Top Ten Underrated Guitarists: Overlooked No Longer

For my Writing For Magazines course, our final assignment was to write a feature article for a magazine of our choice. I decided to write an countdown list about the top ten most underrated guitarists in rock for Guitar World Magazine. I know that many of you may disagree with my list or feel I left some off (I definitely struggle with a few I had to leave off). So after reading my piece, jot down some guitarists you feel don’t receive fair recognition in the comment section. This way we can further shine a light on more unsung guitar gods! But first, take a look at the feature article I wrote (as well as the sidebar about underrated songs). Read the intro first then read the list after the hit.

Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton or Slash: these are a few of the guitarists who always dominate the covers of magazines. Media outlets are constantly praising their influence and talent. Yet whenever the discussion of guitar idols arises, there always seem to be a few names that don’t get fair acknowledgement. While these guitarists are given honorable mentions and modest placements on count-down lists, they still fail to receive rightful admiration despite their remarkable approach to the guitar.

Well not any more. It’s time to countdown ten guitarists or duos, both current and established, which too often get overlooked.

1. Malcolm Young (AC/DC): It’s usually Angus Young that steals the spotlight when AC/DC is mentioned by pop culture. And who can blame anyone for not instantly being attracted to school-boy gowned mad man? But as you’re distracted by Angus’ blistering solos and off the wall stage presence, it’s his older brother Malcolm who keeps the band’s signature sound intact. Malcolm, who is also a heavy contributor to AC/DC’s material, is held as one of the most dominant rhythm guitarists in rock n’roll history for his steady blues rock style. While he may not be as loud on stage as his brother, or other rock n’ roll guitar gods for that matter, he lets the music do the talking instead.

2. Jerry Cantrell (Alice In Chains): One of the key elements that separated Alice In Chains from the rest of the 90’s Seattle Grunge movement was Jerry Cantrell’s dark yet melodic riffs and solos. His solos are as memorable as the band’s signature vocal harmonies, forever leaving a lasting impressing in the listener’s mind. Bordering the style of Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix, Cantrell’s emotionally filled shredding was a breath of fresh air during a time when hair bands were either over-doing the solo or grunge bands weren’t soloing at all. On songs like “Man In A Box” and “Them Bones”, Cantrell brought back relevance to how the guitar riff was constructed.

3.John Frusciante (ex Red Hot Chili Peppers): Fans weren’t depressed for no reason when John Frusciante revealed he was leaving the band for a second time in December of 2009. Many considered his style a key factor to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ heart and soul during the 90s and 2000s. While his funk and rock style shined on Blood Sugar Sex Magik, it was his work on albums like Californication, By The Way and Stadium Arcadium that saw Frusciante grow not only as a guitarist, but as a musician. There is a lot to be said when fans hold a passionate connection to a song’s solo as they do to its lyrics.

4. Daron Malakian (System Of A Down/Scars On Broadway): During a time when nu-metal reigned supreme in the mainstream, Daron Malakian could have easily followed suit with the rest of the radio generic guitarists and still sell a few records. Instead, Malakian combine the styles of hardcore punk and metal to create the signature sound heard on System Of A Down’s self-titled debut and their landmark album Toxicity. And when he expanded his sound to show off more of his experimental and Armenian roots on Mesmerize and Hypnotize, Malakian brought something that had been long left unfocused to the metal song: simple but unforgettable riffs.

5. Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengence (Avenged Sevenfold): Some unjustly write Avenged Sevenfold off as either too mainstream or too similar to legends like Iron Maiden or Guns N’ Roses. However, the work created by Gates and Vengeance on albums like Waking The Fallen and City Of Evil are enough to showcase their unique talent. Their ability to combine So-Cal punk and metal in both their riffage and soloing while still creating songs with a lasting impression is a gift many up-and-coming guitarists can’t manage to obtain. And while many of their metalcore and rock peers are too busy trying to impress you with flashy sped up shredding, the duo put thought into each note while maintaining technical skills that many guitarist wish they obtained.

6. John 5 (Rob Zombie, solo): His painted face and horror get up make him look perfect as Rob Zombie’s ax slinger, but by no means is he a one trick pony. Throughout his career, John 5 has recorded and/or toured with metal artists like Marilyn Manson and Rob Halford, classic rock idols like David Lee Roth and Lynyrd Skynyrd and even country/pop artists like K.D. Lang. On top of his work with a variety of musicians, John 5’s instrumental solo albums showcases how his blend of metal and bluegrass makes him truly a unique guitarist of his time.

7. Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction): His dark and mysterious demeanor on stage wasn’t the only thing that helped crown Jane’s Addiction the alt-rock kings of the late 80s and 90s. Dave Navarro’s mixture of rock and funk with a splash of experimentation helped give way to defining the sound of alternative rock, and later heavily influencing the grunge and alternative scene that dominated MTV and radio throughout the 90s. Navarro’s ability to blend with the music’s rhythm without overbearing the song with loud and flashy shredding is an underappreciated skill many guitarists tend to lack.

