Top 10 Best Metal Guitars

Which are the best metal guitars in the history of music? Your votes have been counted, and the results are in - so which guitars made it to the top 10?

Ultimate Guitar

Metal is a demanding genre for a guitarist.

You've got to be able to shatter bone with low-frequency roars, play with a hard-and-fast attitude and fly up the fretboard for shred-tastic solos while looking like a true metal master. You can't swear by any old guitar for a job like that.

On Wednesday we asked UG readers to nominate and vote for the best metal guitars ever. As usual, the results are pretty stellar, and almost every model is attached to a well-known metal guitarist name to help give you an idea of what they sound like in practice.

How would you improve this list? Are any guitars missing that deserve to rank higher? Join the debate in the comments and settle the score once and for all.

10. Zakk Wylde Bullseye Les Paul

When you're shredding on behalf of the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, you've got to have a guitar that goes beyond the call of duty. Wylde's aggressive style could only be matched by the Bullseye Les Paul. It sounds great, and who could forget the black and ivory-shaded graphics?

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9. Schecter C1

There's a few variants of this particular Schecter, but they're all damn good. Common praise for the guitar says it's great for down-tuning and sounds super tight - perfect for low-range metal action.

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8. Eddie Van Halen's Frankenstrat

Always one to tinker and tweak his guitars, Eddie went a giant step further when he tried to merge a Fender with the genes of a Gibson. The result was the Frankenstrat. He even added extra switches and pickups to confuse copycats, but it's probably best known for the awesome paint job.

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7. Dave Murray's Stratocaster

The Iron Maiden guitarist likes to keep things simple and has been hanging a classic Stratocaster from his neck since the mid-70s. It's been tweaked with various custom pickups, and the neck has a flatter soft V-shape with a satin back, according to Fender.

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6. Dave Mustaine's Jackson King V

The Megadeth frontman has since switched to ESP then Dean guitars, but he's well known for rocking Jacksons back in his youth. In 1986 Jackson started producing his signature series King V guitar, which became one of their best-selling models in history.

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5. Dimebag Darrell's Dean From Hell

Dean Guitars were huge around 1980, but it took a certain Pantera guitarist to ensure their name lived on with the same reverence until today. The "From Hell" model was his favorite; blue with lightening bolts and with such an authentic metal style that it appeared on the cover of Pantera's "Cowboys From Hell" album.

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4. Fredrik Thordendal's black Ibanez 8 string

The Mesuggah guitarist loves his 8-string Ibanez, which has been customised with a Lundgren Model 8 pickup. He used to use Newborn guitars too, but intonation problems nudged him to commit exclusively to Ibanez. He's known to tune the guitar down to F because it helped match the vocal range of singer Jens Kidman.

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3. Randy Rhoads Polka Dot Flying V

Legendary guitar maker Karl Sandoval has hand-crafted axes for the likes of Eddie Van Halen and George Lynch, but he's best known for the Polka Dot Flying V. Randy set the specifications for this guitar which only cost $740 in the end not bad for the third best metal guitar ever.

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2. Tony Iommi's Gibson SG Special 'Monkey'

Tony Iommi has trusted the sturdy Gibson SG ever since the bridge on his old white Stratocaster failed while recording the debut Black Sabbath album. His particular SG has apparently been plagued by tuning problems and noisy pickups, but he stuck by it anyway. So why the 'Monkey' part of the name? Simple: his version has a monkey sticker on the front.

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1. James Hetfield's EET FUK Explorer

To many, Metallica are the definitive metal band - and for frontman James Hetfield to swear by this model, it's a fair call to say the EET FUK is the definitive metal guitar. Explorer guitars weren't half as well known before he started rocking them at the front of their bone-crushing live shows, and even when he's not using the EET FUK, he'll often use guitars that look the same. His relationship with the Explorer could be one of the great love stories in rock.

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What do you think of the final top 10 and the ultimate winner? Let us know your opinion in the comments.

