Best Metal Rhythm Guitarists

Best rhythm guitarists in the metal genre. The focus here is on good riffs, rhythm harmonies, picking speed, accuracy, and tightness, and overall rhythm playing. Rhythm/lead switches and dual leads are acceptable as long as their rhythm playing is impeccable.

The Top Ten

1 James Hetfield - Metallica James Hetfield - Metallica James Alan Hetfield was born on August 3, 1963. He is an American musician, singer and songwriter known for being the co-founder, lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and main songwriter for the American heavy metal band Metallica.

Based on metal? Without a doubt it's James! I STILL can't emulate the speed of his down-picking rythym riffs! How the heck he does if during a live show for a few hours is beyond me... My forearm is sore after one song!


2 Dave Mustaine - Megadeth Dave Mustaine - Megadeth David Scott "Dave" Mustaine (born September 13, 1961) is an American musician, singer, songwriter, actor and author. Mustaine is best known as a pioneer in Thrash Metal, being the former lead guitarist of Metallica before his dismissal in 1983, leading to finding and becoming the front man of his own more.

I think, Dave Mustaine should be number 1 of this list because his rhythm playing is better than James and also his riffs are better than James - Alcort

He should be number 1, because of the ability to write super fast, complicated yet incredibly catchy riffs.

Should have been number 1

3 Jon Schaffer - Iced Earth Jon Schaffer - Iced Earth Jon Ryan Schaffer is an American heavy metal musician. He is best known as the guitarist and last remaining original member of the Florida-based heavy metal band Iced Earth, which he formed in 1985 under the name "Purgatory".

I say his speed and technically is above hetfield any day. Look at every song before Dark Saga proves it.

Lightning fast galloping riffs!

Hetfield is naff

4 Chuck Schuldiner - Death Chuck Schuldiner - Death Charles Michael "Chuck" Schuldiner (1967-2001) was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist, best known as the founder and vocalist, guitarist and bassist of the American heavy metal band Death. He is considered the most influential figure in Death Metal, with some publications referring to Chuck more.
5 Jeff Waters - Annihilator Jeff Waters - Annihilator Jeff Waters (born February 13, 1966) is a Canadian metal musician and founder of the metal band Annihilator. He's best known as the guitarist for Annihilator, appreciated for his fast riffs and solos. Waters is also the primary songwriter in the band. Very often he has taken on the role of lead singer, more.

His Lead / Rhythm switches are awesome. He's one of the riff masters of all time. - Metal_Treasure

6 Gary Holt - Exodus Gary Holt - Exodus Gary Wayne Holt is an American guitarist from the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a guitarist, the bandleader, and the main songwriter for the American thrash metal band Exodus and is also a guitarist for the American thrash metal band Slayer.
7 Adrian Smith - Iron Maiden Adrian Smith - Iron Maiden Adrian Frederick "H" Smith is an English guitarist, best known as a member of Iron Maiden, for whom he writes songs and performs live backing vocals on some tracks.

H's rhythm playing and riff is definitely the best for Iron Maiden songs. - Alcort

8 Toni Iommi - Black Sabbath
9 Steffen Kummerer Steffen Kummerer Steffen Kummerer (born June 1, 1985) is a German guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and producer. He is the leader, main songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist for the (technical) death metal band Obscura as well as the black metal band Thulcandra.
10 Bill Kelliher - Mastodon Bill Kelliher - Mastodon Bill Kelliher is a musician from Atlanta, Georgia, best known as rhythm guitarist of heavy metal band Mastodon.

The Contenders

11 Scott Ian - Anthrax Scott Ian - Anthrax Scott Ian is an American musician, best known as the rhythm guitarist, backing and additional lead vocalist, and the only remaining original founding member of the thrash metal band Anthrax. He also writes the lyrics on all their albums.

He has some of the most percussive riffs out there! WARDANCE

12 Zacky Vengeance - Avenged Sevenfold Zacky Vengeance - Avenged Sevenfold Zachary James Baker, better known by his stage name Zacky Vengeance, is an American musician, best known as the rhythm guitarist, backing vocalist, and founding member for the American alternative metal/ metalcore band Avenged Sevenfold. Zacky V. also owns a small clothing company, Vengeance University. more.

Zacky just has amazing riffs! I love how his melodies and timing coordinates with Synyster Gate's solos! Plus he can also sing, along with Syn. Especially in City Of Evil. His melodies and riffs are just phenomenal!

13 Marten Hagstrom - Meshuggah Marten Hagstrom - Meshuggah Mårten Hagström, (born 27 April 1971) is the rhythm guitarist for the Swedish experimental metal band Meshuggah. Hagström, along with his bandmate Fredrik Thordendal, was rated #35 by Guitar World as the top 100 greatest heavy metal guitarist of all-time.

The albums obZen and Chaosphere from the technical metal bosses Meshuggah proves that he could do very badass rhythm grooves and deserves to be in this list.

14 K.K. Downing - Judas Priest

I think KK doesn't have truly sense being a rhythm guitarist. He definitely more lead guitarist than rhythm guitarist - Alcort

Stained class
What more can I say?

