Is Yngwie Malmsteen the Greatest Rock and Roll Guitarist Since Jimi Hendrix?

By Andrew Catania

The historical archives of the heavy metal rock speak for the sheer class of Jimi Hendrix. As soon as his fingers came in touch with the metal chords, it was as if he was magically squeezing out tones that poured into the ears as profound musical fantasies that humanity had never heard before. It was as if his riffs, shreds, and chord pulls came out of a parallel world and evolving a musical plane out beyond the restriction of the physical dynamics of the contemporary music world. This is why, he is undisputedly worshipped as the God of heavy metal rock, and apparently, with the milestones, he had already established, no wonder it demanded a lot from his successor musicians to achieve a class even close to his grandeur. 


A look over the post-Hendrix era of music, we see a couple of names like Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Steve Vai and Eric Clapton. But if observed in the retrospect of an extremity of pulls, the non-conformity to contemporary technique and experimenting with the tones and chords, is it Yngwie Malmsteen who stands as the most eligible and deserving heir to the ‘Hendrix Legacy’And would it be an exaggeration if we sum up Malmsteen’s career in a single statement as “he came, he saw, and he conquered?

Comparing the career hallmarks, mastery at hand and the technical blueprints of rock and roll musiciansYngwie Malmsteen seems to have made a loud and explosive mark in his musical career, straightaway challenging his fellow musicians of the neoclassic, heavy metal, rock and roll genre, right from the start. The mastery he held over his six-stringed, personalized instrument is a worthy testament to his in-born brilliance. The new hard rock and heavy metal sensation took the world by storm, jolting the musical status quo of the 1980s, Malmsteen eventually turned into a name that you would love, or hate, but could not possibly ignore.


His music had this lightning fast, jolting hard and literally exploding-ontotheeardrums kind of effect. Despite his nerve-wracking tones pulled out of the fusion of metal and classic, he was not exactly the pioneer among the neo-classical maestros to have tried and aced the forte. But still, it might be hard to deny that his tones are addictive and unbearably beautiful for their explosive audacity and keep the audience hooked and bound in an exceptional phase of musical ecstasy. 

While the rock and roll world was experiencing Eddie Van Halen’s hyper-fast electric, Eric Clapton’s virtuosity, Jimmy Page’s finesse and Steve Vai’s Zappa, Yngwie Malmsteen made his presence felt through his fiery, fanatical and deviant tones, giving birth to his very own neo-classical, heavy metal genre. And this, precisely, would suffice as a reason why he could be considered a competent, potential descendant to inherit the towering throne of the legendary Jimi Hendrix and his legacy of rock and roll magnum opuses.

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33 thoughts on “Is Yngwie Malmsteen the Greatest Rock and Roll Guitarist Since Jimi Hendrix?

  1. Hendrix was not metal, or even anywhere close to metal, and I for one am tired of hearing about the supposed connection. He was a psychedelic blues/rock guitarist. Yes, metal guitarists cite him as an influence, but Hendrix was not metal. If you’re looking for guitarists post-Hendrix who helped shape the metal landscape, you can cite Page (not metal either), Van Halen (borderline), and certainly Malmsteen. The other guys listed (Angus Young, etc.) did not expand the reaches of the instrument to any great degree, although they were great guitarists. Malmsteen (and Randy Rhoads to the extent that he could given his abbreviated career) can be credited with pulling metal lead guitar out of the standard blues box and really adding depth and emotion to the genre that it lacked before. Malmsteen was and is an extremist, and metal is extreme.

    1. You Nailed It – YM DiD NOT Write The Songs Or Show The Pure Emotion Of Jimi ” Melding ” With A Guitar – Lightning Fast Mideval Scales Are Not That Pleasurable Or Innovative To Listen To – No Groove – No Feeling – Bland Exercises In Guitar Therory Does Not A Song Make – Vai Got That Along With Eddie VH – I Mean Yes He”s Great But Really ” Boring ” After About 5 Minutes …….

      1. I entirely agree with you Amo Green. His songs are pure boredom. No hooks or anything even remotely catchy to sink your teeth in. Both EVH and Vai realized this! Its no wonder why DLR took on Vai after his departure from VH. Being a great guitarist is not enough, you have to have the killer songs to back you up. Otherwise your all flash and no meat on your bones! Peace 🙂

    2. Dude. You’re obviously under the age of 50. If you were over 50, you’d realize that the term Metal applied to Hendrix and Page in their own times. It was a new term then. Maybe you’ve heard of Steppenwolf? They coined it in their song “Born To Be Wild”. What Metal has become is quite different. But it is the progeny, not the source.

