The Top 40 Most Underrated Guitarists in Rock Part 3

The Top 40 Most Underrated Guitarists in Rock Part 3

Okay, so now that you’ve read part 1, and part 2, we just have 15 of the most underrated guitarists in rock to go. If you want to own any of their material, just click ontheir album image to take you to Amazon.

Off we go:

15.Bernard Sumner


While the guitarist from Joy Division and New Order isn’t a player of great technical skill, his rudimentary playing inspired countless other bands. With his sandpaper tone and great sense of melody he gave atmosphere and energy to songs like Joy Division’s ‘Transmission’ and ‘New Dawn Fades’ and New Order’s ‘Ceremony’.

*Bassist Peter Hook played in both bands as well, and his unusual style often took over as the lead soloing instrument,whereas Sumner anchored the rhythm parts. This gave them a truly original sound.


14.Vernon Reid

Vernon Reid gave Living Colour’s sound a heady mix of metal, progressive rock, jazz and soul, adding up to being one of the most versatile guitarists of the 80’s and 90’s. I love his use of synth guitar on ‘Nothingness” and his blending atonality and melody on ‘Auslander’, both off the album  ‘Stain’.


13. Trey Spruance


Spruance competes with Reid for versatility. Not many guitarists can swing from ska to metal, carnival music and 70’s funk on one song, but Mr Bungle’s guitarist made it look easy. He also played some searing off-kilter riffs on Faith No More’s ‘King For A Day Fool For A Lifetime’ album.

*I need to mention that original FNM guitarist Jim Martin played great riffs on their earliest releases, most notably on ‘Angel Dust’.


12. Josh Homme

Josh Homme

Josh Homme

Homme was under the radar with his former band Kyuss, the progenitors of Stoner Rock. His guitar sound is huge due to it’s low tuning and he creates earth rumbling riffs interspersed with exotic solos. Now he fronts Queens Of The Stone Age and is getting more attention due to his side project ‘Them Crooked Vultures’, with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones.

2 of his best riffs are  Kyuss’s ‘Green Machine’ off  their ‘Blues For The Red Sun’ album, and QOTSA’s ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire’ from ‘Songs For The Deaf’.


11. Kevin Shields

My Bloody Valentine finish new album 2013

The Dream Pop genre never made much of a dent in America; it got wiped off the map by the success of Grunge. But fore bearer Shield’s band My Bloody Valentine garnered them cult acclaim. His dizzying guitar tone was created by using the tremolo effect combined with eardrum shattering volume, a sound described as ‘glide guitar’. This inspired bands like Garbage and the Smashing Pumpkins (Corgan remains one of my favorite guitarists. You can check out my review of their new album here.)

MBV recently released a deluxe edition of their landmark album ‘Loveless’. My favorite track remains ‘Sometimes’ which has one of the best guitar tones ever recorded.


10.Joey Santiago


In all my years of reading guitar magazines, I’ve yet to see a piece on the Pixie’s lead guitar player, which seems crazy given how many artists he’s inspired, including Kurt Cobain. Complimenting solid riffs with truly oddball scales, bended notes and time signatures, Santiago gives Pixies songs a one of a kind sound. Two perfect examples; My Velouria off ‘Bossanova’ and ‘Planet of Sound’ from ‘Trompe Le Monde’.


9. Bernard Butler

Butler’s guitar playing with former band Suede is nothing short of amazing. His Glam rock style is intricate and emotive, all with a smooth sense of style and flash. Check out ‘The Glamorous Life’ for a prime example.


8. Billy Duffy


Because he’s from  the Cult (one of my favorite bands), and because he’s Billy Goddamn Duffy. His combination of goth, punk, blues  and classic rock stylings gave the Cult a genre spanning sound that still sounds distinctive. I won’t go into anymore detail, as I’ve written 2 reviews recently; one for their SXSW concert and another for their new album ‘Choice Of Weapon‘.  His riffs on ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ and ‘Wildflower’ still get the blood moving.

