As I Lay Dying's Nick Hipa: the 10 greatest metal guitarists of all time
As I Lay Dying's Nick Hipa knows a thing or two about metal guitar, and he more than proves it on the band's upcoming album Awakened, which is brimming with the San Diego shredder's gnashing riffs and cauterizing solos. (In fact, they even have a new song called Cauterized. Can you say "none more metal"?)
Asked to name the 10 greatest metal guitar players of all time, Hipa laid out his criteria: “To me, a great metal guitarist – or any great guitarist – is somebody who has his own unique sound and style. They should have the technical ability to pull off whatever it is they can imagine or wherever their creativity takes them. If somebody can do all of that and write killer riffs and amazing songs, then that’s somebody I want to listen to, and somebody who will inspire me."
Hipa stresses that while he reveres players such as Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix, they don't make his list, simply because "they're not metal," he says. "Eddie is obviously a guitar hero, and he’s easily one of my top five guitarists of all time, but Van Halen, to me, is more rock than metal. I think of metal in more of an extreme context. And some of the guys I'll name are pretty extreme."
On the following pages, Nick Hipa lists the 10 guitarists (well, he stretches the number somewhat) whom he feels burn the brightest. "Ranking people as 'the best' or 'the greatest of all time' is pretty difficult," he says. "Let's just say that these guys are my favorites. To me, they're the greatest."
Everything that I said great guitarists should have? That they should have the technical ability to go wherever their minds take them, a strong sense of songwriting, a unique voice, a vibe that’s theirs and nobody else’s – that's Dimebag Darrell. He had all of that and so much more.
"As far as being a metal guitarist goes, he was his own man and he made his own type of music. He did stuff that was so special. Nobody in the world sounded like him.”
“Randy is probably my favorite overall guitar player of all time. He had such class – it was in everything he did. His playing was so smooth, and it was filled with so much melody that you could almost forget that you were listening to what people might term ‘heavy metal.’
“Whenever Randy played, the result was beautiful music. When I hear him, I think to myself, How could anybody not like this? His riffs were killer, and the solos are still absolutely unforgettable.”
“He might not fall under the strict category of ‘metal guitarist,’ but I have to give it up for him, purely for being the metal songwriter for the past however many decades.
“Every Metallica album, from the early records right on through to the ‘Black Album,’ were very strong as far as creative riffs go. How did somebody come up with that many riffs for that many albums? And they’re all awesome!
“Basically, he’s got the right hand that every guitar player wants. Listen to Master Of Puppets – this guy tracked those riffs on analog tape, and he’s perfect. The consistency of his playing, his precision, is remarkable. For as much as people put an emphasis on shredding, not a lot of guys can do what Hetfield does. He’s one of my favorite guitarists, period.”
“I don’t know if he’s totally metal, either, but I would have to say George Lynch is right up there. I kind of missed out on what he was doing when I was a kid, because I was into straight metal and wasn’t into the whole hair metal thing, but for the past couple of years, Lynch has been a real influence on me.
“I’ve seen him live a few times, and what I like about him is the fact that he sounds like himself and nobody else. You can’t teach somebody how to do that, and you probably couldn't teach somebody to play like him. To me, he’s a little like Jeff Beck – he plays what he’s feeling, and what he’s feeling is very personal.
“It’s funny: I used to hate whammy bar stuff, but I kind of got into it and did more of it than I was planning to on the new record, and it’s because of guys like Lynch.”
“I’m going to say ‘Maiden guitarists’ here, specially Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. I should put Steve Harris in there, too, because he’s responsible for writing so many of their songs.
“The intensity and melodic quality of Maiden is kind of what our band tries to achieve. We want the driving energy and that total state of awesomeness, but still, it’s got to be about songs that stick in your head. Maiden have done it so well for so many years.”
Björn Gelotte, Jesper Strömblad - In Flames
“In Flames are kind of like a more modern version of Maiden. They write great songs, great riffs, and they’ve got such solid vibrato. Björn and Jesper are amazing players.”
Mikael kerfeldt - Opeth
“He writes such a wide variety of music, and it’s all awesome. He’ll come up with one of the most beautiful acoustic guitar parts you ever heard, and then he’ll follow it with one of the best straight-up death metal riffs ever. As far as leads go, his playing is so smooth and buttery.”
Peter Wichers - Soilwork
“Soilwork is one of my favorite Swedish metal bands. They’ve got riffs, they’re fast, they’re melodic, and then you’ve got Peter’s guitar playing. As a shredder, he’s extremely, extremely next level. An absolutely brilliant guitarist.”
Wacław "Vogg" Kiełtyka - Decapitated
“He’s more of a death metal version of what Dimebag was. I got to see him play a few months ago, and he was so on point. It was very inspiring.”
Kurt Ballou - Converge
“Maybe they’re considered so hardcore or experimental metal that they might not fit as ‘metal,’ but I feel that Kurt’s creativity and innovativeness is so high. He’s doing stuff that is very unique and identifiable to the band.”