8. Robby Krieger (The Doors): When you think of the Doors, Jim Morrison’s name is usually the first to pop into your head. But it was actually Robby Krieger who was the man behind such hits as “Light My Fire”, “Love Me Two Times” and “Love Her Madly”. Krieger’s mix of psychedelic rock and blues helped further establish The Doors as one of the most unique and influential bands to rise from the 60s.

9. Robin Finck (Nine Inch Nails, ex Guns N’ Roses): It isn’t exactly the easiest job to work in two different bands lead by two infamous and controlling rock frontmen. But Robin Finck used his signature blend of industrial and hard rock style to make his own sound stand out. Whether it was trying to bring life to Trent Reznor’s vision or attempting to fill Slash’s mighty shoes, Finck did something that many hired guns fail to do: maintain their own identity.

10. Michael Amott (Arch Enemy, Carcess) and Christopher Amott (Arch Enemy): You don’t have to be siblings in order to be a successful guitar duo. But Michael and Christopher Amott prove that sharing the same blood definitely doesn’t hurt. The Swedish brothers’ twin attack riffs and solos have helped Arch Enemy mold their melodic death metal sound. While many of death and thrash metal’s new generation try their hardest to shred faster than the other, the Amott brothers opt for structured solos that enhance the song, not distract.

Top Underrated Songs While we are on the subject of overlooked guitarists, let’s talk about songs. There are of course the classic anthems like “Voodoo Child”, “Crazy Train” or “Sweet Child O’ Mine” that are recognized within seconds of being played. Then there are songs that have the hook and technicality that make classics but aren’t well known by the masses. Here are six overlooked songs that obtain all the key ingredients to being a guitar masterpiece.

Coheed and Cambria, “Gravemakers & Gunslingers”- We all know their anthem “Welcome Home”, or at least have heard it in video games or movie trailers over the years. But Coheed and Cambria’s up-pace “Gravemakers & Guslingers”, featured in 2007’s No World Tomorrow, has the key component to what makes a memorable song: catchiness.

Trivium, “Throes Of Perdition”- Within seconds of the intro, the song is permanently implanted in your head. Trivium’s second single off of 2008’s Shogun features riffs and solos that are as hummable as the chorus itself.

Megadeth, “Tornado of Souls”- Their landmark 1990 album Rust In Peace features classics like “Holy Wars…The Punishment Is Due” and “Hanger 18”. Yet “Tornado Of Souls”, which possesses the melodic aggression and speed that define Megadeth, is a gem overlooked too often.

System Of A Down, “Sad Statue”– For those who thought Malakian lost his heaviness after Toxicity, then listen to this song. Sure, Mesmerize saw the band experimenting with different sounds. But “Sad Statue” sees them creating the simplest yet heaviest metal song they’ve ever written.

The Doors, “Peace Frog”- A true skill to aim for as a guitarist is the ability to compliment their fellow musicians. If you still struggle learning such a trait, then listen to how Krieger’s bluesy  funk guitar sound perfectly complements Ray Manzareck’s up-beat keys and Jim Morrison’s dark lyrics on “Peace Frog”.

Baroness, “Swollen and Halo”- Being progressive doesn’t mean you have to exchange melody or simplicity for complexity. With “Swollen and Halo”, Baroness show how technicality can still possess a memorable hooks.

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6 Responses to “Top Ten Underrated Guitarists: Overlooked No Longer”

  1. Nathaniel Says:

    I can respect every one of these guitarists except for John 5. I heard of him today and decided that I dislike him almost as much as I dislike The Fall of Troy(and you know how much I can’t stand them!). People continually call him technically skilled, but I can’t help but grumble about a guitarist who’s pinky finger has never touched the fretboard.
    And weird and obscure music is fine, but it’s like he’s trying overwhelmingly, [i]excruciatingly[/i] hard to be as weird as possible. Combining Bluegrass with Metal? Seriously? It’s like he sat down and said [i]”What’s the weirdest genre I can combine with Metal? Funk? Nah. Jazz? Nope. Oh, I know: BLUEGRASS!”[/i]

  2. zach-attack-shaw Says:

    Well you are allowed to have your own opinions (even if I disagree :p lol). Who would you say is overlooked too much the Nathaniel?

  3. Maybe a person tell me in which the regarding this is actually via? I am curious with regards to understanding regarding that.

  4. i think the most under-rayed guitarist in the world is randy venom from the Licks. He combines rock riffage with metal solos in a similar fashion seen to guitarist rocky george of suicidal tendancies.

  5. Kuck Monster Says:

    Deffinitly Mick Mars of Motley crue. I find it astounding how little glory he gets for his guitar talent

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