David Ellefson vs. Cliff Burton

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Contractor821, Jul 29, 2013.

  1. Contractor821


    Jul 14, 2013
    Hey everyone, im not sure if this topic has been brought up or not before here on the TalkBass forums but I was curious to see what other people's opinions are on this topic... which Thrash Metal bassist is better? David Ellefson from Megadeth or Cliff Burton from Metallica.
    Now before anybody gets angry I personally think they are both amazing bassists and a lot of people have said it's hard to compare because they are both very different... well if someone had asked me I would definitely say David Ellefson is a much better Bassist.
    Again, with that being said, Burton is a great bassist but to me, Ellefson's tone is far better than Burton's and Ellefson also stands out to me when it comes to creating bass lines and fills.
    Another thing I would like ti mention is that a lot of people really love Burton's aggressive finger playing style and while I do to, I really prefer Ellefson's technique with the pick as opposed to the fingers.
    Both of them are amazing thrash metal bassists and I have nothing but respect for Burton but in my opinion, when it comes down to it, Ellefson is a far more superior bass player.
    Feel free to leave your opinion's on who's better!
  2. atheos


    Sep 28, 2008
    Tampere, Finland
    I don't really rank musicians once they reach that "no need to be any better" level. I see no point in that, I just enjoy the music.
    Sartori likes this.
  3. callofcthulhu


    Oct 16, 2012
    You really need to listen to the first three Metallica albums' isolated bass tracks if this is your opinion.

    If you listen to the whole mix all you hear is the bass supporting the guitar, but when you put it under the magnifying glass you hear some of the most beautiful, savage, and creative playing you're likely to ever hear.
  4. Scott in Dallas

    Scott in Dallas Commercial User

    Aug 16, 2005
    Dallas, north Texas
    Builder and Owner: DJ Ash Guitars
    Amazing to me that two bass players who wrote and recorded some of the greatest metal ever produced could be so different in so many ways. Very horizon-expanding to count both of them as influences. Learned Skull Beneath The Skin and Orion at about the same time.
  5. I think Cliff would win in a fist fight. Other than that...
    codycon96 and mbelue like this.
  6. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    He'd pull out that ball-peen hammer he apparently always carried around, and either win or get disqualified. :D

    On topic, I prefer Cliff. I much prefer his tone, which had a lot of sweet low-mids (particularly on Puppets, when he switched to the Aria full-time) that gives his parts a distinctive rumble. Dave, by contrast, has gone for a snappier tone, scooping it in recent years to stand with mid-heavy guitars. I don't think it's worked out very well, but I'm not going to criticize his choices.

    I don't think either of them could have taken each other's place, which to me makes them masters of their own styles.
    Misfit Wookiee likes this.
  7. xUptheIronsx

    xUptheIronsx Conform or Be Cast Out....

    Feb 6, 2010
    C-ville, Col, Ohio
    I am more partial to (and impressed by) finger playing, so I would lean towards Cliff, but both players were so influential to me from a part-writing standpoint that I could never really pick a fav. I think of it this way: Metallica with Ellefson would not have been Metallica, and vice-versa with Burton and Megadeth. I think that Ellefsons playing matched Mustaines writing better
  8. Wolf Tower 5

    Wolf Tower 5 Still looking for all the answers. Supporting Member

    May 29, 2012
    Fort Worth, TX
    It's hard to judge on where Cliff would be iris career today,, had he still been alive. If you compare just the first three albums from each group, I don't think you could pick one over the other. They both had their own style within the genre of thrash. They had completely different styles and way of approaching their bass lines. Over he years we have all seen the growth and development of Ellefson, sadly we can't see what old have been with Cliff. However, I think Ellefson has been a larger contributing force with Megadeth as opposed to any of the bassists in Metallica. I truly believe the ego of Lars and Hetfield have buried the bass in the mix just because of their egos. Newsted was phenomenal and Roberts body of work from his days in Suicidal Tendenies and Infectious Grooves is amazing. But again, Lars and Hetfield have admitted that they don't particularly care for the bass and feel its a necessary evil of he band........ That being said, it's not far from the realm of possibility that they have not and will never get past Cliff.

