Guest Blog: Bison B.C.’s Dan And Picks the Five Greatest Riffs ever
Crusty thrashers Bison B.C.’s latest album, Dark Ages (Metal Blade), is so chock-full of memorable guitar work, we figured these guys must be authorities on great riffs. Turns out we were right. Below is vocalist-guitarist Dan And’s picks for the Five Best Riffs of All-Time and his thoughts about each one.
1. BLACK SABBATH, “Hole in the Sky,” from Sabotage, 1975
Trying to pick just one Sabbath riff as a favorite is tough because they wrote every good riff ever...even “Zero The Hero” has a killer riff. There are the obvious choices of “Paranoi,” “Iron Man,” “Children of the Grave” or the song “Black Sabbath,” which started it all, but this one opens my fav Sabbath record so it’s always stuck out for me. It might be the fact that it doesn’t start right away and you can actually hear Iommi turn up the volume on his guitar, put his hand over the strings to mute them then...BLAAADOWWWW! Get yer “G-word” on!
2. THIN LIZZY, “Chinatown,” Chinatown, 1980
The perfect song…I don’t know how else to describe it. Thin Lizzy were masters of the riff like no other. Each song a perfect tactical aural assault of endless guitarmonies and good times but this one captures the flag for me. Scott Gorham was the perfect Colonel for General Lynott's riff army. Whether he was battling beside Gary Moore, Snowy White, or Brian Robertson you can tell that he was the one leading the charge.
3. BLACK FLAG, “Loose Nut,” Loose Nut, 1985
A riff that manages to not only sound as sleazy and sloppy as the lyrics to the song but also manages to completely segregate the band from their raging punk output. That polarization started with the sludge fest that is the second half of ’84’s My War and of course ’85’s Slip It In is pretty much as sleazy as you can get, but it’s still filled with classic Black Flag sounding punk riffs. Loose Nut just changed it all. The whole album’s a mid-tempo face fuck to whatever poor kid would happen to be standing in the front row. It sounds like Nikki Sixx writing a Black Sabbath record. Grow yer hair and grind the air!
4. BUDGIE, “Napoleon Bona-Part 2,” Bandolier, 1975
It takes exactly 2:38 minutes to get through the whimsical, dream-like “Napoleon Bona-Part 1,” but once “Part 2” kicks in, look the fuck out! Yer welcome, Iron Maiden. Take this hammer to the back of the head, Metallica, and don’t fuck it up. Whoops, shit the bed there, buds! Budgie galloped like no other ever has or will…they did it best, hands down. There would be no N.W.O.B.H.M. or Bay Area thrash without Budgie, period. Unfortunately that also means we have them to thank for Dave Mustaine and the current influx of horrible, barely post-teen thrash-revival bands. Good job, Welshers!
5. (tie) MELVINS, “Revolve,” Stoner Witch, 1994 / HIS HERO IS GONE, “Like Weeds,” Monuments to Thieves, 1997
There are millions of awesome classic rock and blues riffs I would throw on this list, but in terms of influence on my playing, these two are huge. It’s hard to even break them down into “riffs” because they are both an endless barrage of awesome riff after awesome riff. I never thought I would ever talk about a crust song even having a “riff” but this His Hero Is Gone one has been stuck in my head for 15 years. Basically every single song I have ever written in one form or another at first was an attempt to create the perfect mix of these two songs. Sleazy/sludgey pop metal mixed with doom and gloom crust punk. Give me 10 more years and I bet you anything I’ll even be a 275-pound dude with an afro wearing a scotchguarded mudflap covered in spikes. UGH!
Honorable Mentions (because six riffs are never enough):
Van Halen, “I’m the One”
Rush - “Spirit of Radio”/“Limelight”
Captain Beyond, everything
Eagles, “Life in the Fast Lane”
Phil Collins, “Easy Lover”
Kansas, “Carry On My Wayward Son”
April Wine, “Weeping Willow”
Replacements, “Bastards of Young”
Bison B.C. pic by Alex Divincenzo