      1. Exactly! While I can appreciate the ability to shred…because i cant, I much prefer a more melodic Guitarist and music.

      2. I don’t think the term “heavy metal” was used until the 80’s. The 70’s had “Hard Rock” and “Soft Rock”, and POP, and
        Bubble Gum… <— (The Archies). Though looking back, Zepplin, Deep Purple could probably be considered Metal.
        Steppenwolf and other bands like them were more into the Psychodelic (Acid Rock), which also I think Hendrix could be
        added to this genre as well. Mahogany Rush (Frank Marino) somewhat too. But what do I know. I'm just rambling

  2. Is Yngvie the best guitarist since Jimi? Maybe I read it wrong. How about most over-rated guitarist or most boring shredder? Really, I’m not trying to be nasty but he does nothing for me. Maybe the article was trying to be ironic. The piece is hard to take seriously. Here, in no particular order, are just a few of the guitarists who are better and more interesting than Y.M. : SRV, EVH, Jeff Beck, Clapton, Phil Keaggy, Joe Bonamassa, Joe Pass, Joe Satch (lotta Joes), Buddy Guy, Brian May, Mark Knopfler, Tommy Emmanuel, Derek Trucks, Lindsey Buckingham, John Frusciante, Greg Howe, Robert Fripp, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Page, Steven Stills, PRINCE! and a bunch of older greats who continued to make music after Jimi died basically invented R&R guitar.

    1. Complete non sense Yngwie can play anything unfortunately be chooses to play what he plays but I’ve heard him play all styles of music and quite simply he is was first to bring this playing to the forefront you are completely minimizing his ability. Check out his Orchestra album where he played everything with no band behind him not many can pull that off.

  3. I don’t think anyone can be compared to Hendrix, in that he opened a door no-one even knew existed. Even though he was building on a well established blues and R & B base, no one had ever sounded like him. It was a revolution in guitar playing.

    Dude123 makes a good point about Malmsteen going beyond heavy metal cliches and making a contribution. He’s certainly a fearsome guitarist and performer. Bully for him, but being a great rock guitarist is not the same as being the pioneer that Hendrix was.

  4. Words like greatest and best are what is referred as subjective………..It’s like saying is Star Wars better than Star Trek or Leonardo Di Vinci better than Michelangelo. Most of the metal heads and most guitar player at that love technicians. The guys who play fast. And yes they are very good at what they do. But you know you’ve heard people say that Eric Clapton is the best. Or Steve Vai…..or Joe Satriani. Rolling Stone ranked the top 100 Best guitar players. No mention or Alan Holdsworth, Al DeMeola, Daryl Stuermer, or Steve Morse. But they put Kurt Cobain #13 above Jeff Beck.#14 . And Carlos Santana at #15 And they put John McLaughlin.#49 Oh by the way Randy Rhodes #85. But it is Rolling Stone and not Guitar Connoisseur. Popularity……………And they didn’t even mention Yngwie. So Is he the best since Hendrix who was rated #1 and #2 was Duane Allman. It depends on who you ask. The metal guys can play a million notes in the amount of time blue guys play 2. Now who’s more impressive.

  5. Is Ingwie Malmsteen a guitar virtuoso? Absolutely! Did he completely redefine rock/metal guitar? No. The only post-Hendrix guitarist who has completely redefined the genre, like it or not, is Eddie Van Halen. By no means am I denigrating any of the other guitar greats mentioned above. But “Eruption” was a game-changer. Like Hendrix before him, EVH did things with the guitar no one else had thought of doing. Is EVH the successor to the Hendrix musical legacy? No. Is he a successor to Jimi’s spirit of innovation? Most certainly. Just look at the techniques used by almost any rock/metal/shred guitarist–Jimi’s use of effects, feedback, & vibrato bar; Eddie’s finger tapping, even wilder whammy bar histrionics, & incredible “brown sound” tone. (Oh, and let’s not forget the infamous power drill trick!) Stylistically, Hendrix and Van Halen are worlds apart. But their influence on the way contemporary heavy guitar is approached and played can’t be denied. To give Ingwie his due, he did popularize sweep-picking techniques. But his influence has not been nearly as pervasive as Jimi or Eddie. So can we call really Ingwie the greatest rock & roll guitarist since Jimi? In all honesty, no.

