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.