beneath the Underground" written by famed author, Bob Black. "Beneath the Underground" contains a chapter dedicated to Knapp's earliest recordings (1987) and identifies the young musician's unique mixture of "Motorhead and Vivaldi."
Knapp requested his contract with Shrapnel Records be terminated and left the label on friendly terms in 1995. Knapp then started working with a variety of underground independent labels such as Wild Rags Records (whom released his instrumental EP "Infinite Opposition" in 1996) and Defiled Records (whom signed his Black Metal project Darken and released their self titled cd in 1997). Defiled Records requested Knapp put his Black Metal project on hiatus to form a Traditional Heavy Metal group. Knapp quickly assembled the band 'Onward' and wrote all the music for the band's debut "Evermoving". Defiled Records merged with Sentinel Steel Records briefly to finance the recording of the album and Onward soon signed with Century Media Records.
Century Media released Onward's "Evermoving" in early 2001 and quickly followed it up with the release of a second Onward album; "Reawaken" in 2002. Both records were highly praised by notable publications such as Guitar World, Hit Parader and Metal Maniacs. The success of the two records resulted in appearances at metal festivals throughout the U.S. such as "ProgPower" in Chicago, "Ultra-Sound" and "November to Dismember" in California, The main stage of the Milwaukee Metalfest and the "Abrasive Rock Festival" in Olympia, Washington. The band also toured the U.S. extensively supporting major acts such as Exodus, Symphony X, Blind Guardian, Metal Church's David Wayne, Angra and Agent Steel. Knapp was living in Las Vegas, NV at this time and was interviewed by Vegas newspaper "The Mercury" who described the guitarist's music as "suggestive of an uneasy pact with the supernatural." Knapp and vocalist Michael Grant wrote and recorded several demos together and Onward prepared to enter the studio to record their third album. Onward's internal conflicts and a deteriorating relationship with Century Media caused Knapp to disband the group. "I saw and met many of my favorite bands on the road and the shape they were in; broke, bitter and living as slaves to touring and receiving no royalties after years of hard work, I decided I wanted to return to a regular life" Knapp stated regarding his exit from the music business. Century Media continued to release Onward efforts; the video "Night" appeared on the DVD "The Visual Experience", the band's rendition of "Bird of Prey" appeared on a Uriah Heep tribute album (released on Roadrunner International as "A Return To Fantasy") and the band's cover of the Savatage classic "Strange Wings" appeared on the compilation album "New Found Power". Soon after the demise of Onward, Knapp was asked by Midwest Metal Records to contribute a track to a Michael Schenker/UFO Tribute album in the works called "Spaced Out". Knapp recorded the classic UFO tune "Dance Your Life Away". The track was praised by Metal Maniacs Magazine as a highlight of the album.
In 2006 Knapp signed with Metalbolic Records which resulted in the release of his all instrumental album "Polarizing Lines", his Black Metal project Waxen's "Fumaroth" as well as the release of the demo tapes for Onward's cancelled third album "The Neverending Sun". Knapp's music began to spread throughout the metal underground again and he was approached to play guitar for legendary bands such as Norway's Mayhem and Rhode Island's Vital Remains. Health problems and logistics prevented this from coming to fruition (Knapp however, did work with Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar on a track from his solo album "The Campaign"). Knapp was soon contacted by Vital Remains founding member and ex- vocalist Jeff Gruslin to write and record all the music on Godless Rising's third album. The result was the album "Trumpet of Triumph" about which Haliflax blogspot claimed "This is what Morbid Angel should have done instead of the nonsense that was Heretic." "Trumpet of Triumph" began Knapp's long running and current relationship with top U.S. extreme metal record company, Moribund Records. Around this same period of time, Knapp toured Canada as a hired guitarist for Nuclear Blast recording artist Darkane. The popular website devoted to Fender Stratocaster guitar players, "Stratoblogster", published an article on Knapp and referred to him as "a metal virtuoso along the lines of Malmsteen, MacAlpine, etc!"
Knapp continued to release solo albums with "Misanthropy Divine" (2009 Rock It Up Records) and "The Campaign" (2010 Shredguy Records). The title track from "The Campaign" was featured in the 2010 "Ozzy" issue of Guitar World as a bonus cd-rom. Knapp briefly located to the New York area from his home state of Wyoming and taught guitar and took another hiatus from the music industry. Knapp returned to Wyoming with fresh musical inspiration in 2013 resulting in the instrumental album "Static Warfare" released by Shredguy Records. This era which continues to the present began Knapp's most frequent and successful musical output resulting in a small but dedicated fanbase worldwide.Toby gained an endorsement with Dimarzio pickups and briefly with ESP guitars. Knapp also wrote liner notes for Berklee College of Music Professor Joe Stump's instructional guitar books; "Metal Chop Shop" (2014) and "Guitar Sweep Picking and Arpeggios" (2017).