15 Mille Petrozza - Kreator Mille Petrozza - Kreator Miland "Mille" Petrozza is a German metal guitarist and singer of Italian descent, who has been the lead vocalist and guitarist for the German thrash metal band Kreator since 1984.
16 Kerry King - Slayer Kerry King - Slayer Kerry Ray King is an American musician, best known as a guitarist for the American thrash metal band Slayer.
17 Eric Peterson - Testament
18 Kirk Hammett - Metallica Kirk Hammett - Metallica Kirk Lee Hammett is the lead guitarist and songwriter for the heavy metal band Metallica and has been a member of the band since 1983. Before joining Metallica he formed and named the band Exodus.
19 Dimebag Darrell - Pantera Dimebag Darrell - Pantera Darrell Lance Abbott, also known as Diamond Darrell and Dimebag Darrell, was an American guitarist and songwriter best known as a founding member of two bands, Pantera and Damageplan, alongside his brother, Vinnie Paul. Abbott died in 2004 after he was shot by a mentally unstable fan.

He can play leads and rhythms better than Jeff Waters - Alcort

20 John Petrucci - Dream Theater John Petrucci - Dream Theater John Peter Petrucci is an American guitarist, composer and producer. He is best known as a founding member of the progressive metal band Dream Theater. Compared to his level of skill, John Petrucci is relatively unknown in the modern music industry.
21 Luc Lemay - Gorguts Luc Lemay - Gorguts

I think he need deserve to be higher at least top 10 - Alcort

22 Sully Erna - Godsmack Sully Erna - Godsmack Salvatore Paul "Sully" Erna is the American vocalist and guitarist for the American hard rock band Godsmack.

This guy even doesn't seriously about guitar playing. Out of this list - Alcort

23 Fredrik Norrman - Katatonia
24 Matthew Tuck - Bullet for My Valentine Matthew Tuck - Bullet for My Valentine Matthew "Matt" Tuck is a Welsh musician. He is the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist in the Welsh emo/metalcore band Bullet for My Valentine.
25 Jim Root - Slipknot Jim Root - Slipknot James Donald "Jim" Root, also known by his number #4, is an American musician known for being the rhythm/lead guitarist for the heavy metal band Slipknot, and the former lead guitarist for alternative metal band Stone Sour.
26 Daron Malakian - System of a Down Daron Malakian - System of a Down Daron Vartan Malakian is an Armenian–American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer.
27 Mikael Akerfeldt - Opeth Mikael Akerfeldt - Opeth Lars Mikael Åkerfeldt is a Swedish musician, prominently known as the lead vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter of progressive death metal band Opeth, as well as being the former vocalist of death metal supergroup Bloodbath for three albums up until 2012. more.
28 Rob Barrett - Cannibal Corpse Rob Barrett - Cannibal Corpse
29 Bill Steer - Carcass Bill Steer - Carcass Bill Steer is a British guitar player, and co-founder of the extreme metal band Carcass. He is considered a pioneer and an essential contributor to grindcore and death metal due to his involvement in Napalm Death and Carcass, two of the most important bands of those genres.
30 Ihsahn - Emperor Ihsahn - Emperor Ihsahn is a Norwegian composer, multi-instrumentalist, and vocalist. He is best known for his work with Norwegian black metal band Emperor.
31 Trey Azagthoth - Morbid Angel
32 Hank Shermann - Mercyful Fate

Are you sure he is rhythm guitarist? - Alcort

33 James Shaffer - Korn
34 Jeff Hanneman - Slayer Jeff Hanneman - Slayer Jeffrey John "Jeff" Hanneman was an American musician, best known as a founding member of the American thrash metal band Slayer.
35 Kai Hansen - Gamma Ray Kai Hansen - Gamma Ray Kai Michael Hansen is a heavy metal guitarist and vocalist. Hansen is the founder, lead guitarist, and vocalist of power metal band Gamma Ray. He is also the co-founder and former member of German metal band Helloween.
36 Willie Adler - Lamb of God Willie Adler - Lamb of God William M. Adler is the rhythm guitarist in the heavy metal band Lamb of God. He is the younger brother of his bandmate, drummer Chris Adler.
37 Max Cavalera - Sepultura, Soulfly Max Cavalera - Sepultura, Soulfly Massimiliano Antonio "Max" Cavalera is a Brazillian singer, guitarist, and songwriter who currently plays in heavy metal bands Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy, and Killer Be Killed.
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Related Lists

Top 10 Thrash Metal Rhythm Guitarists Top 10 Extreme Metal Rhythm Guitarists Best Rhythm Guitarists Top 10 Guitarists Who Switch Rhythm / Lead Guitar Role on a Regular Basis Top 10 Non-Metal Songs Featuring Galloping Rhythm

List Stats

200 votes
37 listings
5 years, 221 days old

Top Remixes

1. Dave Mustaine - Megadeth
2. Chuck Schuldiner - Death
3. Jeff Waters - Annihilator
1. James Hetfield - Metallica
2. Jeff Waters - Annihilator
3. Dave Mustaine - Megadeth
1. James Hetfield - Metallica
2. Jon Schaffer - Iced Earth
3. Dave Mustaine - Megadeth


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