SBR Top 7 Guitarists of 2021

The shred-o-meter is a useful measurement of a guitarist’s ability, but it’s not the only tool of analysis when picking our favourite player of 2021. All seven guitarists would be from the technical death metal genre if we limited our choices to the velocity of a musician’s alternate picking technique. We look for song-writers as much as fret-splicers and value the hook as much as a hurricane of amplified notes.

Dream Theater’s John Petrucci made a triumphant return to the (metaphorical) arena, as did the triple prong attack of Iron Maiden. Riff lords like Joe Duplantier (Gojira), Bill Steer (Carcass), and Peter TÃĪgtgren (Hypocrisy) continue to leave their mark on the metal landscape, while luscious explorers like Lee McKinney (Born of Osiris) and Paul Masvidal (Cynic) laid down new meadows in the metal eco-system. And how can we forget the underrated six-stringers like Patrick Mameli (Pestilence) and Erik Rutan (Cannibal Corpse)?

It’s a crowded field, but here are the seven guitarists that stood out in 2021…

7. Dean Lamb (Archspire)

He might be more famous on YouTube for his Four levels of Death Metal comedy show with his wife, but Dean Lamb is the darling of the tech death scene. A listen to his work on the latest Archspire album will boggle your mind with its savoury sweep-picking and mixolydian melodies, not to mention his love of the open-string chugging we love so much when not overdone. Like Periphery’s Misha Mansoor, the Canadian has an inexplicable tendency to feel like an imposter instead of a world class musician. Maybe he can pat himself on the back after his latest offering,

Read the original SBR review of Bleed the Future by Archspire here.

6. Jesse Cash (Erra)

With the big names of djent taking a year off, it fell to Jesse Cash and Lee McKinney (Born of Osiris) to carry the flame for progressive metalcore in 2021. The standards were as high as ever, and Cash delivered an astonishing guitar performance on the band’s self-titled record. Whether going hard on the eight-string riffing or illuminating his fretboard with obtuse arpeggiated passages, the Erra songwriter showed once again that he’s the twenty-first century successor to Ty Tabor (King’s X).

Read the original SBR review of Erra by Erra here.

5. Gary Holt (Exodus)

The man who replaced Kirk Hammett in Exodus and took guitar lessons from him in the early 1980s is now one of the undisputed kings of thrash. Those of you who thought pentatonic rock had nothing left to offer in extreme metal will need to think again after hearing the latest Exodus record. The former Slayer six-stringer perfected his hammer-on and pull-off technique and glued his palm to the bridge of his guitar for some of the most devastating riffs of 2021.

Read the original SBR review of Persona Non Grata by Exodus here.

4. Sonia Anubis (Crypta)

You might know Dutch shredder, Sonia Anubis, from heavy metal femme fatales, Burning Witches. She left the Swiss quintet to take the lead guitar spot in the Nervosa breakaway group, Crypta. Now we know why Fernanda Lira wanted to start a new death metal band rather than take Nervosa in that direction – Anubis gives Crypta the wisdom and the wizardry they need. Watching her sweep the strings of her instrument is like observing a veteran artisan going about their daily business, yet she’s only twenty-two years of age!

Read the original SBR review of Echoes of the Soul by Crypta here.

3. Brody Uttley (Rivers of Nihil)

Brody Uttley stepped back from the technical riff work that characterised 2018’s Where Owls Know My Name and allowed more space for the bass guitar and drums to drive the songs forward on the new Rivers of Nihil record. He also concentrated more on the phrasing of his lead work and embraced a Steve Vai/David Gilmour approach to the emotive passages of his lead-play, culminating in the emotional anguish of his solo on ‘Episode’. Those concerned that Rivers of Nihil are emancipating beyond tech death have nothing to fear when they hear Uttley’s monstrous palm-muted crunches on the likes of ‘Dreaming Back Clockwork’ and ‘More?’

Read the original SBR review of The Work by Rivers of Nihil here.

2. Wes Hauch (Alluvial)

Wes Hauch is the only ex-professional soldier on this list, but nothing about the man is orthodox. Making his name in The Faceless and Black Crown Initiate before landing the lead guitar slot on Devin Townsend’s cancelled 2020 world tour, the American is now one of the most admired axe-men on the planet. The success of his current band, Alluvial, shows he’s more than just a hired hand and a talented songwriter/vocalist in his own right. But anyone who watched his one-take playthrough of the Alluvial solo in ‘Ulysses’ will be wondering how he stretches his fingers so far apart to fret the most impossible of string-skipping guitar shapes. Hauch is much more than a potential successor to Dimebag Darrell.

Read the original SBR review of Sarcoma by Alluvial here.

1. Miles Dimitri Baker (Interloper)

Miles Dimitri Baker is the guitarist that Rings of Saturn recruited when people were questioning their ability to replicate their studio wizardry on a live stage. He salvaged their reputation and turned his attention to Interloper with fellow shredder, Andrew Virrueta, and drum colossus, Aaron Stechauner. A deal with Nuclear Blast followed, and the band dazzled the prog metal world with an EP and debut album this year. The left-handed shredder can sweep-pick with the best of them but is far more concerned with the quality of Interloper’s songs than the complexity of their fretwork. That being said, you won’t find a more accomplished guitarist in the new generation of technical players. At times, Miles Dimitri Baker makes it look too easy, but his metal riffing is just as colourful as his modal patterns.

Read the original SBR review of Search Party by Interloper here. You can also read our exclusive interview with Miles Dimitri Baker here.