overground scene

The greatest guitar solos to air-guitar to

Having just watched the amazing French movie “The first day of your life” I feel many different things among which is to write a post about guitar solos. I never really cared much about guitar solos. I have always been more interested in compositions, melodies and riffs rather than leads. However, there have always been certain guitar solos that brought me to my knees and albums where the absence of good solos bothered me. But as long as the music was of superior quality I didn’t really mind. For example, while I loved the early Gamma Ray (first four albums) I always thought that their solos were horrible. But when they got that new guitar player (around 1997) who could play solos I stopped finding the compositions interesting, so good solos didn’t really save the situation. Anyway, there is no such thing as “the greatest guitar solo of all times” but I can try to think of solos that have marked my soul. Of course, there are different types of solos, like the kind that are more improvised and instinctive and those that are more thought-through and structured, fast solos and slow solos, etc. My heroes in the first category are without a shadow of a doubt Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), Dave Murray (Iron Maiden) and Criss Oliva (Savatage) and in the second one Andre Olbrich (Blind Guardian) and Greg Mackintosh (Paradise Lost). Now to quote Sir Daniel Fortesque “get on with it!”

1. Tommy – Sometimes they come back (Album “Above the light”) at 4:42-5:53

I first heard Sadist’s first album circa 1997. It was on a cassette tape I had borrowed from a friend. “Above the light” was on side A and “Symbolic” by Death on side B. For the first couple of months that I had that tape, I believe that I was listening to the Sadist side 3-4 times per day. I remember going to school and listening to Sadist and having my finger on the rewind button for every time a solo was on. While listening to this particular song and this particular solo I used to get goosebamps. More accurately, I felt like all the blood was drained out of my body or that my soul was leaving my body. At times I felt my knees getting weak, which is what you’d expect from someone whose blood had just left their body :). A very classic minor heavy metal solo but very imaginately developed and amazingly played with feeling. I am aware that on the final part of the solo, the extra keys which accompany add to the magnificent atmosphere, but I don’t think this is against the rules.

2. Tony Iommi – Neon Knights (Album “Heaven and Hell”) at 1:59-2:44

Tony Iommi may be the master of riffs, some of which have basicaly constituted the foundations upon which british and swedish death metal were built, but is also the master of soloing. His soloing abilities are more prominent in the post-Ozzy Black Sabbath, especially in the albums he did with Dio. The feeling present in Iommi’s solos is something I personally never found in another metal band. The reason for this is, I think, that after a certain point the Malmsteen style of playing dominated the metal world. Most of Iommi’s solos are phenomenal but there is something about this solo that I cannot get over. The conversation from 2:07 until 2:22 is just phenomenal.

3. Andre Olbrich – Imaginations from the other side (Album “Imaginations from the other side”) at 4:39-5:15

Andre Olbrich is a god and Blind Guardian are probably the best metal band of the 90s (along with Rage). All of his solos are thought-through and could stand on their own. His solos are not simply scales but have complex rythms and patterns, which usually bring them closer to being melodies and integral parts of the songs’ structure. This specific solo is a representative example of his art, although most solos on this album and the rest BG albums are equally amazing and inspired.

4. Anders Bjorler – Cold (Album “Slaughter of the soul”) at 1:55-2:16

The first three At the Gates albums are among the most challenging and unique albums of contemporary music. Slaughter of the soul is briliant but in a much more conventional and mainstream way. Here song structures are simple and straightforward with clean solos and everything. One of the solos that have always made my skin crawl is this one. Clean guitars firstly calm the listener and subsequently build up, slowly preparing the listener for a downpour of intense emotions reflected in the soulfull first notes of the solo. The seven distorted notes on 2:00 take the solo to a whole new level…

5. Greg Mackintosh – Forever Failure (Album “Draconian Times”) at 3:28-4:36

One of the best songs ever writen in the history of the universe. Every single moment of this song overflows with beauty and inspiration. The solo right after the sample is the icing on the (melancholic) cake. I don’t think I can describe why this solo is so good. Find out for yourselves.

6. David Blomqvist – Dreaming in Red (Album “Indecent and Obscene”) at 0:51-1:28

That’s how Dave Murray of Iron Maiden would have sounded if he was sad and had downtuned his guitar. Another example of art that leaves me speechless. Great ideas and execution. David achieved the perfect tone on this album. I don’t think I ‘ve ever heard a better sound on a guitar solo. His entire work is monumental but I think this one stands out as a cult moment.

7. Criss Oliva –Hounds (Album “Gutter Ballet”) at 2:45-3:45

Criss is a solos-master and on this haunting song his genius shines through. He sounds like Randy Rhoads on cocaine. Abbrassive, emotional and sophisticated, all in one.

8. Tony Iommi – Falling off the edge of the world (Album “mob rules”) at 3:33-4:06

A song that I could not leave out of this list. Sheer power and intensity in a solo that can bring on the Amaggedon. Every time I listen to this solo I want to jump out of my body. When you think that there’s nowhere else he can go he keeps going! And the way he packs everything up in the end is just ridiculous!

9. Dan Rock and Brian McAlpin – Into the everflow (Album “Into the everflow”) at 6:20-7:47

What happens when you put together Black Sabbath with Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull? This song! The solo is just phenomenal, there are so many things going on, so many dimensions that there are really no words to describe…

10. Deniz Tek – Descend into the Maelstrom (Album “Radios Appear”) Entire song

Deniz Tek is god and motivation for people to grab a guitar and learn to play it.

11. Al Pitreli –This is the time (Album “Dead winter dead”) Entire song

The entire album is a treasure of solos. Al pitreli definitely steped in and did justice to the legacy of Criss Oliva. Extremely emotive album and Al is one of the major reasons why.

12. Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman – Psychopathy Red (Album “World Painted blood”) at 1:17-1:53

I would never expect a band like Slayer to be in a list like this one. But their incredible last album has a  little something for everyone. When it comes to solos, you either love or hate Slayer. If you are unable to understand that they are not interested in producing proper solos, or that their approach to soloing is exactly what fits their music then you haven’t figured what Slayer are about. Anyway, this specific solo is genius. The part where Kerry leaves it for Jeff to pick it up at 1:33 is hallucinogenic! And the crazy stuff Jeff is doing around 1:47 are just awesome!

13. Dave Murray and Dennis Straton (Adrian Smith on video)-Phantom of the opera (Album “Iron Maiden”) Entire song

Dave Murray is an institution, with a unique style and unbelievable feel when he is playing and when he is composing. Probably the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard. Now this song is without a doubt monumental. But every single time in his career that Murray goes down that neck, my skin crawls.

14. Chuck Schuldiner-1000 Eyes (Album “Symbolic”) 2:14-2:39

A masterpiece of an album filled with excellent, inventive and emotional solos. The specific solo however is one of my all time favorites. It comes in after a series of rhetoric questions and tragic realisations to seal the tragedy. A trully amazing phrase that sticks with you and resounds the final line; “we are enslaved now”.

15. Marty Friedman and Dave Mustaine-Hangar 18 (Album “Rust in Peace”) at 3:50-5:07

Such a classic song with such an amazing riff which conciliates punk attitude, eeriness and kindness. The solos throughout the song are amazing. Marty provides sophisticated ideas with arpegios and so on and Dave provides chaos. The interplay of solos after 3:50 is just insane. Perfect to air-guitar to!


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