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  • ARTISTdirect.com's Top Guitar Riffs of the 21st Century

    Wed, 29 Aug 2012 14:40:28

    ARTISTdirect.com's Top Guitar Riffs of the 21st Century - We take a stab at Rock's most important sound...

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    • Metallica - GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 28: James Hetfield of Metallica performs live on the Pyramid stage during day two of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Pilton on June 28, 2014 in Glastonbury, England. Tickets to the event, which is now in its 44th year, sold out in minutes even before any of the headline acts had been confirmed. The festival, which started in 1970 when several hundred hippies paid £1, now attracts more than 175,000 people.
    • Metallica - GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 28: James Hetfield of Metallica performs on the Pyramid stage during Day 2 of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm on June 28, 2014 in Glastonbury, England.
    • Metallica - GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 28: James Hetfield of Metallica performs live on the Pyramid stage during day two of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Pilton on June 28, 2014 in Glastonbury, England. Tickets to the event, which is now in its 44th year, sold out in minutes even before any of the headline acts had been confirmed. The festival, which started in 1970 when several hundred hippies paid £1, now attracts more than 175,000 people.

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    Arguably, the most important element of any metal track is the guitar riff.

    It can instantly hook you, or simply draw you in for later explosions of electric thrashing bliss. It can leave you with a riff jammed in your conscious until you are left to sing-a-loud with nothing short of gibberish in an attempt to mimic these addictive notes.

    There's always a place for great riffs. So, at ARTISTdirect.com, we were curious, what are the top guitar riffs of the 21st century? That question is nothing short of a tall order, but we did our best and have picked the top 25 best guitar riffs of the 2000's.

    Metallica – "My Apocalypse"

    "My Apocalypse", the finale of Metallica's 2008 masterpiece, Death Magnetic, burns from the get-go with one of the group's most propulsive and powerful riffs ever. James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett flawlessly fire off an instantly unforgettable intro that's as corrosive as it is catchy. Everything speeds up to a driving six-string gallop before spiraling into an incendiary refrain. All of the competition has been burned down to the ground at the end, and Metallica remain victorious once again. Hail the lords of the riff… [Rick Florino]

    Pantera – "Hellbound"

    While compiling a list of top guitar riffs, it was a no-brainer to include the work of the late Dimebag Darrell. He left a permanent mark on the music world over the two decades he played in Pantera. "Hellbound," from Pantera's last studio album, Reinventing the Steel—released at the turn of the century, and leaves a lasting impression with his classic start-stop dynamic, reverb, speed, clarity, and Darrell's unmistakable groove. R.I.P. sir, you were a true guitar god of the highest order. [Elizabeth Fox]

    Down – "Witchtripper"

    The first single from Down's Down IV Part 1 — The Purple EP (out Sept. 18) rolls in on a truly classic riff. Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein infuse the song with a bluesy Southern stomp that glides raw elegance befitting of the group's legacy. This is everything heavy metal should be. It's got groove, instrumental fireworks, and the right amount of lyrical darkness from Mr. Philip Anselmo. Down are unlike any other band on the planet, and that's what makes them so goddamn good. [RF]

    Slayer – "Disciple"

    The chorus of "Disciple", God Hates Us All, says it all. This is one of those barn-burners that Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman were born to rip right through. The riff's angst matches the lyrical vitriol. It's an all-encompassing orgy of destruction with exciting progressions, light-speed soloing, start-stop thrashing, and bruising breakdowns. Slayer's aggressive dual-guitar style remains unmatched. "Disciple" stands proudly on the same plane as "Hell Awaits", "Raining Blood", "South of Heaven", and the other classics… [EF]



    Slipknot - "Left Behind"

    "Left Behind" commences with an instantly classic riff from Mick Thomson and Jim Root that any modern metal head will recognize off the bat. It winds through the maddening space of Iowa with a warped melodic sensibility that's simultaneously schizophrenic and soaring. This is a testament to Slipknot's mastery of a hook and technical prowess. The catchy, yet extremely heavy song will satisfy the angst of anyone who will listen, with the blissful chaos of the guitars. The riff sounds so intriguing it could be a lead. [EF]

