10 Best Heavy Metal Riffs of All Time


Image of Black Sabbath.

Black Sabbath has one of the best heavy metal riffs of all time, according to Audio Ink Radio – Story by Anne Erickson, photo via Vertigo/Republic Records/Universal

To honor the art of riffing, Audio Ink Radio presents its list of the best heavy metal riffs of all time

There’s something special about a fantastic heavy metal riff. In fact, a great heavy metal riff can make or break a metal song. Some songs in the heavy metal genre are even known exclusively for their heavy metal riffing. So, what are the best heavy metal riffs of all time?

Heavy metal started budding in the late-1960s and early-1970s, mainly in the United States and the United Kingdom. What made this genre unique was its emphasis on lengthy, complex guitar solos, as well as distorted guitars and a general heaviness and loudness to the sound. Of course, aside from the guitar solos, massive heavy metal riffs were also part of style.

To celebrate all the heaviest riffing, Audio Ink Radio offers its list of the 10 best heavy metal riffs of all time. Contact us with your picks via social media or using the email address at the end of the feature.

10. King Diamond, “Welcome Home”

King Diamond have one of metal’s most dramatic vocalists in Kim Bendix Petersen aka “King Diamond.” But, they also have some gigantic guitar riffs. The opening riff for “Welcome Home” is legendary. It kicks the song off with such a massive amount of energy and darkness, and it ushers in King Diamond’s vocals perfectly.

9. Carcass, “Black Star”

Carcass are grind-core pioneers, and boy, do their riffs show it. While metal fans often praise Carcass for their deep grooves, “Black Star” is all fire and fury. Furthermore, the massive riff at the front of the song is a beast of a musical passage.

8. Pantera, “Walk”

The late, great Dimebad Darrell is one of the greatest riff masters in heavy metal music. While all of his riffs were special, the riff on “Walk” is just historic. What’s more, the song, off 1992’s “Vulgar Display of Power,” is one of the genre’s greatest hits.

7. Dio, “Holy Diver”

Ronnie James Dio was an incredible vocalist, but he matched those pristine vocals with an equally epic musical backing. When it comes to legendary heavy metal riffs, the riff in “Holy Diver” is one of the greatest of all time. Also, it begs one to jump in the mosh pit.

6. Megadeth, “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due”

“Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” starts out unassuming, but when it transitions into a full-throttle heavy metal song, that riff takes over. The riff in this track, off 1990’s “Rust in Peace,” is one of the heaviest ever made in heavy metal. Further, Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman created magic here.

5. Judas Priest, “Breaking the Law”

Judas Priest released “Breaking the Law” off their 1980 album, “British Steel.” It’s one of the band’s most famous singles, and much of its success is thanks to that mythical opening guitar riff. What’s more, this riff, and overall song, has a bit of an upbeat pop feel, making this a very fun metal song in a genre not always known for its fun music.

4. Ozzy Osbourne, “Crazy Train”

Ozzy Osbourne made a statement with his debut solo single, “Crazy Train,” which arrived in 1980 off his debut solo album, “Blizzard of Ozz.” If there was ever a concern that Ozzy’s solo material would be watered down, it was put to rest with “Crazy Train.” Furthermore, the song’s massive riff is guaranteed to stick in the listener’s head for days.

3. Iron Maiden, “Run to the Hills”

It may not have been their intent, but Iron Maiden released the ultimate workout jam with “Run to the Hills.” The song, which dropped on the band’s 1982 “The Number of the Beast” album, has a riff that’s sure to get the listener pumping iron. Moreover, even those who aren’t working out to this song can appreciate the riff’s strong passion and quick place.

2. Metallica, “Creeping Death”

Metallica are kings of the heavy metal guitar solo, thanks to guitarist Kirk Hammett. But, their riffs are also priceless. Case in point: The guitar riff in “Creeping Death” is as savage and aggressive as possible. There’s a reason the song, which arrived on 1984’s “Ride the Lightning,” was the only commercial single properly released off that album.

1. Black Sabbath, “Iron Man”

Frankly, Black Sabbath has many of the best heavy metal riffs of all time. We could have filled this entire list with Black Sabbath picks. But, we wanted to spread the love, so we picked one riff per band. That said, when it comes to Black Sabbath, one riff stands about the rest: the instantly recognizable riff in “Iron Man.” The song arrived in 1970 off the band’s second studio album, “Paranoid.” Tony Iommi’s main guitar riff inspired an entire generation of guitar players to go metal. It’s possible that without Iommi’s guitar riffing, in general, many of the other riffs on this list could have never been created. Therefore, for its domination over the years, Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” is No. 1 on our docket of the best heavy metal riffs of all time.

Find Audio Ink Radio’s feature on the best heavy metal guitar solos of all time here.

Have an idea for a feature or comment? Contact Audio Ink Radio head writer Anne Erickson at anne@audioinkradio.com.

Anne Erickson
Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Metal, Music