The 80 Best Metal Guitarists Ever (Don’t shoot us)

We’ve sacrificed a baby lamb in a black magic ritual to come up with the list of 80 best metal guitarists. (Only kidding, no animals were harmed in the making of this list.)

best metal guitarists

The massive guitar sound of metal music is why we love it. Power chords, riffs, sweep picking, solos, riffs, and more riffs. Did I say riffs?

The 80 best metal guitarists of all time are presented in this homage to the masters that helped to define the genre. And it’s completely correct, so no need to email me. It’s now decided. You can move on with your life.


I’ve been playing guitar for over 25 years and while I love many styles of guitar music, metal holds a hard spot in my heart. Growing up with Metallica, Pantera, Sepultura and Slayer gave me a lifelong love of heavy music, and helped inspire this list.

Look out for my personal favourite at number 26, Nick Di Salvo of the criminally underrated band, Elder. He combines doom with psychedelic and progressive sounds to create metal like I’ve never heard before.

If you’re interested in learning metal songs and riffs, check out these articles:

Table of 80 Best Metal Guitarists of All Time

No.Guitarist (click to jump)BandMost Popular SongYear of Birth
1Tony IommiBlack SabbathIron Man1948
2Eddie Van HalenVan HalenEruption1955
3Randy RhoadsOzzy OsbourneCrazy Train1956
4Dimebag DarrellPanteraWalk1966
5Yngwie MalmsteenSolo ArtistFar Beyond The Sun1963
6Jimmy PageLed ZeppelinStairway to Heaven1944
7Ritchie BlackmoreDeep Purple/RainbowSmoke on the Water1945
8Kirk HammettMetallicaEnter Sandman1962
9Jimi HendrixThe Jimi Hendrix ExperiencePurple Haze1942
10Jeff HannemanSlayerRaining Blood1964
11Dave MustaineMegadethSymphony of Destruction1961
12Alex LifesonRushTom Sawyer1953
13Zakk WyldeOzzy Osbourne/Black Label SocietyNo More Tears1967
14Mikael AkerfeldtOpethWindowpane1974
15SlashGuns N’ RosesSweet Child o’ Mine1965
16James HetfieldMetallicaMaster of Puppets1963
17Brian MayQueenBohemian Rhapsody1947
18Steve VaiSolo ArtistFor The Love of God1960
19Joe SatrianiSolo ArtistSurfing with the Alien1956
20Jeff BeckThe YardbirdsCause We’ve Ended as Lovers1944
21Synyster GatesAvenged SevenfoldAfterlife1981
22Kerry KingSlayerAngel of Death1964
23Adam JonesToolSchism1965
24BucketheadSolo ArtistSoothsayer1969
25Tom MorelloRage Against the MachineKilling in the Name1964
26Nick Di SalvoElderLore1984
27Fredrik ThordendalMeshuggahBleed1970
28Mark TremontiAlter BridgeBlackbird1974
29Alex SkolnickTestamentPractice What You Preach1968
30John 5Rob ZombieLiving Dead Girl1971
31Nuno BettencourtExtremeMore Than Words1966
32Chris BroderickMegadethHangar 181970
33Mark MortonLamb of GodRedneck1972
34Jennifer BattenSolo ArtistWhatever2007
35Ben WeinmanThe Dillinger Escape PlanOne of Us is the Killer1975
36Ron “Bumblefoot” ThalGuns N’ RosesNovember Rain1969
37Uli Jon RothScorpionsIn Trance1954
38Adrian SmithIron MaidenThe Trooper1957
39Janick GersIron MaidenFear of the Dark1957
40Marty FriedmanMegadethTornado of Souls1962
41Vernon ReidLiving ColourCult of Personality1958
42Doug AldrichWhitesnakeIs This Love1964
43Jeff WatersAnnihilatorAlison Hell1966
44Reb BeachWinger/WhitesnakeSeventeen1963
45Zoltan BathoryFive Finger Death PunchThe Bleeding1978
46John SykesThin Lizzy/WhitesnakeStill of the Night1959
47K.K. DowningJudas PriestBreaking the Law1951
48Glen DroverMegadethSymphony of Destruction1969
49Richie FaulknerJudas PriestPainkiller1980
50Timo TolkkiStratovariusBlack Diamond1966
51Jim RootSlipknot/Stone SourPsychosocial1971
52Vivian CampbellDio/Def LeppardHoly Diver1962
53Adrian VandenbergWhitesnakeHere I Go Again1954
54Peter LindgrenOpethGhost of Perdition1973
55Timo SomersDelainWe Are the Others1991
56Pat O’BrienCannibal CorpseHammer Smashed Face1965
57Wolf HoffmannAcceptBalls to the Wall1959
58Richard Z. KruspeRammsteinDu Hast1967
59Marc RizzoSoulfly/Cavalera ConspiracyRoots Bloody Roots1977
60Brian TatlerDiamond HeadAm I Evil?1960
61Jesper StrömbladIn FlamesTake This Life1972
62Emil WerstlerChimaira/DaathResurrection1984
63Robb FlynnMachine HeadDavidian1967
64Phil DemmelMachine HeadImperium1967
65Gus G.FirewindThe Fire and the Fury1980
66Mike EinzigerIncubusDrive1976
67Keith MerrowConquering DystopiaInexhaustible Savagery1980
68Alexi LaihoChildren of BodomAre You Dead Yet?1979
69Joel StroetzelKillswitch EngageMy Curse1980
70Michael AmottArch EnemyNemesis1970
71Karl SandersNileBlack Seeds of Vengeance1963
72John PetrucciDream TheaterPull Me Under1967
73Chuck SchuldinerDeathCrystal Mountain1967
74Michael RomeoSymphony XThe Odyssey1968
75Mårten HagströmMeshuggahBleed1971
76Michael WiltonQueensrÿcheSilent Lucidity1962
77Billy HowerdelA Perfect CircleJudith1970
78John 5Rob ZombieLiving Dead Girl1971
79Jon SchafferIced EarthWatching Over Me1968
80Marco SfogliSolo ArtistAndromeda1980
Table of the 80 best metal guitarists of all time

