Zoltan Bathory: 10 guitarists that changed my life

Zoltan Bathory
(Image credit: Jeremy Saffer)

MHR364 Cover Five Finger Death Punch

(Image credit: Future)

Few bands in modern metal can match the sheer success of Five Finger Death Punch. Taking metal club anthems and propelling them into arenas around the world (netting gold and platinum certifications in the process), FFDP have reintroduced stadium sensibilities into heavy metal while not losing the sheer heft brought in by the nu metal movement. 

With Five Finger Death Punch gracing the cover of the new Metal Hammer, and new album AfterLife on the horizon, we asked guitarist Zoltan Bathory to pick out the 10 guitarists who inspired him on the path to heavy metal superstardom. “I’m a rhythm player who plays with a baritone guitar; those things aren’t really made for shredding,” he admits. “You can tow ships with my strings! You’d lose a finger if you tried to shred too much, so my choices mostly aren’t your usual guitar gods.”

Metal Hammer line break

1. Dave Murray (Iron Maiden)

“There’s a reason Dave Murray is first on this list. When I discovered Iron Maiden, I was listening to punk music mostly. The Exploited, GBH, UK Subs – I was a punk kid and listened to that music. The first time I heard Iron Maiden, Paul Di’Anno was singing for them and I just thought ‘whoah, this is a punk band but these guys can really fucking play!’

Guitar solos aren’t a thing in punk, but those early Iron Maiden records sounded like a punk band where everyone was a really good player. They pushed me onto the path of heavy metal and that’s also what made me want to be a guitarist, so the first big show I ever saw was Iron Maiden too. Dave Murray has something to him which just can’t be repeated – part of it is technique, but there’s something in the tone that is uniquely him. He proved you didn’t have to be this crazy wizard on guitar – your playing could be great and just serve the band.”

2.  Wolf Hoffmann (Accept)

“I love Accept – they’re from the same era as Iron Maiden, so I got into them around the same time. The first Accept record I heard was Metal Heart, which I know isn’t their first record, but that’s where I got in and started listening to them through Russian Roulette, Eat The Heat and whatever. By the time I was listening to Wolf Hoffmann I was listening from the perspective of a guitar player – though a beginner, of course.

What’s really interesting to me is that he’s a really solid rhythm player – I love the power you can feel from his playing. When you hear his leads, I noticed he was palm-muting some of the notes during his leads and I loved that because it sounded so powerful. I always gravitated to rhythm players first before I got into the lead stuff, but he was mixing it up and I could hear the classical influence that most European bands have.”

3. Scott Ian (Anthrax)

“During the 80s, there were guitarists who were famous for being shredders, or technical guitar players, but Scott Ian was a rock star even though he was a rhythm player. That’s because he was special; when you look at the thrash scene, he was different to everyone else. 

When I’m going through thinking ‘how does he do this rhythm stuff’, I noticed his does this alternate picking. It’s like, what he’s playing is not possible if you only down-pick. It changed how I played guitar; I loved Anthrax so much for that I hitchhiked to Germany to go see them. Scott is a very modern, precise player.”

4.  James Hetfield (Metallica)

“James is the guy who, his rhythm tone is basically the bar. If you can get that metal tone down – particularly around Master Of Puppets era – that’s basically the rhythm of heavy metal being perfected. He plays exactly what he needs to play – not a note less, or a note more. 

It’s a foundation and that’s why I gravitated towards it. He’s as solid as a foundation can be. I’m very analytical when I look at other player’s playing, and the fact he can play so perfectly and just feed the song over the ego of the individual is why I love him so much.”

5. Dimebag Darrel (Pantera)

“I’m a bigger fan of Dimebag's rhythm playing than his leads. The first time I heard him was on Vulgar Display Of Power, after not being familiar with the band before. But it was an important moment for me because it's when I realised, very clearly, that there’s a difference between American and European heavy metal. 

