Dimebag Darrell Named Greatest Riff Lord

A poll to find metal's most talented and beloved guitarists put the Pantera man ahead of Tony Iommi and James Hetfield. Who would you include?

logo
Ultimate Guitar
38

Dimebag Darrell has been named Riff King of the World by Metal Hammer magazine in a poll to find the most talented, iconic and beloved guitarists of all time.

The late Pantera guitarist faced stiff competition from the likes of Metallica's James Hetfield, Black Sabbath's Toni Iommi and Megadeth's Dave Mustaine, but industry experts and musicians ultimately decided that Darrell was the real riff lord.

Journalist Mick Wall discussed why Darrell is so revered in the metal community, describing him as a guitarist so unbelievably good he got banned from entering talent contests as a kid because he kept winning them. A cat so polar-cool he single-handedly took heavy metal in a new direction and influenced countless others to follow him.

"There have been plenty of giant-killing shredders over the years. There have been the most immense soloists. And of course there have been those masters of the metal universe: the riff overlords. The thing about Dimebag Darrell, though, is that he didn't just excel at any one of those things. He could do all of them, not just as well as the next axe-grinder. Not Just better, either. But in a whole new way he invented for himself, for us, forever.

Dimebag Darrell was shot onstage in 2004 while performing with Damageplan. His shooter was killed at the scene.

Who would you include in a list of riff lords? Share your suggestions in the comments.