List of 80 Best Metal Guitarists of All Time

1. Tony Iommi

Tony Iommi started it all. His menacing riffs and pioneering work with Black Sabbath set the blueprint for heavy metal. His powerful, dark tones and haunting melodies forever changed the landscape of guitar-driven music.

Go back to the top.

2. Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen’s revolutionary tapping technique and explosive solos rewrote the rules of guitar playing. His technical mastery and showmanship continue to inspire generations of metal guitarists.

Go back to the top.

3. Randy Rhoads

Randy Rhoads’ virtuosity and melodic sensibility with Ozzy Osbourne solidified his status as a guitar legend. His timeless solos and classical influences showcased his remarkable talent.

Go back to the top.

4. Dimebag Darrell

Dimebag Darrell’s aggressive playing style and blistering solos with Pantera defined a generation of metal. His raw intensity and unparalleled skill made him an icon of the genre.

Go back to the top.

5. Yngwie Malmsteen

Yngwie Malmsteen’s lightning-fast neoclassical shredding introduced a new level of technicality to metal guitar. His precise arpeggios and sweeping solos made him a guitar virtuoso without equal.

Go back to the top.

6. Jimmy Page

Jimmy Page’s iconic riffs and groundbreaking compositions with Led Zeppelin revolutionized hard rock and influenced generations of metal guitarists. His mastery of dynamics and powerful performances remain unparalleled.

Go back to the top.

7. Ritchie Blackmore

Ritchie Blackmore’s contributions to Deep Purple and Rainbow cemented his place in metal history. His intricate solos and fusion of classical and rock elements set him apart as a true guitar maestro.

Go back to the top.

8. Kirk Hammett

Kirk Hammett’s searing leads and emotive solos with Metallica have made him one of the most recognizable guitarists in metal. His melodic sensibility and ability to convey emotion through his playing are remarkable.

Go back to the top.

9. Jimi Hendrix

Though primarily associated with rock, Jimi Hendrix’s unparalleled guitar skills and innovative techniques transcended genres, making him an enduring influence on metal guitarists.

Go back to the top.

