Best Solo Backing Riff: METALLICA vs. MEGADETH


Today in RIFF or RAFF, we’re looking for the best solo backing riff in metal. The combatants came prepared with heavy hitters from Metallica and Megadeth. We’re primed and ready to thrash.One riff will riff, the other will raff. Let’s do this.

LAST WEEK Stockhausen’s Meshuggah riff just barely bested Gurp’s Meshuggah selection in the great war for Meshuggah dominance. For his victory, Stockhausen is getting a prize from his Bandcamp wishlist. Congrats!


NEXT WEEK’s theme comes from Lacertilian. I want you to send me your best CASTLE RIFF. Riffs from bands that love castles n’ shit, songs about castles, a riff that sonically resembles a rockin’ medieval castle; all of these are acceptable options. The prize is a selection from your Bandcamp wishlist! Want to be the riff wizard? Here’s what you do:

  • Write 100-500 words about why you love this riff, and why we should love it too
  • Include a link to a place where we can stream your song
  • Include the timestamp when the riff kicks in
  • Put “RIFF or RAFF” in the subject line
  • Submit your riff at

THIS WEEK I asked you to submit your finest solo backing riff. In the process, I had no idea this week would be an impromptu battle between the two of the most bitter rivals in metal, and also perhaps the most basic bitch riff outing this Toilet has ever seen. Regardless, you gotta listen past the sweet widdly diddlies of these solos and focus on the backing riff. Choose the best, doom the rest.

As the mastermind of this week’s theme, I of course had a few choices in mind for best solo backing riff. I wound up choosing Metallica and even managed to avoid the temptation to cheat and use “Master of Puppets” where the main riff backs the solo. Who wouldn’t vote for that!? (If you wouldn’t vote for that, you’re dead to me). So why Metallica you may ask? Well my friend because in their prime Metallica were solo backing riff masters, whether it’s the steady lurch behind “Blackened’s” solo or the speedball ferocity that drives the solo in “Motorbreath.” While there are several great choices, much like Highlander, there can be only one. That one is “Ride the Lightning.”

The solo for “Ride the Lightning” is quite extended, so I should specify the riff that starts right around the 3:41 mark. It comes after some mid paced noodling and a brief whammy wind up just before Hetfield and Hammett step on the gas. While Hammett’s solo is one of his best, the backbone is truly Hetfield’s rhythm riff. It bobs and weaves like a madman in traffic before the car finally crashes into oncoming traffic for the final three chords, and emphatic “dun-DUN-dun” that perfectly compliments the thousand-notes-per-second playing happening at the forefront. This riff thrashes so well it could have easily been moved to higher billing within the song, it was just chosen for a song already packed with riffs. It’s okay, “Ride the Lightning” solo backing riff, today is your day to shine. –Leif

When Leif via Joe sent out the call for solo backing riffs, I was going to sit this one out. Riffs backing a solo are obviously not meant to take center stage, being either muted versions of the main riff or a simple sustained chord while the lead player works their bends and scales.

But then an idea struck me. Wait, don’t we all know a really awesome song that manages to pull them both off in tandem? And I do. Rust In Peace is the single greatest chunk of music Dave Mustaine ever worked on, unquestionably his and Megadeth’s masterpiece. Contained within that album is Hangar 18, one of the tracks that earn Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman certified guitar god status. After the one verse and chorus die down, the two get down to work trading catchy, varied riffs and keening, horn-slingin’ solos back and forth. Usually when an artists spends two plus minutes playing scales it’s a tedious exercise played by a chronic guitar masturbator named Yngwie, but here everything WORKS. The interplay of riffs and solos keeps the energy going as both the riffs and solos gradually increase in intensity, coming to a head at 3:48 when the song starts to reach fever pitch. The riff, a mutant version of the refrain from 3:06 comes back loaded up on amphetamine and ready to ROLL, BABY, and Marty and Dave kindly indulge it and us by cutting loose and amping up the speed and making Hangar 18 one of the single best thrash songs out there, period. –Gurp

It’s time for you to determine who RIFFS and who RAFFS. Choose wisely.

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