The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists by Joel McIver
Release date : January 2009
Reviewed by Mark Fisher
A well known British Rock journalist, Joel McIver has penned tomes chronicling the likes of Slipknot (2001's Slipknot: Unmasked), Black Sabbath (2006's Sabbath Bloody Sabbath), and Slayer (2008's The Bloody Reign of Slayer). McIver additionally authored the best selling Justice For All: The Truth About Metallica (2004), and has contributed to such magazines as Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Bass Guitar, and Total Guitar. In October 2008, it was announced that McIver's twelfth book was entitled The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists, and would be published globally in January 2009 via Jawbone Press.
Several years earlier, Joel McIver had read a list of “the hundred greatest Metal guitarists” of all time in a popular guitar magazine. Bizarre names surfaced, such as Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and Neil Young. This inspired the author to pen his own list, and that evolved into an eighty thousand word opus. Featuring a foreword written by Deicide vocalist Glen Benton, the book journeys from number one hundred, and travels through towards the guitarist chosen as “the greatest Metal guitarist”. Selections were based on the technical ability and historical significance of each respective guitarist. All of Metal's generations feature, with the oldest axeman being sixty-one, and the youngest a mere twenty-six. McIver omits those he deems to be from the Hard Rock sphere, meaning such guitarists as Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne), Angus Young (AC/DC), Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple) aren't included.
Surprisingly, the list is greatly compiled. Modest biographical sections document each guitarist, and these span half to three fourths of a page. A mid-size photograph compliments each respective section, though The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists boasts a few two page group spreads throughout. These sections briefly chronicle the career of each guitarist, and personally selects that guitarist's prime achievement (dubbed “Moment Of Guitar Genius”). Minor quotes regarding various subjects furnish certain guitarist sections, and these quotes approach such topics as musical influences, favourite guitarists, and technique. Some quotes warrant inclusion due to the fact they merely happen to pique the reader's interest; for example, Dino Cazares (Divine Heresy / ex-Fear Factory / ex-Brujeria) recounts what Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne / Black Label Society) spoke in conversation at “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott’s funeral. Following a section which documents “the greatest Metal guitarist”, three appendices surface. The book's initial appendix names fifty additionally worthy guitarists who didn't figure amongst the top hundred, but provides no further information. Its sophomore appendix, meanwhile, names twenty great shredders who weren't Metal oriented enough to warrant inclusion. Finally, the third appendix alphabetically breaks the top hundred list down by nationality, and subgenre.
In truth, it's about damn time that such guitarists as Dan Swanö (Bloodbath, Edge of Sanity), Piotor Wiwczarek (Vader) and even Trey Azgathoth (Morbid Angel) were rightfully situated alongside guitarists like Zakk Wylde, Kirk Hammett (Metallica), Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), and Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell). Long considered living legends, the latter have accrued millions more in record sales as part of their respective groups - millions more than any of the former have even dared dream of amassing. McIver nobly shows respect, and lists artists without undue consideration of hit albums and legendary status. Mostly, this reviewer agrees with the author's list, and this was quite surprising. Few exceptions aside, McIver hits the nail upon the head, even in making his controversial selection for the greatest Metal guitarist of all time. This review will not unveil that selection, but it's certain to piss countless individuals off.
To say the very least, a book of this specific nature can tread into murky territory. As regards what exactly defines and encompasses “Metal”, numerous opinions certainly exist. Critiqued against similar books however, The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists comes as close as any other towards appropriately settling such debates. Due to the fact they're primarily “Rock” musicians, notable axemen like Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai aren't featured. “Fast” Eddie Clark figures amongst the list however, yet nobody would dub Motörhead a Metal group (though, Metal fanatics are admittedly fond of the outfit). The fact that members of Voivod, Carcass and Savatage don't figure amongst the top hundred is somewhat confusing (the book's initial appendix names the men, however), though each to his own. A minor quibble, The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists' book mostly names genuinely Extreme genius - as previously stated, McIver's list is impressively compiled, mostly. For those curious as regards Metal, and those who seek to widen their Metal knowledge and vocabulary with minimal effort, The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists is an excellent purchase.