Top 10 Heaviest Guitar Riffs Ever

What happens when the world's biggest guitar community votes for the heaviest guitar riffs? You get the loudest top 10 list all year, that’s what.

Ultimate Guitar

What are the heaviest guitar riffs of all time? That's what we asked Ultimate Guitar readers on Wednesday, and given that they're the biggest guitar community in the world, it's pretty safe to say the results are as authoritative as they come. So which band is responsible for the greatest riff ever? Wherever you are, find a way to turn up the volume and experience the noise. You won't regret it.

10. Machine Head "Halo"

Machine Head get to kick off our list with their "Halo" track - a very sturdy, precise groove and one of the band's definite classics. Robb Flynn and co definitely let it rip on this one, earning them a rightful spot on the list.

YouTube preview picture

9. Sepultura "Refuse/Resist"

Boiling with pure anger, "Refuse/Resist" is not only one of staple Sepultura tracks, but an epitome of a guitar heavy riff. It also earned Brazilian fury a No. 9 spot in UG readers' book.

YouTube preview picture

8. Electric Wizard "Funeralopolis"

As one of the underdogs, Electric Wizard earned enough kudos from the members of UG community for a No. 8 spot. Utterly gloomy and ominous, their "Funeralopolis" track riff is nothing short of heavy.

YouTube preview picture

7. Meshuggah "obZen"

Swedish metal masters Meshuggah have enough riffs in their arsenal to melt your face off and "obZen" tune is a fine representative. The distinctive sound and through-the-roof distortion, what more could anyone need?

YouTube preview picture

6. Rage Against the Machine "Bulls on Parade"

The track features plenty of Tom Morello's signature guitar tricks, but it's the bone-crushing riff that primarily made "Bulls on Parade" one of Rage Against the Machine's signature hits. Add Zack De La Rocha's furious vocal delivery and one of the tightest rhythm sections of all time and you've got yourself a definite classic.

YouTube preview picture

5. Queens of the Stone Age "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire"

UG favorite Josh Homme and co. crack the list in half with their "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire" tune. High pace groove and frantic vocals fit in in a perfectly unexpected manner here, along with a basic, yet effective riff bound to keep your head bopping throughout the entire song.

YouTube preview picture

4. Gojira "Backbone"

If you're looking to break stuff, the riff of Gojira's "Backbone" is the soundtrack you've been looking for. The band is known for delivering some of the heaviest sounds in history, so UG readers' affection shouldn't come as a big surprise.

YouTube preview picture

3. Metallica "Sad But True"

We've reached the big three and in all fairness, the list's top three tracks are what should stand next to the "heaviest riff" term in the dictionary, so kudos to you UG community. Cracking open the big three, Metallica's "Sad But True" riff is bound to make you feel as if there's a steam roller coming to run you down, rightfully earning the band a No. 3 spot.

YouTube preview picture

2. Pantera "Walk"

Basic, effective and lethal - Pantera's "Walk" riff gets the silver medal this week as one of the ultimate testaments of late Dimebag Darrell's guitar mastery. The way guitar, bass and drums lock in together could also earn "Walk" the title of one of the tightest performances ever.

YouTube preview picture

1. Black Sabbath "Black Sabbath"

Finally, the masters, the forefathers, the Gods of metal - Black Sabbath band, "Black Sabbath" track off the "Black Sabbath" album. The vibe that arguably started the heavy metal genre and a satanic tritone prove that you don't need speed to be the heaviest of the heavy. Therefore, master Iommi is still at the throne of the heavy domain, just as he should be.

YouTube preview picture

That's the end of our roundup of the top 10 heaviest guitar riffs of all time. What do you think of the results? Did Ultimate Guitar readers miss out on anything? Post your comments and personal favorite riffs in the comments.