    Tool – "Jambi"

    On "Jambi", the polyrhythmic flurry of distortion from Adam Jones taps open the doors into another world altogether. This song displays just how majestic his playing is, breaking down barriers and circumventing all rules. It's the most powerful cut on 10,000 Days, and that says a lot. It's also Tool at their heaviest and most hypnotic. [RF]



    Smashing Pumpkins – "Quasar"

    The opening track of Oceania sees Smashing Pumpkins unleash a hurricane swell of a riff. Billy Corgan's guitar practically opens up the clouds with its thunderous roar before seguing into some divine lead work. This is some of the best alternative rock ever from the masters of the genre. That riff not only begins the album but the band's tour. It's as marvelous as anything The Smashing Pumpkins have ever committed to tape. [RF]



    Stone Sour – "Gone Sovereign - Absolute Zero"

    The first cut from Stone Sour's House of Gold and Bones – Part 1, out October 23, kicks down the door with a mean riff that's just as potent as a shotgun blast. Cycling through blood-soaked six-string assault and battery, Jim Root and Josh Rand churn out one of the most wonderfully oppressive opening salvos of the 21st century and band's best display of guitar prowess to date. The song rages with modern thrash fury as it slides right into the first single "Absolute Zero", which boasts some mind-blowing soloing. Together, the two tracks clock in over seven minutes, making for a seamless guitar opus that's instantly timeless. [RF]



    Gojira – "L'Enfant Sauvage"

    "L'Enfant Sauvage," from Gojira's latest album of the same name, is laced in mystery with a haunting rhythmic guitar verse from frontman Joe Duplantier that builds into a heavy and intricate chorus that beautifully clashes with its drum parts. The guitar riff is comprehensive with slides and progressive thrash elements. The French band, named after the Japanese word for Godzilla, certainly lives up to its moniker with their heavy, unforgiving sound. [EF]

    Ghost – "Elizabeth"

    The foreboding, relentless guitar sorcery here elevates Ghost to a level of sonic witchcraft few ever reach. It's a frighteningly catchy little tribute to Elizabeth Bathory that provides a front row seat to her madness. Even a pact with Satan couldn't yield playing this incredible…It must be something else. Or maybe it is. We'll never know, and that's why Ghost fucking rules. [RF]



    Bullet for My Valentine – "Your Betrayal"

    Mounting with a staggering staccato guitar punch, the opener of Bullet For My Valentine's masterful Fever, "Your Betrayal", rages to life instantly. Frontman and guitarist Matt Tuck and guitarist Michael "Padge" Paget remain one of modern metal's most fierce and fiery duos. Their riffing proves impeccable, while the solos practically blaze through the speakers. It's punishing and powerful fretwork, and it's emblematic of how downright incredible Bullet For My Valentine are. Tuck and Paget need to be regarded in the same breath as the best for keeping metal alive… [RF]



    Mastodon - "Colony of Birchmen"

    There is a great sense of mystery to Mastodon’s work, and "Colony of Birchmen" feels like a journey. Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher's guitars build tension throughout the song, as if a warning of what's to come in this track full of many, many surprises—including a killer Joshua Homme vocal cameo. [EF]



    Jane's Addiction – "Underground"

    Jane's Addiction is alive, kicking, and still tending to its own unique gumbo of rock, glam, punk, and metal that's "alternative" in the truest sense of the word. From 2011's The Great Escape Artist, "Underground" bubbles up with an invigorating guitar intro, while the rest of the song is filled with Dave Navarro's one-of-a-kind magnetic guitar mastery. [RF]



    Coheed and Cambria – "Welcome Home"

    "Welcome" illuminates just how tight Claudio Sanchez and Travis Stever are as guitarists. It starts with an acoustic classically inspired passage that slowly culminates on an uncontainable riff. The verse teeters between orchestral distortion and harmonics before wrapping around another big refrain. It's metallic, marvelous, and majestic playing. [RF]



