By its very definition, Stoner Rock places a greater emphasis on the riff than creative guitar work. As a result, the genre is flooded with thick, earth-rattling riffs that don’t leave much room for guitar solos. Today we celebrate those bands that have pushed outside the limitations of the genre to rank the top 10 guitar solos in Stoner Rock.
10. War Claw – The Atomic Bitchwax
Artist: The Atomic Bitchwax
Guitarist: Finn Ryan
Background: With Monster Magnet alumni Chris Kosnik (bassist/vocalist) and Bob Pantella (drummer) already in place, and coming off of a stellar album in TAB 4, The Atomic Bitchwax already had the winning pieces in place for a great album. Adding fast-fingered Finn Ryan to the mix only made the combination even more explosive. That energy level comes to a head on track four of Gravitron: “War Claw.” To be fair, “War Claw” is an outlier on this list because it is, essentially, a two-minute guitar solo, similar to Van Halen’s “Eruption” or the Smashing Pumpkin’s “Tribute to Johnny.” To be even more fair, you could probably throw a dart at a list of The Atomic Bitchwax’s discography and find a guitar solo just as good, but the raw power of “War Claw” gives it the edge over the rest of The Atomic Bitchwax’s setlist, and that’s what makes it one of the best guitar solos in Stoner Rock.
9. Superhuman God – Astroqueen
Album: Into Submission
Background: More of a one-off event than a formal band, it’s easy to see why Astroqueen’s 2002 album Into Submission has flown under the radar for the last two decades. But a casual listen quickly demonstrates that Into Submission is some of the finest work Stoner Rock has to offer (check out our argument for “The Sonic Ride” as one of the best riffs in Stoner Rock). “Superhuman God” is a complex 4-minutes-and-twenty-second song that squeezes two distinct parts into its tiny frame, and it ultimately sags slightly from its ferocious pacing. But Part One and Part Two are connected with one of Stoner Rocks most emotive guitar solos. Drag the scroller to 3:25.
8. Bloodhounds – All Them Witches
Artist: All Them Witches
Album: Our Mother Electricity
Background: Thanks to their unique blend of blues, psychedelic, stoner rock, and space rock, All Them Witches have been one of the most interesting acts to follow since they released Our Mother Electricity in 2012. Our Mother Electricity featured relentless guitar work by lead guitarist Ben McLeod. While his craftsmanship is seen throughout the album, he sounds most inspired on the solo in “Bloodhounds,” a song about running from police dogs after murdering another man.
7. Prehistoric Dog – Red Fang
Artist: Red Fang
Album: Red Fang
Background: An insistence on combining Doom Metal, Psychedelic Rock, and Stoner Rock has made the quality of each Red Fang album spotty, but that blend of musical influences has also made them captivating. “Prehistoric Dog,” the opener to their debut album, announced their presence with a roll of thunder (perhaps a nod to Black Sabbath’s debut EP), then opened with roaring guitars. “Prehistoric Dog” was supported by a hilarious music video, but it also features an excellent guitar solo at 2:47, earning its spot at Number 7 on our list.
6. The Son – 1000mods
Album: Repeated Exposure To…
Background: Hailing from Greece, 1000mods are obvious Kyuss disciples. Fat, chunky, fuzzy riffs, wailing vocals, and a lot of talk about driving through the desert means you can feel the sun on your face and the sand kicking up into your teeth. They may be Mediterranean, but 1000mods make authentic Desert Rock. This dedication to the riff means they don’t always leave much room for guitar solos, but when they do… 2016’s Repeated Exposure To… turned the 1000mod trajectory on its head and incorporated blistering guitars on top of the riffs, birthing a delicious new soundscape. Each track offers its own flavor of delicious guitar work, but it’s “The Son” that features one of the best Stoner Rock guitar solos. Listen to the entire track, or jump to 6:39 for the solo.
5. Sedated – Spiritual Beggars
Artist: Spiritual Beggars
Album: Ad Astra
Guitarist: Michael Amott
Background: In Latin, “Ad Astra” means to “to the stars.” It’s a fitting title for the fourth album by Swedish outfit Spiritual Beggars, where so many of the guitars crescendo and pinch, launching the listener far out into the cosmos on rocket fueled by drums and bass. The focus on guitars makes Ad Astra a guitar-lovers dream by combining Stoner Rock and Progressive Metal, creating impeccable performances on “Angel of Betrayal,” “Per Aspera Ad Astra,” “Save Your Soul,” and “Wonderful World.” But the standout guitar solo in the album is on “Sedated.” The solo begins to build around the 1:15, then explodes into action at 1:37. The solo eventually settles into the bridge at 2:07. Another, bigger solo begins 3:05 and soars through the stratosphere, eventually landing safely back on earth at 3:50. With a delicious 45-second solo, it’s an easy pick for one of Stoner Rock’s greatest guitar solos.
4. Sanctuary – Elder
Album: Reflections of a Floating World
Background: Here’s the skinny on Elder: They’re a New Bedford, MA-based group that’s as much Stoner Rock as they are Progressive Rock, with long, meandering songs that sweep you up in their haunting chords. Elder’s sound is dark and brooding without ever slipping into Doom Rock—they stay firmly rooted in creating melody. Sanctuary is a guitar-driven track about our hopeless lot in this universe, and when frontman Nick DiSalvo cries out his need for sanctuary at the 7:22 mark, you’ll feel just as abandoned as his words that seem to drift away into the void. But we’re here to talk about the work on the axe throughout this tune. While the guitar is steller throughout “Sanctuary,” lose yourself in the solo at 2:54—a solo that lasts until 4:30.
3. Pull Me Under – Sasquatch
Guitarist: Keith Gibbs
Background: From the opening chords of their debut album Sasquatch, LA-based rockers Sasquatch proved they could riff with the best of them. By the time they released their sophomore album, II, they pulled back on some of the heavy aggressive to insert more melody and intricate guitar work. This paved the way to their best work to date: 2010’s III. While “Pull Me Under” lacks some of the great riffs found throughout the rest of the album, it does feature what is perhaps Sasquatch’s best guitar solo at the 3:46 mark—and doesn’t end until 5:39.
2. Trails & Passes – Greenleaf
Album: Trails & Passes
Guitarist: Tommi Holappa
Background: Greenleaf has always been a creative haven for Tommi Holappa. Originally a side project for the Swedish group Dozer, Greenleaf has flourished in its own right, touring extensively and racking up accolades along the way. Shedding the doom and gloom within Dozer, Greenleaf has offered plenty of bright, fuzzy albums (especially in the first three: Revolution Rock, Secret Alphabets, and Agents of Ahriman). The title track to 2014’s Trails & Passes features some of Holappa’s finest shredding. Get a towel. Holappa will blow your face off at 3:50.
1. Pilgrims – Greenleaf
Album: Rise Above the Meadows
Guitarist: Tommi Holappa
Background: In the interest of avoiding any sort of favoritism, we fought hard to prevent any band from showing up on this list twice. Tommi Holappa’s guitar heroics make that a difficult task (in addition to the aforementioned “Trails & Passes,” take a look at “Highway Officer,” “You Got Me High,” or “The Drum” for other resume standouts). On 2016’s Rise Above the Meadows, “Pilgrims” offers a beautiful, eloquent, heartbreaking conclusion to the album over nearly 6 minutes and 30 seconds of unadulterated guitar. Holappa’s solo kicks off at the 4:55 mark and races forward until 6:15, when the mics cut and the album ends. Grab some tissues. Holappa’s guitar work is emotional.