    1. Grimmi take a listen to Frank Marino. before Van Halen (over rated in my opinion) he was doing things with a guitar that only Hendrix had done

      1. Absolutely! Franke Marino then Yngwie are my favorite guitar players that I have enjoyed. Haven’t heard anything on here about Ritchie Blackmore but also up there with the best…

  6. Yngwie Malmsteen is a virtuoso and he was one of the founders of neoclassical rock. He was not the first one to mix classical and metal, -that credit I believe goes arguably to Ritchie Blackmore, and Randy Rhoads, though I could be wrong. However, Malmsteen is not Jimi Hendrix’s successor. I don’t think anyone can be. Rock guitar evolution is like a tree…Hendrix was a trunk of that tree, while Malmsteen is a branch, a big branch if you will. Still, in the grand scheme of rock, if anyone had that kind of influence over other guitar players, it was/is Eddie Van Halen, -not Malmsteen. Think about all the players who were influenced by him. Van Halen is more universal, even genre-crossing (Beat It, Michael Jackson) while Malmsteen, in all of his virtuosity and technical facility, remains a niche player, focused on a very narrow scope.

  7. What people forget (such me in comments above) is the fact that you have to take influence and what came after as a sign of how a guitar player is judged by their imprint.

    Whether you like him or or not, Yngwie Malamsteen has influenced a majority of metal and rock guitarists then people think. To this day…the most used style in metal and rock as far as leads go is neo classical metal (Thank you Yngwie).

    It doesn’t matter whether or not he had the best songs, tone, album sales, or ever changing chops. What matters is the fact that almost every guitar player in a famous or not famous metal band is Still using the Yngwie Malmsteen blueprint of neo classical guitar playing.

    John Petrucci, John 5, Chris Broderick, etc…heavily influenced by him. He might play basically the same stuff over and over but he definitely started a trend that to this day is still used.

    Yes Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhodes left a huge influence too (heard more in the 80s not so much now) But if you listen to today’s players and those players over the past twenty years…you don’t hear as much of The imprint of Eddie or Randy as you do Yngwie…in people’s playing styles.

    So consciously or subconsciously…Yngwie Malmsteen has become one of the biggest influences in modern times. How many dive bars and tapping do you hear and how many sweeps and arpeggios do you hear? Exactly.

    1. You nailed it. Hendrix and Van Halen, there was *before* and *after* them both. They defined two distinct eras… and yes, Malmsteen did so as well! So, no matter what one thinks about him, how much you like him or hate him, the fact is: there is a *before* and *after* Malmsteen. Not sure that entitles him to be “the best”, but it does make him an *era-defining player*. And as you say, today’s metal speaks for itself about the HUGE legacy Malmsteen has left. That’s quite an accomplishment!

    2. Good points! There’s certainly a lot more of the majestic darkness and medieval beauty of Yngwie and his camp going on in metal nowadays than EVH pyrotechnics and fratboy jockiness, and it still sounds awesome. I think EVH influenced the pop/hair metal camp more.

  8. First of all many of you are completely minimizing Yngwie s influence he created a style and literally took Blackmore s game to a whole new level of playing. Nobody on the planet was doing anything like Yngwie and if you know his while catalog Yngwie has the ability to play anything he chooses. The only guy to play with an Orchestra entirely without a backing band quite amazing.

  9. Everyone used to talk about Uli John Roth when Yngwie emerged in the eighties. Surprised no one mentioned him here. Anyways, I totally loved Yngwie when I was a teenager, but having matured as a musician I have to say that despite his virtuosity and obvious role in popularizing neoclassical tropes, he is in my opinion in no way on par with Hendrix. Eddie Van Halen is way closer to being on par, but still miles away. Yngwie carved out his style, which was essentially adding super-fast Paganini-esque lines to what was essentially the Sabbath formula of songwriting, and didn’t really do much else beyond that after the first album but add polish. Eddie Van Halen really added something altogether new-sounding and lasted a couple more albums(the ones with David Lee Roth) than Yngwie before fizzling out in a similar way. Also, EVH is a much better songwriter with wider popular appeal than Yngwie, so he has enjoyed greater mainstream success. Hendrix practically reinvented and pushed the envelope of rock all through his abbreviated career, and wrote songs that can sit beside those of the Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, as well as Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, and whatever classic songwriters you care to mention. So I think his artistic depth was much greater than both those awesome guitarists, whose overall musical input was much more novel by comparison. However, I think most everyone who becomes as well-known as any of those artists is probably overrated on some level, because we become so emotionally attached to their works. I love the work of all the artists mentioned here, but Yngwie was my right-hand man for a good five years along with Dio and several other metal gods that managed to summon dragons and Stygian magic, and probably even kept me from committing suicide several times. So if even a third-(or lower)-tier artist can do that for someone, maybe the idea of rating musicians is overrated in itself.

