Bass Guitar Heroes: Top Ten Bass Players In Metal.

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Tue, Jan 27 - 10:11 pm EDT | 9 years ago by
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    Every list like this is going to objectionable and subject to criticism from people, but I think it’s rather well put together. It’s not a list of mediocre bass players that have a big name in a big band, but rather a list of skilled bass players that have made a name for themselves through their style and tone. Most bass guitar players in metal bands are just simply there to fill the void. To give the music the heavy bottom end. A lot of them are skilled to a point, but most could be replaced at the drop of a hat. A lot of great players are overlooked, though. Here are ten essential bass guitar players that have wowed me either recently or over the years. A few you might know and a few you may not. I’ll start from the bottom and work my way up.

    10. Martin Mendez- Mendez is not as well known as most bass players in metal, but he has a certain smooth style and skill that he uses on his Fender Jazz bass that keeps the sound of Opeth genuine. Playing in a band like Opeth, you really have to have a finesse about your playing in order to not sound out of place. If it was just as simple as hitting simple notes, Opeth would just be another band and Mendez would just be another bass player. Neither of which is the case here.

    9. Mike Inez- Perhaps Mike Inez doesn’t deserve to be this far down on the list, but someone had to be. Inez has been around while and has played with Ozzy, Heart, Slash’s Snakepit and Alice In Chains. He brings a tone and style that is well known.

    8. David Ellefson- Two words for you, “Peace Sells”. Ellefson was the bottom ended backbone for Megadeth for so many years. It was hard to imagine Megadeth without him and to this day it still seems a little strange, even with James Lamenzo in the position.

    7. Ryan Martinie- Mudvayne’s Martinie has a pretty signature sound. Since busting in to the nu-metal scene on 2000′s L.D.50, he’s brought a tone that helps define the band’s sound. When you hear a Mudvayne song, even if you don’t know it, chances are you recognize it as a Mudvayne song because of Ryan’s complex bass playing and sound.

    6. Justin Chancellor- When most people think of Tool, they think of that opening bass line of Sober. Not really a complicated riff by any means, but that’s basically what make’s up a lot of Tool’s sound. The heavy bottom end is a vital part of Tool’s sound and Justin fills that gap like the missing link.

    5. Robert Trujillo- Not a big name because he is in Metallica and does that spider-walk, but because he’s Robert Trujillo. Metallica didn’t just choose him because they dug his braids. Robert is a veteran. He’s been around the metal world quite a bit, playing for Zakk Wylde, Ozzy, Anthrax, Suicidal Tendencies, The Infectious Grooves and Jerry Cantrell. He’s got skill and can adapt wherever his talent takes him.

    4. Cliff Burton- Who knows what level Cliff Burton would be at today, had he not been tragically removed from life. Though production quality lacked back in the early 80′s you can hear what kind of player Burton was. His bass solo on (Pulling Teeth) Kill’em All was unique in so many ways at the time and the rest of his work on the latter Metallica albums solidified him as a great bass player and a huge influence on so many bass players today.

    3. Billy Sheehan- When he played in the band Mr. Big, they were referring to him. Ok, I just made that up, but it’s Billy Sheehan for Christ’s sake! I really don’t think I need to elaborate.

    2.Steve Digiorgio- Most are saying, “Who?”. Steve Digiorgio is probably not as well know as any other player on this list but is an absolute phenom on the fretless bass. He is a founding member of Sadus and has played in Death, Testament, Autopsy, Iced Earth and is currently playing for Sebastian Bach, where I doubt his skills are fully utilized. If you’ve ever watched the bonus DVD that comes with the Roadrunner United CD, he played the bass parts on Annihilation By The Hands Of God. Watch him in that session, it will blow your mind. Digiorgia doesn’t get the recognition he deserves..but how many bass players actually do?

    1. Steve Harris- As if you didn’t see this coming. If you’re a metal fan and you don’t know who Steve Harris is then I question your metal-ness. Harris plays the bass like a lead guitar, and does it all with his fingers. Not only does he play it like a lead guitar with his fingers but he does it with surgical accuracy. More times than not, the guitar players are the forefront of the band behind the vocalist. Not in Maiden. Harris is Dickinson’s co-pilot on the stage. For a long time the bass guitar was not a very audible instrument in most metal bands. It was there, but it was never really loud enough to be distinct, but never in Iron Maiden. That distinct, audible bass is what set apart Iron Maiden from most bands. God forbid, if anything ever happened to Steve Harris, Iron Maiden would be over. This list would be wrong without Harris in the #1 spot.

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      • Dan

        Nice list! The Billy Sheehan moment that stands out the most in my mind is David Lee Roth’s “Shy Boy” when Sheehan and Steve Vai do a tapping duet. It has been said that people went to DLR shows for two reasons: To see them pull that part off, or to see them blow it big time!

        Steve Harris is the man, for sure. I personally would have to add John Paul Jones in that list somewhere too, if you count Led Zeppelin as metal.

