Wednesday Question: Best Metal Riff?

What is the best metal riff of all time? Place your votes here and see if your nomination makes it into our epic top 10 list this Friday.

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Put your helmets on, this could get messy.

This week we're challenging you to nominate the best metal riffs in history. It's going to be a close race, because great metal songs almost always rest upon a heavy, bone-crushing riff or two. There's so much choice out there that it's going to be tough to decide.

Of course, democracy rules around here, and the UG voting system should help the best metal riffs rise above and end in a top 10 list to die for.

This week's Wednesday question is:

What is the best metal guitar riff of all time?

We're going to paste a definition of what a riff is to help guide the debate. If you can offer a better definition of the word "riff", go ahead in the comments.

Riff: a short repeated phrase, frequently played over changing chords or used as a background to a solo improvisation.

As usual, post one nomination per comment, then upvote other comments that you agree with. Stick to the metal genre for this post - we'll be back with "best riff" polls for other genres in the future. Good luck!

894 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Kavabangac
    Master Of Puppets riff defines Trash Metal.
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    Fight Fire With Fire or Disposable Heroes, that crazy Hetfield speed picking, Disposable Heroes has the most creative use of open notes ever.
    CalumCanavan
    Iron Maiden - The Trooper
    Armagedn
    Yes, for sure. How has it taken this far down the comments page to get to maiden?
    whiplash944
    I wouldn't go with he trooper for Maiden. I honestly prefer maybe Hallowed Be Thy Name.
    Ratlhed
    There's a ton of Iron Maiden riffs that are absolutely killer (Powerslave, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Clairvoyant, etc) but I personally find the first distorted riff in "These Colours Don't Run" to be one of their best.
    Fatlumpthe1st
    I'm gunna have to say Crazy Train. That riff has been cool since it was written and it's still cool now and has been played by millions, maybe not as much as say Enter Sandman, but I think Enter Sandman is just played out anyway.
    goremetal22
    Iron Man - Black Sabbath
    N-D
    My vote is for Black Sabbath "Paranoid"
    hexomega77
    So hard to choose one riff from sabbath by i choose children of the grave
    xonty
    This list is going to be almost all Black Sabbath by the looks of things
    Fly-By-Night
    National Acrobat
    ZWH
    You guys just named all of the riffs that I had in my head, hah. Tony "Iron Man" Iommi have made too many good riffs to be listed here. But if I REALLY had to choose one of them, I would probably go with Supernaut.
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    it should be no disrespect to other bands but I've never heard a bad Iommi riff from the first album to Sabotage.
    noilly
    Pantera- I'm Broken
    hotdogs585
    Superjoint Ritual - "Fuck Your Enemy"
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    if we're gonna do Phil side projects, the riffs in Lifer by Down are amazing, but then again this list could become all sludge and stoner metal quick, best metal riffs hands down are ones with the slow bluesy groove.
    hotdogs585
    i dont really like down that much, then again i dont really like a lot of stoner rock. however superjoint ritual have a few really awesome songs and riffs. dont get me wrong i like clutch's less jammy songs and i love the melvins but stoner rock just doesnt do it for me.
    ozzyman45
    I think it is so funny that no one here has mentioned "Black Sabbath", the riff that started it all. I believe that if it wasn't for that riff, than we would not be here talking about this.
    N-D
    Oh, yes, how can I forget?!) Mastodon - "Blood And Thunder"
    latinromans
    I'm going to try and post some other material because I love all their albums and want some of their other great riffs to get some attention but I already know this is going to win, the transition at 1:20 in this song gets me everytime
    latinromans
    I just realized no ones mentioned high on fire yet, I know this kind of tagging onto other bands to get higher on the list is frowned upon but I believe mastodon would approve of helping out the band that offered them so much inspiration
    justin.mitchell
    Ah Mastodon. I hate how they're often overlooked by the so-called "metal" in skintight pants and eyeliner. Kudos!
    mastodude13
    My favorite Mastodon riff has got to be either This Mortal Soil or Crack the Skye. Or March of the Fire Ants. Honestly every Mastodon riff is the best ever haha
    iammclovin
    Was thinking of this song or Curl of the Burl. Neil Fallon as the clown is so sick.
    MeToollica
    Just metal riff right? Not necessarily guitar? If so, I'm going with the Schism bass riff
    Scarto
    Pretty awesome riff...But for me Vicarious riff and aesthetics of hate riff from Machine Head
    whiplash944
    If we're not just sticking to guitar, I say the intro to For WHom The Bell Tolls By Metallica.
    TryTheKetchup
    What is the best metal guitar riff of all time? Read the mothaf--king bold yellow text
    MeToollica
    Calm your shit, there's no reason why it couldn't be a bass guitar riff. And that particular riff is backed up by Adam Jones on guitar anyway.
    jamie_hough