237 comments sorted by best / new / date

    goremetal22
    I'm not saying one guitarist is better than the other, but Hetfield of Metallica has written some of the most iconic riffs in all of metal. If we're just talking memorable riffs here and not overall guitar skill, my money's on Hetfield
    1916
    Iommi... Mustaine... Wylde... Hannemann... Blackmore... Flynn... Hetfield... I might put down Frehley as well. I'm not a big Kiss fan, but that dude rocks
    blazingarpeggio
    Finally someone mentioned Rob Flynn! And aren't you guys forgetting Iron Maiden's Adrian Smith and Dave Murray? Not really no. one, but should be among the top
    CoyT
    My personal riff lord would have to be Jerry Cantrell, but you can never go wrong with Dimebag. Rest in peace, man.
    iommi600
    Jerry Cantrell is probably my favorite riff lord after Tony Iommi... the way he manages to mix melodic, beautiful licks with the most ****ed up, heavy and somber guitar riff just amazes me. Good examples of what I mean are Sludge Factory and Junkhead.
    \m/Gaz
    Yes, glad to see someone mention Cantrell, my personal favorite. Might as well face the fact that Dime is only there because he's dead. If he was still alive no one would give a shit about him by now.
    Wininacan
    Pat O'brien is hands down the greatest rifflord of history, a god living amoung men
    red_hot_chili18
    Gotta be Iommi
    TheExterminator
    Yeah, but Iommi isn't dead, so his importance can't be overblown, and his skill can't be overhyped, even though he could play circles around probably every Metal guitar player in his sleep, and he has little need to be overhyped, because he just plain rules. So, of course, Dimebag must win, despite having little to no legitimately good riffs to show for his supposed "masterful" guitar playing. Maybe they were talking about Power Metal-era Pantera? Because I don't see how anyone who knows even a handful of Metal could consider him a "riff lord" any other way. Did I miss the memo saying dumbed-down Exhorder riffs are now God-level?
    Kreatorofpain
    I think your bias is getting in the way of logically thinking. Everyone on this list is good however claiming Iommi could play circles around every metal guitarist is a joke. There are plenty that are way better. Maybe your basing your comment on the success of the player but when talking about actual guitar skills, there is no way that Iommi is even near the top 5. Maybe on the top 5 of popularity lists but not skill level.
    iommi600
    Skills aren't worth nothing if all you can do with it is useless guitar wanking.
    zomgguitarz1234
    He plays with 4 fingers. He has plastic ones that he puts rubber caps over so he can use them while playing.
    Veronique Vega
    Django Reinhardt only had 2 functioning fingers on his fretting hand in his later years. Iommi had the fingertips on his fretting hand basically cut off on his last day working at a metal shop, before going to be a full time musician.
    miahdoll
    How could you say Iommi could play circles around Dime? Are you kiddin me? Every riff from Iommi is awesome, but also easy to play, he mastered the power chord pretty much. I think Dimebag is light years ahead of Iommi. Not just because he's dead either.
    TheNumber6
    did you just say Dimebag has "little to no legitimately good riffs".. have you heard Walk, the Art of Shredding, Cemetery Gates, Cowboys From Hell, Mouth for War, or Im Broken? you cant sit there and tell me riffs from these songs arent "legitimately good"
    GuitarMilitia
    I think you never heard Pantera because your comment is so incredible wrong and pathetic. And that typical Exhorder-rip-off "argument" Really? I mean for me Tony Iommi is and will be the Rifflord but I think everyone who has at least a clue of Pantera can agree with me that Dimebag had plenty of good riffs and genius melodic stuff!
    iommi600
    Word. FFS, Iommi does with 2 fingers what most metal guitarists can't do with 4...
    Abacus11
    I agree with what you said about Iommi but I don't get what you're saying about Dime and Pantera. Have you ever listened to Exhorder? Pantera doesn't sound like a dumbed-down Exhorder I think it's the other way around. I totally agree that Pantera was very influenced by Exhorder's style on the first couple of albums but Pantera wrote way better songs... hence the success. It's all opinion though, they're both great bands.
    My Last Words
    (s)ex(to my ears)horder or no Exhorder, even in pre hardcore-TGST-attitude, Dime was a beast. Just check the power metal record. Seriously, DO IT. DO IT NOW!!! WE'LL MEEET AGAAAAAIIIIIN You won't regret.
    saint_berzerker
    Inform me, please....Iommi can play circles around who, exactly? He is a pioneer, of course....but I could play anything created by him before my 15th birthday. This has nothing to do with his death. He's not a Hendrix who was made into a god after his death...he earned it.
    LostKeys
    [QUOTE=saint_berzerker]He's not a Cobain who was made into a god after his death...he earned it.[/QUOTE] Fixed that for you.
    Braykah
    Just to make things clear: Have you actually ever listened to his playing, or are you just going by your prejudice that 'all dead guitarists are overrated'? No disagreeing that Iommi is a legend, he was after all the man who set the tone for guitar playing in metal, but there IS a reason why Dimebag is considered one of the best. By the way, I find your argument of "dumbed-down Exhorder riffs" very weak, childish and pointless, since we both know that is not the case. Cheerio!
    Izzy-Sweet
