What is the best metal guitar solo of all time? Undoubtedly, this is an unanswerable question. However, I’ve done my best to list over 50 of the best metal guitar solos from the past to the present.
I wouldn’t necessarily call this a definitive list, more a compendium of incredible bands and solos that you can delve into to expand your heavy metal repertoire. These solos are also not ‘ranked‘. I included numbers so that you can more easily keep track while reading the article.
To be included in this list the band needed to fall somewhere underneath the metal umbrella. For the sake of variety, I also made sure to only include a band once.
If you are a guitarist, I have also included links to guitar tabs for every song. Be warned, however, as you’ll really need to be firing on all cylinders to be able to master probably 90% of these incredibly technical solos. They are the best for a reason!
I purposely did not include any instrumental songs as I would prefer to create that list separately. However, as you are interested in heavy metal solos, you’ll probably also be interested in my list of the best shred guitarists. In there, you will discover a ton of amazing instrumental songs.
Best Metal Guitar Solos
1. Ozzy Osbourne – No More Tears (Zakk Wylde)
Never mind heavy metal guitar solos, this absolutely epic piece ripped out by shred legend Zakk Wylde has to be one of the tastiest solos from any genre of music.
Technically, ‘No More Tears‘ is not the hardest guitar solo to learn on this list as it is based on simple pentatonic box shapes. However, Zakk’s ultra-wide vibrato technique, emotive playing, and sheer speed could make it a deceptively tricky one to master for many!
Incredibly, Zakk recorded this meaty solo in just one take whilst jamming at a recording studio. There’s a reason the man is considered one of the best shred guitarists of all time!
2. Dream Theater – Under A Glass Moon (John Petrucci)
Let’s face it, pretty much every John Petrucci guitar solo could feature in this list! From David Gilmore-esque emotive solos to jaw-droppingly fast technical lines, John can do it all with relative ease.
It was hard to choose just one from Dream Theater’s enormous catalog, but the incredibly inventive and technically stunning guitar solo from ‘Under A Glass Moon‘ is definitely one of his most impressive.
The piece itself is only a minute long, but it is absolutely packed full of almost every guitar soloing technique under the sun. Sweep picking, whammy bar tricks, lightning-fast alternate picking, tapping, harmonics, legato, and even some tasty blues licks – you’ll need to bring your A-game for this one!
Impossible to get bored of, and almost impossible to learn! Check out the tabs above if you fancy giving it a solid go.
3. Pantera – Cowboys From Hell (Dimebag Darrell)
Many guitarists would likely argue that ‘Floods‘ was Dimebag’s best solo, but I’ve opted for the powerhouse playing in ‘Cowboys From Hell‘ instead.
This iconic piece is a great example of Dime’s love for symmetrical licks. This is where a fingering shape on one string is applied across all of the other strings without worrying about actually staying within any one scale. Also regularly used by Eddie Van Halen, one of Dimebag’s main influences.
Make sure to warm up properly before tackling this beast of a solo as it contains some monster stretches! Check out the tabs at the link above.
4. Metallica – One (Kirk Hammett)
It was between this and ‘Master of Puppets‘ for me. Seeing as Kirk recently admitted that he was bored of playing the MOP solo I’ve opted for ‘One‘ this time.
‘One’ actually contains a number of separate solos that all play their parts within this brutal song, but it is the tour de force that Kirk unleashes at 5:46 that most guitarists rate so highly.
The raw fury of this climactic solo is a cathartic release after the unrelenting anguish and trauma up until that point. A true masterpiece that will go down in history as one of the greatest metal guitar solos of all time.
5. Dio – Rainbow In The Dark (Vivian Campbell)
The song that first introduced me to pinch harmonics as a fledgling guitarist was Dio’s 80s anthem ‘Rainbow In The Dark‘. The track’s infectiously catchy but simple main riff aside, Vivian Campbell’s great guitar solo is an absolute face-melter!
Although you might think that crafting a solo as melodic and epic as this one would take a lot of writing and experimentation to come up with, it wasn’t actually the case for Vivian.
What you heard above was the very first take of a completely improvised and unrehearsed recording. Imagine belting out one of the best metal guitar solos of all time almost by accident – what a legend!
6. Queensryche – Jet City Woman (Chris DeGarmo)
Although ‘Jet City Woman‘ doesn’t have the most technical solo from prog metal giants Queensryche, Chris DeGarmo’s soaring masterpiece has got to be one of their tastiest.
The song itself is full of catchy riffs, incredible dual guitar riffs, interesting chord progressions, and of course, flashy and tasteful solos. DeGarmo truly was the whole package when it came to musicianship.