203 comments sorted by best / new / date

    But what about [obscure guitar] that [obscure guitarist] plays?! This list sucks.
    @Finetic - Chuck Schuldiner's BC Rich.
    BC Rich gives you cancer.
    I can't believe you posted this. Chuck Schuldiner was and will always be my hero. He was born with a tumor in his brains which eventually killed him at about the age I am now. Chuck proudly played his BC Rich guitars and I think that he had a beautiful sound. I actually don't see why a BC Rich guitar couldn't be on a list of best metal guitars. But then again I didn't vote, so I won't judge the list. I do judge your comment though. You're hurting people with a remark like that, you hurt me. Then again, you've got a green +3 for your post, so apparently people around here like what you said. I guess I should be downvoted for placing an apparently inappropriate or offensive remark. Sorry for that.
    I cant believe they didnt mention Petrucci's MusicMan or Satriani's Ibanez
    They play more like progressive rock not metal.
    Van Halen isn't Metal
    broken ipod
    You really could argue that Van Halen is/was a heavy metal band though. They released some heavy stuff considering the release dates for several of their albums (late 70's) and had some influence on both rock and metal. Really though, there was a pretty blurred line between heavy metal/ hard rock back in the late 60's to 80's.
    I agree. The definition of today's "Metal" concept is much different from, say the 80's Metal. It could also be called "80's Bubble gum ROCK" it's tough to classify Van Halen/EVH. But, with today's standards said in mind, their last album, I've heard a ton of metal-style licks with EVH...
    I don't really listen to Meshuggah, but that drummer was killing it. He steals the show from the guitarist half way into the video.
    That's not the drummer from Meshuggah but from Fredrik Thornendal Special Defects. His solo-project
    That's a Ran Guitar. Just in case you didn't know what brand it was. Also not like Death or Chuck Schuldiner is an everyday household name, (besides mine) but I think his B.C. Rich Stealth should've been on this list. It's pure metal. The shape, the single soul crushing pickup, pure black paint job, it's one of the most metal guitars I've ever seen. In my opinion of course.
    Only problem with this is no Jackson Kelly that Friedman plays, Those are soooo sick. Also, Metallica blows. Bring it on
    These lists DO suck though, they never have any material even remotely past entry-level.
    Guns N' Chains
    Had to down vote you based on avatar. Go Pens! Haha.
    Had to down vote you based on stupid down vote. Go me! Haha Just messin
    Fleury with the shut out today . This comment by the Flyers fan also proves that nothing worthwhile comes out of Philly fans' mouths.
    I hate both teams. Go Rangers (although they're sucking pretty bad right now). Back on topic, This is a decent list. I feel like the Meshuggah guitarist's axe shouldn't be on here, but other than that, it's pretty good. Also, I was one of the people who said Hetfield's guitar was the best, so it's pretty awesome that it won.
    'List of ten metal guitarists and their signature guitars' .....
    Exactly, the fact that two strats made a list of the best metal guitars is ridiculous; there is nothing metal about a strat.
    I'm pretty sure you just got downvoted for not saying anything. Can't win, can ya?
    Very good list, nice to see Meshuggah's guitarist in 4th place!!!
    lol that sol niger within is played on a 7 string when it is about his 8 string. great song though
    I dont know what those first few words are, but frankly, I feel offended.
    yes his plain black ibanez with 12 too many strings is so iconic and metal
    More of a signature guitar list. Would like to see an Ibanez RG or ESP M-II somewhere since those are two very popular metal guitars.
    When I suggested the C1 I read 3/4 of the article as "best metal guitar". It was when they mentioned all these famous guys with their signature models I guess everybody else took it as "best famous metal guy and their guitar". Which I'm not mistaken they've already done?
    What exactly did you expect? People equate "Best Metal guitars" with iconic Metal guitar players.
    Make and models was what I expected if it was a literal "best metal guitar" poll. But what you're saying is very true as well.
    Pretty decent list. Would have liked to see the Gibson Thunderhorse Explorer but it's not as legendary as these \m/
    Insanity ninja
    Sideslick - "If a Strat makes this list I will eat a pack of D'Addario baritone guitar strings." I feel bad for you son.
    notice how schecter was the only one not a signature that was voted in? cuz theyre awesome
    No, it's because the title of the video was "The Schecter C-1 Custom DOES Metal." LOL....I died laughing when I saw that title. They don't need cheap promo stuff like that to sell their guitars.
    Darth Crow
    My fav is Petrucci's Music man... any one of them, basically great cleans, great lead, amazing neck and fingerboard... this is just THE metal guitar for me.
    Theres all these awesome guitars that these legendary guitarists played..... and then theres a $500 schecter c-1 WTF
    I forgot how ****ing awesome that live in Seattle version of Master of Puppets is. I own an explorer fairly close to the type of the EetFuk one (mine has a floyd). It's definitely deserving of the #1 spot, speaking from experience. I just wish I still wanted to play metal...
    GUYS WHERE IS LIL WAYNE'S GUITAR?!!?? THIS LIST IS SO BAD! But in all seriousness, AVH is not metal. Also, dat Schecter ad. lol
    This is just a list of peoples' favorite signature guitars. Also, WHY is EVH on this list? Have I been listening to a different EVH all these years? Jeez...Stick with the guitar gear/techie polls. At least that way I learn SOMETHING...
    EVH is partially responsible for Metal evolving as a genre. Plus, Van Halen definitely fits the '80s Hair Metal vibe.
    Way Cool JR.
