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As long as rock’n’roll continues to thrive (which it will) the guitar solo will never die. There’s nothing quite like hearing someone absolutely tear a guitar to pieces mid-song. The sensation of hearing a great solo is like a form of primal excitement, and it’s a feeling that’s shared across all forms of rock music. From punk to hard rock to black metal to psych-rock, there’s never been a shortage of impressive shredders stepping into the spotlight, and this last decade was no exception.
It’d be an immense challenge to numerically rank the best solos of the 2010s, given the variety of approaches one can take with their solo and the variations between genres. However, we compiled the 20 best we’ve heard in the last 10 years into this list. We made sure to include solos from death metal pioneers, punk rock savants, thrash legends, djent technicians, and everything in between. It was a tough call and some hard choices were made, but here are our picks.
The 2010’s saw A7X moving further and further from their metalcore and thrash origins, opting for Pantera-esque trots over Metallica-minded sprints. Love ’em or hate ’em, though, their lead guitarist Synyster Gates is one of the most talented axemen in the metal multiverse, and his solo in this song from the beginning of the decade proves he’s still got it. His handiwork adds so much to the main melody of the song, and then right when you think he’s retreating to repetition, he douses it with some of his signature sweeps. Natural born, indeed.
It’s blasphemy to have a discussion about guitar solos without mentioning Matt Pike. The icon who formed the influential doom band Sleep and the beloved sludge-thrash group High On Fire is one of the greatest metal guitarists of our time. And the solo he delivers on this 2010 cut has held up for a decade and counting. Matt starts off with some reserved tapping and then begins a journey up and down the neck that culminates in a blissful deluge of sonic lava. High On Fire’s music often sounds like it should be blasted at the top of a mountain, and this solo is of stratospheric proportions.
Compared to the rollicking prog, stoner and alt-metal pyres Mastodon are known for igniting with their music, the title-track of their 2011 record The Hunter is a subdued ballad. The poignant sonic character of the song is fitting, considering it’s an ode to guitarist/singer Brent Hinds’ late brother who died in a hunting accident. And the solo he unleashes to honor his fallen family member is the track’s most moving moment, a bittersweet barrage of streaky shredding that’s coated in a spacey psych effect that evokes heavenly imagery. It’s both a phenomenal solo and a touching send-off.
Darkness Within, from Machine Head’s 2011 record Unto The Locust, begins as a hard rock ballad, morphs into a metalcore banger, and then ends as a meld of both. And the ingredient that catalyzes that mixture is a glorious solo in the middle of the track that has tons of personality, emotion, and dexterity. It’s boosted really high in the mix and just rains down over the groove behind it in a way that’s super-satisfying and memorable.
The solo in Foo Fighters’ 2011 track Rope is fun as hell. The passage comes beaming out of the song’s triple-guitar power chords, noisily wobbles for a bit, and then swiftly coalesces into flashy arpeggiating. It’s over and done pretty quickly, but its sheer power lingers on the brain until the track ends and you can’t resist rewinding to hear it back again.
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Over 30 years into their career and Cannibal Corpse’s brutality is still going unmatched. There are few bands in death metal who are as consistently evil and heavy as these demonic bruisers, and Pat O’Brien’s guitar prowess on this 2012 Scourge Of Iron solo is a testament to their longevity. His spine-tingling lick comes wriggling out of their cold-as-dirt chugs, violently twists and twirls for an impressive number of measures, and then gets absorbed back into the power combine of riffs behind it. It’s mean, ugly, and fast as fuck… just like a great death metal solo should be.
The solo in Pile’s fan-favorite Prom Song is spectacular for a couple reasons. Chiefly, it comes out of nowhere – the first two-thirds of the track are woozy and restrained, quietly stirring but unassumingly so. And then it just snaps and Rick Maguire’s guitar lead sears through the mix like hot iron on flesh. Not only that, but the shrieking pitch of the solo burns its melody into your ears, as it’s both intensely loud and tastefully melodic. It’s probably the most iconic moment in Pile’s discography, as well as one of the most memorable guitar passages of the decade.
Lamb Of God are known for a lot of things: their filthy grooves, Randy Blythe’s bestial vocals, and now-former drummer Chris Adler’s thunderous kit-work. But something they don’t get a ton of credit for are Mark Morton’s guitar solos, which have long been some of the most technical in the big leagues of metalcore. The glass-shattering ripper Mark lets loose in the middle of Ghost Walking practically steals what’s arguably the best Lamb Of God song of the decade. Without losing sight of the song’s inherent catchiness, he sweeps up and down the neck with both precision and bluesy bite.
Although djent as a movement has largely fizzled out over the last couple years, it’s important to remember that the sound was one of the most popular and innovative styles of the 2010s. And no band has taken the genre to steeper heights than Periphery, who’ve become one of the premiere prog-metal bands of the 21st century. Much of their appeal is due to Misha Mansoor’s virtuosic guitar work, and their 2012 song Luck As A Constant features one of his most iconic flexes. The solo toward the end of this track fucking soars, and finds perfect harmony between technicality and metallic beauty.
