Born Darrell Lance Abbot in 1966 and going by his stage name Dimebag, Darrell was a guitarist for both Pantera and Damageplan, both of which he co-founded with his brother. Regularly regarded as one of the heavy metal greats with the guitar – sometimes even the best – Darrell was one of the founders of the groove metal movement.
The album “Cowboys from Hell” from Pantera was first called “power groove,” which used the heavy energy of thrash metal such as Metallica but slowed it down. Like many on this list, Darrell left the mortal coil too early, in 2004.
If you want to talk about being fast, Michael Romeo is the man to speak to. His shredding has been melting face since 1994, when he formed the progressive metal band Symphony X. Whether he's building the chords of a ballad underneath singer Russell Allen's singing or running through the mind-bending solo of a half-hour long song about Plato's “The Odyssey,” Romeo displays an incredible mastery of his chosen instrument.
If you like fast playing, you're probably a fan of Romeo, whether or not you know it. He also loves to put classical touches from Mozart or Beethoven into his playing. A man of culture.
As a co-founder and guitarist for the heavy metal band Quiet Riot, Rhoads set the stage for the hard-pounding music that plenty of us love even to this day. He joined frontman Ozzy Osbourne, delivering some of the most hair-raising solos yet on songs such as “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley.” “Crazy Train” in particular, has one of the most recognizable riffs in heavy metal.
Rhoads popularized numerous now-commonplace techniques, such as two-hand tapping and dive bombs (rapidly lowering the pitch of a note using the whammy bar). Sadly, Rhoads passed away in 1982 at the age of 25 during an ill-planned flight.
While we'd all love this guy's real name to be Wylde, he was actually born Jeffrey Phillip Wielandt and would change his name to Zachary Phillip Wylde. As a guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne and one of the founders of the heavy metal band Black Label Society, Wylde's guitar credentials are stellar. He was even good enough at shredding and chugging to fill in during Pantera shows for Dimebag Darrell after his death.
Want to know how he got so good? Practice. According to him, he would get home from high school and practice pretty much until he left for school the next day.
Rush might be one of the more contentious bands here. Half of the people will say they're the best ever, and the other half will say they barely make music. However, saying Lifeson isn't a world-class guitarist is just plain wrong. He's the only founding member of Rush that is still in the band, and he's at or near the top spot in every rock guitarist poll.
Not only can he play sick solos or stirring classical pieces, but he can also play the mandola, the mandolin, the bouzouki, and more. Most rock guitarists these days will at least call Lifeson a genius.