Jun 072011

Apart from one glancing reference, we haven’t posted about the list that MetalSucks has been rolling out of “The Top 25 Modern Metal Guitarists“. That’s not because we weren’t interested. To the contrary, if you’re a metalhead like us, at least two things are likely to be true: (A) you’re a sucker for lists, and (B) you’re a sucker for guitar wizardry.

No, the reason we haven’t posted about this list before today is because it just seemed more efficient to wait ’til the list was complete and then provide the whole thing at one time. The list was finished yesterday, crowned by David Davidson of Revocation — and congratulations to him.

I think one of the reasons most metalheads like lists is because they like to argue, and lists provide great fodder for argument. Usually pointless and unproductive argument, of course, but who says an argument has to be meaningful to be entertaining? Recognizing that aspect of our culture, I’m reproducing the MetalSucks list after the jump and inviting a big argument. If you like, you can also go over to MetalSucks and cast your own vote for the Top 25, because now they’re running a reader’s poll.

So, first, we need to provide the MetalSucks editors’ list. I’m including links to the MetalSucks posts explaining/justifying each pick. Bear in mind that this list was limited to people who’ve recorded music within the last 5 years.

#1 — David Davidson (Revocation)

#2 — Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders)

#3 — Brent Hinds (Mastodon)

#4 — Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah)

#5 — Karl Sanders (Nile)

#6 — Scott Hull (Pig Destroyer, Agoraphobic Nosebleed)

#7 — Jeff Loomis

#8 — A.J. Minette (The Human Abstract)

#9 — John Petrucci (Dream Theater)

#10 — Terrance Hobbs (Suffocation)

#11 – Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth)

#12 — Michael Keene (The Faceless)

#13 — Ben Weinman (The Dillinger Escape Plan)

#14 – Emil Werstler (Dååth, Levi/Werstler)

#15 — Colin Marston (Krallice, Behold… The Arctopus)

#16 — Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains)

#17 — Buckethead

#18 — Adam Jones (Tool)

#19 — Vernon Reid (Living Colour)

#20 — Misha Mansoor (Periphery)

#21 — Alex Skolnick (Testament)

#22 – Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved)

#23 — Synyster Gates (Avenged Sevenfold)

#24 — Chris Letchford (Scale the Summit)

#25 — Paul Ryan (Origin)

I really don’t have any serious bitching about who’s on this list. I have some questions about some of the entries, such as Synyster Gates and Jerry Cantrell, but that’s only because I don’t listen to the performers enough to have an opinion. Apart from those few questions, I think this is a damned good list of modern metal guitarists.

Now, saying it’s a good list doesn’t mean it’s the same list you or I would put together. You first have to ask yourslf whether there are other people who belong on this list but were omitted in favor of someone perhaps less deserving of the recognition. Then you’d have to consider whether the people on there are listed in the right order. These are the kinds of questions that can generate a good argument.

The MetalSucks editors themselves named some prominent candidates for people who could easily have been on this list but weren’t: Devin Townsend, Paul Masvidal (Cynic), Paul Waggoner (BTBAM), Marc Okubo (The Faceless), Matt Pike (High On Fire).

And what about Ihsahn, Alexi Laiho (Children of Bodom), Kurt Ballou (Converge), Christian Muenzner (Obscura), Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal), Luc Lemay (Gorguts), Arve Isdal (Enslaved), or Michael Amott (Arch Enemy, Carcass), to name a few others? No place for any of them on the list at all?

And as for the ranking, that’s definitely debatable. I’m having trouble swallowing Paul Ryan as low as No. 25 or Brent Hinds as high as No. 3 (though I do agree he belongs on the list).

So there you have it. Anyone want to argue about this list?


  1. I found the whole thing very interesting. I know nothing about guitar-wizardy (or any wizardy for that matter), so it was more like a crash course in “these are the people who make the music you love, show some damn respect”. I think that, as a nonmusician, I listen for the feeling or whatever of the music and totally ignore the technical aspect of it. Which probably means I miss 50% of what’s great about the music.

