I still remember the first time I heard Chop Suey by System of a Down. Such intricate and diverse guitar styles. All in one song as well. I was blown away. I knew nothing about this band, but I knew I needed to learn more about the guitarist in the band—Daron Malakian. This guy was clearly an insanely talented guitarist. Over the years it became equally obvious to me that he was also a talented and passionate song writer. Daron Malakian ticks so many boxes for me. It would be impossible to not include him in my list of inspirational guitarists.
Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for several decades—or perhaps you’re just incredibly young—this is Chop Suey.
The way that song builds is like a roller coaster. The kind that slowly takes you to an amazing high before dropping you into the most thrilling ride of your life at breakneck speed. In the following years and in what seems to me like very little time, System of a Down released amazing single after amazing single. But they were never a mainstream band—not that they were trying. they simply wrote good music with incredible guitar parts and very thought provoking subject matters.
Daron Malakian did an amazing job of blending distorted guitars with clean guitar styles rarely heard in rock tunes. In my opinion he was taking modern guitar playing to places few people had considered going. Songs like Aerials, Toxicity and B.Y.O.B. are great examples of this style and power.
B.Y.O.B. makes a great phone ring tone by the way if you ask me. My wife hates it when I don’t answer within 23 seconds.
I like Daron Malakian’s contributions to guitar playing not for any particular riff work nor for any well known solo/lead work. Instead I am inspired by his song writing and unorthodox approach to guitar playing in a heavy rock band. Few people are as unique as he is and fewer are as talented as he appears to be. I’d love 10% of what he has. But I’ll remain happy with 100% of the work of his that I’ve heard.
His work is strangely hypnotising.
This is not a top guitarists list and there is no significance in the order the guitarists are placed in the list. This is simply a collection of guitarists that have been influential to me.