My ten most influential guitar duos

This is not going to be a suggested Top 10 guitar duos of all time kind of post. This is a post of the ten guitar bands that feature guitar duos that most influenced me. Why? Because this is my website.

Let me explain what brought this post on first.

So far this year I have written 11 blog posts featuring bands that start with the same letter—a different letter every two weeks. In the last two posts, I’ve taken a trip down memory lane and rediscovered bands that were influential in my own desire to learn to play guitar. In particular, there were two bands that made me really stand up and notice the effectiveness of a dual guitar band.

I won’t name them now, but they’ll appear below. This list is also not in order of guitar skill or duo prowess. This list is in order of the bands as they impacted my guitar journey. For me, that journey began with …

Ace Frehley and Paul Stanley—KISS

KISS was the first band I noticed that had a heavy guitar duo. KISS was probably the band that first made me realise I wanted to play the guitar. I was one of the many who fell for the KISS marketing machine. Nobody—until Metallica—marketed themselves with as much success as KISS.

It worked for me. I became a huge fan and wanted to play guitar with as much enjoyment as this band portrayed. Back in the late 70s at least.

KISS—Shout it out Loud

Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing—Judas Priest

When I first decided to take the guitar seriously, I was lucky enough to know someone incredibly talented on the guitar who shared my taste in heavy metal. Because he was already so good on the guitar, he was able to introduce me to new bands. New to me that was.

One of the first songs I learned to play on guitar was Breaking the Law by Judas Priest—one of the bands that features in my other current blog series on alphabetical band name playlists. While I focused on learning rhythm guitar, my instructor would play the lead guitarists’ parts. This was when I truly appreciated the power of a guitar duo. It felt great.

This was also when I discovered you could aim a guitar at someone. Handy.

Judas Priest—Breaking the Law

Malcolm Young and Angus Young—AC/DC

I probably knew about AC/DC before I discovered Judas Priest, but from my own guitar playing journey’s perspective, they came later. A friend I was sometimes practicing guitar with was a much bigger AC/DC fan. He was always trying to learn Angus Young’s lead guitar parts. That worked out perfectly for me as I’d already discovered that my interests were in rhythm guitar.

There haven’t been many rhythm guitarists as awesome as Malcolm Young. This duo were long lasting and a force to be reckoned with.

AC/DC—It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock’n’Roll)

James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett—Metallica

Then there is the band who created the most memorable heavy metal experiences of my life. From Ride the Lightning to And Justice For All … this is the music that most likely defines my favourite era of heavy metal guitar writing.

I was certainly aware of this guitar duo’s efforts. It wasn’t so much the chemistry between Kirk and James that did it for me. It was the way the rhythm guitar parts were so intricate and vital to the sound of Metallica. The inclusion of instrumentals on the three albums from the era I mentioned above was icing on the cake. This was heavy metal to inspire guitarists for generations to come.

This video is an example of when the duo—and entire band for that matter—were at their connected peak.

Metallica—Master of Puppets

Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman—Megadeth

For me, this is without a doubt one of the greatest two-guitar lineups that any metal band has ever seen. The guitar pairing on Rust in Peace is simply amazing. I can still remember hearing that album for the first time. It is relentless. Rust in Peace is pure heavy metal magic from start to end. Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman are like the Siegfried and Roy of guitar duo magic. They’re also a lot cooler.

Picking an example of their brilliant chemistry is tough. There are six great albums of work to choose from. Megadeth in the 90s were the band that evolved and remained relevant in my eyes. All the while they kept metal alive. That alone sees them forever in my top list of most influential guitarist duos.

Megadeth—Hangar 18

Scott Ian and Dan Spitz—Anthrax

I loved the Dan Spitz and Scott Ian era of Anthrax. When Dan and Scott Ian were together as the guitar duo for the band Anthrax, the vibe of this band was insanely positive and uplifting to me. That was absolutely a huge part of their impact on me.

I saw duos like Dan and Scott and thought “This is the kind of guitar experience I want to have”. Scott Ian was my favourite in the pair and was influential to me as someone who has always shown more of an interest in the rhythm guitarist role of a band.

There are few people who have earned as much respect for me as a guitarist without feeling the need to show their lead guitar skills.

Anthrax—I am the Law

Dave Murray and Adrian Smith—Iron Maiden

This wouldn’t be a credible list with Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. This pairing was one that probably took me longer to discover than it should have back in my youth. When I did discover Iron Maiden however … Wow. To this day I don’t know that I’ve seen a better pairing than this.

The harmonies that Dave and Adrian have created are amazing. The dual solos that helped created so many five minute (plus) songs of pure metal mayhem are more than many other people will ever achieve.

Add to that the absolute joy they bring to the audience and you can see how this duo is one that should be in any guitarist’s inspiration list. If they’re not, you’re doing it wrong.

Iron Maiden—Aces High

Mick Thomson and Jim Root—Slipknot

With so many band members, Slipknot would be doing something wrong if they didn’t have two guitarists. Luckily, they do. They also happen to be an outstanding duo.

The tightness of the guitars in Slipknot impresses me greatly. You often have to listen very carefully to pickup on the nuances between the two players. If you ever get the chance to watch some videos of either Mick or Jim playing their guitar parts in isolation, you may be surprised by how different they sound. Combined though, they are pure awesome.

Brutal brilliance. It was around this time in my guitar journey that I noticed the trend towards technical tightness in certain guitar duo pairings. Guitar playing seemed to be perfecting with every new metal release.

Slipknot—Before I Forget

Matt Tuck and Michael Paget —Bullet for my Valentine

Another more modern guitar duo, Matt Tuck and Michael Paget are great examples of exceptionally skilled guitarists working together as each individual song requires. Both have amazing rhythm and lead guitar skills. Both are vital to the Bullet for my Valentine sound.

Interestingly, if you’ve been following their journey, you’ll notice that neither guitarist seems to feel the need to continually prove their guitar prowess. Their more recent outings have included fewer screaming lead riffs, but have still shown how well they work together as a duo.

Their ability to beautifully compliment each other’s parts in any song style they’ve released is a true testament to their skill. Sometimes they’re playing the same parts with perfect timing and other times their layering of guitar parts sounds epic. Either way they construct a song, it sounds huge.

Bullet for my Valentine—Scream Aim Fire

Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu—Trivium

The last of my list and the most recent of my guitar duo influences. I was a late learner, but I’ve been a fan for quite some time now.

Just as Bullet for my Valentine have done, Matt and Corey have shown that even with sound style changes from album to album, this duo continues to compliment each other perfectly.

Shredding side by side? Nobody does it better today. Back to back solos? This duo have some of the modern best. Modern tones that fit together perfectly? This pair have one of my current favourite combined tones.

Matt and Corey have very tight playing. They have somewhat different, but complimentary styles and techniques. They are both exceptional rhythm guitarists and both can play lead guitar at a level I can only dream of.

For me, this is the kind of playing I’d love to be capable of today. I’ll remain happy to just enjoy listening and dreaming for now.

There you have it. Ten of my favourite guitar duos in an order that marries up with the order I discovered them. Times have changed and so have the bands. But one thing remains true for me. Heavy bands with a dual guitar attack are epic.

I hope there are many more new bands that follow this pattern in the years to come. If there are, I’ll be here and waiting.

Got a duo that isn’t in this list that has influenced you more? Comment away below.

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