    In closing, I vote Ellefson. Cliff was raw emotion and talent that was great but unharnessed. Ellefson is talent, professionalism and technical knowledge. Very close call but Ellefson takes it for me.
  9. msact


    Jan 8, 2013
    Somewhere in NJ
    Dave Mustaine has been pretty harsh on bass players in general too. He said that bass is one step up from kazoo.

    That being said I think he uses Ellefson more effectively than Metallica has use any of their bass players. That is not necessarily a comment on which is the more talented.
    lancimouspitt likes this.
  10. Wolf Tower 5

    Wolf Tower 5 Still looking for all the answers. Supporting Member

    May 29, 2012
    Fort Worth, TX
    I do agree with the fact that Mustaine uses Ellefson way more than Metallica has ever let anyone besides Cliff with bass duties. I think Ellefson has proven himself as a legitimate composer also. Look at the few albums Megadeth released without Ellefson, total bombs. But, I think it was also necessary for Mustaine to see the value of Ellefson beyond just a player and see his value as a co-writer of material.

    In comparison to Metallica, Newsted and Robert are just beasts of players and can hold their own in any band, it's just a shame that you never really heard their influences on any of the Metallica records IMO. Newsted had a little on Load. The greatest atrocity of Newsteds career was "And Justice For All", the bass tracks were just buried under everything.
  11. dedpool1052


    Jan 10, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    i like'em both. they have both been influences on me in different ways and i find it hard to pick one over the other.

    i remember talking to a guy once and discussing jason's playing on flotsam & jetsam's doomsday for the deceiver and metallica AJFA. you listen to AJFA thinking "there's no way this is the same guy". jason's playing on F&J's DFTD album was quite influential to me as well.
  12. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    For a demonstration of this in the former, just see Newsted.
  13. deathsdj


    Sep 18, 2010
    Wichita, KS
    Both are great as already said.

    Cliff was unique. Inspiring. I bought a pawn shop bass the next day after I heard him play on the radio.

  14. Duckwater


    May 10, 2010
    USA, Washington
    I prefer Ellefson personally, his playing and tone on Megadeth's first album are just ridiculous.
  15. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    To me they both loose. I prefer a more extrem metal bass player.

    But I remember when I started playing bass that y teacher one day wanted me to play some Megadeath and I never heard that band before ... so ok I started reading the music and then he puts the record on and I was like "that's it ?" Metallica earliest recording had at least a more active style.
  16. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    Westchester, NY
    Personally I prefer Ellefson's style.
  17. steveharrisguy


    Jun 26, 2012
    Ellefson has a clear crisp tone which I love and his sound cuts through the guitars. His playing is very clean and precise too. Burton's tone is muddy and his playing is a bit sloppy. I think his playing serves the music well but as a bassist I think Ellefson wins. I enjoy his bright almost piano-like tone. I do like Metallica better than Megadeth though.
  18. BrianCee


    Oct 15, 2009
    Bklyn, NY
    Completely different players, but based on memorable riffs:

    Cliff: Anesthesia. the intro to For Whom. Call of Ktulu. Orion. many more

    Ellefson: his most memorable riffs were actually written by Mustaine,
    along with pretty much all of the Megadeth material.

    As a composer and soloist, without a doubt - Cliff
    As a technical and tight support player - Ellefson

    These days I do prefer Ellefson, probably largely due to Cliff's posthumous
    overhype, and me hating Metallica's guts (minus Robert)...

    Apples and Oranges
  19. thedude08322


    Jan 12, 2013
    For creativity/originality... I vote Cliff. For a foundation guy... I vote Dave. As posted before me... most of DE's riffs were actually written by Mustaine. I remember reading that Marty would complain about Ellefson to Mustaine... saying "We need a bassist who can write awesome stuff." ... or something of that nature. Growing up with these 2 bands... I always favored Megadeth... but I preferred Cliff on bass. Dude seemed larger than life and had a bigness about him. That could just be because he had already passed when I got into him and was put on a pedestal.
  20. AaronVonRock


    Feb 22, 2013
    Cliff. Overall, I think he played on better songs and had some great bass riffs. Plus, he had a bass solo on his band's debut album. How many metal bands put bass solos on their (debut) albums?

    I've never been into Megadeth that much. I don't like Mustaine's voice or style. Plus, nothing about the bass on Megadeth's songs ever jumped out at me. Workman-like (with weak vocals) is how I would describe Megadeth.

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