Top 10 Instrumental Songs: Hard Rock and Heavy Metal



Top 10 Instrumental Songs: Hard Rock and Heavy Metal

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Sometimes, all you need are the sound of killer guitars to make a song really work. For this list, we've focused on hard rock and heavy metal instrumental songs that are guitar-centric and limited it to one track per artist. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 hard rock and heavy metal instrumental songs. If you didn't see your pick, be sure to check out our classic rock and roll edition of the Top 10 Instrumental Songs.
Who needs lyrics when you've got killer guitars? Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 hard rock and heavy metal instrumental songs.

For this list, we’ve focused on hard rock and heavy metal instrumental songs that are guitar-centric and limited it to one track per artist.

#10 – “Transylvania” by Iron Maiden

Some Iron Maiden fans may be inclined to point to Killers' “Genghis Khan” as the band's standout instrumental, but it’s “Transylvania” that does the trick for us. Written and composed by Steve Harris, the song appeared on their eponymous debut and remains an epic testament to Iron Maiden's musicianship.

#9 – “The Call of Ktulu” by Metallica

Both Master of Puppets' “Orion” and Ride the Lightning's “The Call of Ktulu” are frequently named as fan favorites when it comes to Metallica instrumentals. And with licks like this, it’s no wonder. It’s not easy to pick a winner: “Orion” showcases late bassist Cliff Burton's wizardry while “The Call of Ktulu” displays James Hetfield’s and Kurt Hammett's virtuosity. But since the focus of this list is guitar-playing, it’s the latter that takes the cake.

#8 – “Mr. Scary” by Dokken

Found on Dokken’s fourth studio record, “Mr. Scary” is an instrumental gem by George Lynch and Jeff Pilson. The Back for the Attack track doesn’t only capture the band’s musical artistry but it also showcases Lynch’s high-energy guitar skills.

#7– “Technical Difficulties” by Racer X

The title cut to Racer X’s third studio album showed Paul Gilbert had no “technical difficulties” flaunting some of his finest guitar work in the studio. Evolving from a song off his 1994 instructional guitar video, it’s fast, intense and oh-so-Gilbert.

#6 – “Black Star” by Yngwie Malmsteen

While fans and critics may cite “Icarus' Dream Suite Op.4” or “Far Beyond the Sun” as some of his greatest works, we're going with the harder, darker “Black Star.” By meshing classical music with hard rock licks, Malmsteen truly gives us neo-classical metal at its best. Thanks to his outstanding abilities and rapid-fire technique, he also paved the way for the subgenre’s explosion in the 1980s.

#5 – "Soothsayer" by Buckethead

With over 50 albums under his bucket (and mask), this shredder has offered the music world scores of remarkable instrumental pieces. While some fans might prefer Enter the Chicken's "Nottingham Lace," it's the slow buildup and awesome outro of Crime Slunk Scene's "Soothsayer" that gets the nod because it's just divine.

#4 – “Mabel’s Fatal Fable” by Jason Becker

Before being stricken with Lou Gehrig's disease, Jason Becker left a neo-classical metal legacy that included his work with Marty Friedman on Cacophony and a myriad of solo projects, with notable tracks being "Altitudes" and "Perpetual Burn." Despite releasing new music after his diagnosis, it's “Mabel's Fatal Fable” off Becker’s debut that lands here for its sheer epic-ness and being an incredible example of his shredding skills.

#3 – “The Extremist” by Joe Satriani

Often hailed as one of the most successful and respected solo guitarists ever, Joe Satriani could make this list thanks to any number of tracks. “Surfing With the Alien” in particular comes to mind. But it’s the title track off one of his most popular albums that’s the standout for us: even with the presence of other instruments, Satriani’s mastery of the guitar shines through.

#2 – “Eruption” by Van Halen

It was with this guitar solo that Eddie Van Halen “really got us.” After bursting onto the scene in 1978 with his band’s self-titled debut, the guitarist introduced us to his famous tapping technique on “Eruption.” The song has since become part of his live solo act and remains one of the most respected solos and instrumentals tracks ever.

#1 – “For the Love of God” by Steve Vai

Though “Erotic Nightmares” is often pointed to as the greatest riff on Vai’s epic Passion and Warfare effort, it’s “For the Love of God” that’s a Vai masterpiece. It's one of the greatest, most melodic, soulful guitar pieces ever and that's why it tops our list. Here, let him show you.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favourite hard rock or heavy metal instrumental track? Be sure to subscribe to for more entertaining top 10s.
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