In metal music, the songs are based around riffs. This list is obviously debatable and there are surely some I’m forgetting, but here are 10 that have consistently been my favorites:
Parris Mayhew, former guitarist for the Cro-Mags, has had a successful career in the video filming industry. But when he was just 15, he came up with some killer riffs, with Malfunction arguably being his most well-known. The chorus riff is only 4 notes, standard tuning…and is still heavy as hell.
Death, “Crystal Mountain”
Chuck Schuldiner is one of metal’s most revered guitarists, frontmen, and songwriters. For me, my favorite from him is the opening riff from Crystal Mountain. It is deceptively simple until he throws in a sweep at the end. It is a catchy riff and a memorable one. RIP Chuck.
Crowbar, “Repulsive In Its Spendid Beauty”
What would a riff list be without the Riff Lord? Kirk Windstein, guitarist, frontman, and songwriter for Crowbar, has written countless killer riffs. But for me, my favorite from him is the verse riff from Repulsive In Its Splendid Beauty. It is fairly simple with some string bending, yet dense and atmospheric.
A close second from Kirk is the chorus riff from his side band Kingdom Of Sorrow’s “Lead Into Demise”, which sounds like AC/DC’s “Riff Raff” on steroids.
Pantera, “A New Level”
Dimebag Darrell is another legendary metal guitarist of Pantera fame. For me, my favorite from him is the chorus riff from A New Level. It is a simple chromatic riff, and is still one of the heaviest things that you and I will ever hear. RIP Dime.
Dying Fetus, “Praise The Lord”
Dying Fetus has long been one of my favorite modern metal bands. And the opening riff for Praise The Lord is my favorite from them. Heavy as hell with some squeals at the end.
Helmet, “In The Meantime”
This is one of the first bands I ever heard as a kid that was legitimately heavy. The chorus riff from In The Meantime is still heavy as hell 24 years later, and is a fun one to play and jam out to.
Machine Head, “Halo”
For Machine Head albums, Burn My Eyes will always be my favorite. But for my favorite MH riff, the verse riff from Halo has to be it. Catchy as hell with Robb Flynn’s trademark harmonic squeals.
Slayer, “Raining Blood”
And what riff list would be complete without a Jeff Hanneman creation? Raining Blood still sounds as heavy and demonic as it first did in 1986. RIP Jeff.
Metallica, “Sad But True”
This was one of Metallica’s first downtuned songs, and the beginning of Sad But True sounds like a brick wall crashing down. This riff is so influential that it became the basis for hit songs by Kid Rock and Avenged Sevenfold.
Napalm Death, “My Own Worst Enemy”
Napalm Death has been consistently awesome for many years now, but my favorite riff from them comes from their most underrated album, Diatribes. The riff at the bridge of My Own Worst Enemy is catchy, heavy, and slightly off kilter like all ND riffs…and it has such an awesome groove. Just try NOT headbanging to this one!
Any suggestions? What’s your favorite riffs?