10. Jeff Hanneman

Jeff Hanneman’s aggressive and fast-paced guitar work with Slayer shaped the thrash metal movement. His intense riffs and dark melodies left an indelible mark on the genre.

Go back to the top.

11. Dave Mustaine

As the founder of Megadeth, Dave Mustaine’s intricate riffing and aggressive playing style have made him a legendary figure in metal. His songwriting prowess and fiery solos have influenced countless guitarists.

Go back to the top.

12. Andreas Kisser

Andreas Kisser, the mastermind behind Sepultura’s bone-crushing riffs and electrifying solos, was born in 1968. With the iconic “Roots Bloody Roots,” his sonic onslaught has left audiences in awe for decades.

Go back to the top.

13. Zakk Wylde

Zakk Wylde’s powerful riffs and soulful solos, both with Ozzy Osbourne and as a solo artist, have earned him a loyal following. His raw energy and immense talent have solidified his place among metal’s elite.

Go back to the top.

14. Mikael Akerfeldt

Mikael Akerfeldt’s progressive and atmospheric guitar playing with Opeth have garnered critical acclaim. His ability to seamlessly blend heavy riffs with beautiful melodies is a testament to his genius.

Go back to the top.

15. Slash

Slash’s bluesy and melodic guitar playing with Guns N’ Roses defined a generation. His iconic solos and catchy riffs continue to resonate with fans worldwide.

Go back to the top.

16. James Hetfield

17. Brian May

James Hetfield’s rhythm guitar playing with Metallica is the backbone of the band’s sound. His heavy riffs and aggressive palm-muting techniques have influenced countless metal guitarists.

Go back to the top.

Brian May’s unique sound and melodic playing with Queen have made him a legendary figure in rock and metal. His distinctive tone and innovative compositions remain timeless.

Go back to the top.

18. Steve Vai

Steve Vai’s technical wizardry and improvisational skills have solidified his place as a guitar virtuoso. His intricate solos and mind-bending techniques have left audiences in awe.

Go back to the top.

19. Joe Satriani

Joe Satriani’s melodic sensibility and expressive playing have earned him a place among the greatest guitarists. His mastery of the instrument and captivating solos are a testament to his skill.

But, on a personal note, I can’t stand Satriani’s style of playing. To me it sounds soulless and showy, a little like the guy at 19th, Steve Vai.

Go back to the top.

20. Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck’s innovative approach to guitar playing, combining rock, blues, and jazz elements, has made him a true pioneer. His unmatched phrasing and ability to evoke emotions through his playing are awe-inspiring.

Go back to the top.

21. Synyster Gates

Synyster Gates’ explosive guitar solos and intricate harmonies with Avenged Sevenfold have earned him a devoted fan base. His technical skill and ability to blend various metal subgenres make him a standout guitarist.

Go back to the top.

22. Kerry King

As one of the founding members of Slayer, Kerry King’s aggressive and relentless playing style has become synonymous with thrash metal. His menacing riffs and chaotic solos have inspired countless musicians.

Go back to the top.

23. Adam Jones

Adam Jones’ atmospheric and heavy guitar work with Tool has captivated listeners for decades. His ability to create sonic landscapes and intricate compositions sets him apart as a truly unique guitarist.

Go back to the top.

24. Buckethead

With his distinctive appearance and virtuosic playing, Buckethead has become a cult figure in the world of metal. His lightning-fast shredding and genre-spanning versatility have solidified his place on this list.

Go back to the top.

25. Tom Morello

While known for his work with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, Tom Morello’s innovative guitar playing techniques and politically charged riffs have left an indelible mark on the metal genre.

Go back to the top.

26. Nick Di Salvo

My personal favorite guitarist on the list, and one I had to fight the urge not to put higher. 

Nick Di Salvo, the lead guitarist and vocalist of Elder, is renowned for his dynamic blend of stoner rock, psychedelic, and progressive metal. His intricate guitar work and compelling songwriting have been pivotal in Elder’s rise within the rock and metal scenes. Known for expansive compositions and a unique sound that melds heavy riffs with melodic intricacies, Di Salvo’s style has become a defining element of Elder’s critically acclaimed albums. If you don’t know Elder, check them out now!

