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The top 100 metal guitarists? Let the debate begin...

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

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)
08. Zakk Wylde (OZZY OSBOURNE, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY)
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
25. Tom Morello (RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE)
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
49. Jake E. Lee (OZZY OSBOURNE, BADLANDS)
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)
56. John Sykes (THIN LIZZY, BLUE MURDER)
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

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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75 comments

  1. William Jacobsen

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

  2. KCfriedchicken86

    A7x?

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

    • 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…

  4. 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.

    • AHAHA

      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.

    • No it didn’t the god father of black metal is number 51 see Euronymous is here! : )

  5. Kingfor1000years

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

  6. Kingfor1000years

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

  7. Kingfor1000years

    Oh Bettencourt and Gilbert are amazing also

  8. Schenker genius

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

  10. No Trey Spruance. This ranking is shit.

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

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

  13. Where the fuck’s Yngwie?

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

  15. 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

  16. Mark Farner-Grand Funk
    Railroad?

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

  18. Nigel fucking Tufnel?

  19. 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.

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

  20. where the fuck is Synyster Gates ???????????????????

  21. what a thrash, there is no synyster gates

  22. 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!

  23. ….why is alexi so low….

  24. YOU FUCKING IDIOTS SYNYSTER GATES IS FUCKING AWESOME BUT THE FUCKING ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED IN 2004, WAY TO GO

  25. This is a horrible list

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

  26. steve lukather is missing????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WTF

  27. you are fucking idiot… what about synyster?

  28. 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

    • 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 😀

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

  30. Synyster Gates!

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

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

  33. 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

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

  35. 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.

  36. Welcome to violence : Eletric
    Noche accendor : acoustic

  37. Okay micheal Keene and Ryan knight

  38. There’s no way James and Kirk are better than Dave and Marty or Yngwie. No way. Some of these guys shouldn’t even be on here and it seems as though there places are determined by popularity not “innovation” or “skill”

    • Oh, ok so James’ riffs have nothing to do with Metallica’s popularity? Maybe if Dave and Yngwie wrote better guitar riffs, they would be more popular and could place higher on lists.

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

  40. 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

  41. Alexi Laiho is the best!

  42. many of those fags arent even metal

  43. 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.

  44. 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

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

  46. 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. More guys from the 60s should be included on here too.

  47. 23. Nigel Tufnel (SPINAL TAP)

    A fictitious person comes in at #23. That pretty much sums up this list…

  48. Can I just ask why Jeff Waters is left off?

  49. I’m sorry,but where are Mick Thompson and James Root? These guys are beasts!

  50. Guys!! Did You read the title its say ”

    Guitar World’s “100 Greatest Metal Guitarists of All Time”” METAL is Billy Gibbon is metal I think he is a Blues Player playing techo blues Song Or Disco Blue you got to analyze the Title

  51. Hail Euronymous m/

  52. Dave Murray & Adrian Smith should be in the top five, example they are far better and have as much influence as Hetfield and Hammet

  53. Nigel Tufnel isn’t real, Buck Dharma should be higher, and it’s ridiculous to rate two-man teams on the same number… Hetfield and Hammett are nothing alike. And Jeff Beck is not a fucking metal guitarist.

  54. Scott Ian is a fucking rhythm guitarist.

  55. I understand including guitarists who influenced metal, and metal players…that makes sense to me. But Neil Young? I don’t know about that. And Malcolm Young? I disagree with that also. But believe it or not this list is better than anything by Rolling Stone.

  56. Some guitarists on this list have nothing to even do with metal ! Bryan may from queen ?Richie sambora from bon jovi?
    Isn’t this supposed to be a list of best “METAL” guitarist ?..
    This list is messed up ! Iron maiden !Judas priest ! Scorpions! Black Sabbath ! That’s where it all started.! These guitarists should be in the top.

    But all said and done…its better than rolling stones list .

  57. How come I don’t see Tommy Thayer’s name up there