Joel McIver's newest collection celebrating the 100 most outstanding metal guitar players is another exceptional entry in the author's pantheon of metal-related books. McIver has written encyclopedias on extreme metal and biographies on Metallica and others, and every outing is always filled with thrilling and insightful prose.
The Englishman has pored over the works of guitar players covering four generations and presents them by their technical abilities or unique styles. Everything from modern players in bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Trivium, and Dragonforce to the classic
'80s and the extreme speed demons of the '90s are represented.
McIver's strength is his ability to summarize a player's traits and put him in the context of his contemporaries. In a wickedly brilliant reversal in approach, McIver starts with the first player, Euronymous (from the band Mayhem), and dubs him #100; he then runs through everybody from Tony Iommi, Jeff Loomis, and "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott to arrive at Dave Mustaine, "the heavy metal guitarist who combines the greatest technical ability, greatest clarity of expression, the fastest and most precise alternate picking, the most fluid legato, the most precise rhythm strokes ..." Well, as you can read, this is the writer's choice for the ultimate metalman of all time.
There is a boxout area in each section called "Genius moment" and here, the author picks a track or a certain album that best illuminates the player's qualities.
Anyone reading The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists will have his/her own favorites, and they may disagree with McIver's findings.
That's just as it should be; opinions make for better discussions, and that can only lead to more exploration and searching for the truly great players. But very few could argue with Joel's 100-pack here as an entity. Every player of note (or 1/64th-note) is mentioned here. Mikael Akerfeldt, Opeth's astounding picker, comes it at Number 9, and that is a real testament to the metal scribe's discerning and knowledgeable tastes (the Swedish player is a monster who combines Robert Fripp with a space alien and in coming years, his legacy will grow to gargantuan proportions).
If you have McIver's other books - and you probably do if you're reading this - then you have to lay this one next to the others. It's simple to read, funny in that odd English fashion, and smarter than any other encyclopedia of its kind.