Top 10 Most Complex Riffs Ever

The results of this week's complexity battle are just in.

Ultimate Guitar

For this week's Wednesday Question we've delved into the fascinating domain of intricate guitar riffs. You guys voted for the most complex riff of them all, we summed up the results and the winner is ... Deep Purple and "Smoke on the Water"!

Just kidding, sort of. UG jokers found their way to the top yet again, but on more of a serious side, here's this week's UG Top 10.

10. Led Zeppelin - "Black Dog"

Kicking it off the old-school way, Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" was truly one of the first tunes to introduce complex riffing to the rock realm. The riff itself wasn't written by Jimmy Page as you might assume, but by Mr. John Paul Jones, the bassist. Here's what he had to say:

"I wanted to try an electric blues with a rolling bass part. But it couldn't be too simple. I wanted it to turn back on itself. I showed it to the guys, and we fell into it. We struggled with the turn-around, until [John] Bonham figured out that you just four-time as if there's no turn-around. That was the secret."

9. Cannibal Corpse - "Frantic Disembowelment"

Taking a major turn in terms of heaviness, Cannibal Corpse are up next on No. 9 with "Frantic Disembowelment," a hectic uptempo riff backed by the band's signature gory lyrics about the very thing mentioned in the title. The song is credited to drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz and guitarist Pat O'Brien.

8. Joe Satriani - "Satch Boogie"

Not only is the solo pretty intricate on this one, but the riff itself is equally complex. It's Satch we're talking about, and guitar mastery is simply his thing.

7. Metallica - "Blackened"

Arguably the single greatest riff Jason Newsted has contributed to Metallica, "Blackened" is yet another work of a bassist to make the list. And once again, the song has the word "black" in it. Maybe there's just something to it. Anyhow, here's what Jason said about the whole thing:

"Yeah, the main riff is mine. I wrote it on bass, though. I'd only been in the band for a very short time. I was still in a little one-bedroom rented apartment. And James would come over to the house, like [we were] buddies. He'd come over for dinner. We'd hang out and play guitars on the couch. It's was pretty f--king dreamy for me. Metallica was my favorite band. It was pretty surreal.

"I had a little four-track Tascam set up in the bedroom. So we went in there, and he's got a guitar and I've got a bass. I'm f--king around with this riff. And then he started playing along, and the song started forming right at that time. I'm sitting up in my chair, like, 'Holy s--t, dude. This is something!' That was the first thing we ever constructed together. And him going, 'Dude, that riff's good enough to open our f--king album,' really gave me a feeling of victory, because I looked up to him greatly, and still do to this day."

6. Dream Theater - "The Dark Eternal Night"

This one's just a riff fest, but you guys pointed out a riff kicking off at 5:53, so make sure to check that one as well. The tune's music is attributed to the entire band, but the mid-section part is based around keyboardist Jordan Rudess' riff.

5. Megadeth - "Poison Was the Cure"

Kicking off with an eerie bass line, Megadeth's "Poison Was the Cure" builds up for about a minute just to kick out the jams with that savage riff. And by savage we mean rather intricate. The riff, as well as is the entire song, is the work of frontman Dave Mustaine.

4. Eric Johnson - "Cliffs of Dover"

We have another guitar master here, Mr. Eric Johnson and his staple instrumental "Cliffs of Dover." The melodic riff, along with the rest of the track, was entirely written my Eric, who sort of refuses to take full credit for it.

"I don't even know if I can take credit for writing 'Cliffs of Dover," the guitarist said. "It was just there for me one day ... literally wrote in five minutes ... kind of a gift from a higher place that all of us are eligible for. We just have to listen for it and be available to receive it."

3. Racer X - "Technical Difficulties"

Well the title just says it all here, now doesn't it? Guitar parts recorded by Paul Gilbert, composed by Gilbert and Scott Travis, produced by Gilbert - Racer X - "Technical Difficulties."

2. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Snow (Hey Oh)"

If you just look at the basic chords, this one has the same progression as just about half of the pop industry. But John Frusciante managed to give it a few twists and turns, resulting in a fairly complex riff and a surprisingly high position.

If you want to check out a similar tune with that same bouncy guitar triplet, take a listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Trust." 

