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Poll: The Greatest Guitarist of All Time, Round 4 — Dimebag Darrell Vs. Alex Lifeson

Welcome to the Sweet 16 portion of our first-ever Greatest Guitarist poll!

It all started a few months back, when 128 132 guitarists went head to head, round by round, in a bracketed format. We filled all but four of the slots with the names of incredible guitarists (dead and living) — players chosen for their technical ability as well as their importance and creativity, not to mention how influential they've been. We asked our readers to vote in the final four names, which you did, selecting Nuno Bettencourt, Chet Atkins, Malcolm Young and Jake E. Lee.

But now, several rounds later, we're into the Sweet 16, which is being brought to you by Sweetwater Sound.

Some things to take to consider before casting your vote:

Influence: Who inspired more kids to beg their parents for a guitar for Christmas? Who inspired a wave of copycats?
Chops/Versatility: Is the guitarist in question a one-trick pony or a master of many styles?
Body of Work: Who had the more consistent career? Who has played on more classic albums?
Creativity: Who pioneered new techniques? Who sounds the most radically different from what came before them?

You can check out the full results via our regularly updated bracket here and at the bottom of this story. (Click on the bracket to expand it.)

Round 4 — Today's Match

Much like his crushing power-chord riffs, DIMEBAG DARRELL has been a major destructive force through the first three rounds of the tournament. His triumph over Slipknot's Mick Thomson in Round 1 remains one of the highest margins of victory so far, with the Pantera guitarist claiming more than 86 percent of the votes.

After beating out the likes of Frank Zappa and Steve Howe, Rush's ALEX LIFESON stands alone at the top of the prog-rock heap after three rounds. Prog's guitar kingpin will be out of his element in Round 4, however, when he faces off against a pure metal guitarist in Dimebag Darrell.

Guitar World Staff Picks

BRAD TOLINSKI, Editorial Director

Pick: Dimebag Darrell

You couldn't find bigger opposites. On one side you have the late Texas High Sheriff from Heavy Metal Hell, and in the other the Stone Cold Canadian Professor of Progressive Rock. It's apples and oranges, but I like my pie served hot from the oven, so Dime gets the nod.


JIMMY BROWN, Senior Music Editor

Pick: Alex Lifeson

This is a tough one. Both axemen are hugely influential and brilliantly inventive composer-riffmasters and lead guitarists. And who knows what else Dime would have gone on to do if his life and career hadn't been tragically cut short by an insane criminal. I would have to give this one to Lifeson, though, based on his early trailblazing progressive hard rock work with Rush, as he seems to have ventured further past the boundaries of the known universe of hard rock and metal at the time.


PAUL RIARIO, Technical Editor

Pick: Alex Lifeson

Oh, how the guitar player in me wants to pick Dimebag! And while it's very clear how proficient a guitarist Dimebag was, I can't hum any of his solos in a memorable way. Sure, Dimebag had skills, injecting slick phrases and runs, but it's not even close when it comes to comparing his body of work against Alex Lifeson. Whether it's riffs, solos or the song itself, Alex doesn't get a fraction of the musicianship credit than his rhythm section of Geddy Lee and Neil Peart does, and yet the heart and soul of Rush belong to Lifeson for his fluid and tasteful guitar playing.


JOSH HART, Online Producer

Pick: Dimebag Darrell

You can argue superior musicianship for either guitarist in today's matchup and I do agree with Paul that Alex has often been outshined by his top-notch rhythm section. That said, the impact Pantera and Dime in particular had on the landscape of the modern metal scene is hard to overestimate. I've asked a lot of guitarists about their biggest influences, and having been shown more than one Dime tattoo in response, I'd say he gets my vote.


DAMIAN FANELLI, Online Managing Editor

Pick: Alex Lifeson

Although I have nothing but ton-bags of respect for the late, great and immensely talented Dimebag Darrell, I’m picking Alex Lifeson. With Lifeson, we can look back on more than four decades of development, memorable riffs, solos and unorthodox chord structures, all within the demanding framework of heavy prog-rock. And While Dime could undoubtedly smoke Lifeson (and countless other guitarists), his limited output gives Lifeson a slight edge. We can only speculate on how Dime would have developed over the lost years.