Top 10 Most Influential Metal Guitarists

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If it’s loud, furious and sounds the least bit “evil”, then it’s probably metal. Aside from the over-the-top themes and the sonic wallop it packs, heavy metal is celebrated for its high levels of musicianship on every instrument, but most importantly, the guitar. This is a list of those who are arguably the most influential  guitarists in a genre of music that never really gets it’s due.

10. Kurt Ballou of Converge


You may be asking yourself, “Who the hell is this guy?” Listen to any of Converge’s songs and you’ll get treated to a blistering blend of punk aesthetics, but with metal’s swagger and menace. Think of the last modern metal band you listened to –  did they have a bunch of jagged, dissonant riffs and off-kilter solos that were still  melodic and powerful? Well, Kurt’s been busting out riffs like that since 1993 on a Fender Jazzmaster.

9. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin


Plain and simple, Jimmy Page’s riffs were dark and monstrous and got stuck in your head for days. Jimmy influenced millions of kids in the 70’s to pick up a guitar.

8. Dimebag Darrell of Pantera


A lot of metalheads nowadays (especially the ones my age, in their early to mid 20s) only know Dimebag as the guy that got brutally murdered onstage by a deranged ex-Marine and that’s a shame. Dimebag wrote riffs that were hooky and heavy all at once. When grunge was all the rage, Pantera kept the flag of American metal flying high and proud.  Pantera invented those “chugga chugga” breakdowns and high-pitched harmonic squeals that now dominate the landscape of metal. Also, in a scene full of people scowling, Dimebag knew how to grin like a fool and have as much fun as possible – something that’s dreadfully missing from modern metal.

7. Slash of Guns N’ Roses


Slash could out-shred many of his Sunset Strip contemporaries, but he knew that he never needed to. His big, emotive blues-inflected solos could say it all with only 10 notes instead of the 10,000 that most guitarists at the time used. There were many other glam metal guitarists before him, but few were that effortlessly cool?

6. Page Hamilton of Helmet


Page was a seasoned jazz guitarist, but wielded his guitar with a jock’s brutality, much like he was swinging a hockey stick. He took minimal jazz ideals and applied it to heavy metal. His powerful, staccato riffing and dramatic vocal shifts from soft and clean to full-on bulldog bark, influenced a slew of bands like Korn, the Deftones and countless others.

5. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden


Their influence is heard all over metal – the doubled lead riffs, the harmonized solos, the fast paced rhythms, the first signs of shred, etc. They were/are an impact on a massive scale to anyone that considers themselves a metalhead.

4. Robert Fripp of King Crimson


Robert Fripp’s dark, jazzy riffs, coupled with his band’s willingness to create ridiculously intricate song structures, opened up doors that didn’t previously exist in the realm of heavy metal music or any music at the time. Bands like Dream Theater, Opeth or Between The Buried And Me owe their existence to Robert Fripp.

3. Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen


If Eddie had recorded “Eruption” and decided quit playing guitar afterward, then his legacy would still have be cemented. He invented shred.

2. James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett of Metallica


James and Kirk are the successors to Dave Murray and Adrian Smith’s title of “Most Lethal Guitar Duo Ever.” James’ frantic mute-picking created rhythms so fast is was almost like a buzzsaw, and Kirk’s wild shredding wasn’t “sloppy”- it had character. Nowadays, they’re all old and bitter, but the kids still connect with them – and that’s really what matters.

1. Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath


In the documentary “Heavy: A Headbanger’s Journey”, Rob Zombie makes the statement that “Every cool riff  has been written by Black Sabbath. Whether it’s being played faster or slower or backwards or whatever – Black Sabbath did it first.” Ozzy may have been the most infamous member, but Tony Iommi’s evil riffs and liberal use of drop-tuning was the core of Black Sabbath’s legendary sound, and the birth of heavy metal.

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Written by Daniel Harlow


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63 Comments

  1. LOL Page Hamilton more influential than Jimmy Page, obviously you are young and love heavy metal more than pure guitar, not to mention Jimi Hendrix shows your age and bias, and ranking these mediocre kids ahead of Jimmy Page shows your lack of depth of rock music history.