Click here for my 2016 interview with Billy Duffy

7. John Christ

Classic Danzig lineup

Classic Danzig lineup

Like Duffy, Danzig guitarist Christ is a blues metal badass. He gave demonic  riffs and blistering leads on tracks like ‘Snakes Of Christ’, ‘Brand New God’ and their biggest hit ‘Mother’. Overshadowed by his cranky front man, Christ left after their 4th album and Danzig has gone through many players since (one of which you’ll be hearing about shortly), but he will always be seen as their preeminent axe-slinger and rightly so.

Click here for my interview with Glenn Danzig

6.Robin Guthrie

Guthrie’s work in the Cocteau Twins sounds less like a guitar and more like some type of musical instrument from another planet. His use of various effects pedals give his sound an ethereal, cloudy quality, almost sounding like a keyboard in many respects. Check out his work on ‘Blue Bell Knoll’, the title track from their 1990 album.


5. Geordie Walker

Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman (far left)

Walker is the guitarist from Killing Joke; a band that has influenced many bands in alternative rock and metal (check out my review of their latest album here). Using his Gibson hollow-body guitar with just a hint of delay and chorus, his tone sounds like a massive chainsaw at his heaviest, and bell-like at its most atmospheric. His endurance is also impressive as the band’s songs run long and heavy, putting listeners in a hypnotic head banging trance. Check out ‘Eighties’ the riff that inspired Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’ and ‘Asteroid’ which has one of the heaviest riffs ever.


4. Marty Wilson-Piper and Peter Koppes

The Church Heyday

The Church are primarily known for their hit ‘Under The Milky Way’ and they’ve been forgotten about by the world at large which is criminal. Their twin guitar approach is hypnotic and languid, comforting and cold, and mesmerizing. Check out their guitar magic on ‘Lost’ from  the amazing album ‘Starfish’.


3. Marc Bolan

Marc Bolan of T. Rex

Marc Bolan of T. Rex

Tony Iommi and Jimmy Page get most of the credit for laying the template for heavy rock riffs, but Bolan did his fair share even if he was more tongue in cheek and not heavy-handed lyrically. His glam rock gems ’20th Century Boy’, ‘Bang A Gong (Get It On)’, and ‘Buick McKane’ have been covered by many a band (G’N’R, Danzig, and Siouxie and The Banshees are just a few examples) for good reason; they’re solid, catchy and powerful (and fun as hell to play guitar to).


2.Daniel Ash


Ash has been a constantly inventive guitarist, from his early works with Bauhaus and Tones on Tail to his other group Love and Rockets. His tinny, static radio tone and use of E-bow and delay gave his songs a spectral, cinematic and trippy style that straddled the lines between goth, glam and psychedelia. His creepy tape-delayed guitar work on ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ remains one of his most memorable, but I also love his acoustic work on songs like ‘Rainbird’ and the snarling dance track ‘The Mirror People’.

Click here for my 2016 interview with Daniel Ash


1. Tommy Victor


Prong guitarist, singer and songwriter, Tommy Victor deserves far more credit than he’s due; everyone from NIN, Marilyn Manson, Pantera and White Zombie have admitted to his influence and that’s just to name a few. His mix of thrash, groove and industrial is a wicked combination, as evident on whiplash inducing tunes like  ‘You Snap Your Fingers You Snap Your Neck’ and ‘Unfortunately’. Their newest release is the excellent ‘Carved Into Stone’ which I recently reviewed, (check it out to get more insight on why Victor rules). In between Prong duties he tours and records with Danzig and Ministry, putting his personal stamp on their material. And click here to read my exclusive interview with Tommy Victor!

So that’s it! My Top 40 most Underrated Guitarists. What’re yours? Feel free to sound off in the comment section below.


About SLIS

Middle Aged Gen-Exer obsessed with Alternative rock, metal, cult movies, comic books and cable TV.

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54 Responses to The Top 40 Most Underrated Guitarists in Rock Part 3

  1. Vaughn September 28, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    A great list. I’d add two: Lou Reed and John Lennon for their great rhythm work. Okay three, now that I’m thinking about Lou and the Velvet Underground, Sterling Morrison definitely there.

