Yeah, vocalists, bassists, drummers are important, but in heavy metal, the guitar is king. Or in some cases, queen.
With that in mind, we asked our readers to choose the single greatest metal guitarist right now, and the votes piled in. Worthy names across generations and subgenres earned nominations, and many excellent players fell just short of the top five: Testament's Alex Skolnick, Trivium's Matt Heafy, Animals as Leaders' Tosin Abasi, the Black Dahlia Murder's Brandon Ellis, Revocation's Dave Davidson and Dethklok's Brendon Small, to name just a few.
So who came out on top? Check out the fans' top five picks below.
She honed her metal chops in the Iron Maidens, electrified classic-rock audiences in Alice Cooper's touring band, brought headbanging heft to pop-rocker Demi Lovato's live show and even flexed her groove-metal power covering Pantera with a TikTok star.
This year, however, the acclaimed guitarist took center stage with the release of her star-studded sophomore solo album, The Call of the Void — complete with the single "Dead Inside" (featuring David Draiman) that earned her the distinction of being the first female rock solo artist in three decades to hit No. 1 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart. Clearly, our readers can't wait to hear what's next.
Real talk: If this list was generated 10, 20 or 30 years ago, John Petrucci would've still deserved a spot on it. The Berklee-trained guitar god's skills have turned heads since Dream Theater's 1992 prog-metal breakout Images and Words — and Petrucci's playing has only gotten more adventurous as time has gone on. And far-fucking-out compositions aside, in terms of pure, inspired technique, this Strong Island shredder can still go toe-to-toe with any player out there.
From his well-curated look and lifestyle to his immaculate, acrobatic and boundary-pushing playing — Polyphia's guitar virtuoso is a vibe. Henson may be a leader in the new class of progressive-metal guitar heroes, but his creative vision and musical prowess extend well beyond any genre or "stunt-guitar" confines — earning him cosigns from shred OGs (Steve Vai) and alt tastemakers (Deftones' Chino Moreno) alike, as well as a rabid YouTube following impatiently waiting for his next head-spinning playthrough video.
Synyster Gates' shredding skills are well established; with modern metal classics like "Bat Country" and "Afterlife," he helped make guitar solos and virtuosity in general fucking cool again in the wake of grunge and nu-metal's stripping down of rock playing. Fans waited nearly seven years to hear new music from him and his band, Avenged Sevenfold, and with Life Is but a Dream..., Gates reclaimed his crown.
Remarkably, he did it not so much by shredding — though he does shred on the album — but by using his instrument in experimental new ways, creating mind-bending soundscapes more inspired by hip-hop and EDM than traditional heavy metal. Heady stuff.
Between his prodigious playing in Ozzy Osbourne's band and in his own group, Black Label Society, Zakk Wylde had already stamped his ticket to heavy-metal guitar god Valhalla. But proving himself worthy of literally taking the place of the late, great Dimebag Darrell in the mighty Pantera? Well, that's a whole new level... of confidence and power.
Add in the fact that Zakk's got stage presence to spare and a sense of humor that's lovable, if sometimes surreal, and you have a bona fide icon — and, according to Revolver readers, the single greatest metal guitarist right now.
Strength. Determination. Merciless. Forever