Top Guitar Songs of the Last Twenty Years

Published on 05 April 2024


It’s 20th Anniversary time here at guitarguitar! Throughout 2024, we’ll be celebrating two great decades, and looking backwards from time to time at those years that we’ve enjoyed.

20 years passes quickly, folks! That’s something I was made acutely aware of as I prepared this blog: looking back on the last 20 years of popular guitar music, it's kind of incredible to note the songs that are now that old!

Still, there’s been a lot of great music released since 2004, and today I feel like sharing a bunch of them with you! Let’s take a trip down memory lane together, shaking our heads in disbelief at the years that have passed by, but then nodding our heads in appreciation of these spectacular tunes!

In the grand scheme of things, 20 years ain’t nothing, so let’s get these tunes blasted and salute our fellow guitar-slinging musicians who’ve made the ‘guitarguitar years’ sound so awesome!


Velvet Revolver - Slither

It’s got the riff, it’s got the snarl, it’s got the best “EHH” in music (courtesy of Duff Mckagan’s backing vocals) and it has a good few of the 80s and 90s’ great rock artists in one place, rocking hard. It’s Slither, the debut single from Velvet Revolver, a band that was essentially Guns n Roses with a different singer and an extra guitarist.

According to legend, loads and loads of famous people tried out for the lead vocals job. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think they could’ve picked better then ex-Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland, rest his soul. What a singer! What a riff! Rrrrrrrock!


Fallout Boy - Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down

In the summer of 2005, you couldn’t move two feet without this giant of a song slapping you in the face. Was anybody else a little confused about frontman Pete Wentz not actually being the frontman at all? I know I was, but that hardly takes away the power of this pop-punk anthem, which has immensely powerful ‘earworm’ properties, whether you like the tune or not!


Green Day - Jesus of Suburbia

There was no such thing as ‘prog-punk-concept-albums’ until Green Day resurrected their career with the magisterial American Idiot album. There haven’t been any prog-punk-concept-albums since either, to my reckoning, but that might be because American Idiot hit the nail on the head so accurately that nobody else needs to try?

Whatever the reason, one of the high points on the record was undoubtedly Jesus of Suburbia, a 9 minute punk odyssey with power, grit and flow that some entire albums can’t achieve. From lean strumming to hard rock bombast, this tune goes to all points of the rock map.


Tool - Vicarious

From punk-prog to prog-metal, and everybody’s favourite ‘niche band’ (in actuality, one of the hugest bands in the world) Tool delivered a fine slice of metaphysical metal in the form of 10,000 Days, an album that didn’t skimp on either the weirdness nor the hard-rocking.

The lead tune was Vicarious, a dynamic and exhilarating journey that began with tuned percussion and ended with music that sounded more like a tidal wave than a four-piece rock band. It took them 14 years to release a follow-up, and it’s fair to say that it maybe didn’t quite reach these heights. Time for a new album, already!


Paramore - Ain't it Fun

Rock doesn’t always have to be so serious, and Paramore handled their issues in a breezy, almost light-hearted way. Their sound blends rock, pop and indie with an occasional touch of something harder, but not much. The songs are always front and centre though, and in Hayley Williams, the band have themselves a genuinely iconic front person in an age when such things were an almost extinct species.


Alice in Chains - Check My Brain

Grunge survivors Alice in Chains proved quite easily that there was life in ‘them bones’ after the tragic passing of two original members. 2008’s comeback single Check My Brain contains one of the decade’s greatest guitar riffs, proving once again that simplicity with a twist is the way to go!

AIC have continued to hold the bar high with two further albums, but it's this tune that sticks out in particular. Crunchy as hell with doom-laden harmony vocals? I’ll take it!


Kings of Leon - Use Somebody

Briefly, the Kings of Leon was as enormous as U2, and whilst that moment didn’t last, everyone who witnessed it will remember the gigantic tunes from 2008’s Only By the Night. Channelling unabashed stadium rock sounds into their southern-fried rock, the Kings achieved that all-to-rare win of making crowd-pleasing music that never felt like it was pandering to a particular audience.


Slipknot - Duality

How many people expected Slipknot to still be around in 2024, farless still wearing their masks? Longevity and song quality have long since proven them as no mere gimmick, and their tunes are some of the most crushingly heavy of the last few decades. 

That said, being heavy is a dime a dozen: what Slipknot repeatedly achieve - as you can hear on Duality - is to fill those heavy breezeblocks with enough hooks, grooves and surprises to elevate their ferocity into an artform.


Arctic Monkeys - Do I Wanna Know

From nowhere to massive in the space of months, it was like the Arctic Monkeys were beamed in from some alternate version of working-class Sheffield where everybody was into Scott Walker. Their initial success made way for a career that has seen them take a number of less-than-obvious paths, but luckily, they’ve often remembered to chuck out tunes like this on the way. I can guarantee you that every guitar store employee will have a very close and unique relationship with the riff on this tune, given how often they’ll have heard folk playing it!


Dragonforce - Through the Fire and the Flames

I’ve never quite figured out whether Dragonforce were a semi-joke like The Darkness or a serious proposition, but I’d never question their ability! Finding fame via Guitar Hero (remember that?), this face-melter is metal moulded in only the most classic of shapes: speed, displays of technique, vague lyrics about conquering things…it’s all here, performed with gusto by a band that you just know are living their best life.