    • SLIS September 28, 2013 at 11:29 am #

      Good call on Reed and Morrison! And Lennon should certainly be more recognized for his guitar work, but given The Beatles are the biggest band in the world I skipped the bigger acts. Glad you enjoyed the list 🙂

    • Doug June 14, 2017 at 4:08 am #

      I’m with you on both of those. Lou Reed gets over looked with monotonous regularity, his guitar work just complimented his vision of what was rock n roll perfectly. To me his lyrics will always be his strength, but he did capture Chandler and Selby and put them to music

  2. Ken September 28, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Sorry, but this is laughable. John McGeoch only at no. 22 and no mention of his seminal work with Magazine. And Captain Sensible – a superb guitarist – not even in the 50. Must try harder.

    • SLIS September 29, 2013 at 2:45 am #

      Magazine was a great band. Slipped my mind not include that in his entry. As far as Captain Sensible? He never struck me as a standout guitarist, but I was never a huge Damned fan to begin with. These lists are always subjective of course, so keep that in mind, or to quote your hero; ‘I said wot d’ya want’?

  3. Scott MItchell October 28, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    What about Marilyn Manson original guitarist Daisy Berkowitz?

    • SLIS October 28, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

      Good call! I think once he left their music suffered. Very cool, quirky style.

  4. Alain December 17, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Good list! But these two guitar masters should be there in the top 10: Dave Edmunds (just listen to him with his band Love Sculpture. Back in ’69, they released an album called “Blues Helping” on which the tune titled “The Stumble” was the opening song). Awesome! The other being Brian Setzer, with or without The Stray Cats.

    • SLIS December 18, 2013 at 1:40 am #

      Good picks! I didn’t immediately think of Setzer, and I’m not overly familiar with Edmunds, but I’ll check him out now.

  5. todd miller March 19, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    Glaring omissions: Bill Nelson, George Kooymans (Golden Earring), Zal Cleminson (SAHB), Donald Roeser (BOC), Colin Newman (Wire), T.S. McPhee (Groundhogs), Tom Ashton (March Violets), Adrian Borland (The Sound), Tony Bourge (Budgie), Kirk Brandon (Spear of Destiny).

    Otherwise good list. And especially good to see Mr James Mankey recognized.

    • SLIS March 19, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

      Of the ones you mentioned that I’m familiar with, some great choices. Always like Be-Bop Deluxe! I know Nelson was an influence on Billy Duffy. I agree on BOC; if I’d made a longer list I’d include Roeser and Dharma. Newman for Wire is also a great choice. But in my defense, I did include 3 Girl Rhumba in my list of underrated guitar riffs :-).

      Brandon was also in Theater of Hate right? I need to check out his stuff. And yes Mankey…what a sound! One of the best tones I’ve ever heard, in addition to his killer chops.

  6. luke lambert September 30, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

    Love the list, but what about jerry cantrell? It can be argued that he is not very underrated, but he is a rift god! I was also thinking of daniel johns of silverchair, thoughts?

    • SLIS October 1, 2014 at 1:53 am #

      Cantrell is amazing, but I figure he’s been pretty well celebrated? Of all the Grunge dudes, I think he gets the most props as far as chops. I was never into Silverchair, so cant vouch for Johns!

      • Adem October 4, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

        I’d like to mention a guitar player that virtually nobody’s ever heard off – Jim McCarty. Hardly anybody’s ever heard of him, even though his playing is absolutely phenomenal . He played and recorded with the likes of Bob Seger and Jimi Hendrix, but he never found a stable great band. Check out these tracks

        which were recorded and released by the short-lived supergroup Cactus in 1970 for evidence of the man’s talent.

        I’d also like to mention Warren DeMartini of Ratt, terrific player yet hardly ever gets any credit for his technique and ability

        • SLIS October 5, 2014 at 1:59 am #

          Awesome, I’ll totally check these out. And agreed on Demartini…another glam guitarist who was a step above the competition.

          • Adem November 17, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

            Speaking of glam guitarists who were above the competition I’d like to bring up two more names from that particular class

            Steve Lynch (Autograph) – Wow, just wow. While Autograph as a band are almost entirely known for “Turn Up The Radio”, they have one of the most intense shredders in the form of Steve Lynch. His multi-finger style tapping technique is amazing. Check out the track Hammerhead

            Reb Beach (Winger/Dokken/Whitesnake) – Sigh, life is unfair. Winger, despite their somewhat goofy lyrics (although this causes one to wonder why Poison were so successful), were a band of truly great musicians. Yet, because of that Beavis & Butthead fiasco, they never quite achieved the level of success they deserved.

