The 10 Most Important Guitarists In Heavy Metal

Dimebag Darrell: Rik Goldman, CC BY 2.0,, Wikimedia Commons / Dave Mustaine: Ralph Arvesen, CC BY 2.0,, Wikimedia Commons / Mikael Åkerfeldt: Antje Naumann (AllSystemsRed), CC BY-SA 3.0,, Wikimedia Commons
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When it comes to those who have created the sickest of riffs and whose work has inspired generations of young musicians – who are the most important guitarists in heavy metal?

Earlier this year we wrote about the greatest modern guitarists in the scene, but now we want to talk about those who have cemented themselves as heavy metal’s greatest of all time. While the history of metal is full of talented musicians, the following 10 guitarists are absolute masters of the craft.

From thrash to black metal, groove, death, and more, these are the 10 most important guitarists in heavy metal.

Kerry King

While all of the guitarists in the Big Four are talented, Slayer‘s Kerry King stands out as one of the most wicked thrashers to emerge from the scene. When it comes to King’s performances, you know you’re going to get unrelenting guitar-shredding bliss.


Dave Mustaine

Another Big Four guitarist who absolutely deserves to be on this list is Megadeth‘s Dave Mustaine. While also one hell of a thrasher, Mustaine is also a brilliant technician, creating compositions that go hard while providing engagingly intricate rhythms and melodies.

Adam Jones

Another master of the guitar is Tool‘s Adam Jones, who provides a psychedelic spin to heaviness in the metal world. Throughout his career, Jones has crafted rhythms and melodies that are not only sonically heavy but are deeply intense in their meditative power.

Dimebag Darrell

A master of groove metal and all-around astounding guitarist, the late Pantera member Dimebag Darrell was truly one of the greatest musicians to ever grace the art form. Any song featuring Dimebag’s guitar playing promises to instill listeners with profound adrenaline.

Chuck Schuldiner

Technical death metal musicians owe much thanks to the work laid out by the late Death guitarist Chuck Schuldiner. Not only did Schuldiner create crushing riffs, he did so through technically complex manners, crafting experiences both thrilling and captivating.


Quorthon (Thomas Börje Forsberg)

When it comes to the ferocious and raw sound of black metal, we have to give it up to the late Thomas Börje Forsberg of Bathory. What Forsberg did in Bathory not only has inspired so many musicians, but it helped to create a whole genre of metal.

Tony Iommi

Speaking of creating a whole genre of music, Black Sabbath‘s Tony Iommi may very well be considered the granddaddy of heavy metal guitar playing. Iommi’s guitar playing not only thrills audiences, but it’s also the foundation of all that heavy metal has sprung from.

Glenn Tipton

Another old-school heavy metal legend who deserves tremendous praise is longtime Judas Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton. What Iommi is to creating chilling and ominous music, Tipton is the flipside, creating thrilling and electric heavy metal.

Randy Rhoads

The late Randy Rhoads, most famously known for his work in Ozzy Osbourne‘s band, was an extraordinary talent. Rhoads’ amazing work stands to this day as some of the finest guitar playing to ever come from heavy metal.

Mikael Åkerfeldt

Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth is a superbly talented progressive metal guitarist. Over the course of his career, Åkerfeldt has crafted a tremendous number of astounding songs, each brimming with layers of intricate mood and technicality.