By Andrew Catania
Neoclassical metal is influenced by classical music and heavily dependent upon mastering complex techniques and forms. Over the past few decades, there are a limited number of neoclassical guitarists that have influenced the music industry. Here is a list of the ten best neoclassical guitarists of the modern era.
Yngwie J. Malmsteen
Yngwie J. Malmsteen gained popularity as a neoclassical metal guitarist in 1980. A new force in heavy metal, he released his first solo album called Rising Force in 1984. This was the catalyst to his success as musicians because despite being only the first song published by Malmsteen, Rising Force went on to win the best rock album for Guitar Player Magazine and was nominated for a Grammy. The success was not short-lived but only the beginning of an incredible career. In 2009, Time Magazine rated Yngwie Malmsteen as amongst the ten greatest electric guitar players of all time.
Uli Jon Roth
Uli Jon Roth is a German musician who was one of the early adopters of the neoclassical style of music in the metal genre. He gained momentum and influence as the lead guitarist for the iconic band Scorpions. He also had a stint at a solo career before joining the Scorpions during which he composed four symphonies and two concertos. This creative time in his career is said to be the defining moment of his legacy as a neoclassical metal guitarist since his work was heavily inspired by advanced compositional elements from European classical music.
Joe Stump is an American musician and composer. Apart from having a solo career, he also plays with Exorcism, Raven Lord and the world-famous metal band HolyHell. His musical style is predominantly inspired by Yngwie J. Malmsteen.
Chris Impellitteri is the founder and lead guitarist of his namesake band – Impellitteri. Although his music is not commercially popular, he has a large following amongst innate metal lovers. His neoclassical style of music takes the form of fast shredding guitar techniques, traditional metal screaming vocals and speedy rhythm. This affinity towards shredding has led Guitar World Magazine to name Chris Impellitteri as one of the fastest guitarists of all times, one rank ahead of Yngwie Malmsteen.
Michael Romeo started the progressive metal band Symphony X. His music as a guitarist is neoclassical in style because as a child, he began formal music lessons at the tender age of 10. Guitar World ranked Michael Romeo #91 in their ‘100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists of all Time’ list.
George Lynch has a series of successful platinum albums featuring his excellent skills as a lead guitarist. The albums by the band Dokken resulted in Lynch gaining a reputation for being the closest thing as a guitar hero. He was named the ‘Top 10 Metal Guitarists of all Time’ by Gibson.
The band Megadeth requires no introduction to the heavy metal fan. The fact that Marty Friedman was the lead guitarist for Megadeth for almost a full decade is nothing short of a reflection of his extraordinary abilities. Marty came from humble beginnings where he was mostly self-taught, and as news of his music spread through his small town, people would come in flocks to hear him play from neighboring villages. Western and eastern music influences his neoclassical style of music.
Ritchie Blackmore is an English guitarist and songwriter who was also a founding member of the iconic band Deep Purple. The legendary track ‘Smoke on the Water’ is till date considered being a classic and a reflection of Blackmore’s fondness for illuminating classical elements of music into modern rock and metal. His work with Deep Purple led to Blackmore being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2016.
Randy Rhoads had a wildly successful, yet short-lived career due to his untimely death in a plane crash that also resulted in the passing of the legendary Ozzy Osbourne. During his short time as a heavy metal guitarist, Randy was a significant influence on the neoclassical scene of music and was placed on numerous “Greatest Guitarist” list. His skills were valued so highly that Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot brought him on board to play with them. Today, one can’t help but invoke a sense of “what- if’s” while referring to Randy Rhoads due to the tragic end to his unbelievably talented career.
Tony MacAlpine began playing the guitar at the age of 12 and studied classical music as a child. Years of classical influence as a child led to him being recognized as a role model in the neoclassical guitar scene due to his highly advanced shred techniques. He has been described to have the outstanding technical ability when Jason Ankeny from All Music asserted MacAlpine to be a ‘virtuoso.’