            Still, there’s no denying the absolutely INSANE abilities of Reb Beach. Just listen to some of the tracks from Winger’s first album and you’ll see what I mean

          • SLIS November 18, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

            Yeah, I think Kip Winger’s antics prevented any real warranted appreciation of their music. I know it put me off. I dunno I have a limited like of the hair metal stuff, and that’s because I went from hair metal stuff in junior high and got into post-punk stuff in high school, so I didn’t really get into any of that stuff when I made that switch. Ratt is still my favorite from that genre I think.

          • Adem April 30, 2016 at 5:00 pm #

            Here’s another truly elite guitarist, who is hardly ever featured on any lists of underrated players: Buck Dharma of the truly brilliant Blue Oyster Cult.

            A band often criminaly mistaken as a three-hit wonder, despite having penned a huge range of amazing tracks from “Transmaniacon MC”, “Cities on Flames with Rock and Roll”, “Dominance and Submission”, “Career of Evil”, “Hot Rails to Hell”, “OD’d on Life Itself” among many, many others, all given a massive punch due to Dharma’s incredible guitar work

            Check out this particular video and see for yourself:


            2:37 – 6:08


          • SLIS May 1, 2016 at 5:06 pm #

            Yes I now realize that was a glaring omission! His guitar solo in Don’t Fear The Reaper is a thing of beauty.

  7. luke lambert October 27, 2014 at 8:30 pm #

    I forgot his name, but the guitarist for kings x is pretty good..

    • Adem November 17, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

      Ty Tabor

  8. peter November 19, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

    Tim Bricheno
    Paul Wright
    Peter Yates
    David Gilmour
    Mark Knopfler
    Barry Galvin
    Christophe Hahn

    And for \m/

    John Sykes
    Steve Vai
    Chuck Schuldiner (rip)
    Jeff Hanneman (rip)
    George Lynch (in the day)

    • peter November 19, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

      Scratch Gilmour, that should have been Blixa Bargeld.

      • peter November 19, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

        Tim Bricheno
        Paul Wright
        Peter Yates
        Blixa Bargeld
        Rowland S. Howard
        Mark Knopfler
        Barry Galvin
        Christophe Hahn

        And for \m/

        John Sykes
        Mick Mars
        Chuck Schuldiner (rip)
        Jeff Hanneman (rip)
        George Lynch (in the day)


        • SLIS November 20, 2014 at 1:02 am #

          One thing I love about making these lists is seeing folks mentioned in comments that (a) I should have remembered to include, or (b) discovering those I’ve never heard of. There’s several on your list I will have to investigate.

          And dead on about Bargeld and Mick Mars. 2 glaring omissions. I really feel like Mars was the only irreplaceable member of MC. His riffs are so great. To be fair to myself, I did include his work here:

          • peter November 20, 2014 at 10:23 am #

            Marco Pirroni
            John Squire
            Jon Klein

          • SLIS November 21, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

            Yeah, Squire and Pirroni are both great players…and I had to google Klein…totally! His playing on Peepshow had some really cool stuff.

            One more I would add that I forgot was TERJE RYPDAL; very interesting and quirky player:

  9. Adem February 12, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

    Speaking of guitarists with emotion, I’d like to mention Allen Collins of Lynard Skynard: Free Bird and Simple Man, need I say more?

  10. Olli October 27, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

    Just another list that doesn´t included criminally underrated Frank Marino!

  11. F Callen January 21, 2016 at 5:57 am #

    Stuart Adamson

    • SLIS January 21, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

      Nice choice! The inventor of the bagpipe guitar sound. Always wondered how he got that: E-bow, delay, chorus? But it can’t be that easy. RIP.

  12. Staab May 20, 2016 at 2:27 pm #

    Robert Smith. Those incredible textures.

    • SLIS May 20, 2016 at 4:00 pm #

      He is fantastic, but I went with Porl Thompson. Smith at least has name recognition, but so much so that he overshadows his bandmates. Thompson added some really great guitar moments that worked so well with Smith’s.

  13. Will Willows January 10, 2018 at 10:06 am #

    Steve Rothery, Marillion.


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