From the lead vocalist to the drummer, each member of a metal band adds to the sound. Almost all metal bands have talented guitarists, and there is usually one member of the band playing the bass guitar. The bass guitar is about an octave lower than other guitars, so the bass guitar is usually a supporting instrument that provides the lower notes of a tune. There are many base guitarists from metal bands who are famous for their talents, both as a musician and a performer. Here are the 20 best metal bassists of all time.
20. Tom Araya, Slayer
Tom Araya is a Chilean-American musician who took a rather unusual route to stardom. He is one of the founders of the thrash metal band Slayer, and in the early days of their musical career, Araya worked as a respiratory therapist to earn money to fund the band’s debut album. Araya was both the vocalist and the bassist for the group, and he also wrote the lyrics for many of the band’s tracks. One of the most common lyrical themes is serial killers, as Araya finds it a fascinating subject.
19. Rex Brown, Pantera
Rex Brown showed musical talent from a young age, and it was his skills as a jazz player that earned him a college scholarship. Brown is best known for being the bassist for the heavy metal band Pantera from 1982 to 2003. While still in Pantera, he also became a member of the heavy metal supergroup Down, and he played bass for the band between 2001 and 2011. After Down disbanded, Brown co-founded the rock supergroup Kill Devil Hill.
18. Chris Squire, Yes
Many people within the music industry consider Chris Squire one of the most influential bassists of all time. He had the talent to switch his style from smooth and melodic to hard-attacking easily. Squire was a member of the progressive rock band ‘Yes’ from 1969 until his death in 2014, and he appeared on every studio album. Over his career, Squire was also a member of The Syn and XYZ. Many metal bassists credit Squire with influencing their style.
17. Jason Newstead, Metallica
Jason Newsted had big shoes to fill when he replaced Cliff Burton in Metallica, but he managed to bring his own personality and style to the group. He was the Metallica bassist from 1986 to 2001 and appeared on four of the heavy metal band’s albums. Prior to joining Metallica, Newsted was the bassist for thrash metal band Flotsam and Jetsam from 1981 to 1986. After leaving Metallica, he played with both Voivod and Echobrain. The bassist also toured with Ozzy Osborne. Most recently, Newsted fronted the heavy metal band, Newsted from 2012 to 2014.
16. Alex Webster, Cannibal Corpse
Along with drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz, Alex Webster is one of the two remaining original members of the death metal band Cannibal Corpse, which was formed in 1988. He is also the bassist for the progressive metal supergroup Blotted Science and the instrumental technical death metal supergroup Conquering Dystopia. Previously, he was a member of Beyond Death. Webster is known for his ability to play at fast speeds, and his signature move is a three-finger walk, which is also known as a galloping finer motion.
15. Flea, Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Michael Peter Balzary is better known by his stage name, Flea. Although he was born in Australia, he grew up in America. Flea is known as the bassist of the rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers. However, he has also been part of several supergroups and collaborated with other artists and bands. The music genres with which he is associated include funk rock, funk metal, alternative rock, punk rock, and experimental rock.
14. Billy Sheehan, Mr. Big, The Winery Dogs
Billy Sheehan has played bass for multiple groups and plays various genres. His links to metal predominantly come from playing bass for the glam metal band Mr. Big. He also played bass for The Winery Dogs and Niacin. Furthermore, Sheehan has worked as a musician for various artists, including David Lee Roth, Talas, and Steve Vai. Some of the techniques for which Billy Sheehan is known are three-finger picking, two-handed tapping, chording, and controlled feedback.
13. Justin Chancellor, Tool
Although he was once the bassist for the progressive metal band Peach, Justin Chancellor is better known for playing bass for Tool, another progressive metal band. While he was with Peach, they supported Tool. It led to Chancellor replacing Paul D’Amour in 1995. The first Tool album on which he appears is the group’s third studio album Ænima.
12. Geezer Butler, Black Sabbath
Terence Michael Joseph Butler is better known by his stage name, Geezer Butler. He got the nickname Geezer while he was still at primary school. Butler is a musician and songwriter who is famous for being the bassist of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath. What many people do not realize is that Geezer Butler also wrote the lyrics for most of Black Sabbath’s tracks, so his talents extend beyond playing bass. In addition to playing bass for Black Sabbath, he has also performed with Ozzy Osbourne, GZR, and Heaven & Hell. Currently, he is the bassist for Deadland Ritual. Butler has been married twice, and his second wife is Gloria Butler, the former manager of Heaven & Hell. He has two sons, and his older son is the frontman for the nu-metal band Apartment 26.
11. Steve Di Giorgio, Various Bands
Loudwire lists Steve Di Giorgio amongst the best metal bass players of all time. Although he is best known for death metal music, his talents as a bass player mean that he has been a member of multiple groups with various musical styles. Some of the bands of which he has been a member include Autopsy, Sadus, Obituary, Death, Iced Earth, Testament, Dragonlord, Vintersong, Obscura, and many more. Di Giorgio is credited with being the first bassist to bring fretless bass playing to heavy metal.