Deftones - Diamond Eyes

Often described as the ‘nu metal band it’s okay to like’, Deftones were never really that at all. Instead, their deceptively simple songs defy categorisation (other than, I suppose, ‘good’) and their subtleties reveal a group of musicians who are actually pretty meticulous.

But forget all that: Diamond Eyes has a HUGE eight string guitar riff that honestly sounds like some Godzilla-sized creature slowly stomping its massive, clawed feet in your direction. Add to that a sparkly, celestial chorus, and you have a song that’s pretty damn perfect.

Foo Fighters - Best of You

Not liking the Foo Fighters is like not liking chips: they may not be your ultimate number one choice, but you’re always happy to get more!

Dave ‘Nicest Man in Rock’ Grohl has been making stadium-sized rock for decades, and he has that common touch that allows his tunes to reach through between genre and age gaps, uniting everybody who just loves a good tune. This is one of his best!


Ghost - He Is

A heavy metal Abba who dress like a Hammer horror movie? Sounds like the best thing EVER, and Sweden’s Ghost are not far off it. Despite being absolutely nothing like as heavy sounding as they look, there’s really no arguing with how great most of their songs are. I picked this one because it was an early triumph for the band, before they became an arena act, but I could’ve easily chosen about twelve others. Get over his marmite voice and just have fun with it: it’s what they want!


My Chemical Romance - Welcome to the Black Parade

Another band with a flair for the dramatic is My Chemical Romance. Known as an emo band (a term that annoys anyone who isn’t a fan of emo music), MCR actually brought a fair bit more to their sound than that. This emotive epic from seminal album The Black Parade adds a touch of nostalgia, drama and more than a bit of Queen to proceedings. This song travels the fine line between genius and lunacy, and scores a resounding hit for a scene that was wrongly written off as temporary. “Will you defeat them? Your demons, and all the non-believers?” Looks like they did.


Muse - Knights of Cydonia

Muse are another band who’ve never been afraid to ‘go big’ and indeed to borrow abundantly from Queen. This final cut from 2006’s Black Holes & Revelations gives up space for that ol’ classic: the outer space sci-fi Western movie soundtrack.

Knights of Cydonia is a gleefully bonkers tune which is equal parts pastiche and straight exercise in thunderous rock dynamics.


Mastodon - Oblivion

With 2009’s Crack the Skye, arty sludge-rockers Mastodon successfully upped their game from prog-leaning metallers to epic vision-quest tastemakers. Becoming somewhat more accessible without necessarily diluted their core sound, Mastodon kept the twisty-turny riffing, but married that to ever-more melodic vocal parts, and became massive in the process.

Oblivion was the album opener, and features the lead vocals of ¾ of the band, alongside a swathe of music that’s equal parts epic and seasick. A classic.


Animals as Leaders - CAFO

It’s already well known as a line drawn in the sand for this generation’s guitar heroes. The 70s had Jimmy Page, the 80s had Eddie Van Halen, the 90s was Steve Vai and this time, it’s Tosin Abasi who is dropping jaws.

There is simply a before and after moment with this band and this song in particular. Abasi’s next-level speed and fluency is mixed with some truly otherworldly ideas, all performed impeccably. He’s already a player who has been heavy studied and copied (that’s the internet for ya, folks!) but AAL’s reputation will remain for a long time as contemporary game-changers.


Polyphia - G.O.A.T.

One such band who’ve clearly taken notes from Animals as Leaders would be Polyphia. Whether they last or not is something we’ll have to wait and see, but there’s definitely a real hunger for their sound, judging by how popular their gigs are, not to mention their signature Ibanez guitars!

Calling a song G.O.A.T. is very ‘now’ too, and their blend of showy clean sounding fusion is a bit of a missing link between several of today’s genres, so that are very much inhabiting the current technical music zeitgeist. 


Turnstile - Real Thing

Blending pleasingly brutal riffs with an accessibility that most metal bands eschew, Turnstile are turning into poster boys for current heavy music.

Is it contrived? Maybe so, but it’s also energising and highly satisfying, so how cares? Turnstile have created the blueprint for what metal sounds like right now, and I’m sure we’ll get loads of soundalike bands coming through the ranks soon.


Amyl & the Sniffers: Guided by Angels

Doing absolutely nothing new but everything really well, Aussies Amyl & the Sniffers are behaving and making music like old-school rock stars. Theirs is a familiar tale of rebellious debauchery and self-made Determinism, but damn if it doesn’t sound excellent! Defiance always does, especially with Australian accents!

This is music for getting through the night on adrenaline and seeing the sun rise after a sleepless adventure. Its’ veritably pulsing with life: isn’t that what rock music’s all about?


Did I Miss Your Favourite Song?

There you go: twenty belters, thrown down in absolutely no particular order. How many great songs did I miss? I suppose that depends on whether you’re a Coldplay or Kid Rock fan, and if that’s the case, I shudder to imagine what the rest of your list contains! Oohhh!

Anyway, this list was compiled by a bunch of staff here at guitarguitar, and I think that, overall, it’s pretty excellent. If there’s anything you haven’t yet heard, well, now’s the chance! I hope you enjoyed hearing old favourites or getting turned on to something new: that’s what it’s all about! 


Ray's photo

About the author


Features Editor

I'm a musician and artist originally from the South West coast of Scotland. I studied Visual Arts and Film Studies at...

View Profile

Here are some similar articles you might like