  10. I hate to ‘categorize’ or ‘label’ musicians, as every musician is unique. To say that X is better than Y is ridiculous, X may have a better technique than Y, but Y may have more soul. To summarize, each and every guitarist will obviously have been influenced by their idol when growing up, but essentially their output is an amalgam of their favourits licks, scales, technique and feel, with their own identity running guiding or orchestrating it.

  11. Zakk Wylde says, “You have good guitar players. You have great guitar players. Then you have the ones who change the game. Like Jimi Hendrix and Edward Van Halen before him, Yngwie walks among them.”

    I really agree on his opinion. Those musicians may not be the greatest songwriters, but are absolutely the greatest rock guitarists of all.

  12. Regardless of your opinion of YJM’s attitude and personality, nobody can deny his impact on rock music. He will always be the musician that forever changed the way the electric guitar was played, inspiring legions of guitarists around the world to practice and discover the harmonic minor scale, Phrygian Dominant mode, diminished 7 arpeggios, the works of Paganini and JS Bach. The first guitarist to have a signature model from Fender. Making the cover of Time Magazine. Not bad for a wild child, seemingly doomed-to-failure truant from Sweden, eh?

  13. Be nice to Yngwie! lol. The stark differences in perception and opinion amaze me. I think he’s brilliant. I also think every other
    guitar player listed or mentioned here is brilliant. They’re all great. 🙂

  14. Metal has morphed but clearly “heavy metal thunder” was long before what you young folks think metal has to be . . . things change over time. Hendrix was metal for his time . . . Cream was metal for their time . . . Steppenwolf was metal for their time. However, this is about the best Rock N Roll Guitarist . . . not Heavy Metal Guitarist or Metal Guitarist. Even the article’s writer is confusing the issue.

  15. So many great players but in the pantheon of Rock ‘n Roll post Hendrix it all rests with EVH. When that first VH album dropped in 1978 it changed everything and all the greats will testify to that from Zakk on down. Frank Zappa even said Ed reinvented electric guitar. His style, rhythm playing, phrasing, riffs, sheer virtuosity, holy grail tone and the fact he even changed how guitars were built for chrissake. Tapping, cool as he did it, is the least of what he did. Above all else he had the songs and a great band to boot. Plenty tried to emulate while many did not. Therefore generations of players from Tom Morello and Billy Corgan to even the guys in Slipknot love Ed and VH and were influenced, inspired by it without imitating it. Yngwie is a virtuoso and monster talent but no one has the legacy EVH has.

  16. Not a chance! Overrated just like
    Hendrix was. Evh and Jeff Beck.
    Complete innovators. Hendricks is
    great but didn’t play anything more
    than Clapton except really loud with
    a whole lotta lousy feedback and
    Lame squeals. Evh has a hundred
    great songs. Ym maybe two

  17. If I were to scan radio stations available in my
    area today, how many times would I hear a
    Hendrix tune as opposed to how many times
    would I hear malmsteen? The fact that Hendrix
    gets played as often as he does 50 years after his
    passing then factor in his 4 year span of
    exposure and I doubt by those parameters you
    will ever see anything remotely close to that
    phenomenon again.

  18. Yngwie is a beast whose music and playing inspired me for the longest time since I started playing as a teen. He writes and plays stuff that is more memorable, emotive and stylish than the bulk of the digital-sound shredders who came after him.

    But is he the greatest since Hendrix? No. Jimi was cool, I enjoy some of his stuff but what makes him any greater than Alvin Lee, Rory Gallagher, Jeff Beck, etc? Why the obsession with “game changing?” Why do some fan boys try to bestow this as some sort of end-all throne?

    Michael Schenker has been one of the most creative metal forces whose work with UFO/Scorpions/MSG had various degrees of influence on the likes of Randy Rhoads, Kirk Hammett, Paul Gilbert, the Queensryche boys, Marty Friedman, Adrian Smith, and even Yngwie himself.

    Eddie Van Halen has a fast legato but he didn’t pick like Michael Schenker on his 70’s UFO stuff like “Mother Mary”, “Reasons Love” and “Electric Phase.” Absolutely blazing guitar solos that were ahead of their time. They stand alongside Uli’s stuff like “Catch Your Train” and “Sails of Charon.”

    But what makes Michael great is his ability to play to the song. He doesn’t repeat speed patterns too much ala the modern shredders. His phrasing, tone and melodicism combined with well-place shred moments do place him on a level unto himself. Along with Uli Roth and Eddie, Michael helped contribute his share of crucial elements to the shred/metal genre but the pundits surely don’t ask if he’s the “greatest since Hendrix.”

    So I don’t entertain those thoughts of “who’s the best since so-and-so”, I just enjoy what I like and leave it at that.

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