The 25 greatest metal guitar tones of all time

Tony Iommi performs live
(Image credit: Erica Echenberg / Getty)

Best of 2019: What we talk about when we talk about heavy metal guitar tone was first defined in 1970 when Black Sabbath and Tony Iommi set rock down a darker path. But the warnings had already been sounded as the ‘60s ran out of free love.

In 1968, Blue Cheer’s Summertime Blues set a new extreme for guitar tone. Same year, heavier still, with a darker significance post-Manson Family murders, was the Beatles’ Helter Skelter. Guitar tone was heading one way. Iommi gave it the push. 

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Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.