    Rob Zombie – "American Witch"

    "American Witch" starts as many Rob Zombie songs in the past—with a horror movie sample loop. What sets this song apart is the unexpected and euphorically overwhelming power riff courtesy of John 5. The song, inspired by the Salem witch trials, keeps a steady energy thanks to the pummeling guitar that feels ripped right from your favorite horror flick. [EF]



    Korn – "Coming Undone"

    Driven by one of the genre's most creative and crushing players, James "Munky" Shaffer, "Coming Undone" is a surprisingly catchy anthem about, well, going crazy! The clapping beat in tandem with the steady progression of heavily distorted guitar will keep this song in your head for hours, even after hearing only the first verse. This song is a 21st century Korn staple emblematic of the band's growth. [EF]

    Five Finger Death Punch – "War is the Answer"

    "War is the Answer" shows just how heavy Five Finger Death Punch can get. Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook's shredding stands out as both diverse and energetic. It doesn't matter what the question is, "War" is the best answer from these two six-string generals. [EF]



    Nine Inch Nails - "Love Is Not Enough"

    During the nearly three-decade-long career of Trent Reznor, he has continually reworked his sound on each album, yet there is never a question that it is a Nine Inch Nails album. In "Love Is Not Enough," from With Teeth, the guitar riff is relatively minimal. What makes it one of the best riffs is how the guitar executes. During each verse the guitar waits in the background, growling, waiting for its chance to break free. With the classic Nine Inch Nails waning string zap, a very strong distorted melody puts this song into overdrive just in time for the chorus. [EF]

    Stone Temple Pilots – "Coma"

    Before a few years of silence from the legendary Stone Temple Pilots, they released the album Shangri-La Dee Da in 2001. The song "Coma" stands out as the most guitar-heavy song on the album guided by one of the genre's best Dean DeLeo. Heavily distorted guitar riffs fade in and out, partnered with a hip hop inspired synthesizer. Before the final chorus of the song, the guitar winds down to an acoustic dream space rhythm, then crashes into an explosive solo. [EF]



    Type O Negative – "I Don’t Wanna Be Me"

    "I Don't Wanna Be Me" is a powerful and catchy song from the second to last album recorded by Type O Negative before the tragic passing of the late Peter Steele. Steele’s unique deep voice contrasts the screaming and ethereal guitar riffs. Both fight for the spotlight in this song, until the screeching guitar solo begins; egged-on by Steele’s chanting. The strong hook and intricate guitar will have this song lingering in your subconscious as your co-workers wonder what you’re obnoxiously humming to. [EF]



    Flyleaf – "New Horizons"

    Flyleaf's guitarists Sameer Bhattacharya and Jared Hartmann possess an incredible ability to contain heavy chaos within soaring and scorching riffs. They've got that rare talent that makes for some massive arena-size unpredictability. "New Horizons" careens from blissful clean guitar into a brilliant distorted hum. It's another divine anthem from Flyleaf. [RF]



    Black Light Burns – "Lie"

    "Lie" was the breakout hit for Black Light Burns – headed by Limp Bizkit axeman Wes Borland. "Lie" has a strong melody throughout, with exciting progressions and distortion. [EF]

    Mark Tremonti – "Brains"

    If Alice In Chains and Slayer had a baby, it'd look something like this. Tremonti merges airy melodies with a tight, technical riff that simply destroys. All I Was shows every side of this guitar titan. [RF]

    Elizabeth Fox
    08.29.12


    Photos: Corey Soria and Kevin Estrada



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    Tags: Metallica, Pantera, Down, Slayer, Slipknot, Stone Sour, Tool, Smashing Pumpkins, Gojira, Ghost, Bullet for My Valentine, Mastodon, Jane's Addiction, Coheed and Cambria, Rob Zombie, Korn, Five Finger Death Punch, Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots, Type O Negative, Flyleaf, Black Light Burns, Mark Tremonti

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