Fun fact! After leaving the band in 1998, Chris DeGarmo decided to change tack and went on to become a successful private jet pilot.
7. Iron Maiden – Powerslave (Dave Murray/Adrian Smith)
‘Powerslave‘ is the title track from Iron Maiden’s fifth album of the same name. It heavily features the band’s trademark galloping riffs, guitar harmonies, huge drums, and of course, Bruce Dickinson’s anthemic vocals.
The multiple solos, performed by guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith do not disappoint, and perfectly showcase their melodic and technical prowess. In classic Maiden style, each player has their own individual guitar solo, complimented by the rich sonic tapestry of an intricate harmonized section.
Check out the tabs at the link above if you fancy learning either (or both!) guitarist’s epic solos.
8. Periphery – Absolomb (Misha Mansoor)
There aren’t many solos on Periphery’s fifth studio album, so when Misha unleashes not one, but two incredibly melodic lead sections on ‘Absolomb‘ you are almost taken by surprise.
Djent is generally seen as being the most mechanical and, dare I say it, soulless of all the heavy metal genres. However, Mansoor is one of those players that genuinely manages to inject heart and emotion into this complex music style.
Surprisingly, Misha has indicated that he doesn’t rate himself as a soloist, and prefers to let other members of the band deal with those parts. Well, you certainly did a stellar job on this one, Mish!
9. Megadeth – Tornado of Souls (Marty Friedman)
Marty Friedman’s exceptional guitar work on ‘Tornado of Souls‘ regularly tops lists for being the greatest solo in heavy metal guitar history.
Marty is a player who focuses on melody rather than sheer speed, although he is very clearly capable of eye-popping speed when the time calls for it.
This great guitar solo showcases his signature style, featuring plenty of precise and intricate bending, creative arpeggios, an exotic choice of notes, and a killer vibrato technique.
10. Judas Priest Painkiller (KK Downing/Glen Tipton)
Glenn Tipton and KK Downing’s work on Judas Priest’s ‘Painkiller‘ has to be some of the most underrated guitar playing in heavy metal history.
Throughout the guitar solo sections, both players impressively manage to flip between periods of full-on shred assault and notably melodic parts. Plus, the incredibly juicy tones are enough to make this a worthwhile listen alone!
Hit up the link above where you’ll find accurate tabs for both players’ solos.
11. Machine Head – Descend the Shades of Night (Phil Demmel)
The epic closing track from Machine Head’s fifth studio album is almost eight minutes long and features one of the band’s most lauded solos. Listen to ‘Descend the Shades of Night‘ below.
Before the release of ‘Through the Ashes of Empires’, the band’s guitarist Ahrue Luster had left due to creative differences. So, for this new album, frontman Rob Flynn brought in Phil Demmel for recording duties.
Phil’s tasteful minute-long guitar solo starts out slow and melodic and then builds to a hypnotic harmonized section with Rob.
As this piece isn’t an all-out shred-fest there’s nothing too desperately difficult to learn here, so it should be within reach for most guitarists. Check out the tabs at the link above.
12. Children of Bodom – Everytime I Die (Alexi Laiho)
This is one of those songs that will almost certainly guarantee you a speeding ticket if it comes on while you are driving. It’s hard to convey how fired up I get listening to Children of Bodom’s four-minute epic ‘Everytime I Die‘.
Alexi’s soaring solo begins towards the end of the song with some of his trademark whammy bar and tapped licks before ending on some simple, but super-fast descending pentatonic runs.
Finally, he harmonizes with the keyboard melody before smashing back into the final bone-crushing 20 seconds of the song.
Without a doubt, this is one of the greatest, most energy-laden, and catchiest metal guitar solos of all time. RIP Alexi, you are missed!
13. Opeth – Burden (Mikael Akerfeldt/Fredrik Akesson)
Watershed is Opeth’s ninth studio album, and the last to feature any death metal elements. The fourth track ‘Burden‘ is a haunting ballad, written about one of Mikael Akerfeldt’s ex-girlfriends who tragically committed suicide during the recording of the album.
Burden sees frontman Mikael Akerfeldt and guitarist Fredrik Akesson trading tastefully melodic solos before joining forces with a powerful harmonized section.
The song also ends on an acoustic solo where the guitar becomes increasingly detuned as the piece progresses. A very cool and memorable effect that slightly messes with your brain. You’ll undoubtedly need a helper to fiddle with your tuning pegs if you want to get close to that sound, however!
14. Avenged Sevenfold – Afterlife (Synyster Gates)
‘Afterlife‘ is the seventh track from Avenged Sevenfold’s self-titled fourth studio album and features one of Synyster Gates’ most ferocious shred metal guitar solos.