303 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Silly UG, you can't weigh music.
    Sorry Wormgus, but your the most hated person on UG I've ever seen.
    he makes it look so easy...
    Yeah, you've now reached that special place where you could say something everyone completely agrees with, and you would still be downvoted to death just because it's you.
    It's interesting to see what people think of when it comes to "heavy." Like the QOTSA riff is not really heavy to me at all, but other people apparently thought it was. Could also just be the obligatory Josh Homme lovefest on this site!
    Hah, despite I also like QOTSA, I absolutely agree with you) People votes not for the heaviest riffs, but for the songs they like.
    Yeah, I agree. That song has more of a heavy guitar sound, so to speak, than a heavy guitar riff.
    I think they like it because it is "cool" to like QotSA. I will agree that they are good, but I have never seen anyone say anything negative about them.
    YO DAWG, the band black sabbath...playing black sabbath, of their album black sabbath...
    I miss the breakdown-Riff from Angel of Death!!!
    Reaaaaally surprised that wasn't on there. I mean how the hell did QOTSA make it on there but not Slayer?
    I wouldn't really say that riff is so much heavy as it is thrashy. Slayer didn't really start having really heavy sound until Diabolus in Musica ("Bitter Peace" is a head smasher). I would even say "Bloodline" is a heavier track than AoD. I love old Slayer, but in terms of being heavy sounding , the later stuff is much more fitting.
    THIS should be on this list!!!
    I always thought that ending section of Rusty Cage was one of the heaviest riffs ever. You know the one with the strange time signature.
    Harvester of Sorrow is exactly 666 times heavier than Sad But True.
    I still think Leper Messiah is their heaviest.
    GS LEAD 5
    How on earth is QOTSA heavier than Meshuggah? Same with RATM? Granted both are great bands, but heavy? And how come there's no Cannibal Corpse here?
    Wow this list is disgraceful.... or maybe my idea of heavy is out of wack, qotsa makes the list with that? A fine band, but countless bands are heavier.
    "most cliché Sabbath stuff that earns them an obligatory but unjustified #1" should be a list. probably Zeppelin or Hendrix would come in first on it.
    I love Pantera, but i this case i would change "Walk" to "Drag the Waters". Walk is heavy and aggressive but waters way much heavier.
    No Dopesmoker? this sucks. Dopesmoker is the bible of the riff.
    this list is invalid, due to the lack of Matt Pike. Sleep and High On Fire are heavier than 65% of this list.
    In no particular order... Outshined - Soundgarden Dam That River - Alice in Chains I'm Broken - Pantera Black Dog - Led Zeppelin War Pigs - Black Sabbath Damage Inc. - Metallica Ghost Walking - Lamb of God I Want You (She's So Heavy) - The Beatles Hellion/Electric Eye - Judas Priest Wake Up Dead - Megadeth It's not about volume or how low tuned you are. It's about the attitude the song brings.
    yo, dawg, I heard you liked Black Sabbath. so we put "Black Sabbath" on the Black Sabbath so you can Black Sabbath.
    Black Sabbath Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath Black Sabbath Black Sabbath? Black Sabbath Black Sabbath Black Sabbath!
    The breakdown in Domination got more votes than some of these. Definitely Obzen; I counted. Didn't take me as long as you might think.
    The whole voting system is flawed. The first posters inevitably get more votes.
    I don't think that's the right no. 1. Are Black Sabbath one of heavy metals pioneers? Yes. Is the riff dark? Sure. Is it heavy? I guess, but the heaviest? I don't hear it tbh. Metal has come a long way since then, you're saying absolutely no-one has been inspired by it and written something even better? I'm going to get ripped to shreds for this opinion, I can tell.
    Sammy Mantis
    Agreed. That's not even the heaviest riff by Sabbath, so it doesn't make much sense having it there. Great song and band, but this was about the heaviest riffs, nothing else.
    that riff started it all though. and it's still timeless and evil to this day, that song still gives me chills.
    So stoked to see Gojira's "Backbone" on this list!
    I'm not sure how it made it there. I half-mentioned it in a comment for another song, and I don't believe anyone else posted it, so it's a mystery
    i know there's a lot of muse hate on UG, but they have some pretty heeavy riffs too (or used to have, at least) i personally like citizen erased
    great song but i wouldn't say it has that much of a heavy riff. maybe futurism or new born if i had to pick a muse one
    Nah heaviest I'd say are Dead Star and Assassin. Or Execution Commentary and Survival for downtuned beef.
    I don't think there's a lot of Muse hate, from what I've seen more people here love them. I think they just don't like the 2nd Law.
    lol do UG knows what heavy music means?! or is this based on the popularity of what people think what heavy is? I am just saying, how come Candlemass (Doom Legend) didn't make it on this list when their genre is based on heavy slow doom-y riffs, even thrash made it on this list, and thrash is based on fast and hard music (not heavy)
    bahast read my mind. Where the **** is Candlemass? In fact, while we're on the subject, what about cathedral?
    I'm not an expert, but it does seem that every riff on the list is "heavier" than black sabbath... Could it be that UG readers are simply "Gay for Black Sabbath"?
    Oh my, what the serious **** just happened.
    Originally when I posted my first comment, UG derped and it was posted around ten times; obviously it is fixed now, for the people that didn't see.
    I know the top comments on that page were so much different to this list. Ultimate Guitar always ignores the comments and puts what they think is best in these lists.
    I'm saddened that neither Kyuss, Butthole Surfers, or Melvins made it on here. But it is a tough list to compile. Great diversity.
    Lee Makky
    I think the list is great, but not in the right order. I mean realistically, Meshuggah's riff IS heavier than the rest. I think the list was more of a popularity contest between the 10 that were chosen.
    "Halo" over "Beautiful Mourning" for Machine Head?? Really? Eh, wasn't expecting to agree with anything on this list anyway...
    Hell yes, the riff is better. But the pinch harmonic in Beautiful Mourning makes me jizz every time.
    Sorry, just read through the comments. Didn't realize no two metalheads can agree on anything and we all have VERY, VEEEEERY different opinions on what's "heavy".
    Awesome list, although I would rather have The Thing That Should Not Be in place of Sad But True. Both great tunes.