Go back to the top.

27. Fredrik Thordendal

Fredrik Thordendal’s intricate and dissonant guitar work with Meshuggah has influenced the development of progressive and extreme metal. His complex rhythms and technical proficiency make him a true master of the instrument.

Go back to the top.

28. Mark Tremonti

Mark Tremonti’s heavy and melodic guitar playing with Alter Bridge and his solo work has earned him recognition as a talented guitarist. His powerful riffs and soulful solos have resonated with fans worldwide.

Go back to the top.

29. Alex Skolnick

As the lead guitarist for Testament and a jazz-trained musician, Alex Skolnick brings a unique fusion of technicality and musicality to the world of metal. His fluid playing and improvisational skills set him apart.

Go back to the top.

30. John 5

John 5’s versatile playing style and ability to blend genres have made him a sought-after guitarist in the metal community. From his work with Rob Zombie to his solo projects, his creativity knows no bounds.

31. Nuno Bettencourt

Nuno Bettencourt’s innovative and expressive guitar playing with Extreme showcased his incredible talent. His melodic sensibility and unique approach to the instrument have made him a respected figure in the metal world.

Go back to the top.

32. Chris Broderick

Chris Broderick’s technical proficiency and precision guitar playing have garnered praise during his tenure with Megadeth and beyond. His intricate solos and complex compositions continue to impress.

Go back to the top.

33. Mark Morton

Mark Morton’s dynamic and soulful guitar playing with Lamb of God has made him a standout guitarist in the modern metal scene. His ability to blend aggression and melody sets him apart from his peers.

Go back to the top.

34. Jennifer Batten

Jennifer Batten, born in 1957, is a renowned guitarist known for her solo work and collaborations with Michael Jackson. Her innovative guitar playing has left a lasting impact in the music world.

Go back to the top.

35. Ben Weinman

Ben Weinman’s experimental and avant-garde guitar playing with The Dillinger Escape Plan pushed the boundaries of what metal can be. His complex and dissonant riffs have inspired a new generation of guitarists.

Go back to the top.

36. Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal

Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal’s innovative approach to guitar playing, incorporating tapping, fingerpicking, and unique techniques, has earned him acclaim. His technical prowess and creative solos are a testament to his skill.

Go back to the top.

37. Uli Jon Roth

Uli Jon Roth’s influential guitar playing with Scorpions in the 1970s set the stage for the development of neoclassical and melodic metal. His emotional solos and intricate compositions remain revered by guitar enthusiasts.

Go back to the top.

38. Adrian Smith

Adrian Smith’s melodic guitar work with Iron Maiden has made him a beloved figure in the metal community. His harmonized solos and songwriting contributions have contributed to the band’s iconic sound.

Go back to the top.

39. Janick Gers

Janick Gers’ energetic and flamboyant guitar playing with Iron Maiden has added a unique flair to the band’s music. His memorable solos and stage presence make him a vital part of the Maiden experience.

Go back to the top.

40. Marty Friedman

Marty Friedman’s technical proficiency and fusion of Eastern and Western musical elements have made him a respected figure in metal. His intricate solos and ability to evoke emotion through his playing are remarkable.

Go back to the top.

41. Vernon Reid

Vernon Reid’s inventive and genre-blending guitar playing with Living Colour has made him a trailblazer in the metal and rock scenes. His versatility and unique approach to the instrument continue to inspire.

Go back to the top.

42. Doug Aldrich

Doug Aldrich’s powerful and blues-infused guitar playing with bands like Whitesnake and Dio has solidified his place as a respected guitarist. His soulful solos and energetic stage presence make him a true force in metal.

Go back to the top.

43. Jeff Waters

Jeff Waters’ thrash-infused guitar playing with Annihilator has earned him recognition as a skilled guitarist and songwriter. His lightning-fast riffs and technical solos have made an impact on the metal world.

Go back to the top.

44. Reb Beach

Reb Beach’s melodic and versatile guitar playing with Winger and Whitesnake showcases his exceptional skill. His tasteful solos and songwriting contributions have left a lasting impression on the metal community.

Go back to the top.

