When asked about the Golden Age of guitarists there are few people who would suggest anything within the last twenty years, even fewer would suggest the last decade. Here at By The Freaks we believe it is time to show some love for the modern heroes of the guitar riff. Some you may already know, others you’ll wish you knew sooner.
10. Mars For The Rich – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
One never knows what toe expect from a King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard album. You could get anything from progressive metal, to spaghetti western, to psychedelic rock. One year they make five albums, another they have two drummers, who knows what will happen over the next decade. 2019’s thrash (we think) album Infest the Rat’s Nest was a lucky dip of chaotic rock but kicking off with this surprisingly straightforward and punchy anthem.
9. Hurricane Laughter – Fontaines DC
Unlike so many on this list you really need to wait for the real riff to come in on here. It is worth it though when that lead line comes in, as if echoed on the cry of a whirlwind. Taken from the debut album of the Dublin based group, this is one of the many tracks that established them as one of the loudest and most interesting voices on the modern post-punk scene.
8. She Threw Her Baby From The 7th Floor – A Void
Don’t be put off by the title, no babies were harmed in the making of this track (as far as we know…). One of the more melodic riffs of our selection, yet able to break out into a distorted new-age grunge-fest with the best of them. One has to congratulate these London/Paris sonic-punk’s for not only following through on such a song title but also for being able to get a crowded venue all happily chanting along.
7. Let Me Hear You Scream – Ozzy Osbourne
Given Ozzy’s release of the phenomenal Prince Of Darkness album only last year it was tempting to pick something from that to go on this list. However, we decided the title track from the ex-Black Sabbath singer’s 2010 release wins out. Complex yet catchy and filled with enough energy to get you biting the heads of any number of animals, this headbanger is surely Ozzy at his finest.
6. Magellan’s Maze – Buckethead
Easily the most prolific musician here, the underground virtuoso of freaky guitar sounds released 48 albums from the years 2010-2019, more than the rest of our top 10 combined. Our only problem was sorting through it all for the best. 2012s March of The Slunks held the gem for us, the opening track demonstrating Buckethead’s ability to weave between high energy and ambiance while not veering off into his more chaotic solos. We would call this the perfect track to pull others down the dark hole to Bucketheadland.
5. Bridge Burning – Foo Fighters
Of course Foo Fighters deserve a mention here. As Dave Grohl says himself, ‘I only write hits’ and the fact that this song is loaded to the top with all manner of hooks proves him right. You may wonder exactly which of the many riffs wins out; is it the ticking time bomb intro? The descending, ascending verse line? That explosive chorus? Honestly, you can take your pick here, for us they all pull this song into the top 5.
4. Bad Motherf*cker – Biting Elbows
It is hard to decide how much the greatness of this riff is actually down to the music and how much is down to the killer video that accompanies it. In the end we figured the riff had a huge part to play here but if you have yet to listen to this track we recommend enjoying the song and video as a pair.
3. Champagne Socialist – Bethlehem Casuals
In 2018 this group of ‘psychedelic jazz-pop oddballs’ proved once and for all that pursuing even the most experimental of sounds does not need to come at the cost of a great groove. Given the myriad of other instruments playing over this we had to debate whether a list of guitar riffs was the right place for it but after one listen you will see why we could not resist.
2. Research Chemicals – Viagra Boys
It should not have been possible to come up with a riff as paranoia inducing as those lyrics while still being listenable, yet Viagra Boys managed it. Expect to be treated to the sound of a bad trip in Frankenstein’s lab, a crazy kaleidoscopic range of sounds wrung out from a guitar in such a way that one cannot believe a human being wrote it deliberately but equally cannot imagine anything else being more perfect for the song.
1. Deutschland – Rammstein
Of course this six man rhythm machine hailing from Germany take the number one spot. These guys have long fused underground techno sounds with harsh industrial rhythm lines to create a metal subgenre now known as Neue Deutsche Härte. In 2019 they proved they still have it it with Deutschland. Not the flashiest of riffs up here (certainly not compared to that keyboard) the genius of this riff comes in its simplicity and the spine shaking power of that tone.
Let us know if you agree with our list, do you think there are any other riffs that should be included? Also, let us know which other Top 10s you want to see and remember to subscribe at the bottom of this page to never miss any articles or By The Freaks news.