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Guitar World’s “100 Greatest Metal Guitarists of All Time”

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Let the flailing begin! Guitar World picks the "100 greatest metal guitarists of all time" in its March issue, due out next week. Tony Iommi is numero uno – pretty hard to argue with that.

According to Guitar World editor-in-chief Brad Tolinski, the criteria for the list were purity and innovation. He said Iommi never strayed from a basic formula of B-tuned guitars played very loudly, plenty of power chords and slower rhythms.

"He's essentially the guy that created most of the conventions for heavy metal," Tolinski said. Iommi's "shining moment" is the track "Warning" from Black Sabbath's self-titled 1970 debut album, according to the poll.

If Black Sabbath started the heavy metal ball rolling, then Metallica kept it alive, Tolinski said, pointing to the 1984 track "Creeping Death" as the band's stand-out.

Page's relatively low No. 6 ranking raised some eyebrows since Led Zeppelin also helped pave the way for heavy metal. But Tolinski said Page would be the first to admit that his playing also incorporates blues and folk. Similarly, Eddie Van Halen has always had a foot in the pop world, he added.

Hendrix, who died in 1970, introduced some of the genre's conventions, but Tolinski termed him more of a "futuristic blues player" than a heavy metal guitarist. [Reuters]

This is called a poll – as with the Rolling Stone guitarist poll – who did they poll? I am unfamiliar with a lot of the hardcore and death metal guitarists mentioned here, but it sure seems to me like if you're talking about "innovation" that some of these earlier guys should be much higher: Budgie's Tony Bourge, Blue Cheer's Leigh Stephens, Blue Oyster Cult's Buck Dharma, Robert Fripp, Rudolf Schenker and Uli John Roth of Scorpions, and no Steve Hunter at all? The definition of metal is a little vague here also – a lot of these guys I would call "hard rock" rather than metal, but the definition of "metal" has changed over the years.

01. Tony Iommi (BLACK SABBATH)
02. Kirk Hammett & James Hetfield (METALLICA)
03. Angus & Malcolm Young (AC/DC)
04. Randy Rhoads (OZZY OSBOURNE)
05. Eddie Van Halen (VAN HALEN)
06. Jimmy Page (LED ZEPPELIN)
07. Dimebag Darrell (PANTERA, DAMAGEPLAN)
09. Adam Jones (TOOL)
10. Kerry King & Jeff Hanneman (SLAYER)
11. Dave Murray & Adrian Smith (IRON MAIDEN)
12. Jimi Hendrix
13. Glen Tipton & K.K. Downing (JUDAS PRIEST)
14. Ace Frehley & Paul Stanley (KISS)
15. Slash (GUNS N' ROSES)
16. Ritchie Blackmore (DEEP PURPLE, RAINBOW)
17. Yngwie Malmsteen
18. Joe Perry & Brad Whitford (AEROSMITH)
19. Dave Mustaine & Marty Friedman (MEGADETH)
20. Chuck Schuldiner (DEATH)
21. Brian May (QUEEN)
22. Michael Schenker (MSG, UFO)
23. Nigel Tufnel (SPINAL TAP)
24. Jeff Beck
26. Head & Munky (KORN)
27. John Petrucci (DREAM THEATER)
28. Kim Thayil (SOUNDGARDEN)
29. Vivian Campbell (DEF LEPPARD)
30. Daron Malakian (SYSTEM OF A DOWN)
31. Scott Ian (ANTHRAX)
32. Tom G. Warrior (CELTIC FROST)
33. Chris Degarmo & Michael Wilton (QUEENSRYCHE)
34. C.C. Deville
35. Marten Hagstrom & Fredrik Thorndendal (MESHUGGAH)
36. Alex Lifeson (RUSH)
37. Paul Gilbert (MR. BIG, RACER X)
38. Jerry Cantrell (ALICE IN CHAINS)
39. Mantas (VENOM)
40. Jason Becker (DAVE LEE ROTH)
41. Phil Collen & Steve Clarke (DEF LEPPARD)
42. Mikael Akerfeldt & Peter Lindgren (OPETH)
43. Fast Eddie Clarke (MOTORHEAD)
44. Nuno Bettencourt (EXTREME)
45. Warren DeMartini (RATT)
46. Mick Mars (MOTLEY CRUE)
47. George Lynch (DOKKEN)