1. Animals as Leaders - "CAFO"

The masters of tricky riffs, instrumental prog metallers Animals as Leaders get to claim the complexity throne this week. And it's thanks to one of their most popular tunes, "CAFO." Prog metal and jazz fusion, mellow and crushing, it's all there, and it's No. 1.

259 comments sorted by best / new / date

    wow, according this this site I'm a better guitarist than I thought.
    Snow got 2nd? It's a good song but i think saying it's more complex than Cliffs of Dover is a bit of a stretch. Solid list otherwise.
    Its not complex at all. Its one of the first songs I learned on guitar and it wasn't really difficult once you understood the pattern. Cliffs of Dover definitely should have been ranked higher
    Where the hell was YELLOW LEDBETTER! No one even voted for it!
    Because it really isn't all that hard.
    Black Dog? lel
    Eh, I'd agree that it's simple, but I dont know. Perhaps it has something to do with "getting it all together", you know? Getting it in the beat, in the line with everything, doing the right bends and stuff.
    Ya its simple for people who play guitar, but as far as being an iconic song that everyone has heard, its relatively complicated. I can definitely understand it being on here.
    So it deserves to be on the list because people who don't play guitar have trouble playing it?
    It's the rhythm. It's not hard to play alone but with a band it's at least not that easy to play accurately. It's not the first song I would cover with an inexperienced band. And the riff is more complex than it sounds like. The 4/4 drum beat makes it sound simple but remove the drumbeat and it sounds more complex (especially the second part of the riff). Hard to play and complex are different things. It is a complex riff, not hard to play.
    Snow the #2 most complex riff ever? Seriously? It's a beginner song and is ranked over Cliffs of Dover and Black Dog. I'm a RHCP fan... but this is a complete garbage list.
    matteo cubano
    i have always been able to play Black Dog easy, but still struggle a little with snow. cant say i cant play it, but its difficult to get your mind around.
    Agreed, Black Dog is not that difficult to play
    So Snow with it's 1 hammer on after picking 4 notes is the second most technical riff of all time? /JOKE
    are you bloody broken? that riff requires you to be able to play triplet hammer-ons / pull-offs and alt pick as well as requiring you to have enough finger strength to play the legato bits and the chord shapes without muting the other strings. Furthermore, the first bit is about 40 bars of playing that riff over and over - that requires stamina. Those are not traits of a 'beginner song', as you put it
    Great sounding riff? Yes. Difficult for beginners to learn? Yes. Is it tricky at first? Yes. Is it musically complex? Not at all. RHCP makes great music. In the band there are great musicians and they are very skill musicians. But funk rock is not a musically complex genre. It is based on funky rhythms and rocking grooves, which are musically simple. Being simple does not make something good or bad. It just makes it simple. Being hard to play doesn't make it complicated.
    matteo cubano
    the discussion was whether or not black dog was easier
    That shouldn't even be an argument. Snow is WAY harder. Black Dog was one of the first songs I ever learned on guitar. I still can't play Snow the "right" way.
    The licks of Black Dog themselves aren't very complex, but the timing. Boy, it ****s your mind!
    The thing with Snow is that it doesn't sound any complex. But if you play the guitar, you can tell just by listening to it that it's not that easy to play. I think it got so many votes because it sounds a lot easier and simpler than it actually is. Also, Black Dog is not hard to play but it's definitely a complex riff.
    I guess whoever wrote this had never heard of math rock?
    Nobody really "wrote" this. It was voted upon by posters on this site earlier this week. But yeah, the folly is obviously that tons of people voted who don't listen to, or even know about, heavy and/or technical music. So they basically voted for moderately difficult riffs by bands they like, that they had trouble trying to play themselves. Seriously though, if you put aside personal preference, bias, musical taste, etc. and tried to actually put together a realistic list of the most complex riffs ever (just complex , not necessarily melodic or musical or even "good" in any given person's opinion), you'd be a thousand spots down before finding anything by anyone other than math rock, prog, and technical death metal bands.
    Don't forget fusion! Crazy stuff in that genre. Although you could maybe lump it in with prog I suppose.
    I saw Deep Purple's "Smoke on the water" the highest rated comment, but why isn't it in the top 10? I really do not understand...
    UG generally don't use sarcastic suggestions in their lists... Unfortunately.
    matteo cubano
    next week: "Lars Ulrich slams UG for excluding Deep Purple from a Top 10 list". probably not though.