45. Zoltan Bathory

Zoltan Bathory’s aggressive and groove-driven guitar playing with Five Finger Death Punch has earned him a dedicated following. His heavy riffs and memorable hooks have become a trademark of the band’s sound.

Go back to the top.

46. John Sykes

John Sykes’ soulful and bluesy guitar playing with bands like Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake has made him a revered figure in the metal and hard rock scenes. His emotive solos continue to captivate audiences.

Go back to the top.

47. K.K. Downing

K.K. Downing’s influential guitar work with Judas Priest helped shape the sound of heavy metal. His powerful riffs and harmonized solos remain iconic in the genre’s history.

Go back to the top.

48. Glen Drover

Glen Drover’s technical proficiency and melodic approach to guitar playing, both with Megadeth and as a solo artist, have earned him recognition among metal enthusiasts. His shredding skills and precise solos are a delight to behold.

Go back to the top.

49. Richie Faulkner

Richie Faulkner’s energetic and powerful guitar playing with Judas Priest has breathed new life into the band. His ability to capture the essence of classic Priest while adding his own flair has garnered praise.

Go back to the top.

50. Timo Tolkki

Timo Tolkki’s melodic and symphonic guitar playing with Stratovarius helped define the power metal genre. His sweeping solos and epic compositions have made him a respected figure in the metal community.

Go back to the top.

51. Jim Root

Jim Root’s heavy and aggressive guitar playing with Slipknot and Stone Sour has made him a prominent figure in modern metal. His crushing riffs and precise technique contribute to the band’s signature sound.

Go back to the top.

52. Vivian Campbell

Vivian Campbell’s versatile guitar playing with Dio and Def Leppard has showcased his ability to blend melodic hooks with hard-hitting riffs. His enduring contributions to the metal and hard rock scenes deserve recognition.

Go back to the top.

53. Adrian Vandenberg

Adrian Vandenberg’s soulful and bluesy guitar playing with Vandenberg and Whitesnake has earned him acclaim. His melodic solos and tasteful phrasing make him a notable guitarist in the metal world.

Go back to the top.

54. Peter Lindgren

Peter Lindgren’s atmospheric and progressive guitar playing with Opeth during his time in the band helped shape the sound of modern progressive metal. His ability to seamlessly blend heavy riffs with beautiful acoustic passages is remarkable.

Go back to the top.

55. Timo Somers

Timo Somers’ dynamic and expressive guitar playing with Delain has impressed audiences worldwide. His ability to craft memorable melodies and deliver blistering solos makes him a standout guitarist.

Go back to the top.

56. Pat O’Brien

Pat O’Brien’s ferocious and technically demanding guitar playing with Cannibal Corpse has made him a formidable force in death metal. His lightning-fast riffs and intricate solos have left a lasting impact.

Go back to the top.

57. Wolf Hoffmann

Wolf Hoffmann’s classical-inspired guitar playing with Accept brought a unique flavor to the metal world. His harmonized solos and melodic sensibility have made him a revered figure in the genre.

Go back to the top.

58. Richard Z. Kruspe

Richard Z. Kruspe’s industrial-tinged guitar playing with Rammstein has made him a distinctive presence in the metal scene. His heavy riffs and atmospheric soundscapes add depth to the band’s music.

Go back to the top.

59. Marc Rizzo

Marc Rizzo’s diverse and technically impressive guitar playing with Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy has earned him recognition as a skilled guitarist. His fusion of metal, flamenco, and other genres creates a captivating sonic experience.

Go back to the top.

60. Brian Tatler

Brian Tatler’s influential guitar work with Diamond Head helped shape the sound of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. His catchy riffs and melodic solos have inspired countless bands in the metal scene.

Go back to the top.

61. Jesper Strömblad

Jesper Strömblad’s melodic and aggressive guitar playing with In Flames played a pivotal role in the development of melodic death metal. His creative songwriting and memorable guitar lines are a testament to his skill.

Go back to the top.

62. Emil Werstler

Emil Werstler’s virtuosic guitar playing with bands like Chimaira and Daath has earned him recognition as a highly skilled guitarist. His technical proficiency and ability to blend various metal subgenres are commendable.