    Not mentioning Clapton or Beck or Kieth Richard is also a joke, Clapton loves BB King, so did Jimmy Page, King was more of an influence on early guitarists than any of those you mention.

    • It's the best metal guitarists, dude. Not classic rock or a generic "greatest guitarists ever" list.

      The guy makes some good points- as great of a guitarist as he is, I don't think you can see Jimmy Page's influence that much anymore in modern metal.

      I'm also a huge King Crimson fan and to see Robert Fripp on this list was awesome.

        • Ha! I see your point … Page is a bit sloppy at times. But he did introduce many of the classic riffs that have inspired heavy metal, and as much as anything else, his way of interplaying with Jones & Bonham can be seen reflected in many heavy bands.

          I think the Zeppelin “vibe & feel” may have carried over into metal more than Page’s playing, and if this were “Top Ten Drummers Who Influenced Metal” then Bonham would definitely have to be on there.

          I do think that leaving Randy Rhoads off the list was a mistake. His playing was the roadmap for the change from rock to metal.

  2. Randy Rhoads? I can't believe he wasn't mentioned. I love Tony Iommi, but as far as a technical guitar player, that wasn't his bag. He is just heavy.

  3. This list is horrible. You have no idea who the most influential metal guitarists were.

    Kurt Ballou? Is this a joke?

    Ever heard of Ritchie Blackmore? I guess not.

    Two thumbs way down.

  4. Yeah right man, but not to mention Jimi Hendrix who is regarded as the greatest METAL GUITARIST OF ALL TIME IS LAME.

    Guitar World recognized him as the greatest, metal, rock or whatever guitarist ever, he is the MOST INFLUENTIAL OF ALL TIME, Robin Trower and Stevie Ray Vaughn and many other METAL GUITARISTS COPIES HIS STYLE.

      • Robin Trower and SRV are/were not metal guitarists. Neither was Hendrix. I don’t agree with this entire list, but not including Hendrix is not an omition.

  5. Converge is a crapballs rip-off of ThreDillinger escape plan, DEP is way better and have more to say then just WHAT YOU SAY!

    • Seriously? Converge is a rip off of Dillinger? Except maybe the fact that Converge has been a band for almost a decade longer than Dillinger and they have almost no musical similarities…

  6. Top ten Influential metal guitarist you say?

    i wonder why this guys never made it to the list..

    Kerry King/Jeff Hanneman

    Marty Friedman

    Jason Becker

    Paul Gilbert

    Zakk Wylde

    and THE GREAT RANDY RHOADS

  7. This is a great list, i think the author went more for the top 10 overall but not in order.

    Page Hamilton was way more influential to metal then Jimmy Page who was more influential to progressive rock and just rock in general.

    Tony Iommi is definitely deserving of the number one spot. He invented metal guitar, look back and think who else there was before him, absolutely no one.

    Dave Mustaine is not influential to metal, one of the best metal guitarists, but not the most influential. He can play metal, when it comes down to extending and creating it, he really can't deliver.

    This list is very debatable but i definitely agree that all guitarists listed are top 10 candidates and that Tony Iommi is definitely the most influential metal guitarist ever.

    • Leukorrhoea on

      So Dave Mustaine working with Metallica and forming Megadeth did nothing to create a sub-genre of metal?

    • Sgt Skullz21 on

      Wow… dude, think before you speak, Dave Mustaine pretty much invented Thrash Metal, and your saying he hasn’t extended metal and created it… dude, without Mustaine, Metallica would sound COMPLETELY different and thrash would have never existed

        • Um dude, If you will stop being ignorant and listen to the music Metallica made with Mustaine, and then made after him ITS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Mustaine brought the wild side and dangerous side to Metallica hence his nickname “Dangerous Dave”. When Mustaine left there weren’t really any super fast and crazy rifts. Mustaine is arguably the greatest guitarist especially when it comes to rhythm guitar. Hetfield was A mastermind, but Mustaine helped write a couple of their BEST Songs on the first album. You can’t say he had nothing to do with the writing or that he couldn’t write because Metallica owned up to a few of the songs that Dave helped write, and the fact that Dave started Megadeth and they are still around and still rocking. He wrote every song, so he knows how to write. I mean geez Megadeth is in the Big Four. Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer.