    Ostensibly a beginners riff, people do play it wrong all the time according to Blackmore! Can't find any harm in placing it as Number 1 UG
    damn it, people this is supposed to be an objective list about the most complex has nothing to do with your own taste.but most of the songs on the list are not that complex to be honest.
    Most of these aren't complex, just really notey. Also, no Blotted Science or anything involving Ron Jarzombek = joke of a list.
    I love Blotted Science. Ron Jarzombek's genius is only outweighed by his insanity. But you can't expect people to vote for a band they've never heard of. Everyone votes for what they know, hence RHCP.
    What I would like is for people to take a step back and think "I don't know a lot of complex music, so maybe I'm not qualified to vote here", but you're right, I can't expect that to happen on UG—Not in a million years. But I'm still going to call this list out for for the joke it is.
    For every person who thinks "hey, this is pretty complex", there is someone who thinks, "that's not complex, that person doesn't know complexity; THIS is complex". That includes you and me. So I guess none of us should vote.
    Well I just rate this list according to my expectations. I expected a disaster and definitely expected it to be dominated by '70s bands because that's what always happens with every such list, and it's not that bad in fact. The fact that Animals as Leaders got a deserved spot and even #1 is a massive pleasant surprise, since a huge part of people on this site seem to think that music ended with Led Zeppelin and djent is the worst thing to happen since satan.
    Cool to see Cliffs, CAFO, and Snow, but I'm almost surprised that there isn't a more complex choice in the Dream Theater catalog. I can almost air guitar the Dark Eternal Night
    To be honest I wouldn't know what would be the best DT nomination. After wanting to try learning Bridges in the Sky and then Build Me Up, Break Me Down, I realised John's idea of "medium tempo" is VERY different from mine...
    It seems like Breaking All Illusions would be pretty difficult. I actually met John at a clinic last month. I don't play guitar but I teach drums and some theory so some of the terms he was using to describe how he comes up with parts were familiar to me, but his idea of medium tempo is indeed different from many I'd say haha. Unreal guitar player.
    The obvious choice would be the final build up before the outro of Dance of Eternity. That's what I nominated. But there are an abundance of examples in the DT catalog that are more complex than anything and everything on this list.
    Dance of Eternity is extremely complicated in most aspects. For example, has extremely complicated (even for prog) meters that are constantly shifting. That's not the only thing that is complex about it, but it is fairly obvious that just its rhythm's alone are more complicated than this list, even including CAFO. CAFO isn't even Animals as Leaders most complicated song, just its most popular.
    I think CAFO is a pretty good representation of AaL though, it has both the heavy djenty sections and the atmospheric, cleaner parts in about comparable proportions. I think it's a different kind of complex than DT though, especially the tempo is less crazy than The Dance of Eternity, but he uses a whole bunch of techniques there which definitely take incredible skill. (The sweeping riff in the intro and outro... Ok, being able to sweep pick is one thing, sweep picking THIS for 40 seconds straight at this tempo is another)
    It's challenging, no doubt, but it's a fairly repetitive section. It's not necessarily a complicated section, at least by Animals as Leaders standards. Still, I think it's the best representation of their music and definitely deserves to be their signature track.
    Expect Animals as Leaders and maybe Cannibal Corpse maybe, nothing really deserved to be in top 10, complexity wise, of course. There are much harder songs out there.
    This list wasn't exclusively for tech-death fans. People nominated songs they've tried learning and had trouble with.
    Emperor's Child
    Complexity doesn't correlate with difficulty to play. That said, I do agree that the list is a bit 'flawed' imo.
    The list wasn't trying to cater to any subgenre in particular; it's "most complex riffs" in general. People who nominated a song they had trouble learning either misunderstood the question, or have ridiculously narrow musical tastes.
    I'm not a guitar virtuoso but I never found Snow by RHCP to have any particularly difficult riff. Tricky speedwise, perhaps, but after practicing it for a while I mastered it. Also, I've never listened to Animals As Leaders, but bloody hell! Talented bastards.
    It seems UG needs to think of some better lists, lists like these will almost always leave everyone dissatisfied as it's such a subjective list and there are too many riffs out there that beat half the stuff on this list.