If you look at European players, classical music is a background to the culture. I can whistle anything from Bach to Vivaldi and you’ll probably recognise it, so European metal often relies on these harmonies taken from classical. But American bands come from this rhythm and blues tradition, so the style of playing is very different. That’s what made me want to combine both styles – I wanted the power groove of Dimebag and the melodies of Iron Maiden. That’s what Five Finger Death Punch is.”

6. Yngwie Malmsteen

“You can’t have a list of guitar players and not include Yngwei Malmsteen. Kids now have stuff like YouTube, so they have access to the total knowledge of the human race with all these instructional videos for things we used to have to figure out on our own. Now there are all these 10-year olds who can play insane guitar that would blow your mind. But I remember hearing Yngwie Malmsteen the first time and it was like ‘this should not be even possible’. I literally thought ‘why do I even bother?’ ha ha!

Yngwie was the guy who created the real guitar hero, where the skillset is just on a whole other level. This was a technical bravado of unmatchable skill. He was the guy who made me stay at home and struggle to learn the parts, rather than going out. I don’t think I’ll ever play like him, but there was a time that I attempted.”

7. Vinnie Moore

“After Yngwie, I realised there were these guitar gods and it made me want to be better. The more you know, the more you know you don’t know. He opened the door for me to shredders – mostly through Shrapnel Records and all the guys who came out of there; Cacophony with Jason Becker and Marty Friedman, Tony MacAlpine, Vinnie Moore – all these insane players. 

It might be sacrilege, but Vinnie Moore’s sweeps were maybe even cleaner than Malmsteen in some places. They’re so insane, it was like another layer of playing on top. Yngwie still tried to have a band around him – he’d have vocals and whatever to make songs. But guys like Vinnie Moore were all about the playing.”

8. Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne/Black Label Society)

Zakk Wylde was another guy who really evolved my playing. He was the first guy I noticed who played like Wolf Hoffman – he plays leads, but palm-mutes the notes so its really beefy and powerful. Even if you don’t see Zakk Wylde, you hear his playing and know he must be 6’5”, that guitar is screaming for its life. He probably twists the guitar’s shape by playing it. His guitar is this roaring lion; but you know what’s more powerful? The guy controlling it.”

9. Randy Piper (W.A.S.P.)

“So I was a fan of W.A.S.P., but mostly for Blackie [Lawless]’s voice. They weren’t really a guitar band, but when I saw a video Randy Piper had this BC Rich Warlock. At 12 years old, it was like ‘oh my God, look at that fucking thing!’ I’d never seen anything like it before and it screamed heavy metal to me.

So I went out and got a saw and cut the shape of the guitar out of my parents coffee table without their permission. So my first guitar was in the shape of a BC Rich Warlock, trying to imitate Randy Piper. It was an unplayable piece of crap, but I had to assemble it myself because there was no other way to get a guitar like that in my country at the time. Now I own that actual guitar – I brought it a few years back.”

10. Logan Mader (Machine Head, Soulfly, Once Human)

“When nu metal came in, they didn’t do guitar solos. I wasn’t a fan at the time because again, I grew up with 80s metal and I was that guy. But the way they wrote songs was very different and it was all about the sound and the groove – something all of those bands had. If you look at the guys from Korn or Limp Bizkit, they had these super low-tuned guitars and were using these things because they sounded ferocious.

Logan Mader was a member of Machine Head and Soulfly, now he plays with his new band, Once Human. But when I moved to America he used to rehearse next to me, and it was him playing with Roy Mayorga, he had this guitar sound that was so ferocious it was nuts. I actually asked him – ‘what the fuck is that?’ and he had a nickname at the time which was ‘Low-G Logan’9 because he’d tune his guitars so far down. He recommended Baritone guitars and I went out to get one; this was summer 2000 and that’s why I still play one today. I’ve never looked back.”

Five Finger Death Punch

(Image credit: Future)

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Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.