    Although I LOVE tool with every fibre of my being I think this is a bit of a tenuous link. I don't think this is the sort of stuff the article had in mind. But whatever thumbs up from me, its still a cracker!
    iommi600
    Ok, if Tool makes it into THIS list too, I'll just burst into laughter and give up on UG lists.
    latinromans
    apparently not everyone here believes that because a portion of the population find a band to be pretentious they must be unable to write kick ass riffs
    personally I enjoy the intro song but I want you all to get to the kickass riffs as as possible
    TheExterminator
    Also the big thing about Tool being an Alternative Rock band with Progressive leanings (as half-assed and lacklustre they may be), and isn't a Metal band. The last bit being required in a list about "Best Metal riffs"
    MeToollica
    Tool are prog metal. You couldn't honestly say that songs like nima, Ticks and Leeches, Third Eye, Jambi, etc are 'Alternative Rock'. Schism is very definitely a metal song.
    Raven_Flight
    Opeth - Blackwater Park. One epic riff after another, my favourite would be the one just after the clean section.
    DexterF
    oen has to scroll down half the page here before someone names Opeth? That said: Deliverance, the one at 9:something. Best riff ever.
    The_Locker
    Tornado of Souls - Megadeth
    CoolMcAwesome
    Lucretia has some sick riffs too
    Ratlhed
    Don't forget about "In My Darkest Hour". That intro is absolutely epic. Granted, there are ton of other epic riffs in the Megadeth catalog.
    Burkz
    I actually prefer the riff in Five magics, but they are both awesome!
    SirWurscht
    It's my favourite song of my favourite band, so I have to go with that. Besides the killer riffs it has one of the best, if not the best metal solos of all time in it!
    eastbaytray
    Am I Evil?
    CoolMcAwesome
    if this isn't one of the top three most metal riffs ever, not sure I want to live here anymore.
    Elegitii
    Diamond head version ftw! Great catchy riff that inspired hundreds of bands this better be somewhere on the list.
    mini_cooper1701
    I swear I could play this riff non-stop for hours on end and have it bring me never ending satisfaction...
    reeksofsteel
    Scavenger of Human Sorrow - Death
    iommi600
    >Death >gets downvotes on a metal thread Did you guys just forgot how to human?
    likeaneagle
    Creeping Death - Metallica May or may not the "the best" but it's my personal favorite
    JpDupp
    Machine F*****g Head- Aesthetics of hate
    mop10893
    Beautiful Mourning is incredible. And Locust has one of the most evil sounding riffs I have ever heard.
    KISSmyass666
    Walk-Pantera. Simple, fun to play and sounds great.
    leony03
    I can't express how overrated that song and riff is. They have so many better songs.
    whiplash944
    WHile it is nowhere near my favorite Pantera song, you gotta admit, it gets you ****ing pumped. Great to work out to, too.
    Braykah
    Lamb of God - Walk with Me in Hell, the riff that starts at ~0:36. There's a reason that when they play this live, whole crowds jump to this.
    svelle
    My favourite riff of them is probably The main Riff from Grace. That song is just full of Awesome Riffs and one of the Best Solos I've ever heard.
    Syn166
    Or the vomit riff in Hourglass!
    Braykah
    Actually, pretty much any LOG riff, Mark and Willie are absolute riff wizards. Laid to Rest, Pathetic, Ghost Walking, Blacken the Cursed Sun, Vigil... too many to name at the moment. (This is not a nomination, so don't downvote me for that)
    reddog123
    that most brutal riff in 'domination' after the first solo is just face-melting!! its gotta be up there surely
    TheExterminator
    Surely Pantera has better songs than a glorified wrestling intro. Then again, their Groove Metal is pretty much entirely based on making wrestling intros into a genre..
    iammclovin
    Rage Against The Machine - Killing in the Name
    hotdogs585
    Rage has so many great riffs, but the riff that did it for me was "Guerilla Radio." That riff singlehandedly made me want to start playing guitar.
    N-D
    I love this song too, but voting is for Best Metal Riff.
    iammclovin
    Yeah, I was iffy about posting it. Not sure what people consider metal anymore.
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    RATM is deff metal at least the first album is.
    crazysam23_Atax
    NuMetal is NOT something that should be included in this, imho.
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    they aren't nu metal they are alternative metal/rap-metal
    hotdogs585
    im a huge rage fan but they are definitely nu-metal, a lot of people don't like to admit it because they think it loops them in with limp bizkit and shit. the description you gave (alt metal/rap-metal) sums up what nu metal basically is. calling them a nu metal band isnt necessarily a bad thing though, what people dont understand is that every genre has it's awesome legit innovative bands and then the terrible copycat bands that give the genre a bad name.
    Jozef23
    They most definitely are metal. They may incorporate Funk and Rap, but it's still metal
    LightxGrenade
    Haven't seen too much Maiden being suggested yet but I always thought the main riff in this song was awesome
    skaryguy
    Revolution Is My Name - Pantera. That riff after the intro. Made for headbanging.
    kaosxrocker
    While not necessarily the best riff of all time, the opening riff of Downfall by Children of Bodom has been a favorite of mine for a long time.