        Great article! Thank you for speaking up for the most overlooked guy in the band!!

      • Joe

        not having geezer butler on this list is a FUCKING CRIME. the man invented sludge/doom/stoner/whatever with his massive grooves on songs like “hand of doom” or “war pigs.”

        also roger patterson from atheist was pretty awesome, may he rest in peace.

      • Ana

        No Fieldy mention? Say what you will about Korn, but that guy can play some bass.

      • Mohib

        Geezer Butler was the fucking man! C’mon Scott! Great list though….

      • itsalljustaride

        Fieldy was a mediocre bass player at best. The guy convinced a generation of kids that down tuning a 5 string bass to the point that the strings make an annoying rattling sound was a good idea. The sound was cool for one album, got irritating on the second, and by the third just made me want to start a fundraiser just to buy the guy some thick-gauge strings just so I wouldn’t have to hear it anymore. His bass riffs weren’t even complicated in any way, none of KoRn’s stuff was, that was the point. As the OP points out in the description of the list, Fieldy could have VERY easily been replaced, and the result probably would have been much better. At least then I wouldn’t have to look at someone playing an electric bass like it was an immense penis that he cradled over his shoulder. I like my phallic instruments pointed to the back of the room like a gawddamn cannon!

        ::end rant::

        I’d put Ryan and Justin a bit further up the list, but that may be may age showing. Otherwise a great list.

      • devillock

        Good list. But you’re forgetting one very important man. Not the best bass player but because of who he is, he deserves a place on this list; after all it is a metal bass player list and not a who’s the best bass player list. Lemmy. Just coz, well, he’s Lemmy. Just happens to play the bass really….
        Honorable mentions to “Duff” McKagan and Markus Grosskopf.

      • Kyle

        Seriously Scott? No John Myung? No Alex Webster? No Jack Gibson? No matter. Awesome list dude.

      • Scott

        Top 10…not top 15 or 20. I can’t fit everyone. Wish I could. Lemmy crossed my mind, trust me, but then I’d have to squeeze Tom Araya in there too. Alex Webster and Geezer could have been in if it were 15. Websters bass is more audible on the older albums. I noticed that recently. Fieldy? I have to agree with itsalljustaride on this one.

        Like I said at the beginning, any list like this is going to be subject to criticism. If I made it more than 10, then I would have to keep adding and adding and it would end up too long and more people would bitch about placement of the players. I don;t think many can really argue about the top three though.

      • itsalljustaride

        I just realized, your example of “Sober” for Justin Chancellor is not fitting, since Chancellor didn’t come on board with Tool until after Undertow was recorded. That was Paul D’Amour on Sober, not Chancellor, but at any rate, Chancellor is the bomb. The hammer-on-laden bass riff from Schism will quite possibly go down as one of those “must learn” riffs for anyone who picks up a bass.

      • Scott

        Doh! You’ve uncovered my limited knowledge of Tool.

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      • zombie

        Hey , where is Mr. Terry “Geezer” Butler ?

      • yo_lets_go

        I really like your list! I admit i dont know who Digiorgio is, and its a pity one of my favourite bassists, Chris Wolstenholme, is missing (ok, hes probably not as technically good as these guys but he still rocks lol), but its excellent to see effelson, chancellor and definitley trujillo mentioned because people really underestimate him. Nice job!

      • tom

        totaly awesome list, just one thing…
        WHERE IS PAUL GREY!!!!!
        ok he is not the best but he does deserve a place in your list.

      • Scott

        There are far too many other talents that would deserve a spot in this list before Paul Grey. Perhaps if I made a top 20 he might have fallen in to the 40′s.

      • tura


      • Scott

        Oh, Please! Fieldy is probably the only bass player you know because he’s in your favorite band and you obviously know nothing about any one of these players on this list. Who was he nominated by, some douched out magazine like Hit Parader?

        By the way, this isn’t 1994 AOL. Unless you’re legally blind, turn the caps off.

      • zombiesarefriends

        What, no Tom Araya?! Gasp!

      • Scott

        Tom Araya is a vocalist that plays a little bass to compensate. He’s not one of those Singer/ Bass players like Geddy Lee or Ron Broder (Wiki it) that can sing and play awesome bass riffs . Don’t get me wrong, I love Slayer but let’s be real about this. Tommy is a good enough Bass player to hold down the bottom end and that’s about it.

      • dghxfjcghyk

        wtf!! how is cliff not number 1?!? this is bull!

      • cliff burton rules

        i hate this too cliff should be #1 escpecially for ”for whom the bell tolls”

      • Scott

        Listen to some other metal besides Metallica for Christ sake. if you base you opinion off of Cliff’s playing in For Whom the bell Tolls then you haven’t a clue.

        Listen to some Death and A LOT of iron Maiden and you’ll realize why he’s not number one. Perhaps if he was still alive today and we could have heard more of his work, he could have been number 1. Unfortunately that is not the case and we can only judge his playing off of 3 records and live videos.

      • Arastu

        Ryan definitely needs to get up to number 2, maybe..
        And where the hell is John Entwistle?