    Actually, the problem with this particular list is that the question wasn't subjective at all. People just treated it like it was, and voted for stuff that they personally found hard to play, without considering just how complex some music actually is. Complexity isn't a matter of opinion. I'm not trying to say there's anything wrong with Snow (there's not. I love RHCP and that song is a damn masterpiece), but realistically, it shouldn't even be in the top thousand most complex riffs ever. There are death metal bands who could fill this whole top ten list with half a song, and each riff would be more complex than anything here. Even if you stick to slightly more mainstream music, that more people might have heard of, Dream Theater could have taken this whole list home. Again, not saying that more complex music is necessarily better, or that there's anything wrong with simpler music. Just that the question of complexity is not subjective, except maybe at the highest tier, comparing two pieces of music that are both obscenely complex, far more so than anything on this list.
    Absolutely this. Complexity is one of the few things in music that is absolutely not subjective. There are different types of complexity (polyharmony, polyrhythms, chordal/ modal progressions, etc), but there still is definite things that make something more or less complex. It just shows me how little most people voting must know about music theory. I'm not bashing anyone's knowledge, I'm just pointing out that they don't actually know what complex music actually is and what makes it complex. It's okay, I used to think Metallica was technically brilliant and the most complicated music I could think of. I recommend trying complex music if you haven't before. Try some Classical (well anything under that broad umbrella: baroque, romantic, etc), like Bach, Beethoven, Shostakovich, Liszt, and such.
    damn it, people this is supposed to be an objective list about the most complex has nothing to do with your own taste.but most of the songs on the list are not that complex to be honest.
    It's been years since I've heard Snow by RHCP. It surprised me that it was on This list, but I'm happy it was or I might've never listened to it again. Once that real chorus kicks in (around 1:45), it's unbelievably charming song.
    I'm sorry lads but to put RHCP over Dream Theater in terms of complexity is just stupidity at it's finest. I wouldn't mind if complexity was opinion based but it's just not. Basically what happened was a load of beginners came on the page and voted for the only song they knew on here(being Snow). If you're gonna do any sort of a complex you should be asking players that have been playing for quite a while. I mean I learnt Snow within my first year same goes for Black Dog. Fast doesn't mean complex. Complex has to do with structure and note choice.
    Exactly. I think part of it is people who hate complex music and think anything more than a 4/4 riff is "showing off." They actually don't understand what musical complexity actually means.
    I listen to Technical Death Metal and what is this
    You could argue though that in a lot of tech death, there are so few repetitions that they're hardly even riffs anymore. I mean they're still 'riffs' but it's like, if you were to play the riff to someone it would actually be a whole section of the song.
    Actually, a lot of them are riffs that are uneven in their structure. One riff might be a 7 bar riff in 4/4 that repeats 3 times, which immediately flows into another 4 bar riff in 7/8, which repeats 4 times. It's harder to easily follow the riffs because they are uneven, but they are there. It doesn't sound like any repetitions, even though there is repeated riffs. Some people like music that involves math (even if they don't like counting it out).
    OK, at least Animals as Leaders in their deserved spot. I'd also love Periphery and Meshuggah somewhere in there as a good demonstration what GOOD djent-influenced music sounds like, but this is still a nice list.
    In fact, what about some between the buried and me, White walls has some ridiculous left hand work.
    I searched and searched... and finally someone giving a senseful comment. I LOVE BTBAM. Not only White Walls, even their older songs are very complex, Mordecai for example, or All Bodies, Selkies... Incomprehensible that they aren't even on the list!
    I was glad that Frantic Disembowelment was on the list. Could have seen some more death metal though, like breathe in a casket by necrophagist. Fastest string skipping ever!
    Well the list is bullshit, Frantic is pretty intense but even pat said it wasnt the hardest song on the album let alone the catalog. Lets get some real complex riffs going
    ANYTHING by Necrophagist could have been on here, insane riffage. Also the fact that Death, PanterA and Machine Head are not on here is very disappointed.
    Really? I just listened AAL and it's complex maybe but it's ugly as hell, no emotion, just complex. Who the hell can like that? Hipsters.
    hahahaha Hipsters? the more complex the more frivolous to a purist hipster.
