Some artists build careers around it. Some use it as another weapon in their arsenal. Some simply use it as a bridge between songs. But whatever the reason for employing it, the instrumental track has proven to be an essential element in a hard rock band’s legacy. Because even though lyrics can add a massive layer of emotion to a song, sometimes the story and message can be conveyed with absolutely no words at all. Just a combination of pummeling guitars and drums, heavy atmosphere and a big emphasis on texture and dynamics. And when there’s no concern about matching lyrics to music, the artist can feel free to stretch out, let loose and experiment purely with sound.
Our That Metal Show guests for this week, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen, have spent their entire careers trying to create the perfect instrumental masterpiece. And some fans and critics would say they’ve succeeded – multiple times. Other artists on the list, from Metallica to Van Halen, Iron Maiden to Led Zeppelin, have created legendary instrumental tracks that stand out as some of the best material in their respective catalogues. So to celebrate these wordless epics, here’s a list of the 20 Greatest Hard Rock & Metal Instrumentals of all time. Enough said. (But we’ll say more).
20. In Flames “The Jester’s Dance”
The Swedish band defines just what it means to be “melodic death metal” with this track off of their second album, The Jester Race, which alternates between beautiful passages and heavy, dark riffs.
19. Cacophony “Speed Metal Symphony”
The duo of Marty Friedman and Jason Becker bring all of their technical, classical-influenced prowess to this title track off their debut album.