    Wow, are you me? These are my thoughts exactly. People do NOT improve after they die, they're skills and sound stays exactly the same, yet people rate them so high. I never thought much of Dimebag's guitar playing, he was good and I like Pantera, but I've never seen much that impressed me as much as it has others.
    )v(egaFan90
    Well, that's if you go by significance to the time period. Dimebag's riffs are far more technical than Iommi's. This is the reason polls like this are stupid because the earlier guys can't match up technically to the newer guys. The polls should take into account riffs relative to the time period.
    qrEE
    Well to be fair Iommi has a disadvantage, because he is missing TWO FINGERTIPS. But as well, Dimebag deserves to be named greatest Riff Lord because he has some of the Greatest riffs ever. He knows all of the technicals and has the intuition of a great riff writer. Iommi deserves respect by everyone on the planet, but so does Dime, and the guy who said it's "dumbed-down Exhorder" must not be a fan of Exhorder, because even Exhorder admits that Pantera's better. And I love Exhorder, but to insist on such a claim is like saying Megadeth's Rust in Peace is dumbed down Metallica.
    Nwright14
    If I had to pick my favorite Dimebag riff, I'd say the main riff from "5 Minutes Alone" is my favorite, that riff gets me so pumped for literally anything.
    Slaytan666
    The main riff from 'Shedding Skin' is bad-ass too.
    My Last Words
    'Shedding skin' is bad-ass too. There, fixed.
    Slaytan666
    I was just being specific. Anything by pantera is bad ass. I turned a friend of mine onto them, he asked "Which album should I buy?" I said "Doesn't matter. Just make sure it says Pantera on the front. Trust me."
    Tonganation
    I gotta say the bridge riff right before the breakdown in "This Love" is possibly my favorite Dimebag riff. So thrashy and groovy at the same time.
    cfhdomination
    As a big fan of Dime, I have to disagree. Mr. Iommi deserves to be #1.
    Dukey
    Dime probably would've say the the same. I'll add Cantrell, Wylde, Eric Peterson, Rhoads, Scott Ian.
    Slaytan666
    I can't argue with Dime, Hetfield, Iommi or Mustaine. I would add Max Cavalera to that list, though.
    Abacus11
    Max Cavalera! Yes! He's so underrated, especially for his work with Sepultura. He was one of the first guitarists to combine thrash and death riffs with slower, more groove oriented heavy music. I feel like he gets so overlooked for how influential his playing really was.
    Slaytan666
    My personal favorite is the intro/main riff to 'Must Kill'. If that was my alarm clock, I wouldn't be late for anything ever again.
    Slaytan666
    Sorry for the double post, but I forgot to clarify that 'Must Kill' is a Cavalera Conspiracy track.
    Abacus11
    I've gotta check out more Cavalera Conspiracy stuff I've only heard a couple of songs from the first album. My favorite Max riffs are mainly from "Arise" and "Chaos AD" but he's been creating crushing riffs for a long time.
    zalant
    For me, just for the riffs, not to mention the overall influence on metal in general, it's gotta be Hetfield. I realize that there might not have been a Hetfield without Iommi, but the 'Tallica riffs just are so burned into my brain. As for Dimebag, he really was the complete package, and one of the coolest dudes to ever strap on a guitar. Pantera really carried metal through the 90s and I'll always be grateful for that. I miss Dime's presence on the Earth every day and I feel angry every time I think about what happened.
    RocknRoll7425
    My pick would be James Hetfield! Why?? Listen to Master Of Puppets, should be reason enough.
    Josh Reubenking
    Hell yeah. Much deserved to him. Love Pantera tunes like "Walk," "Cemetery Gates," "5 Minutes Alone," or "Revolution is My Name." There's so many great riffs from Dime. Rest in Peace, Dime.
    RiffsanBridges
    Gotta give it to Dimebag, he was a damn good riff maker. Personally I would've chosen Iommi but Dime is definitely worthy of that title.
    Braykah
    Very well deserved, great to see that a guitarist who contributed so much to the legacy of metal still gets recognition. Rest in peace, Dime. As for me, Chuck Schuldiner, Eric Peterson and Mikael kerfeldt are some of my personal favorites when it comes to riffs.
    wylde1994
    Respect for mentioning Chuck, he has to be one of the most underrated metal guitarist ever and he was a fantastic player. R.I.P Chuck
    Shadow914
    I couldn't agree more, Dimebag and Chuck are my 2 biggest influences on guitar. Those 2 are THE riff lords, hands down. Iommi did create Metal but those 2 took it to all new levels... of confidence and power.
    Abacus11
    Well... if Tony Iommi isn't named "Riff King of the World" then Dimebag is the next best choice.
    Gitaarbanaan
    Jeff Loomis has some pretty awesome riffs as well, just check out his solo albums and Nevermore...I guess there are also some very nice riffs in Death Metal but no one seems interested in that genre when talking about great gitarist :p
    Offworld92
    Are you serious? Dimebag made one riff that happened to become stupidly popular, and now is revered just because he's dead. He shouldn't be anywhere near the list of best riffers.
    maleathe
    Ritchie Blackmore should be mentioned up there with Tony Iommi. Some incredible guitar riffs with Deep Purple. (Not so many good riffs with Blackmore's Night). Also like Jimmy Page, especially on Led Zeppelin's 2nd and 4th LP's. Good riffs, crappy guitar solos, though.
    sciacallo010
    Mine should be Dave Mustaine, but THE Riff Lord is Tony Iommi, no way. I mean, he invented Heavy Metal!
    i_am_metalhead
    Personally I don't get why everyone is crazy about Dime as a lead guitarist - he's really not that great. However, when it comes to riffs the man wrote a ton of really awesome ones.