    The greatest song ever written was a 3 note song which repeated over and over. It is meant to played on a one string guitar with a broken neck over a kicked in speaker that lacks a low end. The vocals are song completely out of tune and lack any decipherable theme. They are just a string of random words. During this performance the artist must face away from the audience and wear a red ski mask. This piece is not to be performed to more than 4 people at a time, obviously to avoid from this piece ever achieving mainstream status, thereby ruining the integrity of the song.
    Agreed, but it needs to have at least two strings, otherwise it's djent which, as we all know, is the worst thing to happen since satan.
    Thanks for the laugh. I agree. I'll be glad when djent inevitable fades away. Annoying wankage. For the record, if a mere 6 strings is good enough for Tony Iommi, it's good enough for me. You don't any more than that, Tobin Wasabi.
    Bahaha, plenty of "djent" utilizes six strings, Tony Iommi may be a revolutionary in the metal/rock world but his guitar playing was mediocre at best, most of his solos are minor pentatonic wankage that get's old real fast. I feel sorry for people like you, can't take enjoyment in anything new or different. Djent won't fade away, it'll just evolve, less breakdowns and less screaming seems to be the new direction which is excellent. Btw i don't even like tosin, and this list is retarded, i could play most of these songs when i was 14.
    I'm wondering if that guy is for real, seems like a troll to me. Djent has evolved already, I'm starting to feel it's similar like it was with the nu-metal wave - the best "archetypal" djent albums are by bands who started it in the first place (e.g. Periphery's debut - LETTER EXPERIMENT STILL MELTS MY FACE), and they have already moved forward and developed their style massively (there is a huge difference between Periphery I and II, the latter could easily be called a progressive metal record, maybe groove metal or something at times), while the copycats will be forgotten fairly soon.
    Bahaha, plenty of "djent" utilizes six strings, Tony Iommi may be a revolutionary in the metal/rock world but his guitar playing was mediocre at best, most of his solos are minor pentatonic wankage that get's old real fast. I feel sorry for people like you, can't take enjoyment in anything new or different. Djent won't fade away, it'll just evolve, less breakdowns and less screaming seems to be the new direction which is excellent. Btw i don't even like tosin, and this list is retarded, i could play most of these songs when i was 14.
    Even the people who play djent say it's a fad, it'll be gone in a few years at most
    matteo cubano
    okay well thats what the list is asking for....
    The entire list could have simply been filled with animals as leaders songs, technicality and complexity are objective quality's that give no regard to taste or personal preference. If someone knows of a more impressive guitarist I'm eager to give them a listen.
    Mr Winters
    You don't get to dictate what contains emotion and what doesn't. Especially when talking about music other people wrote.
    @Mr Winters That's debatable. If the guy doesn't feel anything when listening to it, then he's entitled to say so. Equally, you are entitled to disagree. And I'd appreciate it - in advance - if people could refrain from the "well he should have said in my opinion " horseshit. It's his opinion because he said it.
    While everything AAL does is typically complex, songs like On Impulse sound beautiful. Who the hell can like that? People who don't have their heads up their arses and feel the need to label everything ugly, emotionless or hipster.
    It's called "atmosphere", but I guess if it's more than 3 power chords then I guess it can't be emotional.
    Sweep picking equals atmosphere? You obviously don't listen to ambient or post-rock...
    1:10. Listen before saying something stupid.
    AAL are amazing, if you say they don't have emotion, you're wrong, you just can't understand what they're trying to convey. If you know them you know that they're not being complex for the sake of being complex. Too many damn purists on this site to just sit back and be open to everything.
    They are the same people who claim there are no innovators today. Animals as Leaders are musical innovators. Whether one likes what they create is pure opinion, but they are pushing the limits of what instrumental progressive metal music can be. They are expanding the technical possibilities and experimenting with different sounds. A person doesn't have to like the results, but they seem so against the idea of anyone experimenting. People hated Black Sabbath (a band worshiped in these parts) and somehow hold them up as if they are immune from any imperfections. Back in the day, they were critically loathed. People said they sounded ugly and stupid, criticizing anyone who listened to them. Popular opinion of artists change over time. I'm not saying Animals as Leaders is the next Black Sabbath or any other crazy hyperbole, but I am saying that innovators are often mocked by people who refuse to accept anything new. Why can't people just let people do something new?
