10 Best Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time

Best Heavy Metal Guitarist of All Time

Since the 1970s, the world of heavy metal has witnessed hundreds of guitarists. Many bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Metallica have contributed unforgettable guitar solos and lyrics to the heavy metal world. In order to commemorate these successful musicians, we have prepared a list of the best heavy metal guitarists of all time.

Best Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time

Ranking the best metal guitarists of all time is indeed a difficult task. While preparing this list, we took into consideration the guitarists’ guitar solos, riffs, and songwriting abilities. Here is the ranked list of the greatest heavy metal guitarists of all time, from 10 to 1:

10. Dave Murray (Iron Maiden)

Dave Murray has played on all of Iron Maiden’s studio albums. Albums like “The Number of the Beast,” “Powerslave,” and “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” are considered classics of the heavy metal genre.

Several Iron Maiden albums featuring Murray’s guitar work have topped the charts in various countries, including the UK, the US, and many European nations.

David Murray deserves to be in the top ten of our list.

Dave Murray is playing guitar
Dave Murray & Adrian Smith

9. Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot)

Randy Rhoads joined Ozzy Osbourne’s band in 1979 and played on two landmark albums, “Blizzard of Ozz” (1980) and “Diary of a Madman” (1981). These albums are considered classics of heavy metal and helped establish Osbourne as a solo artist after his departure from Black Sabbath.

Sadly, Randy Rhoads’ life and career were tragically cut short when he died in a plane crash on March 19, 1982, at the age of 25. His death was a significant loss to the music world, and he is remembered as one of the greatest guitarists of his generation

Randy Rhoads is playing guitar
Randy Rhoads

8. Kirk Hammet

One of the reasons why Kirk Hammet is in the top ten is because of his songwriting ability, which was one of the criteria we considered when compiling this list.

Hammet, who has had a hand in some of the most successful Metallica songs of all time, definitely deserves to be in the top ten for both his guitar playing and songwriting skills.

Kirk Hammet playing guitar
Kirk Hammet

7. Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath)

Tony Iommi was an indispensable part of Black Sabbath’s success. His pioneering work with the group, characterized by heavy distortion and haunting melodies, set the standard for what would become known as “doom metal.” Iommi is one of the building blocks of the metal world.

If you’ve started to learn how to play electronic guitar, you should definitely check out Iommi’s hammer-on and pull-off techniques.

Tony Iommi
Image credit: Guy Evans is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

6. Dave Mustaine (Megadeth)

Dave Mustaine was a member of Metallica at the beginning of his career. He co-founded Megadeth in 1983 and became one of the reasons for the band’s status as one of the best metal groups. Mustaine’s experience in playing guitar is undisputed.

As the founder and lead guitarist of Megadeth, Dave Mustaine’s technical proficiency and intricate songwriting have earned him a place among metal’s elite. His relentless riffing and fiery solos, exemplified on albums like “Rust in Peace” and “Countdown to Extinction,” continue to inspire aspiring guitarists worldwide.

Dave Mustaine’s best guitar solos are “5 magics”, “1000 times Good Bye”, “Kingmaker”, “My Last Words”, “Mechanix”, and “Go To Hell”.

Dave Mustaine
“Megadeth – Dave Mustaine – Europe Tour 2020” by Only in RAW  is marked with CC0 1.0.

5. Dimebag Darrell (Pantera)

When answering the question of who the best guitarist is, there may be different opinions. However, when it comes to Dimebag Darrell, musicians knowledgeable about metal music will agree that he is one of the best heavy metal guitarists.

Dimebag Darrell’s aggressive playing style and razor-sharp riffs propelled Pantera to international stardom. His ferocious solos on tracks like “Cowboys from Hell” and “Walk” solidified his reputation as one of the most innovative and influential guitarists of his generation.

Dimebag Darrell is playing guitar
Dimebag Darrell, 1994

4. Slash 

Slash, born Saul Hudson, is undoubtedly an extremely talented guitarist. He is particularly known for his ability to play with passion and expression, often employing intense solos and melodic phrasing. His playing style is very melodic and emotional, and he masters a variety of techniques such as bending, vibrato, and legato. Additionally, he has a keen sense of rhythm and timing, which makes him an outstanding rhythm guitarist.

Slash is also an extremely creative songwriter and has crafted some of the most iconic rock anthems in history with Guns N’ Roses. With his iconic top hat and signature Gibson Les Paul, Slash has become one of the most recognizable figures in rock and metal music.

Slash is ranked 4th on our list of the best heavy metal guitarists of all time.

Slash is playing guitar
“Slash en Vivo!” by Edvill is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

3. Yngwie Malmsteen

Yngwie Malmsteen is one of the greatest heavy metal guitarists of all time, and he more than deserves to be in the top three of our list. This is not just our opinion; Yngwie Malmsteen was selected as one of the top 10 guitarists of all time by Time Magazine in 2009. His lightning-fast arpeggios and intricate solos, showcased on albums like “Rising Force,” have inspired countless musicians to push the boundaries of their own abilities. Additionally, Malmsteen made an appearance in the Xbox game “Guitar Hero II.”

If you want to learn more about Malmsteen, you can check out the biography titled “Relentless.”

Yngwie Malmsteen
Yngwie Malmsteen

2. Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen was a Dutch-American guitarist, songwriter, and co-founder of the band Van Halen. He is considered one of the most influential guitarists in the history of rock music, known for his technical brilliance, innovations in guitar playing, and unique style. Van Halen was renowned for his virtuosic solos, finger-tapping, and fast-paced playing. His influence on rock and metal guitar is enormous, and he is often regarded as one of the most iconic figures in the history of the electric guitar. Unfortunately, Eddie Van Halen passed away on October 6, 2020.

Eddi Van halen’s  iconic “brown sound” and dazzling solos on tracks like “Eruption” and “Hot for Teacher” cemented his status as one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

Eddie Van Halen
Ebet Roberts/Getty Images

1. Jimi Hendrix

When it comes to playing guitar, the first name that comes to mind is Jimi Hendrix. He is undoubtedly one of the most respected figures in the music world. When you see him on stage, you can see that he was one of those people born to make music and play the guitar.

Hendrix released a series of landmark albums during his career, including “Are You Experienced” (1967), “Axis: Bold as Love” (1967), and “Electric Ladyland” (1968). Although primarily associated with the rock genre, Jimi Hendrix’s influence on heavy metal cannot be overstated. His groundbreaking use of distortion, feedback, and improvisation laid the groundwork for countless metal guitarists to follow. Tracks like “Purple Haze” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” remain timeless classics that continue to inspire generations of musicians.

Jimi Hendrix was a musician who felt and lived his music with his whole being, and unfortunately, he left us at a young age.

Best Heavy Metal Guitarist of All Time
Copyright AP Photo

What are your thoughts on our Top 10 list? Who would you add or remove? Please specify in the comments

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