    The credit for the King V should really go to The RATT guitarist Robbin "King" Crosby. It was originally designed/made for him and he was the first to rock it. Hence the name King V.
    That is Tony's "Jaydee Custom S.G. (a.k.a. No. 1, The Old Boy)," not his "Red Gibson SG (Monkey)." Fact check please, don't just copy and paste from old news/polls..
    yawn. It's pretty bad when the only guitar that's worth its price on this list IMO is the Schecter.
    Epi g-310
    Meh. Plenty of unknown manufacturers like Aristedes that would be on this list if they had the publicity that Fender, Gibson, Schecter, etc. have. I think it's silly to try to create a list like this.
    aristedes, strandberg, rick toone, blackmachine, mayones, agile ... the list goes on, but at this moment in time, they are not iconic.
    "known to tune the guitar down to F because it helped match the vocal range of singer Jens Kidman" Sorry lol, but this just sounds like it was made up on the spot. Jens' RANGE of screaming, while the screaming itself is impressive, is somewhat lackluster in my opinion. I don't think 'Shuggah's low F has anything to do with meshing better with the sound of Jens' screams but if I am wrong I'm sure someone here will correct me?
    I'd probably put Van Halen's guitar at no 2 because of the intense work that went into perfecting its sound and the number of patents Eddie has. However EET FUK is an iconic guitar and deserves the spot. Would've loved to have seen Mustaine's Dean v 'Angel of Deth' or Jeff Loomis' C7 FR Schecter on the list
    EVH is NOT metal.
    Yeah, but without him, there wouldn't be your super strats. Well, yeah, you could argue soon enough someone would have thought of it, but he thought of it first, and thats why you have Ibanez, Jackson and other metal strat guitars.
    If it wasn't for EVH and Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath (and a few other bands), you wouldn't even have Metal. So...learn your history...
    Learn your history? Ok - Black Sabbath invented Metal in 1970. Literally, we would have Metal without EVH and Iron Maiden.
    And without all of the old blues artists, we wouldn't have rock players like EVH. Therefor, this list should be composed of resonators and such.
    Crazysam- That still doesn't detract a damn thing from my statement. EVH is NOT metal. I didn't say jack shit about the history of metal and EVH's influence. So...learn how to understand a 4 word sentence...
    Dude what? No. If it wasn't for Black Sabbath and a few other early bands (including some that influenced Sabbath themselves as well)from the 60s into the early 70s then you wouldn't have metal. Metal itself, musically, does not trace its roots back to or through Van Halen. Note that I am referring to actual musical characteristics. Not a metal guitarist saying "he inspired me to pick up guitar" because that's not the same thing. Even with Black Metal and Death Metal bands, you can trace their roots back through actual metal genres like thrash and back to Black Sabbath and some similar early bands and the material they put out through their careers. Van Halen not existing wouldn't impact metal as much as you probably think it would. The basis for metal riffing and song structure would still exist. Thrash, Death, Doom, Drone, Black, Sludge, Power, etc. they'd all still exist. Not much within metal would really change. If anything at all. Might be a good idea to learn your shit before you tell anyone to learn their's.
    I think this is a great list , obscure guitars usually have bad tone and dont sound as well as these too, I think adrian smiths jackon dinky and marty friedman's kelly should be on this list
    Obscure guitars are obscure because they can't always compete with the mainstream, dare I say, circle-jerk group of guitar companies that have created a monopoly for small companies to have to immediately overcome in order to survive. The cost of producing these "obscure" guitars outweighs the loss of profit due to a low amount of buyers. Plus, obscure can also mean underrated. Not to sound like I disagree with you though. Some do sound like crap. However, some big name guitars do too.
    This list isn't good. And the popular Schecter C1 design is a blatant ripoff of the original ESP/LTD super strat.
    **** celebrities **** signature guitars (ex rusty cooly cuz its a liget custom) any one thought of writing there own music latly? any one try to not worry about there tone and worry about music? **** grammer nazis i play music, not wast my time
    I write my own music and play, and whilst tone isn't a major issue, the specs are very important for me, and Sig models can be useful for getting exactly what you want. For example I prefer the shape, weight and neck profile of a Fender, but want powerful pick-ups, dual volume control and a little more room in terms of neck profile without it being too chunky. The normal Telecaster deluxe has light-weight pick-ups and a 9.5" neck profile, not my cup of tea. However the Chris Shiflett signature Tele has nice heavy humbuckers and a 12.5" neck profile that makes it perfect for my playing style; switching between Metal/Alternative sound and Clean. It's basically an LP with a Fender body so it doesn't weigh a ton. Doubt anyone cares I just love talking about how awesome my guitar is.
    It's more about respecting the language you speak and write rather than being time consuming. But, I understand what you're saying. No Hate.
    Rex Inclitus
    I would disagree on the tone statement, tone is integral on any chordophone in any genre. There were many great players that I have seen and known that had " lousy tone " and I have seen their material performed far better not because of technically superior playing but rather superior tone. As EVH put it ( wether your a fan or not ) if you don't understand how to get good tone it is going to sound _ _ _ _. That goes for recording as well, there have been a plethora of great metal albums compositionally but with awful tone and I can only pray they get remastered.