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Top 10 Heavy Metal Bassists

Updated on January 12, 2015

They provide the pulse pounding beat to every head banger tune. Today I rank the top 10 heavy metal bass players of all time

10. Lemmy Kilmister- Motörhead

He is the face of speed metal.

After being kicked out of Hawkwind for his drug use, Lemmy Kilmister founded Motörhead in 1975. He helped remake rock by combining heavy blues and punk rock and speeding up the tempo. His experience on the six string guitar gave him the speed needed to play the bass as fast as he does. Songs like Ace of Spades and Overkill display his high speed playing style on the bass.

9. Frank Bello- Anthrax

He is one of the most underrated bassists ever.

After being hired as a guitar tech for Anthrax, Frankie Bello replaced original bassist Danny Lilker after the release of their début album. By incorporating jazz pickups into his bass, Bello was able make his bass louder for the Anthrax sound. He took Steve Harris' technique of finger picking and applied it to thrash metal. His playing on Got the Time and Caught in a Mosh really showcase what a talent he is.

8. Tom Araya- Slayer

He provided the pulsating beat in every Slayer song.

Being the band's lead vocalist and bassist gives Tom Araya an added workload that he is more than capable of carrying. His style of bass playing is more like a rhythm guitar but he plays it just as fast as Kerry King or the late Jeff Hanneman. While his vocals and lyrics are key to Slayer, his bass playing is key to the band's aggressive sound.

7. Tim Commerford- Rage Against the Machine

He brought funky beats to the rap metal sound of Rage.

Join the band from the beginning, Tim Commerford and Rage hit off from the beginning. He is most commonly known as a pizzicato player, as he has never played live with a pick, but has also played in the past using the slapping technique. He is very secretive of his tone, even going so far as to put effects on his pedalboard that he doesn't even use, making his own gear, and even removing the labels off some of his effects.

Commercord also displayed his bass playing in the supergroup Audioslave

6. Robert Trujillo- Metallica

He brought back the classic Metallica bass sound they were missing for so many years.

After previously playing in Ozzy Osborne's band and with the departure of Jason Newsted, Robert Trujillo was hired by Metallica during one of their biggest crisis ever. He is primarily a finger-style player, but has been known to play with a pick in some recordings and while playing live. He is known for playing "massive chords" and "chord-based harmonics" on the bass. His on stage playing is known for Trujillo crouching and strumming the body of his bass by his knees.

5. David Ellefson- Megadeth

"Junior" is one of the few people who could tolerate Dave Mustaine's personality.

Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, David Ellefson was recruited by Dave Mustaine for his new band Megadeth. His original playing style involved using his fingers, but as Megadeth progressed and the music became more complex, he tended to prefer playing with a pick. Technically superior in a lot of ways, Ellefson was the backbone of the band and his work on the bass from Peace Sells is nothing short of fantastic.

4. John Myung- Dream Theater

He is considered by many to be the best bassist playing today.

Being a co-founder and one of the longest serving members of the progressive metal band, John Myung is key to the Dream Theater sound. He uses a two or three finger picking style in his playing. He also uses slapping and popping on some songs and also uses Tapping and Harmonics in his bass playing. His tapping technique is demonstrated most prominently in the bass solo in "Metropolis part 1: The Miracle and The Sleeper". He uses his chorus effect to help the harmonics to ring out in his playing and sometimes plays chords consisting mostly of harmonics. He has also distinguished himself by playing a 6-string bas which gives him an even more distinctive sound.

3. Geezer Butler- Black Sabbath

He was as innovative as any bass player.

As one of the pioneers of heavy metal, Geezer Butler made a difference on the bass and in the lyrics he wrote for the band. Butler is noted as being one of the first bassists to use a wah pedal and to down-tune his instrument. During the band's Ozzy Osbourne era, Butler wrote almost all of the band's lyrics, drawing heavily upon his fascination with religion, science-fiction, fantasy and horror, and musings on the darker side of human nature that posed a constant threat of global annihilation. His bass solo on N.I.B. was revolutionary at the time and is still seen as one of the greatest bass solos ever.

2. Steve Harris- Iron Maiden

He is the foundation of one of the most influential metal bands in history.

While he founded Iron Maiden and is the band's primary songwriter, Steve Harris' reputation is based on his bass ability. Thanks to his galloping bass lines, finger picking, and unique tone, his bass is just as important the guitar. Just listen to songs like Wrath child and the Trooper for proof. . In addition to his role as the band's bass player, writer and backing vocalist, he has undertaken many other roles for the group such as producing and co-producing their albums, directing and editing their live videos, and performing studio keyboards and synthesizers.

1. Cliff Burton- Metallica

His short life should not shorten his ranking as the best metal bassist ever.

Though he only played on three Metallica albums, Cliff Burton's influence can still be heard today. He left the earth with a memorable discography of exceptional bass riffs. Heavily influenced by classical music, Burton set out to be the best bass player ever by incorporating different amps and effects. By using it more like a lead guitar than a back up instrument, Burton helped Metallica pioneer thrash metal. Their heavy early sound technical ability haven't been the same since.

Burton was killed in a bus accident in Sweden in 1986. His legacy is honored by Metallica as well as the rest of the heavy metal community.


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