    The thing I don't get is that while many technical bands sound like a mess (particularly a plague in technical death metal), Animals as Leaders have actual MELODIES and catchy riffs. Half of the music is based on complex but very pretty chords, the other half on headbangable djenty riffs. It's complex and weird as hell from the technical standpoint, but the result is some really atmospheric and fun MUSIC.
    And it's the djent thing that is the reason I have a hard time getting into them...that and the bubble noises/robot noises they put in there. Not to say I don't like stuff like that (bands like Daftpunk do it quite well), but in my personal opinion, I don't think it sounds good with "metal." Tosin Abasi is a awesome musician, I'd just much rather listen to his other projects than Animals As Leaders. Something about that 8 String guitar makes every band that uses them have pretty much the exact same tone because you have to brighten up their sound in order to make them not sound muddy from those lower strings. Maybe because they are still being worked with and eventually will be better made. I do like how they made a single coil pup for Tosin's new Ibanez and from what I heard of their recent album, it does make some tonal differences, but they really should figure out a way to to put bass pickups and guitar pickups on those 8 strings. I've seen it done with two input jacks, but no one plays them.
    I wouldn't say every band with 8-strings has the same tone, there is a difference between AaL's thinner and more "open" mix and tone, Meshuggah's "heavy tank" thick, massive tone with 2 rhythm guitars and a bass added to it, and Periphery (although they have just 2 songs written for 8-strings but their standard 7-string tuning is drop G# so it's not a big difference) are yet another thing, with something in-between in terms of rhythm heaviness and pretty much always some lead or ambient guitars on top of it. And I find AaL's heavy riffs to be very catchy, the ones in CAFO are pretty cool, but e.g. I heard a song called Tooth and Claw from their new album and holy shit, that is powerful.
    They're extremely talented but I can't get into it either. The guitar tones are bad and it just sounds cold and boring.
    broken ipod
    Okay? The list is most complex riffs, not most emotional. The song is more than worthy of the spot as it is complex. Anyways, perhaps you are just incapable of understanding and appreciating this music. There certainly is emotion present in the piece.
    Prog sucks. It's self-indulgent BS. Complexity isn't the goal of good music. Good sounding music is the goal of good music. I'd rather listen to Tony Iommi and Jack White over Steve Vai and John Petrucci every day of the week.
    The only person you mentioned that I actually like is Tony Iommi. However, you're an idiot for saying all prog sucks because it's "complex".
    I don't think Opeth is too complex and their one of the best prog-metal/pro-rock whatever bands I've ever heard.
    Opeth is definitely, definitely complex. Maybe not arrangement-wise in comparison to some bands (they don't have any strings or anything besides their "normal" guitars and keyboards), but their riffs are other far, far more complicated than it seems. Even, or especially, the acoustic stuff. As someone who ended up depressed when trying to learn anything Opeth on guitar I can tell you.
    Opeth is complex for sure, especially in their song structures. Pretty much all prog is complex in some regard, but that doesn't make it bad in general.
    Nah, complexity doesn't make a song bad. But I do think there is such thing as over-doing it. Being technical and having rhythm CAN go together, but it's in rare form that they usually manage to pull it off. Sometimes, I feel like being TOO technical, while cool from a musician's standpoint, makes a song inaudible, or otherwise, anyone who isn't a musician, wouldn't want to listen to it. For example, my friend is in a crazy progressive, jazz fusion band and it's really awesome (time signatures and everything are insane), but it's not something I'd want to listen to all the time.
    Well, I remember reading this said somewhere by John Petrucci and it's definitely true and also my approach in a way - weird time signatures pulled off well are recognised by that they sound effortless and natural. I generally thing adding bits of technicality can _always_ make music more interesting and gives far bigger possibilities for writing riffs, but yeah, it can definitely be overdone. Technical death metal always comes to my mind, there are good examples like the new Conquering Dystopia project, which has AWESOME, headbangable riffs and epic, monumental solos (Jeff Loomis yay), and then there are those bands where distinguishing a riff at all seems impossible and 90% of the songs are tapping and sweep picking.
    Right, it's easy to go too overboard on the complexity. But when the complexity is justified by the quality of the song, prog and math rock can be just about the most interesting genres out there.
