The 50 Best Metal Riffs Ever

40. Nevermore – My Acid Words

Richard Shaw, Cradle Of Filth: “The main riff always gets me pumped. Jeff Loomis is well known as a soloist, but an underrated rhythm guitarist and riff writer. From a technical point of view, it’s a tour de force with many twists and turns. The perfect blend of vibe, technicality, chaos and aggression.”

39. Van Halen – Mean Street

Alex Skolnick, Testament:Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work impacted so much metal. Here, the Mean Street riff is the star of the show. A deep sense of swing with a perfect blend of single notes, mini-chords, content and space, it has a searing tone and attitude that perfectly captures its title.”

38. Extreme – Money (In God We Trust)

Dan Weller, Sikth: “Nuno [Bettencourt, guitars] is a criminally underrated riff writer. For my money, he’s up there with the great metal riff writers – James Hetfield and Dimebag Darrell. The intro riff on this song is one of his best – it’s got it all.”

37. Keep Of Kalessin – Armada

Serena Cherry, Svalbard: “A beautifully constructed face-melter of a song! With guitarist Obsidian C citing a flamenco guitar influence, the lead features intricate picking and a triumphant yet melancholic melody. This riff is technically innovative, uniquely emotive and a real headbanger to boot.”

36. Sikth – Way Beyond The Fond Old River

Keshav Dhar, Skyharbor: “This has everything I love about metal guitar – nasty, serrated chugs, ugly slides, wicked vibrato. Every part of the riff makes me want to grin from ear to ear. It has this sense of playful, almost careless confidence to it.’”

35. Celtic Frost – Procreation (Of The Wicked)

Gregor Mackintosh, Paradise Lost: “I think the best riffs are the simplest yet most memorable. The main riff from Procreation Of The Wicked is a textbook example of this. So simple, but so evil and miserable. As soon as I hear it, I have to pull a grim face. Apocalyptic filth.”

34. Periphery – Pale Aura

Midori, Lovebites: “I love the riff that uses the chords from the intro and chorus, it’s both melodious and exciting to listen to – it left a big impression on me. All the chord voicing is beautiful, and the melodies that link the chords together and fine rhythm is really catchy. I really like it !”

33. Annihilator – Phantasmagoria

Frédéric Leclercq, Sinsaenum/Dragonforce:Jeff Waters has always been one of my favourite guitarists. He came up with so many great riffs, intricate, melodic and aggressive at the same time. He has an amazing right-hand technique and it shows here, the ultimate thrash riff.”

32. High On Fire – Baghdad

Isaiah Mitchell, Earthless: “There’s too many great riffs to have an all-time favourite, so here’s my current favourite. It’s the first thing I heard from Matt Pike after Sleep. The tone is thick and muddy, and the progression has an Eastern vibe. Very ominous. Then the band kick in and blow it all wide open!”

31. Ozzy Osbourne – Bark At The Moon

Stefan Helleblad, Within Temptation: ”I’m a big Zakk and Randy fan, but one of my favourite riffs is credited to Jake E. Lee. The way the song kicks off straight into the guitar riffing mayhem is perfect. It’s an instantly recognisable riff – the energy, dark vibe, clever chord voicings, the intensity… awesome.”

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