The 30 Most Badass Guitarists of All Time
Players whose talents, attitude and style have made the guitar the coolest instrument ever.
ZACKY VENGEANCE & SYNYSTER GATES
Born December 11, 1981 (Vengeance); July 7, 1981 (Gates)
Bands Avenged Sevenfold (both), Pinkly Smooth (Gates)
Iconic Guitars Schecter Vengeance Custom (Vengeance); Schecter Synyster Custom (Gates)
Coolest Riff “Unholy Confessions”—Waking the Fallen
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more distinctive guitar tandem in modern metal than Zacky Vengeance (Zachary Baker) and Synyster Gates (Brian Haner, Jr.). From their sound, to their look, even to their names, the duo routinely go down guitar paths other metal axmen don’t dare travel, spicing up Avenged Sevenfold’s otherwise dark and aggressive attack with, among other things, hooky, major-key melodies, laid-back acoustic picking, buoyant, carnival-esque rhythms and a whole lot of style.
They can also shred like nobody’s business: Though Vengeance largely fills the role of rhythm player while Gates handles the majority of the solos, almost every A7X song finds the two locking up for at least one or two rampaging runs of dual-guitar harmony leads.
Vengeance and Gates’ ascent to the top of the metal guitar heap did not always seem inevitable. Avenged Sevenfold began life as a somewhat traditional Orange County–style metalcore act, as evidenced on their 2001 debut, Sounding the Seventh Trumpet, for which Vengeance served as the primary guitarist. But the band has been reinventing and refining its sound ever since. By A7X’s third effort, 2005’s City of Evil, they had morphed into a swaggering, thrashy unit with an adventurous edge that showed itself in everything from the grand, instrumentally dense songs to the band’s theatrical image.
On 2007’s self-titled effort and the new Nightmare, Avenged Sevenfold have continued to expand their sonic template, leaving Vengeance and Gates plenty of space to explore a range of different styles. At the end of the day, however, metal is metal, and at its essence that means killer riffs and shredding solos, which the duo unleash in abundance. A7X staples like “Bat Country,” “Almost Easy” and the latest single, “Nightmare,” are chock full of blistering rhythms and finger-twisting, speed-of-light leads, while they tread that sweet spot between catchy melodicism and all-out aggression.
As metal guitar continues to evolve in even faster and wilder ways, expect Vengeance and Gates to be two of the players leading the pack for a long time to come.
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