    So Bach was a terrible musician? He wrote some of the most complex music ever written? Are the people who have listened to him for hundreds of years incapable of understanding music? Good sounding music is objective. It's all in the eye (ear) of the beholder. Just because it is complex doesn't invalidate it. It's only self indulgent because you think people who make it are somehow just showoffs. You do realize people legitimately enjoy the sound. It's not music many people pose at (as complicated music isn't popular enough to really have posers), besides its hard to pose at being technically brilliant and great at writing complicated music. I realize it's your opinion, but calling progressive music self indulgent is like calling any movie that is more "artsy" (like The Godfather or Memento) than a simple action flick "pretentious" because it is more complex than Avatar.
    Oh and I forgot Michael Angelo Batio and his quad-guitars. Certainly not a poser! [/sarcasm]
    Big red: Complex music isn't in itself self-indulgent BS. But when one of your main musical goals is to make music as technically complex as possible, then it's self-indulgent BS. Steve Vai playing live by himself (no singer of course, wouldn't want to take attention away from his wanking) with a triple-necked guitar is musical masturbation. And then they have the nerve to call it "progressive", as if they're better than anyone else. Vai is a poser, Ygnwie Malmsteen is one of the biggest posers in all of rock. The G3 don't tour to make great music, they tour to show off 3 of the most technical guitarists playing together (as if that in itself is great music). But sometimes yes prog artists do make great songs. The difference between Bach and Malmsteen is that Bach's goal was to create great music that happened to complex, while Ygnwie's goal is to show how cool he can look while playing faster than everyone else.
    You are assuming that modern guitarists only goal is to show off complexity and Bach's was not. He is considered the master of baroque music, which was intended on being extremely complex. You are assuming modern guitarists don't care about how their music sounds and only care about complexity. That is a wild assertion. Steve Vai (since that is the example that you used) practiced hours just playing single notes and phrases to get them to sound just right. He is a terrible example of someone who just plays fast for the sake of it. Have you ever listen to him describe his music? He almost never mentions how technical it is! He is extremely humble when not performing. Just because he is an eccentric performer does not make him a douchey show off. If he just sat their quietly on a stool with his head down would you be happy? A poser? I'm pretty sure anyone who practices 10 hours a day every day of the week hardly classifies as a poser. A poser just acts like something they are not to be cool. They do not devote themselves completely to their craft to be cool. Popular culture does not care about skilled guitarists anymore. He is only cool to a very niche group. I am pretty sure you have no idea what a poser is. Your statements are extremely arrogant to claim that someones art is purely self indulgent and without merit. Have you ever considered that some people like music that sound like what they make? Certain sounds require enormous technical skill, while others do not. It takes very little to hammer power chords and tons to play fast leads. Both techniques have their place, but there are more sounds out there than just the ones that are easy to make. Also, the tradition of professional musicians that push the technical boundaries of what is possible to play is older than the 80s. Musician's like Chopin, Paganini, Liszt, Scriabin, Beethoven, and Vivaldi all created extremely difficult pieces to play. Before you say, "well they just wanted to make good sounding music, unlike modern technical players," realize that the clear intention was on showcasing their tremondous skill. Making it sound good was also important, but that is the intent of all music. The other motive was to demonstrate ones technical abilities. Why? Because watching someone master their craft is awesome. It's why people go to Cirque de Soleil. Are circus performers just show off when they are on stage to be cool? Or is there an artform to it.
    If you honestly think Steve Vai is prog rock, I can understand your ignorance. Go listen to some Floyd. A whole Floyd album.
    Oh and I forgot Michael Angelo Batio and his quad-guitars. Certainly not a poser! [/sarcasm].
    Listen to Meshuggah Obzen and maybe you'll realize why you're wrong. A song is not just about emotion, its about how someone relates to it. The songs are agressive as hell and they give me urges just to kill people like you. You deserve to die!!!!