  2. I DEFINITELY wanted to see Ihsahn on the list, as well as Matt Pike and Kurt Ballou. Ballou being left off is inexcusable–the new wave of deathpunk(Trap Them, Black Breath, The secret, Masakari) would not exist without him. Then again I’m biased–I love Jane Doe. also WHERE THE FUCK IS ROBIN STAPPS OF THE OCEAN? OR FUCKING JOHN BAIZLEY!?

    While (as you know) I live and breathe Mastodon, I agree #3 is a bit high for Hinds–Mastodon is a song band not a guitar band. A lot of these musicians are very young and very derivative of their peers higher up on the list.

    I can speak for Cantrell. Alice in Chains is the best pop-doom band of all time.

    • I have never heard Alice in Chains described as a pop-doom band, but it seems quite fitting….

      You, good sir, are a genius.

    • I am in agreement with Phro here, whether you mean it as a slight or not. AIC is a strange sound that always got me hooked, and was very much the sum or it’s parts. Cantell’s solo records were more straightforward and bluesy, on purpose from what I remember, but anyone that has ever tried to sound like Alice in Chain’s has ended up failing because of how unique they… were. Now, does he belong on THAT list? I didn’t think so. But he’d belong on any list that wasn’t restricted to who’s pushing modern heavy music right now.

  3. Personally, I found that Metal Sucks went 0 for 25. Would not have put any of them on a list of 25 best modern guitarist. Obviously my listening preferences tend to not allign with MS, as is apparent in my complete disdain for all the wankcore stuff they like (Modern “prog”, djent, tech death). Most of this list consists of boring wankers (Abasi, Petrucci (though he is probably the only one on this list who I would even consider)), boring songwriters (Akerfeldt, dude from Daath), people that are flat out horrible (A7X dude, Mansoor, Weinman, or people that are irrelevant (AiC, Living Colour, Suffo).

    So yeah, for people I would have on my list:

    Horror Illogium of Portal
    Robert Vigna of Immolation
    Aaron Carey of Nechochwen
    Mark Shelton of Manilla Road (fits the criteria, and if the dude from Living Colour, a band that hasn’t been relevant since the 90’s. then Mark totally belongs on a list like this)
    Alan Jones of Pagan Altar (see above)
    Leon Macey of Mithras
    Mories de Jong of De Magium Veterum, Gnaw Their Tounges
    Glenn Snelwar of At War With Self, Gordian Knot
    Austin Lunn of Panopticon, Seidr
    Vindsval of Blut aus Nord
    K.K. Warslut / Ian Gray of Destroyer 666, Razor of Occam, Adorior

    • Oh fuck, totally forgot to mention Dagon of Inquisition.

    • I actually meant to mention in the post that one fairly stark omission from the MS list was the near-total absence of black-metal guitarists. But I didn’t really know who should be included from that genre.

      What I would really like to do right now is just walk off my job, track down the most recent album from each band on your list, and listen to one right after another until I’m finished, or the madness takes me, whichever comes first.

      (I’ll sheepishly confess that I have the new Blut Aus Nord and the new Inquisition but haven’t yet heard either of them. Of the others, the only bands whose albums I’ve previously heard are Immolation and Portal.

      I do have to take issue with some things you said, especially these: I don’t agree that Akerfeldt and Werstler are boring songwriters, and I do think Suffo is still highly relevant, at least to me. 🙂

      • Well yeah, I make no illusions towards not being biased and opinionated (because objectivity and respecting others opinions is for pussies). I find Akerfeldt entirely too self-indulgent for my tastes, and Opeth’s style of death metal has been done elsewhere and better by bands such as Insomnium and Iron Thrones.

        The thing with black metal is that the musicians in that genre generally have different goals than those in the more shred happy genres, as well as a different target audience. Where I might hear a great achievement in atmosphere and emotion (say a band like Darkspace or Walknut), others might simply dismiss them as incoherent walls of noise. So yeah, it’s kind of a genre that’s at odds with the very idea of something such as “best guitarist”.

        • I think you hit the nail on the head about why black-metal guitarists may not be thought of for a “best guitarists” list, but that sure doesn’t mean there aren’t great black-metal guitarists — exactly as you say, it takes serious talent to create the atmospheres and emotions and do it well. I’m just thinking about some of the bands from my area whose guitarists have blown me away live — John Haughm (Agalloch) and Nathan (Wolves in the Throne Room).