48. Ted Nugent
50. Rudolf Schenker & Uli John Roth (SCORPIONS)
51. Oystein "Euronymous" Aarseth (MAYHEM)
52. Scott Gorham & Brian Robertson (THIN LIZZY)
53. Steve Vai (DAVE LEE ROTH)
54. Reb Beach (WINGER, DOKKEN)
55. Trey Azagthoth (MORBID ANGEL)
57. Hank Shermann & Michael Denner (MERCYFUL FATE)
58. Richie Sambora (BON JOVI)
59. Jon Donais & Matt Backhand (SHADOWS FALL)
60. Stephen Carpenter (DEFTONES)
61. Alex Skolnick & Eric Peterson (TESTAMENT)
62. Brian Tatler (DIAMOND HEAD)
63. John Christ (DANZIG)
64. Scott "Wino" Weinrich (THE OBSESSED)
65. Pepper Keenan & Woody Weatherman (C.O.C.)
66. Tommy Victor (PRONG)
67. Leslie West (MOUNTAIN)
68. Vernon Reid (LIVING COLOUR)
69. Glen Buxton & Michael Bruce (ALICE COOPER)
70. Bjorn Gelotte & Jesper Stromblad (IN FLAMES)
71. Jim Matheos (FATES WARNING)
72. Gary Holt & Rick Hunolt (EXODUS)
73. Donald Buck Dharma Roeser (BLUE OYSTER CULT)
74. Michael Amott (ARCH ENEMY)
75. Robert Fripp (KING CRIMSON)
76. Andre Olbrich (BLIND GUARDIAN)
77. Joe Satriani
78. Frank Hannon & Tommy Skeoch (TESLA)
79. Ty Tabor (KING'S X)
80. Mark Morton & Will Adler (LAMB OF GOD)
81. Dino Cazares (FEAR FACTORY)
82. Pete Townshend (THE WHO)
83. Jon Schaffer (ICED EARTH)
84. Timo Tolkki (STRATOVARIUS)
85. Neil Young
86. Abbath Doom Occulta (IMMORTAL)
87. Kai Hansen (GAMMA RAY)
88. Uffe Cederlund & Alex Hellid (ENTOMBED)
89. Leigh Stephens (BLUE CHEER)
90. Jim Martin (FAITH NO MORE)
91. Michael Romeo (SYMPHONY X)
92. Bill Steer (CARCASS)
93. Piggy (VOIVOD)
94. Tony Bourge (BUDGIE)
95. Sammy Hagar (VAN HALEN)
96. Alexi Laiho (CHILDREN OF BODOM)
97. Akira Takasaki (LOUDNESS)
98. Michael Angelo
99. John Kay & Michael Monarh (STEPPENWOLF)
100. Nick Bowcott (GRIM REAPER)

About Eric Olsen

  • Leo Uwazuruonye

    The very fact that Hetfield and Hammett sit firmly at #2 while Alex Skolnick & Eric Peterson are at #61 is a huge turn-off. I know we all have our basis, but just wow. The only thing that redeems this list is that Iommi is placed as #1, and that is it.

  • William Jacobsen

    Since when were Brian May, Ted Nugent and Jeff Beck Metal?

  • KCfriedchicken86


  • Named

    So many horrid placements…one thing that stands out to prove the worthlessness of this list, korn before John Petrucci? What a joke..

    • NewClassTraitor

      Geebus cripes indeed. of course, if the purpose is rattling the guitar owner’s ‘sack’ with low-A power chords from his monitors, then Korn have Petrucci beat. If it comes to actual musical talent, Petrucci blows almost everybody on this list away — he can play literally anything, and play it with feeling. In an “all-around rock guitarist” list, I’d put him 2nd after Jimi Hendrix himself (and yes, ahead of Clapton).

      Now if the list were “100 most INFLUENTIAL metal guitarists”, then Tony Iommi does deserve to be at or near the top. And admittedly, Korn’s puerile scrotum-rattling was quite influential…

  • Matthew

    This list completely ignores the underground sub-genres of Metal that’ve been the primary innovators. To add insult to injury, it places utter trash like Korn on the list while excluding Varg Vikernes, Orom, Gaahl and others. Named said it right, what a joke.

    • Alex Paulsen


      Varg isn’t much of a guitarist, Gaahl is a vocalist not a guitarist.

      As for subgenres… if you wish to discuss them and advertise them, perhaps mention just more than one. What we need is LESS subgenres, more emphasis on “Heavy Metal” and that in my books puts the 80′s underground in the spot light. Tom G. Warrior deserves his place, even if he didn’t actually possess any great talent as an instrumentalist.

  • Kingfor1000years

    kirk is too high on list, George lynch too low but both top 10! who the fuck are guitarist for KORN?

  • Kingfor1000years

    Picked the axe up because of Van Halen and Lynch got into Rhoads, Vai, Malmsteen and Vaughn later

  • Kingfor1000years

    Oh Bettencourt and Gilbert are amazing also

  • rob

    Schenker genius

  • alan

    joe satriani….77….???? this list is all crap

  • wtf

    No Trey Spruance. This ranking is shit.

  • guitar hero69

    Absolute shit. How is daron malakian better than Scott Ian? How is he also 36 places ahead of Alexi laiho?

  • guitar hero69

    So angry I can’t count ha. Meant 66 places ahead

  • Joshy

    Where the fuck’s Yngwie?

  • Joshy

    Yngwie… 17th place? Come on guys!!!

  • Billy

    The reason why korn guitarists are so high is cause there original and no one else will ever be like them, there actually really talented

  • winger.steve

    Mark Farner-Grand Funk

  • winger.steve

    Randy California- Spirit; if the ‘Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus’ isn’t
    Psychedelic Metal Rock then
    I don’t know what is.