In what seems to be a recurring theme in this list, Afterlife’s solo begins with a melodic harmonized section featuring both Gates and fellow left handed guitarist Zacky Vengeance.
Gates then unleashes a relentless barrage of insanely fast-picked licks, swept arpeggios, and a few whammy bar flourishes to top things off. Flashy, memorable, and technically excellent, this solo ticks all the boxes!
15. Symphony X – Set the World on Fire (Michael Romeo)
I feel like Symphony X are one of those criminally underrated bands who deserve to be way bigger than they actually are. Especially with the absolute beast that is Michael Angelo on guitar duties – literally any of their songs could easily feature on this list.
Still, for those of us in the know, here is one of the band’s biggest hits, and biggest metal solos – ‘Set The World on Fire‘.
The main section from this solo that most guitarists talk about is the insane sweep-tapped part that Michael plays in tandem with the band’s keyboard player Michael Pinnella.
In addition, there are plenty of Romeo’s signature fast-picked licks, two-handed tapping, and wide vibrato techniques to get your fingers around. Check out the guitar tabs at the link above!
16. Mastodon – Jaguar God (Brent Hinds)
‘Jaguar God‘ is the closing track from American heavy metal band Mastodon’s seventh studio album ‘Emperor of Sand’.
Clocking in at almost eight minutes in length, Jaguar God is one of the longest tracks on this list. However, at just 60 seconds in duration, many Mastodon fans wished that Brent Hinds’ incredibly melodic metal guitar solo section was a tad bit longer!
Find the guitar tablature at the link above if you fancy tackling Brent’s work yourself.
17. Nevermore – Born (Jeff Loomis)
If you’re after ultra-heavy, ultra-technical, and ultra-catchy metal, then you’ll struggle to find a better band than the mighty Nevermore. Even the riffs in many of their songs could be almost considered solos by most other bands’ standards!
‘Born‘ is the intro track to the band’s 2005 masterpiece ‘This Godless Endeavour’. The chorus features what has to be one of the best metal guitar riffs of all time, and Jeff Loomis manages to keep the momentum going during his incredible solo break as well.
Loomis is a monster player, able to play with unbelievable precision, speed, and melody, so you’ll really have to bring your A-game to master this one!
18. Tool – Jambi (Adam Jones)
Tool isn’t really a band that is known for their solos, but Adam Jones’ work on ‘Jambi‘ really deserves a mention in this list.
This piece is definitely the least technical solo on the list, but it still sounds so unbelievably epic with the thunderous bass and drums in the background.
Plus, you’ll need a TalkBox if you want to get his exact sound on the guitar. However, you can get somewhat close to Adam’s vibe with a wah pedal if you don’t want to spring for such a niche piece of additional gear!
19. Arch Enemy – Nemesis (Michael Amott)
Following Tool, we have another solo that isn’t overly technical but is absolutely dripping with melody and emotion.
There is a first solo at around the 42-second mark in Arch Enemy’s ferocious ‘Nemesis‘ that is incredibly fast and technical. However, it is guitarist Michael Amott’s slow-paced outro-solo that is the most memorable of the two.
It just goes to show that you don’t have to be playing at a million notes per minute to craft an everlasting piece of heavy metal guitar music. Although, that main riff is daaamn fast…
20. Necrophagist – The Stillborn One (Muhammed Suiçmez/Christian Muenzner)
Let’s step back into the technical metal solos with Necrophagist’s savage track ‘The Stillborn One‘ from their final studio album ‘Epitaph’.
The solo begins with frontman Muhammed Suicmez ripping out some ferocious alternate picking, a few swept licks, as well as some complex tapped sections. Guitarist at the time, Christian Muenzner then takes over with more unbelievable shred antics.
Fans of pure and unrestricted speed will love to sink their teeth into these two solos. Check out the tabs at the link above!
21. Motorhead – Ace of Spades (Eddie Clarke)
As the band that probably influenced many of the others here, I couldn’t not include Motorhead, could I? Definitely the shortest track in this list at just 2:44 long, but also one of the biggest and most well-recognised!
‘Ace of Spades‘ is the intro track from Motorhead’s 1980 album of the same name. Eddie Clarke’s short solo on this song is one of the most straightforward to learn on this list, but is also one of the most iconic!
The solo is based around everyone’s favorite minor pentatonic scale and is more about attitude than technical proficiency. Grab your loudest guitar and belt this one out with aggression!
22. Soilwork – Machinegun Majesty (Mattias Eklundh)
‘The Chainheart Machine’ is the second studio album from Swedish melodic metallers Soilwork. The second to last track ‘Machinegun Majesty‘ features what many guitarists tout as being the band’s best-ever solo, and it’s actually played by a guest artist…
For the solo on this track, Soilwork recruited Swedish guitar virtuoso Mattias Eklundh for some truly unforgettable fretboard wizardry.
