24 August 2023
Underrated Death and Black Metal Guitarists
Hard rock and heavy metal are famously littered with blistering riffs and incredible shredding. Many of the finest of these, though, are buried under a heap of impenetrable Death or Black noise. After 4 days at Bloodstock this year Road Hounds has definitely developed a taste for the darker side of Metal.
We’ve gone down a a wormhole in search of underrated Death and Black Metal guitarists, whose best work begs you to pick up your air guitar and flail. We’ve focused on their skill, influence, legacy and sound. But above all, we’ve focused on second tier players who tend to be over shadowed by their more successful peers. There’s a playlist of course………….
The Finnish wild child Alexi Laiho emerged as one of melodic death metal top guitarists while leading Children of Bodom, serving as one of the biggest instrumental influences of his generation, reinvigorating shred guitar.
A neoclassical axeman, Laiho never feared a simple, effective melody with big time party flair, all of which defined the band’s peerless style. Widely celebrated as one of the genre’s most accomplished players.
Known to many as the founding father of death metal, Chuck Schuldiner’s brand of heavy metal opened the doors for a genre that had only been hinted at by efforts from Slayer and Venom.
Chuck helped pioneer a genre with his band Death and his heavy, technical and progressive style of play is still something that inspires metal guitarists today.
King Diamond guitarist Andy LaRocque is one of metal’s most underrated guitarists. LaRocque’s abilities are boundless, tearing off unrivaled solos, masterful lead playing blending subtle leads into rhythms or just going all-in on haunting melodies that provide a rich musical tapestry for King to weave his demented conceptual lyrics around. The guitarist was also recruited by Chuck Schuldiner (see above) to play on their fifth album, ‘Individual Thought Patterns.’
The Morbid Angel guitarist has earned praise for his playing style, pulling from influences as wide ranging as Randy Rhoads and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Azagthoth’s complex finger tapping and use of the Wah pedal have led to some of the more unique guitar solos.
Cynic’s Paul Masvidal extended death metal’s potential as a genre in 1993 with the release of ‘Focus.’ The guitarist implemented jazz fusion into his playing, furthering the ethos that began with bands like Atheist. He explored fusion even further in Gordian Knot and carried it over even more so in Cynic when they regrouped and stormed back with ‘Traced in Air’ in 2008. Incredibly technical and equally memorable, Masvidal’s dazzling playing is all his own.Luc LemayGorguts guitarist and mastermind Luc Lemay is responsible for some of the most outrageously complex music in the entirety of the metal canon. The pinnacle of his mad scientist-like effort came in 1998 with the divisive ‘Obscura.’
This saw Lemay play notes off the fretboard, incorporating maddening tapping rhythms across unstable tempo changes, almost sounding like an album played in reverse. Lemay’s arrangement skills are also impeccable, best highlighted on 2013’s ‘Colored Sands.’Paul WaggonerWhen it comes to pure chops and compositional vision, few can compare to Between the Buried and Me’s Paul Waggoner. BTBAM is comprised of untouchable musicians; masters in every sense of the word.
From epic leads like “Alaska” and “Prequel to the Sequel,” to some of music’s most emotive clean soloing on “Ants of the Sky,” to his iconic and flawless sweeping technique, Waggoner is a modern giant. Between the Buried and Me are metal’s Pink Floyd, and masterworks like ‘Colors’ and ‘The Parallax II: Future Sequence’ are flooded with Waggoner’s essence.Terrance HobbsSuffocation axeman Terrance Hobbs is one twisted musician. Simultaneously helping the band pioneer the brutal and technical death metal sub genres, Hobbs’s affinity for serpentine song structures centered around constant time changes and a pummeling barrage of riff after riff after riff have propelled him to the top of the death metal heap.Tomas Börje Forsberg, known by the stage name Quorthon (1966-2004), was a Swedish musician. He was the founder, songwriter, vocalist and guitarist of the band Bathory, which pioneered the black metal genre and is credited with creating the Viking metal style. A multi-instrumentalist, Quorthon wrote the music and lyrics on all of albums.Mark Morton & Willie Adler, Lamb of God (ex and current, respectively), are two of the most underrated players around. If you listen to some of the later Lamb Of God records, they’re completely burning their way up and down the neck. They write so many awesome riffs and lyrics for one of the biggest heavy metal bands in the world.
The group endured numerous lineup shifts during their career, with founding singer/guitarist Nergal being the only constant member.
On 2004’s Demigod, they may well have completed what may one day be looked back upon as their defining masterpiece of death/black metal. A brutal assault built on machine-gun playing that’s technical and precise, with searing lead guitar runs and counter-point doom-slow riffs.