Book Review: The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists
By Matt Blackett
Just by choosing a title like this, you’re basically setting yourself up for being hated by at least half of the people who read your book. That’s why lists work: They elicit strong reactions and very few people who peruse them are ambivalent about them. Count me amongst the pissed off crowd, although Joel McIver’s book held my interest and definitely taught me a thing or two.
McIver justifies his list in the well written introduction, making the distinction between rock and metal and thus explaining why players like Randy Rhoads, Steve Vai, and Yngwie aren’t on the list. He also chides an unnamed American guitar mag (hint: it’s not this one) for coming up with their own list of metal gods that contained Brian May, Neil Young, and Robert Fripp, assuring his readers that they won’t find “anything as half-witted as that here.” He’s partly right. Before we get into that, however, let’s talk about who made his list.
He goes into great detail about metal and its various subgenres: death metal, black metal, doom metal, power metal, and progressive metal. The subgenres are well represented, with plenty of players from Sweden, Germany, Norway, and Denmark. Of the old-schoolers, you get most of the usual suspects: the Maiden dudes (all three), Tony Iommi, Tipton and Downing, Scorps Schenker and Jabs, etc. In the next wave you have Zakk Wylde, Dimebag, and the thrash dudes (Hammett, Hetfield, Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick from Testament, Kerry King, etc). The next generation gives us the Avenged Sevenfolds, Arch Enemys, and Children of Bodoms of the world. McIver makes a fairly compelling case why all these guys belong on the list, although guitarists will debate the relative rankings until they are blue in the face—another one of the fun things about lists.
But here’s where I get pissed off. No Uli Jon Roth. How do you put both Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs, but not one of the most innovative players ever to come from that scene? But wait, there’s more. No Ritchie Blackmore. What? Didn’t he write “Smoke on the Water”? And how in the hell do you ghettoize Randy Rhoads by putting him in the appendix “Shredders, Not Metallers”? Half the guys on this list would not have careers if it weren’t for Randy Rhoads. He played some of the heaviest stuff on the planet. Obviously he was more than just metal, but how do you say Randy Rhoads was not metal? Chris DeGarmo from Queensryche made the list. Ask him who’s more metal.
I’m not done. John Petrucci came in at number 2. Nothing against Petrucci’s playing—he’s awesome. But he’s more metal than Randy Rhoads? And here comes the spoiler alert: Want to know who came in at #1? Dave Mustaine. Again, nothing against him—he’s a great player who was really influential. But #1? Ahead of the godfather Tony Iommi? I’m not saying he doesn’t belong on the list, but come on!
Full disclosure: I’m more rock than metal, and I have my own biases. And, as I stated, you can’t win with any list, but this list falls very short of the mark.
Did I mention that Randy Rhoads didn’t make the cut?