In classic Eklundh fashion, the guitar work is extremely technical and also quite unusual – at one point there is even a drill involved! So, yeah, good luck with this one!
Check out the tab above if you don’t fancy learning this super-tricky piece by ear!
23. DragonForce – Through The Fire and Flames (Herman Li/Sam Totman)
You didn’t think I’d forgotten about one of the most over-the-top and show-boaty metal guitar solos of all time, did you? Even non-guitarists know this one thanks to its status as one of the hardest songs on Guitar Hero.
‘Through The Fire and Flames‘ is the lead track from British power metal band DragonForce’s third studio album ‘Inhuman Rampage’. It is the band’s biggest track to date having achieved platinum status, and is well known for its insane twin solos from guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman.
The solos are played at a super-fast tempo and will really test your stamina as well as your shred chops. Expect tons of tapping, sweeping, whammy bar antics, and carpal tunnel-inducing tremolo picking.
I certainly don’t envy anyone who has tried to figure this piece out, so save yourself the effort and peruse the guitar tabs above for an easier learning experience.
24. Slayer – Angel of Death (Kerry King)
‘Angel of Death‘ is the first track from Slayer’s 1986 album ‘Reign In Blood’, and has been referred to as ‘the pinnacle of speed metal’.
In classic Kerry King fashion, the solo is literally a solid minute of machine gun picking and wild whammy bar tricks. A ton of speed, stamina, and aggression will be required by the boatload to get anywhere close to nailing this absolute shred assault.
This is another one of those songs that I have no idea how people have managed to figure it out and lay it out nicely in tab format. I’d bet even Kerry King himself plays this slightly differently every time!
For that reason, you might like to check out the Learn To Play Slayer series over at LickLibrary where shred maestro Andy James breaks down the solo in an easier-to-follow video format.
25. Anthrax – I’m Alive (Rob Caggiano)
Originally titled ‘Vampires’, ‘I’m Alive‘ is the fifth track on thrash metal giants Anthrax’s 10th studio album ‘Worship Music’.
Anthrax gained a Grammy nomination for the song which oddly came over a year after the album was released. Loudwire and Metal Rules also both voted the record as being the best heavy metal album of 2011.
Guitarist Rob Caggiano’s solo towards the end of the song is chock full of tasty licks and incredibly fast sections, but surprisingly, I wasn’t able to find any tabs!
So, if you have the skills to figure out this incredible solo, make sure to share it on a tablature database such as Ultimate Guitar so that others might enjoy playing it too!
26. Black Sabbath – Neon Knights (Tony Iommi)
‘Neon Knights‘ in the intro track from Black Sabbath’s 1980 release ‘Heaven and Hell’. It is the first Sabbath album to feature Ronnie James Dio on vocals after Ozzy Osbourne was fired in 1979.
The solo is based around the E-minor pentatonic scale, with some Aeolian ideas thrown in for good measure. In terms of difficulty, this should be one of the easiest metal guitar solos to learn on the list. However, coming close to Iommi’s superb feel and emotion could prove tricky!
If you fancy tackling this 80s classic, hit up the link above for tabs.
More Heavy Metal Guitar Solos
I could go on, and on (and on!), but this list is growing out of control. So, here is a quick list of a few more incredible tracks with juicy heavy metal solos that you can also check out.
- Annihilator – Alison Hell
- Testament – First Strike Is Deadly
- Helloween – Halloween
- Leprous – The Shadow Side
- Exodus – The Ballad of Leonard and Charles
- Haken – Veil
- BTBM – Selkies: The Endless Obsession
- Evergrey – Blinded
- Carcass – No Love Lost
- Death – Flattening of Emotions
- Born of Osiris – Devastate
- King Diamond – Trapped in the Corner
- Stone Sour – Come What(ever) May
- Angra – Angels and Demons
- Death Angel – Mistress of Pain
- Kreator – From Flood Into Fire
- Wargasm – Revenge
- Vektor – Echoless Chamber
- Forbidden – Chalice of Blood
- Dethklok – The Cyborg Slaters
- DGM – Reason
- Rivers of Nihil – Subtle Change
- Trivium – Shogun
- Wintersun – Winter Madness
- After the Burial – Ometh
- Obscura – Akroasis
- Revocation – Witch Trials
I hope this enormous list offers you a ton of inspiration and new bands to listen to. However, I have no doubt that I have missed plenty of incredible heavy metal guitar solo choices. You’ll find a link to my contact form at the bottom of the page if you’d like to get in touch and suggest further additions!
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