  4. Sammy Duet because he is god.

    • Oh hell yes! I’m now watching this again, so many times I’ve lost count:


      • I’ve been a fan since the moment Acid Bath’s When the Kite String Pops came out. The man is a master of the riff, be it doom, sludge, thrash, black or death metal. And he can combine those genres in the context of a song seemlessly with no need for noodling tech wankery.

        • I discovered Acid Bath very late, but it’s quite a creative piece of work. I think you also put your finger on a point worth remembering in the context of this subject: Excellent guitar playing isn’t limited to technical, “wowee” extravaganzas — which may be the kind of thing many metalheads think of first when they see a list like this.

          • He’s in Goatwhore. That automatically makes him about 10 gazillion times more metal than you or I.

  5. My issue with it is that the category was far too broad.

    If it was 25 modern metal guitarists I would have expected guitarists who have debuted within the last 5 years, not just released a record – for example Trey Azagthoth is eligible and yet has clearly demonstrated his lack of grasp of anything “modern”.

    The lack of precision means that people who have had long careers are pitted up against relative newcomers, which essentially boils the thing down to youth vs experience – assuming of course (reasonably logically though) that longer careers will produce better, more rounded song-writers (generally speaking) due to their wealth of experiences, larger pool of influences and generally greater maturity. Whereas younger/newer players will have (generally) perhaps sharper shredding skills (due to the current/recent focus on developing thee skills) and a more modern approach to playing, making them arguably more “relevant”.

    I’d split it into two lists…

    One of guitarists who have debuted within the last 5/10 years, have made a positive impact (no shitty records, though some youthful indiscretions can be forgiven) and who could justifiably be predicted to have a continued presence and impact in the future.

    Then a second list of “Godfathers of modern metal”, those who are still around and producing great music, pushing boundaries (or not, sometimes just writing damn good songs will do) and who continue to inspire the artists in the first list. Again, crappy records or pointless rehashes of their old stuff won’t do – the key here is age + wisdom x relevance.

    Of course these factors are very tight and clearly would be incredibly difficult to apply to a public, online list. They’d work only with someone willing to restrict themselves and really consider their choices deeply.

    • I think there’s another problem with the MS list, and even your idea, which is an ambiguity. Are we to consider guitarists based on their songwriting ability or their performance skill or both?

      I have a feeling that the MS list was compiled mainly on performance/execution — though now that I’ve read your comment, I’d agree that it would have been more meaningful to see two lists, divided as you suggest. But there are guitarists who are the principal songwriters for their bands who have created wonderful songs that don’t necessarily showcase shredding, and even guitarists who consistently write great songs but maybe aren’t even capable of the kind of technical pyrotechnics and technique that would make their names jump to mind when you think about “best guitarists”.

      • Exactly, so you’d have to simply carefully balance the two factors in your mind – it should be about being the best all-round guitarist, with some leaning more towards the clever application of technicality, others towards the structured composition of unique guitar work.

        And Marc Okubo? He’s in Veil Of Maya, not The Faceless. And also doesn’t belong anywhere near this list, as his technique, while good, is applied sporadically and/or poorly (in that it doesn’t add anything) and his compositions (for VoM) are boring as all get out.

  6. I personally was surprised that John Petrucci was only # 9. I thought he would make the top 5 easily. Also, I had a hard time considering guitarists like Buckethead as metal. Don’t get me wrong, Buckethead is sick but metal? I really enjoyed this list, though, regardless of whether I actually agreed with all the entries/placements or not.

  7. Metalsucks list really sucked IMO in terms of choices if not for the unexplained rankings. Jeff Loomis below Brent Hinds? Are you shitting me? Brent Hinds helped facilitate the boring ass post-metal genre into existence and I CANNOT STAND that shit for the life of me.

  8. I would say one guitarist missing from this list is Jari Mäenpää from Wintersun. When Time is released i expect him to be at least top 10.

    check out the live video of Wintersun performing The way of the fire.


  9. I seriously question the inclusion of several candidates on this list and was disappointed to not find Ron Jarzombek (Blotted science, watch tower) and Christian Muenzner (paradox, obscura, ex-necrophagist) Both have them have releases in the last five years to qualify

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