  • Suldog

    Nigel fucking Tufnel?

  • tuamadre

    ever “greatest guitarist” list that doesn’t start with Jimi Hendrix is rubbish.
    but leaving him out of the top ten is beyond a joke.
    this eric olsen guy should be arrested.

    • sdfag

      It says ”100 greatest METAL guitarists”, some of these dudes shouldn’t even be in this list, Hendrix included

  • wawawaw

    where the fuck is Synyster Gates ???????????????????

  • LOL MASter

    what a thrash, there is no synyster gates

    • LOL MASter

      he is the best

  • A7X

    Omg this guy who made the top is obviously NUTS
    If not 1st but atleast top 3 wtf! Synyster Gates has the most amazing solos!

  • Childofbodom

    ….why is alexi so low….



  • This is a horrible list

    Niel Young…… ? NO ANDY LEROQUE!? NO IHSAHN!?

  • gfp

    steve lukather is missing????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WTF

  • uki

    you are fucking idiot… what about synyster?

    • Brian

      Yeah, I think the same,

      • zafeer

        Matthew Tuck and Michael paget from Bullet for my valentine deserve to be on this list as well

  • Daniel

    Fuck!!!!!! Dave and Marty should be higher then James and Kirk
    All Kirk can use is the basic five note pentatonic scale.. James learned from Dave…. What else can I say besides the fact that more talent ran down the leg of Marty’s mother then James and kirk have combined lol

    • musician

      hahaha, if technical abilities is the most important indicator, john petrucci, michael angelo batio, steve vai, yngwie malmsteen, paul gilbert, & jason becker should be on the top 6, far far away in front of dave and marty that just fit on 30′s-50′s :D

  • The Boss

    Kirk is no 1 you shitheads,look at the album sales idiots…you comment about something you dont know anything about.

    • truth

      They are talking about best guitarist. Not most popular

      • Bomma

        Well said. It was Dave and Cliff that made Metallica anyway

  • a7x

    Synyster Gates!

  • Lina

    ALEXI LAIHO 96??? You must be kidding me…… He’s the best.

  • Angel Sims

    Where the fuck is Rammstein on this shit list???!!! Their guitar solos are eargasmic!!!!

  • Will

    Where are Synyster Gates, Matt Heafy, and Corey Beaulieu? Like really, Have you seen what Syn and Corey have done? and the fact that Matt is able to sing songs like Forsake not the Dream while playing the guitar part, they deserve to be on the list

  • Indepthmetal

    1.Jhon 5 2.kirk and James 3. Synyster gates 4. Alexi lahio ENOUGH SAID!

  • Metalmilisha

    Where the fuck is Jhon 5 he is easily the worlds best guitarist and you people think I’m wrong watch Welcome to violence okay best acoustic and best electric don’t agree well then you haven’t lived.

    • James Rockford

      he’s not really innovative though

  • Metalmilisha

    Welcome to violence : Eletric
    Noche accendor : acoustic

  • Dissection777

    Okay micheal Keene and Ryan knight

  • hauud

    There’s no way James and Kirk are better than Dave and Marty or Yngwie. No way

  • Tinderbox

    Buck Dharma should be WAY higher up, and putting Townshend at #82 is just plain blasphemy

  • Tinderbox

    Also, what is Neil Young doing on a “100 greatest metal guitarists” list? I feel like HE would have been confused to find himself on a metal list

  • Chathura Hemal

    Alexi Laiho is the best!

  • Meh

    many of those fags arent even metal

  • Kill Me

    Failed to notice Synyster Gates in the line-up I know a lot of people will jump to disagree with me but I think that he would be very tough to beat technically. I don’t believe he is the best but top 100 for sure.

  • wroooong

    This is ridiculous hahaha jimi hendrix, pete townshend, neil young, jeff beck, the guys from thin lizzy… Aside from the fact that a lot of these guys are NOT metal guitarists by any means, the list is incredibly biased towards fame and not talent. I LOVE metallica, but you cannot seriously tell me that they beat Alexi fucking Laiho and Michael Amott by over 70 places. More influential, yes… but as far as metal talent goes not even close

  • Ba

    Chuck Schuldiner, Dave Mustaine, Marty Friedman , Alex Skolnick, John Petrucci and Ritchie Blackmore below Slash and Kirk Hammett? Mega Fail

  • Cally Trask

    I don’t even want to start on this list. These lists are a balance of talent and songwriting ability thus they are ‘very’ subjective choices. That said, just re-adjusting ‘your’ list: EVH needs to be higher, Jake E. Lee is better than Zak Wylde and look how far down Jake e. Lee is. Hendrix should be higher. And NO Neal Schon???! Alot of glam rock guys you forgot also who were pretty accomplished virtuosos. Like I said, I don’t even want to start. What about Billy Gibbons? How about Springsteen? The Allman Brothers? It’s tough to do an all encompasing list but this wasn’t really close to a very thorough or accurate effort. Not even close. Some young kids did this list. Drag ‘em away from Eminem and they don’t know sh!t