The definition of metal changes every decade as musicians continually push the genre to new extremes, writes Chris Gill of Gibson.com
. But several elements have remained consistent throughout the years: distorted guitar, heavy riffs, and lightning-fast solos. Some of the greatest guitar solos ever recorded can be found on metal classics from the '70s and '80s, and many of those solos were recorded using Gibson guitars.
What makes a guitar solo great? While technical precision and speed are certainly important, a good solo should also be inventive and imaginative. The solo should support the song, and the best solos are ones that are so melodically strong that you can sing them while you wail away on your air guitar.
Whole Lotta Love
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II [Atlantic, 1969]
Although it was released in 1969, Whole Lotta Love formed the foundation for hundreds of great heavy metal tunes that followed in the '70s, '80s, and beyond. Page's solo at the climax of the orgasm section exploded with primal fury, accentuated by double stomping power chords that defined heavy and metal with a one-two punch. The entirety of Led Zeppelin's second album is full of awe-inspiring solos, but with Whole Lotta Love, Page made his point loud and clear that the guitar hero for the modern age of rock had arrived.
Black Sabbath, Paranoid [Warner Bros., 1971]
Tony Iommi's epic solo begins with a majestic symphonic line that would make Tchaikovsky proud before bursting into an impressive display of descending triplets and bluesy howls. Ozzy Osbourne's lyrics may have painted a brutal depiction of war mongers, but Iommi's solo made listeners feel like they were in the middle of battle, surviving an onslaught of machine-gun bullets, screaming rockets, and bomb blasts. One of Black Sabbath's finest moments.
UFO, Phenomenon [Chrysalis, 1974]
This tour de force showcase of Schenker's formidable guitar talents was the metalhead equivalent of Freebird, and it became the centerpiece of UFO's live performances (captured brilliantly on Strangers in the Night). Schenker's extended solo displays virtuoso skills that left an indelible mark on numerous Euro-centric players like Yngwie Malmsteen and Eddie Van Halen.
Ted Nugent, Ted Nugent [Epic, 1975]
Another extended guitar solo, Ted Nugent's Stranglehold summoned up a barnyard full of squawks, squeals, and howls along with hypnotic melodies that make this song a sort of heavy metal Bolero. Nugent's use of a Gibson Byrdlanda guitar normally associated with jazzwas certainly unorthodox, but thanks to his uncanny ability to tame feedback he used it to great advantage.
(Don't Fear) the Reaper
Blue yster Cult, Agents of Fortune [Columbia, 1976]
Donald Buck Dharma Roeser
Buck Dharma's exotic solo on Blue yster Cult's breakthrough hit takes the song to a dark underworld full of tension and wonder while retaining the tune's somber, minor-key mood. Dharma's Middle Eastern, raga-esque lines were unlike anything heard in hard rock before, but they fit perfectly.
You Shook Me All Night Long
AC/DC, Back in Black [Atlantic, 1980]
Angus Young has always insisted that his main influence was the blues, and here he shows his roots in smashing form. But instead of fiddling about in the pentatonic box, Young delivers a rich, melodic solo that you can sing along with. An AC/DC classic.
Flying High Again
Ozzy Osbourne, Diary of a Madman [Epic, 1981]
Any of the solos that Randy Rhoads played during his brief time with Ozzy Osbourne could easily make the list, but Flying High Again fits just about everything that Rhoads was about as a player into a tidy package. You can hear Rhoads's classical influences in the melody and his Van Halen inspiration in the tapped flourishes, but, in the end, this solo is all about Rhoads's impeccable taste and immaculate phrasing, which few players since have matched.
Stand Up and Shout
Dio, Holy Diver [Warner Bros., 1983]
The year 1983 should go down in history as the period when the new age of shred officially began, and Vivian Campbell deserves recognition for helping to kick-start this trend. No one knew who Campbell was when he joined Dio, but after they heard this blistering, thousand-notes-a-second solo they had to find out more.
Thunder and Lightning
Thin Lizzy, Thunder and Lightning [Warner Bros., 1983]
John Sykes is another shredder who completely turned the guitar world upside down with his stunning speed and tasteful technique. Like the song's title, Sykes' playing was loud and flashy yet mysteriously mesmerizing. Sykes later enjoyed even greater success and fame by helping craft Whitesnake's breakthrough album, but from a guitar player's perspective this remains one of his finest moments.
Welcome to the Jungle
Guns N' Roses, Appetite for Destruction [Geffen, 1987]
By 1987, every guitarist was shredding like mad and studying exotic scales at GIT. Slash ripped across the grain with his boozy and bluesy playing on Welcome to the Jungle, which evoked Joe Perry's raunchiest moments with Aerosmith. Sure, other players may have had more polished technique, but few of them could match Slash's sweet emotion.
Five Overlooked Metal Solos You Should Know:
Sails of Charon Scorpions (1978)
Uli Jon Roth's epic Euro shred masterpiece.
Hammerhead Pat Travers (1979)
The prototype for '80s speed metal.
End of the World Gary Moore (1982)
The two-minute intro is the NWOBHM answer to Van Halen's Eruption.
Far Beyond the Sun Yngwie Malmsteen (1984)
Still awe-inspiring many have imitated Malmsteen, but he's still unequaled.
Mr. Scary Dokken (1987)
George Lynch's off-kilter instrumental fireworks make '80s hair metal seem okay after all.
Thanks for the info to Gibson.com.