    hotdogs585
    Aside from Cowboys from Hell, Dime never wrote a song I liked. I dont think its fair to anyone including dimebag to say he was the greatest riff lord (which is what a lot of people do when unfortunately great musicians die).
    hidd4n
    I would include Mark Knopfler in my list
    TunerAddict
    One of the most underrated guitarists. Most of these guys probably couldn't name his band without the use of google or wikipedia.
    rebeltildeth87
    Dime is brilliant but to get the title of Riff Lord one has to travel to the blackest pits of hell, past the rivers of fire and brimstone where Iommi rapes satan daily with his wall of Laney amps and massive riffs that are so ****ing heavy they tear the fabric of the spirit realm and crush heaven into nothingness.
    Most_Triumphant
    Jimmy Page will always be my riff lord. Good Times Bad Times? Communication Breakdown? Black Dog, RocknRoll?
    vppark2
    My favorite is Adam D. of Killswitch Engage.
    vppark2
    WHOA okay guys, excuse me if this is just me, my opinion. Im not saying hes the best or anything, hes just my favorite in the style of music that i listen to.
    ironman316
    Adam D and Joel are awesome. I love their style, it's so tight and precise. And some of their riffs are pretty difficult to play too.
    Red Soil
    Dimebag is just hyped up because he died. I love all the metal nerds who act like just because you sit in your bedroom all day and learn to play arpeggios and sweep picking etc. that it somehow makes you legit. Iommi wrote god classic riffs, while at the same time being a totally normal dude, who went out and partied. I'm tired of the nerdy bedroom guitarists that all imitate each other on youtube.
    Lapidus
    he was amazing but "he single-handedly took heavy metal in a new direction and influenced countless others to follow him.",really? Maybe they meant Randy Rhoads?
    saint_berzerker
    If you were around in the early/mid nineties in the guitar world, you'd know HOW he changed the direction of metal guitar playing. He was a different breed at that time. Rhoads did it also, but about 10 years earlier.
    Nethero
    Just think about heavy metal stereotypes. Ask some random person on the street what they think metal sounds like. If they start making whammy and pitch harmonic sounds then you know they're talking about Dimebag. He created a cliche, man.
    RobertStyx
    I can't help but feel that some one else would have been chosen had he not been killed. =/ He was a good musician, but there has been, still are and will be much better musicians than him.
    Darth_Pietrus
    Thank you! Im glad someone else thinks so aswell. I wonder how many people who voted actually listened back to some of their favorite riffs and then carefully made a decision instead of the same old Dime, Iommi, Hetfield, Rhandy or Mustaine...
    lefty311
    I love Dime, but this is the same post-mortem award given to anyone else who's passed away. If the tables were turned and Hetfield died but Dime was still alive. Hetfield would get the award.
    dime187
    But ...If the tables were turned Metal would be a hell of a lot cooler!...Hetfield is not worthy of re-stringing and tunning one of Dimes guitars...
    CoreysMonster
    I think Martin Hagstrm from Meshuggah could definitely give him a run for his money, especially seeing as Pantera and Meshuggah started at roughly the same time, and Pantera was a huge influence on Meshuggah's early sound. Iommi made some good riffs, sure, but none of them get me head-bobbing like a great Pantera, Meshuggah or even Alice in Chains riff.
    Veronique Vega
    Im more of a Dime fan, so Id say Dime. Agreed, Iommi built the metal riff house, and Sabbath is a riff driven powerhouse. But the main riff on Im Broken is just killer. Also mentionworthy is Zakk Wylde. He has literally followed Iommi, Rhoads, played beside Dime, while doing his own thing. Hes definitely a riffmeister.
    mop10893
    I'm sorry. I love Dimebag. I really do. He's one of my all time favorite guitarists. But he isn't the greatest riff lord. James Hetfield has written more memorable riffs then Dime. So has Dave Mustaine. And you can't call anybody the riff lord besides Tony Iommi.
    Hellraiser1337
    Randy Rhoads anyone?
    hotdogs585
    he was a good riff writer but the problem is the songs themselves weren't that great. crazy train is a fine example that it takes more than just a really really amazing riff to make a good song. same goes for deep purple's smoke on the water.
    Hellraiser1337
    All good valid points as well. I cant disagree with the Dimebag selection, he was amazing. My opinion just differs a bit.
    hotdogs585
    Yes very true. You are one of the rare people on here that understands this stuff is all just a matter of opinion and there is no right or wrong.
    Hellraiser1337
    Well I mean whether it's Dime, Randy (or dare I mention him on here) Dave Mustaine, they're all great riff writers, how can anyone go wrong with picking either of them? The simple fact that there's a shit ton of them just makes us as fans, lucky.
    i_am_metalhead
    He's a great contender but if you're looking at his time with Ozzy, he only put out two albums so, even though both of those albums were amazing, his 20ish songs don't hold up to guys that have written two or more times that much.
    napalm890
    revolution is my name, the sleep, floods, 5 minutes alone, im broken, etc... The guy clearly hasn't listened to much pantera or it seems much metal in general. Iommi was great for his time, great at writing riffs but he doesn't have much technical prowess. Any intermediate level guitarist can play sabbath songs but good luck with dimes solos.