2014 proved to be a busy year for Knapp as his Black Metal band 'Waxen' signed with Moribund Records resulting in the worldwide release of "Agios Holokauston". Pure Steel Records in Germany re-issued the Onward albums "Evermoving" & "Reawaken" on vinyl. Shredguy Records released several of Knapp's projects throughout the year including 'Archives of Magick Vol. 2' and Knapp/Johanson's "Unborn Spirits Immortal". Onward vocalist Michael Grant had passed away in 2012 but left behind unfinished/unreleased demo tapes. Knapp restored Grant's vocal tracks from a twelve year old analog cassette and built a new musical soundtrack around his vocals. This unexpected fourth Onward album was called "New Fathoms Down" and was released in late 2014 by Shredguy Records. Knapp also independently issued the solo album "Bune" which was a collection of unreleased music from 1995.
In 2015 the Onward fanbase were hoping for Knapp to return to a more traditional Heavy Metal sound. Knapp put together the traditional heavy/speed metal project "Where Evil Follows" and Moribund Records released their debut album "Portable Darkness". "Portable" sold extremely well and was praised by the popular metal blog "Angry Metal Guy" as "a fun and joyous return to the retro fold for one of traditional metal's prodigal sons." Michigan based guitar wizard Sean Baker invited Knapp to play on his solo album "Game on" resulting in a track called "Shrapnel In Your Ear" which saw Knapp trading guitar solos with legendary (ex-Racer X) guitarist Bruce Bouillet, Mark Rizzo and Baker. Shredguy Records released a DVD featuring several Onward performances from the early 2000's called "Live Magick". Guitar World Magazine referred to Knapp as "a guitarist that gnaws at his solos like a carnivorous Malmsteen." Knapp also began appearing as a guest musician on various albums from esteemed bands worldwide; Italy's Von Hexe and Abhor, Fetid Zombie, Solium Fatalis, Sue's Idol and Adrian English from the U.S.
2016 through 2017 proved to be Knapp's most creative and successful run resulting in four albums on four different record labels spanning the globe. Moribund Records released his third Waxen album "Weihung Auf Satan" praised by many as a groundbreaking fusion of raw Black Metal and virtuosic Neo-Classical guitar work. Popular and controversial website "Metal Sucks" said of the album "Knapp is responsible for everything, those riffs and unambiguously hateful vocals, the virtuosity and expert songwriting. Weihung is one of those “everything” albums, one as exciting as it is excellent, an awesome idea that should’ve happened sooner, a clinic in momentum. Shocking." Immediately thereafter, Crushing Notes Entertainment released his solo instrumental album "The Architect of Paradox" which made Rocka Rolla Radio in Greece's "top 10 guitar albums of 2016" list. Russian website 'In Rock' praised Architect as "a clear example of the fact that a performer can create his best work in the third decade of his musical career." Popular extreme metal label from India "Transcending Obscurity Records" released Knapp's Black/Thrash Metal project 'Affliktor' to massive critical acclaim. "Head Banger Reviews" said of the Affliktor album "Knapp is a name that cannot go ignored and I simply had to investigate the upcoming debut record, and what I found was no less than something that should be the standard for all blackened thrash to follow." Knapp was invited to join the England based act 'Necrytis'. Knapp co-wrote and recorded all guitar parts for the debut "Countersighns" which was released by Pure Steel Records Germany shortly thereafter. "Countersighns" was initially a somewhat obscure release until legendary musician Fenriz, from Norway's Darkthrone, praised it as the "best metal album of 2017" resulting in an impressive spike in sales. Worship Metal.com published a review of the Necrytis debut claiming it was "big enough to rival anything released by Maiden, Priest and Iced Earth in recent years." All four releases made several "best of 2016- 2017" lists by Heavy Metal websites, publications and fans worldwide.
In 2018 Knapp signed a multi album contract with Moribund Records that covers his instrumental music and extreme metal projects guaranteeing a future of new and well distributed music. In 2022 Knapp resurrected his band, Onward, signing with Cruz Del Sur Music in the process. Knapp also began touring as a solo artist.
"Toby Knapp combines the lead guitar mastery of legends like Jimmy Page, Yngwie Malmsteen, Uli Jon Roth, Ritchie Blackmore and Michael Schenker with a deadly combination of fierce riffage from varying schools of metal . From classic metal/ old school thrash to Neo-classical / European power metal to extreme black and death metal , Toby's got it all covered . It's no wonder I've been a huge fan of his for years now . I always find his playing and composing extremely inspiring and look forward to every new release. There's a reason this guy's been out there killing it and making great metal records for almost 3 decades now. Wise up and pay attention!"
- JOE STUMP (Legendary Guitarist/Berklee College of Music Professor)