        • Kill ‘Em All wasn’t recorded until after Mustaine left. Yeah, he got some writing credit, but all of Metallica’s early work has Kirk. Cliff Burton was really Metallica’s wild side before he died.

  8. "Page Hamilton was way more influential to metal then Jimmy Page"

    You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Page is one of the people credited with INVENTING heavy metal and has influenced uncounted millions of guitarists up to this very day. He is probably THE most influential living rock guitarist. Did you just learn about heavy metal last week or what?

    • i totally agree! and Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath is more influential than jimmy page of LED? come on. LED zepellin influences black sabbath not the other way around. crappy list!

      • Actually its a combination of Prog and metal. If you listen to their music in a chronologic order, it starts out as being metal. But with the release of their third album “Caress Of Steel” that’s where the prog kicks in and the science fiction deal with them all the way up to their “Hemispheres” album, which was their 7th album (with one live album “All The World’s A Stage”). “Permanent Waves was their breakthrough as if you read the lyrics of “The Spirit Of Radio” where they essentially told radio stations and rock music writers and journalists to “kiss there ass” as they then became mainstream. And we all know how “Moving Pictures” made them into the superstars of today with 24 gold records and of the 24, 14 of them have been certified platinum. There hobbies at home are quite eclectic : Geddy Lee has a wine cellar at his house with over 20,000 different bottles ; Alex Lifeson is a self trained gourmet cook and Neil Peart is a motorcycle enthusiast. Also note (and believe it or not) Geddy Lee is a five time world champion on playing the computer game “Fantasy Baseball”

  9. I'm pleasantly surprised to see Kurt on this list. Although I'm not sure I'd call him a highly influential metal guitarist, it's nice to see him get some recognition somewhere. I would, however, say that along with Greg Ginn, Kurt's one of the most immensely influential hardcore guitarists.

  10. How can someone you admit that most people have never heard of be influential? He may become influential one day, but not now, when nobody knows him.

  11. I must say I was quite surprised to see Page on the list. He utilized the drop-D tuning to create the sound so many "nu-metal" wankers have tried in vain to reproduce. Not to sound overly serious here, but the "Meantime" album changed my life. I most likely would've never picked up the guitar had I not heard that album. 37 minutes of total doom… YEAH!!!

  12. Personally, I like Paul Gilbert and Joe Satriani than any guitarists on this list. Joe even taught one of the guitarist in this list. You didn't do your homework well dude.

  13. ScramblesTheDeathDea on

    I don't know man, influential tends to mean that the guitarist made others want to play, so dime should definitely be higher on the list. Even if you're not a fan, you KNOW he made a lot of people want to pick up a guitar. Zakk Wylde isn't there, He was a huge inspiration for me, Tony Iommi i could see at number 1, Sabbath was VERY Influential. Then again, I've always been an oddball, its hard for me to speak for the masses.

  14. Hugo Alvarez on

    There were only three recognized artists who introduced new innovative concepts of how the electric guitar is played today.

    1. Jimi Hendrix

    2. Eddie Van Halen

    3. Randy Rhoads

    I understand that Hendrix was a more classic rock player, but Randy Rhoads… he was more metal than most of the names listed here.

    Oh, but there is Page Hamilton! The guy that made me almost LEAVE the guitar!!! I thought back in the day, "If this guy can be praised and play like crap then why even try?" Very much like Jack White nowadays.

  15. Where is Chuck Schuldiner? More influential than any guitarist on this list except Tony…

    and where is Dave Mustaine? He influenced Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax (Kerry King and Scott Ian both cite him as influences, and Metallica is nothing without him).

