Author: Joel McIver
Title: “The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists”
Publisher: Jawbone Press
Release Date: 12/18/2008
Genre: Heavy Metal
Wow, where can I begin with this one? Now while I know that it sounds like a very dramatic opening for a book review, it does not come to be said without the utmost of seriousness when it comes to the subject matter featured in “The Top 100 Metal Guitarists” by author Joel McIver. Truth being told, I liked a large portion of what the author was presenting in the book but with any list of favorites of all time or “best picks”, the final product does not come without some reprisal from the worldwide Metal readership. Just look at anyone’s top list on the major news feeds to see how much they get taken apart by the fans. Before I get any further into this I should inform the readers that I was at one time a Metal drummer, and with that being said I might call into question my overall view of what makes a “great Metal guitarist” and then again perhaps not because we see this role from a different perspective that might be welcomed by some. McIver has written books about both Slayer and Metallica along with a number of other worthy artists and with his being a regular writer for Total Guitar magazine his expertise does not come into question as much as his personal list of favorites did for me. He begins the book with a great opening about how he left off such Metal guitarists as Neil Young and the like because apparently a recent popular magazine had listed their top Heavy Metal players and less than half of them had ever done the craft before and that was a fantastic way to begin. From there he begins to line out which he felt ranked at number 100 and then works his way down to the main axe slinger of them all. As a book of this type, it is nicely laid out for the reader and makes sure to feature a number of quality photographs of the guitarists in action along with offering up some commentary and anecdotes about each and every one of them.
Some guitarists in the higher ranking numbers get only a small paragraph, like the listing for Michael Romeo who sits way up at the top at 96 for some unknown reason while other players of far less a caliber get a little bit more as we find with Mantas from Venom. This was an interesting read, but I was left scratching my head from time to time as each player went passed me and I often would be flipping back and forth saying “wait, he thinks this guy is better than that guy!!!!”. It’s opinion and it’s subjective, and it was surely something that I wanted to point out to guitar players I knew over a couple of beers to find out just how much they agreed or disagreed. Since I wanted the book to remain in one piece, I thought better on this idea and chose to just direct them to a copy of their own instead of letting the chance to burn mine ever come to pass. Of course I fear that I am once again letting my imagination get ahead of me but do you think a list that leaves players like Randy Rhoads and Yngwie Malmsteen off completely and instead puts in the guys from Bullet For My Valentine and Avenged Sevenfold wont set people off then you have another thing coming. Over the course of Metal music history Rhoads and Yngwie’s early guitar influences are considered seminal pieces for the genre and they build the framework that hundreds, no, thousands of guitarists honed their own craft and aspired to greatness because of. Granted there are some reputable and kick ass players delivered in these pages like Alex Skolnick, Michael Schenker, the Priest and Maiden guys but to find Tom Morello in and Eddie Van Halen not, well, I guess you can see why I am so adamant about it and venting both my frustration and amazement.
I surely cannot contest his inclusion of Dimebag and the legendary greatness of Tony Iommi but to find Zakk Wylde listed as higher up than either of them once again led me to flip back and forth to make sure that I was not seeing things. Don’t get me wrong because I enjoy a lot of what Zakk does but when it comes down to riffs there is no way that he ranks higher than someone like Alex Skolnick or Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah). The book ends its ranking with a couple of surprises before it leads you to the number one spot and while I will not argue that the very outspoken guitarist is among the best that his being selected as the main man of them all left me a little puzzled. The top three is actually a bit confusing because one leans more to the Progressive while the other one has remained primarily a cult figure on the axe when it comes down to it. Let’s move on to the very last pages of the book now shall we? After the “Top 100” have been named and discussed by the author he lines out in two separate appendixes a list of “They Also Served” and a list of “The Shredders Not Metallers” and this is what left a very sour taste in my mouth.
Appendix 1 – They Also Served (The Next 50): When I reached this part of the book I found my jaw stuck to open as I found players like Criss Oliva (Savatage), Willie Adler (Lamb Of God) and Peter Wichers (Soilwork) being relegated to a mere listing as opposed to being included in the main portion o the book. Clearly the influences of Oliva set the standard for some of the Melodic Hard Rock and Metal that led up to entities like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra being formed while Adler is the riff meister for the leaders in the NWOAHM with LoG and deserves better. Melodic Death Metal would not have been the same without the techniques of Wichers and while folks like Thomas Youngblood (Kamelot) and Hank Shermann (Mercyful Fate) are personal choices, they each have done their part to make this music more exciting. Perhaps he should have at least offered up a sentence or two about each of these fine musicians because only naming them came off to me as unacceptable.
Appendix 2 – The Shredders (Not Metallers): An additional 20 guitarists are featured here in name only and I must admit that this proved to be a disappointment for me because it continued the process that the above appendix started and leaves players like Rhoads, Van Halen, Malmsteen and George Lynch to merely be mentioned and discounted because they “shred”. Maybe that’s true for folks like Impelliteri and MacAlpine but there was a lot more in the way of musical depth being delivered by many of the guys in this list and to be honest a couple of them don’t even belong here in the first place (Satriani, and Eric Johnson to name them).
Talk about a read that will leave you not only entertained but also ready to run into the town with torches blazing. I had to admit that this one really left me confused even though I tried to see where the author was coming from with it. In the end there were too many glaring omissions and too many off the beaten path choices made but again such a list boils down to personal opinion and many are bound to both agree and disagree with the author. This one will surely cause some controversy and has already started some debates among guitar players that I know and hang around with. Mr. McIver I can hardly wait for your list of “The Top 100 Heavy Metal Drummers”.
1. Top 100 Heavy Metal Guitarists
2. They Also Served: 50 More Guitarists (appendix 1)
3. The Shredders: 20 More Guitarists (appendix 2)
Official Website: http://www.joelmciver.co.uk/