10. Lemmy Kilmister, Motorhead
Lemmy Kilmister is well known enough in the music industry and amongst music fans that he was known simply by his first name. The English bassist is best known as the founder, lead singer, primary songwriter, and bassist of Motorhead, and he was also the only continuous member of the band. Although he was not technically the best bassist, he was one of the founders of the new wave of British heavy metal, and he was famous for his powerful performances. Lemmy died in December 2015 from prostate cancer, congestive heart failure, and cardiac arrhythmia.
9. Les Claypool, Primus
Les Claypool was the founder, lead singer, bassist, and songwriter for the funk metal band Primus. Claypool is known for his distinctive musical style, particularly for blending different techniques, such as flamenco-like strumming, tapping, slapping, and whammy bars. In addition to his career with Primus, Les Claypool has had a solo career. The singer and musician self-produce most of his own work. In his personal life, Claypool is married to Chaney, and they have a son, Cage Oliver, and a daughter, Lena Tallulah. They live in California, and their home is called ‘Rancho Relaxo,’ after a spa that Marge goes to on an episode of ‘The Simpsons.’
8. Frank Bello, Anthrax
Frank Bello was originally a roadie and guitar technician for Anthrax. However, when Dan Liker left the band after the release of their debut album, Bello became his replacement. In 2004, Bello left Anthrax to join Helmet but returned after only a year. Musical talent runs in the family, as Bello is the nephew of Charlie Benante, Anthrax’s drummer.
7. David Ellefson, Megadeth
Best known as the co-founder of the heavy metal band Megadeth, David Ellison was the bassist for the band from 1983 until 2002, when the band split. He then played bass for the group from 2010 to 2021 after Megadeth reformed. Musically, Ellefson made significant contributions to Megadeth’s music. In addition to playing for Megadeth, the musician has also been involved in various side projects, including playing for bands such as Metal Allegiance, Killing Machine, F5, and Temple of Brutality.
6. Jon Paul Jones, Led Zeppelin
Due to his talent and skills as a bass player, John Paul Jones established himself as one of the world’s most respected musicians. He began his career as an arranger and a session musician. However, he became famous as a member of Led Zeppelin as he was both the bassist and the keyboard player for the band. He also provided occasional backing vocals. Led Zeppelin released nine albums between 1969 and 1982.
5. John Myung, Dream Theater
Dream Theater is a progressive metal group that was formed in 1985, although it was originally called Majesty. Along with John Myung, the founding members of the band were John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy. They formed the group while they were all students at Berklee College of Music in Boston. The band would often practice for up to six hours a day together while they were still students. Myung played both four-string and six-string basses for the band. The Korean-American musician has also played bass for Platypus, Explorer’s Club, The Jelly Jam, and Gordian Knot. In addition to the bass guitar, Myung also plays the keyboard, violin, and chapman stick.
4. Geddy Lee, Rush
Lee has many roles within Rush, as he is the lead vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist. He joined the group in 1968 to replace the original bassist and frontman Jeff Jones. An award-winning musician, Geddy Lee has been cited as a source of inspiration by many other talented bass players, including John Myung, Steve Harris, Cliff Burton, and Les Claypool. Many in the music industry credit Lee’s intricate bass lines and superlative technique with the development of both hard rock and progressive genres.
3. Robert Trujillo, Metallica
Trujillo first became famous as a bass player when he was with the crossover thrash band Suicidal Tendencies between 1989 and 1995. The musician was also part of funk metal supergroup Infectious Grooves, along with his Suicidal Tendencies bandmate Mike Muir. However, he is now most famous for being one of Metallica’s many bassists. He joined the band in 2003 and has become Metallica’s longest-serving bassist.
2. Cliff Burton, Metallica
Cliff Burton was the original bassist for the heavy metal band Metallica from 1983 to 1986. He appeared on the band’s first three albums, ‘Kill ‘Em All,’ ‘Ride the Lightning,’ and ‘Master of Puppets.’ He also wrote songs not only for those three albums but also some of the tracks on Metallica’s fourth album, ‘…And Justice for All.’ Tragically, Burton was killed in a bus crash in Sweden in 1986 when he was just 24 years old and before the release of the fourth album. Burton was known for his powerful yet refined bass rifts.
1. Steve Harris, Iron Maiden
According to Gear Gods, the best metal bassist of all time is Steve Harris who is the founder and only constant member of the heavy metal band, Iron Maiden. Since the band was formed in 1965, he and guitarist Dave Murray are the only two band members to have appeared on all the band’s albums, which include 16 studio albums, 13 live albums, seven compilation albums. Steve Harris has also released two solo albums. Many people consider Harris a true metal icon, and he is known for his unique style and unforgettable rifts.