  16. The guitar gods shined on ‘the blonde bomber’ Michael Schenker when he was playing for UFO. Almost everyone else sounded like a whanker at the time. Even Paul Chapman brought his A-game to fill in.

    • Oh heck yeah, UFO, what a band! The only problem with Michael Schenker is that when they were about to be really big, he would bugger off. They should have been a [snip]load BIGGER than they were. That maniac bass player, Pete Way, wore the most hideous trousers, but almost everyone went out and bought a pair. Yes, I’d say this band was very influential.

      I can see how Page Hamilton could’ve made someone want to give up the guitar.

  17. Man if this is a real “Top 10 Most Influential Metal Guitarists” then jimmy page is number 1. and please where is Richie blackmore of Deep purple and Angus Young of AC/DC.

  18. wow… where to begin here, i have seen converge live and they are truly awful, they got booed vehemently by the crowd. There were few riffs, mostly over distorted excuses for riffs and certainly not a guitar solo to be heard, the fact that they are on list over other musicians like Dave mustaine, Chuck from Death, Buckethead, or anyone else with a drop of talent is shameful. Also, why is slash on here, he is very over rated, ask anyone who knows about guitar playing and they will tell you what he does, including solos, is pretty simple. He has even admitted to not being as musically adept as other guitarists. everyone else on the list looks pretty solid really, Eddie at number 3 is a bit high for my liking but at least he was talented.

  19. Well, I have a few to make mention of. The people who inquired as to Yngwie Malmsteen, Thumbs up to you guys and there was also mention of Buckethead, also a good choice. Here are some others : Tony MacAlpine, Joey Tafolla, Steve Howe (of YES), Frank Marino (Mahogany Rush), Steve Morse, Richard Thompson, Marty Friedman, Alex Masi, Jake E. Lee, Steve Vai, Vinnie Vincent, Matthias Jabs (Scorpions), Glenn Tipton (Judas Priest), Greg Howe, Paul Gilbert, Jeff Watson, Ted Nugent or any guitar player who is signed and contracted with a recording company called Shrapnel Records. They record albums for the guitar “shredders”

  20. Not A Squirrel on

    Influential to the genre, or from within the genre? I’d say, if its the former, then you have to include Ritchie Blackmore, and if its the latter you gotta remove Jimmy Page, they’re not metal. Also Jeff Beck was one of the first (pre-hendrix) to use a fuzz box.

  21. Can u stfu?! This is Metal…it’s diffrerent than those funny music. Don’t u listen to these new albums of metallica(death and beyond magnetic)?? Is this what dave mustaine teach them?!? U’re wrong man,wrong…

  22. WHAAT? the real top is this :
    1. DAVE MUSTAINE ( kirk hammet is only famous because he plays the riffs and solos Dave wrote when he was still in metallica)
    2. JOHN PETRUCCI
    3. KERRY kING

  23. If your really wanting talk influential, you have to look at the genre of music your reffering to alot of the guitarists that many people mentioned are great guitar players, but without guys like Mustaine, Schulinder,of death,Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Jimmy.Page, these were the guys who, influenced so many of the great.players mentioned these are the guys who helped lead players like Paul Gilbert, Slash, Tony McAlpine, Greg Howe to become great players and yes their influential to many out there but with out the genre originals like Tony Iommi,etc you.wouldnt have all these players and genres of guitar players.

  24. Ritchie Blackmore without a doubt. His solo in Highway Star is one of the most influential solos for metal, ever. Nobody was playing guitar like that in rock music. Also, the album, In Rock , has some awesome heavy riffs and straight up rocking out to the point that it becomes metal. You can tell Metallica was HEAVILY influenced by Deep Purple. Highway star sounds like something from kill em all and parts of ride the lightning, especially in the solos. Anyways, I find it surprising that he’s never mentioned in these types of discussion..

  25. Why the hell are not KK Downing and Glenn Tipton in this list? They were the pioneers of Dave Murray/Adrian Smith´s guitar style that is heard all over heavy metal!!

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