Meshuggah have gotten less jazzy and mathematically convoluted over the years, settling into their distinct breed of groovy djent. However, their solos haven’t gotten any less batshit insane, and this one from their 2012 song Do Not Look Down is a bona fide slapper. Fredrick Thordendal busts out some wacky pulls and plucks that go in tandem with the polyrhythm, and then indulges in some classical sweeps that are just breathtaking. Meshuggah are most known for their downtuned riffs and head-scratching rhythms, but those fingers can also fuckin’ dance.
Swedish black metallers Watain have helped carry the genre throughout the 21st century, and on this unexpected track from their 2013 record The Wild Hunt, they tried their hand at a doomy folk-metal ballad. Regardless of your thoughts on its deviation from their signature sound, the track features two skyscraping guitar solos that effectively serve the somber mood of the song. Both are grand, but the second is particularly affecting and becomes absolutely gigantic when it arrives during the song’s climax.
Canadian quartet PUP have written some of the catchiest punk songs of the decade, and it just so happens that they also shred incredibly hard. Guilt Trip is the first song on their 2014 self-titled debut and the solo that arrives before its concluding chorus is rife with fret-leaping character. Lead guitarist Steve Sladkowski doesn’t merely finger quickly, he’s able to do it over the off-kilter rhythm bouncing behind him and then gracefully cradle the main lick back into place before the hook. If a slam-dunk were a solo, this would be it.
Gripping guitar solos are few and far between throughout Slipknot’s discography. But when Jim Root decides he wants to rip one, it doesn’t go unnoticed. The solo in the middle of their 2014 track Nomadic erupts from a standard-fare Slipknot groove and absolutely drenches the track in pelting sweeps. It’s so strikingly grand that it almost makes you wonder why Jim doesn’t solo more on the band’s records. However, his ability to rein those talents in and only show his hand occasionally is perhaps even more admirable. And it makes moments like this one all the more special when they do pop up.
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Screaming Females mastermind Marissa Paternoster is one of the best punk rock guitarists of the 21st century, hands down. Although she’s written some of her catchiest and heaviest riffs within the last 10 years (her band’s 2018 record is particularly metallic), she’s been exercising incredible restraint by not soloing as much on her recordings. It’s her live shows where she lets loose in almost every song, just tearing tracks up with extended jams that make even more seasoned guitarists than her look like novices. Nevertheless, this heroic solo that closes the 2015 Females track Criminal Image is a true sidewinder, as Paternoster shreds all across the board with both taste and tact.
Magma, the 2016 opus by French groove metallers Gojira, is the band's most melodic and accessible record, as well as their shortest and most restrained to date. Nevertheless, the solo on the standout track Silvera is a concise stunner that shows that the contemporary metal legends still have a soft spot for intricacy. Joe Duplantier summons an enormous amount of noise out of one small portion of the fretboard, tapping at hyper-speed and creating an oscillating effect that sounds both incredibly badass and ridiculously catchy.
Metallica haven’t been cranking out high-speed thrash scorchers for almost 30 years now (at least not of the Master Of Puppets variety). But there’s still nothing quite like a Kirk Hammett solo, and the one that closes out the last couple minutes of 2016’s Halo On Fire hits all the pleasure centers that classic Metallica struck those many years ago. As the eight-minute track accelerates from a steady gallop to a full-on sprint, Kirk skilfully draws out the melody and gradually crescendos into speedier shredding. They’re the biggest metal band of all time for a reason.
Portland’s UADA emerged in the middle of the decade and quickly became one of the most promising up-and-comers in melodic black metal. On the epic, near-10-minute closer from their 2016 debut Devoid Of Light, they let out a supreme solo that shines blindingly through the muddy mix. It’s a mighty ending to a truly mountainous record and a clever nod that the album is not completely… well, ‘devoid of light’.
We love everything Power Trip do, which is why we named them the best American metal band of the last decade. And their guitar solos are no exception: the hellfire Blake Ibanez summons on Soul Sacrifice, the intro track on their legendary 2017 record Nightmare Logic, hits like 50 steel-toed boots to a Nazi’s face. An utterly decimating onslaught of whammy-bar abuse and string-bending savagery.
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Modern speed metal savants Mutoid Man include members of Cave In and Converge, so there’s plenty of heaviness to be found across band’s three releases. However, the solo in the swaying, mid-tempo highlight from 2017’s War Moans is one of the most magnificent parts in their whole catalog. The first half of the song is somewhat of a nodding slow-burner, but when the solo suddenly takes off it becomes a soaring fighter jet of virtuosic arpeggiating. It’s a hard rockin’ squealer with a frantic temperament, and it’s easily one of the best of the 2010s.
Picking one solo from the perpetually cascading Oh Sees discography is tough, but the second one John Dwyer rips on Enrique El Cobrador is hard to beat. The California psych-rock band is known for jam seshes that extend beyond the 10 minute mark, but the solo in this track condenses all of that prowess into 15 seconds of mind-melting speed, otherworldly tone, and creative melody.
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Bunch of new American psychos just dropped…
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