Go back to the top.

63. Robb Flynn

Robb Flynn’s powerful and emotionally charged guitar playing with Machine Head has made him a respected figure in the metal community. His heavy riffs and intense solos resonate with fans worldwide.

Go back to the top.

64. Phil Demmel

Phil Demmel’s aggressive and precise guitar playing with Machine Head showcased his ability to deliver crushing riffs and blistering solos. His contributions to the band’s sound are significant.

65. Gus G.

Gus G.’s fiery and melodic guitar playing with Firewind and as a solo artist has earned him recognition as a skilled guitarist. His technical proficiency and ability to craft memorable solos are commendable.

Go back to the top.

66. Mike Einziger

Mike Einziger’s innovative and genre-blending guitar playing with Incubus has made him a unique figure in the metal and alternative rock scenes. His ability to weave intricate melodies and textures into his playing is remarkable.

Go back to the top.

67. Keith Merrow

Keith Merrow’s aggressive and technical guitar playing has garnered attention in the metal community. His precise riffs and intricate solos showcase his skill and dedication to the craft.

Go back to the top.

68. Alexi Laiho

Alexi Laiho’s lightning-fast guitar playing and melodic sensibility with Children of Bodom made him a revered figure in the melodic death metal genre. His virtuosity and impactful solos left a lasting impression.

69. Joel Stroetzel

Joel Stroetzel’s melodic and intricate guitar playing with Killswitch Engage has earned him recognition as a talented guitarist. His ability to balance heavy riffs with beautiful harmonies is commendable.

70. Michael Amott

Michael Amott’s aggressive and melodic guitar playing with Arch Enemy solidified his status as a prominent figure in the melodic death metal scene. His skillful solos and memorable compositions are noteworthy.

71. Karl Sanders

Karl Sanders’ technical and atmospheric guitar playing with Nile has made him a notable figure in the death metal genre. His ability to create complex and intricate compositions is impressive.

72. John Petrucci

John Petrucci’s virtuosic and progressive guitar playing with Dream Theater has earned him acclaim as one of the greatest guitarists in the genre. Petrucci inspires awe with his technical proficiency and complex compositions.

73. Chuck Schuldiner

Chuck Schuldiner’s pioneering guitar work with Death laid the foundation for the death metal genre. His aggressive riffs and intricate solos continue to influence metal guitarists today.

74. Michael Romeo

Michael Romeo’s neo-classical and progressive guitar playing with Symphony X has earned him recognition as a guitar virtuoso. His mastery of the instrument and complex compositions are exceptional.

75. Mårten Hagström

Mårten Hagström’s powerful and innovative guitar playing with Meshuggah has pushed the boundaries of extreme metal. It’s all about highly intricate rhythms and dissonant riffs with Hagström.

76. Michael Wilton

Michael Wilton’s melodic and precise guitar playing with Queensrÿche helped define the progressive metal genre. His tasteful solos and harmonized melodies are a testament to his talent.

77. Billy Howerdel

Billy Howerdel’s atmospheric and textural guitar playing with A Perfect Circle showcases his ability to create immersive sonic landscapes. His unique approach to the instrument adds depth to the band’s music.

78. John 5

John 5’s versatile guitar playing and ability to blend various genres have made him a sought-after guitarist in the metal and rock scenes. His technical skill and creative solos are what stands him apart.

79. Jon Schaffer

Jon Schaffer’s heavy and aggressive guitar playing with Iced Earth has made him a huge figure in the power and thrash metal genres. His powerful riffs and songwriting contributions are incredible.

80. Marco Sfogli

Marco Sfogli’s melodic and technical guitar playing has earned him recognition as a skilled guitarist. His ability to craft memorable solos and intricate compositions is commendable.

These 80 guitarists have left an eternal mark on the world of metal. Through their talent, creativity, and sheer heaviness. Each guitarist brings their unique style, technique, and musicality, making the metal genre diverse and captivating. Whether it’s their powerful riffs, blistering solos, melodic sensibility, or technical prowess, every one of them have inspired generations of musicians and continue to shape the landscape of metal music. All hail the metal gods. 

Leave a Comment