    I love Tosin Abasi. I think his guitar playing skills are unmatched. That being said, Animals As Leaders, as with most djent (jent, whatever the crap you wanna call it), is some of the most robotic and god awful tone I've ever heard, so whomever is mentioning anything about being "emotional" go listen to some music that doesn't require you to plug into a computer and download your tones. This stuff works great for industrial or whatever, but seriously, I'm more impressed by a good, colorful guitar solo than how fast someone can sweep pick. Congrats show off. It's cool from a technical standpoint, but musically, sounds like garbage. There is such thing as TOO technical. And seriously guys? Meshuggah? I loved Obzen and everything, but the day they play any riff other than on the top two strings (occasionally the four note djent chord that is ever so complicated), I'll be impressed. Oh, excuse me, I forgot about the sweep picking. That's apparently awesome to everyone...Tosin's band TRAM was a great jazz fusion band and I enjoyed that album because it was jazz, but seriously..."djent" is no different than metalcore with 8 strings and sweep picking and makes you no better than idiots who buy beat machines and make dubstep.
    Please listen to their most recent album The Joy of Motion, come back and leave a comment where you take back, if not everything you said about AAL, at least some of it.
    it's like techno on a guitar.
    No. Just no.
    I'd describe it as a mix between djent, Jazz, and electronica. I'm apparently fond of this combination, however if you need to mentally separate this from music you like to make fun of to avoid cognitive dissonance I understand.
    Ya, the main riff for CAFO, which I just listened to, sounds terrible. Yes its complex, but most of the song sounded awful. The ambient breakdowns were alright, and the part around 3:30 sounds cool, but that main riff is just awful.
    You are ****ing stupid. I dont know how you got so many thumbs up. Try developing some ****ing musical taste faggot.
    Surprisingly, (as someone whose favorite players are Angus Young, Adrian Smith and Slash) I didn't hate Animals As Leaders. I can see they put lots of emotion into that song, and it's not just complex for the sake of it (something I can't stand and that's all too prevalent in modern metal). I probably wouldn't listen to a whole album of it though. SOAD and Tool opened me up to prog rock, because they're still very melodic and emotional, and not just showing off technical skill. That's probably my limit though.
    Listen to Meshuggah Obzen and maybe you'll realize why you're wrong. A song is not just about emotion, its about how someone relates to it. The songs are agressive as hell and they give me urges just to kill people like you. You deserve to die!!!!
    I agree that (especially a lot of their old stuff) sounds mechanic and ugly, but I've always found it to be really groovy in a strange way.
    Glad to see Blackened on there. That riff never gets credit for being so oddly formed and whatnot.
    I think this list trys to combine "technical complexity" with "popularity"I'm sure there are a lot of more technical stuff out there. But only a select few find it musically worth listening to. Just because it's technical, has speed, and is difficult to play mean it's good music. If it's this easy to make the top 10... shouldn't Steve Martin have at least made it. He plays a mean banjo
    A RHCP riff is more complex than Opeth's Heir Apparent?
    A RHCP riff is more complex than anything from Devin Townsend's Deconstruction? or Symphony X, Gentle Giant, Rush, Between the Buried and Me, Protest the Hero, Adagio, Opeth, Frank Zappa? Don't get me wrong, I love me some Chili's, but lets not call them something they are not. They are not about complexity. It just is not an element of their music.
    Black dog, Blackened and Snow all have great memorable riffs but they are super easy compared to pretty much everything by everyone else on this list and I don't think they should be on it. On a sidenote, NO RUSH?
    I'd have liked to see some Danny Gatton or Johnny Hiland twisting their Teles into knots and definitely some Cacophony stuff---rubbish list IMO.
    Metal is a cop out for this list... I wouldn't even consider some of those "riffs"... How about The Beatles "And Your Bird Can Sing"???
    Its really disgusting how UG would ignore Deep Purple after they clearly won
    I'm even more offended they left out One Note song. That is quite possibly the most important piece of music recorded since Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. My mind was blown upon hearing that piece. Now, I divide my life into two phases: before and after hearing One Note Song by Tenacious D.
    Lol @ Galgopower...hipsters? Really? Someone doesn't know how to use the word.
    Cool to see AAL on a list People really need to stop replying to the first comment on wednesday btw. I opened the wednesday question yesterday and I had to scroll for ages to even get to the second comment...
    They do that to get their answers read, no one wants to scroll to the bottom of the page, people usually find an answer they like, +1, then leave the page all together.
    Surely there's at least a few lamb of god songs that could have been considered? Mark Morton and Willie Adler construct some pretty damn intricate riffs...
    Maybe it's just me but every time I've tried to learn the chorus riff for Reptilia by The Strokes I can't do it for the life of me. It sounds so simple but it's so difficult
    0:27 4 guitar layers. I was blown away when I heard this riff and found out how many layers of harmonies were played.