      • Arastu

        Oh, right..”Metal” bassists..I’m sorry, my bad lol.

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      • http://google Khane

        Lemmy should be there….Lemmy like Harris is a mainstay….what will people be saying about some of the others in 20+ years. Robert-Trujillo is good but if he never made it into Metallica he wouldn’t even mention…

      • http://google Khane

        It’s a nice list don’t get me wrong. But too many of these types of polls are just popularity contests….Anyone read the rolling stone top guitarists of all time….load of crap….these polls are done by readers and fans not players and musicians.

      • mad_rass

        I think cliff burton is a better bass player than steve harris.. scott its not that i am a metallica freak but whatever i have heard of burton i feel he is the demi god in this field.. lots of notes have been taken from his originals and have been used in the making of future genre of metal.. come on who ever thought you can do all this with the bass guitar.. for whom the bell tolls, master of puppets,call of ktulu,anaesthesia,ride the lightening….come on do i need to say more!!!..steve harris no doubt is an amazing player but i think he is second in my list..

      • Scott

        Unfortunately, we only saw what Cliff was capable of with three studio albums and some live footage. Who knows where he would stand 23 years after his death? Perhaps he would be at number one, but because Steve Harris is still alive and playing amazing bass riffs, that cements him at number one.

      • http://google Khane

        Burton is no.1. All the Metallica fans who were there in the 80′s before metallica became cool would know that.People always ask the question about metallica’s sound change in the latter albums compared to the great stuff from their earlier albums. Burton did a lot of the composition…he was the music guru in the band…Although Metallica said they were not looking for another Cliff when they were looking for a replacement..The truth is that they wouldn’t have found one if they tried…Newstead…Trujillo…not in the same class…not even close…It’s like comparing Dimebag Darryl with Dan Spitz.

      • mad_rass

        yeah dude.. i completely agree with you on this.. too bad good things had to end like that.. RIP Burton.. STEVE HARRIS is no doubt the legend among us..that guy is simply magical when it comes to his fingers and the guitar..

      • Cross+

        Good list, but i really think that Cliff should be the nº1, i mean Steve is awesome however Cliff was like a pioneer, he played bass with distortion(very rare) his live footage shows his metalness

      • metalguy

        tom name ONE slipknot song with an audible AND complicated bass part paul grey plays on. like scott said your saying it just cause hes in your favorite. Alex Webster FTW!!

        • copernicus

          Bitchslap. That song has Paul’s awesome slap bass on it…

      • difuhs

        Hey scott,this was such a great list.Do you think you culd add 10 more,and make a top 20?That would be great.

      • acilio

        STEVE HARRIS is without a doubt the best bassist of all time.actually i’d vote him for best musician period because he is the engineer of all of maiden’s top music.from lyrics to all the instruments and sound if he dosn’t write it then he has a big hand in it.very shy man and amazing down to earth him.imagine the creative genius it takes to come up with songs such as “hallowed be thy name” and “rime of the ancient mariner”.amazing complex pieces of music with amazing intellectual lyrics.only mr.steve harris.god DID bless him.

      • MetalHeart

        CLIFF BURTON!!!!!!!!!!!!!! holy shit he is the best fuck steve harris fuck victor wooten! if cliff was alive he wouldve invented some kind of playing awsomer than sweeping or tapping or slapping or nything he is numba 1 whether retards like you think is or not dnt care if hes dead dime bag, randy rhodes, Dio and cliff are in a band right now performing for the demons and satan himself in the pits of bielzeebub right now. Metal forever!!

      • Cory

        David Ellefson should be higher up the list. The guy is a bass juggernault. His bass lines are crisp, strong, prominent and interesting.

      • Big Moe

        This list is not right…Old Geezer Butler is not on the list?

      • Battlechop

        Good list. Not great, ’cause I think you’re missing Geezer and Lemmy. Also, no Frank Bello? You’ve never heard Anthrax’s cover of Joe Jackson’s “Got the Time?” And one last shout out: Pete Steele. Maybe not the best ever, but a pretty unique sound. Incidentally, I completely agree with Harris as #1.

      • bada bing

        Its hard to argue with your list, they are all great. I used to see Billy Sheehan in the late 70s and early 80s with Talas up in Buffalo. There is also several you left off, but when making a list its hard to include everyone. I would offer up one guy that I know everyone thinks is overrated and I am sure is going to generate some heat, Rudy Sarzo. He is often considered as style over substance, and the whole licking the bass thing in the Whitesnake video about killed him. He also get accused of just being in the right place at the right time, but lets not forget he played with Randy Rhoades, then Yngwie and DIO, you can’t get much more demanding or perfectionist than those two. Watch the video DIO Holy Diver Live with Rudy and Doug Aldrich, Rudy nails Sabbath, Rainbow, and DIO era tunes.

      • samm

        I agree mostly with this list I just want to know why Lemmy is never included in these lists

      • Brian

        wheres geezer butler and lemmy?

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