It comes as no surprise that Eddie Van Halen's stunning technical abilities as a guitarist spawned legions of imitators. Like Hendrix, his style was so fresh and so revolutionary that many ambitions axe-slingers strived to copy it. Throughout the early '80s, his fluid, speedy hammer-ons and impeccable phrasing could be heard on metal, rock, and pop recordings of all stripes. Soon, there was a whole subgenre of metal containing nothing but guitar virtuosos, or "shredders." Within these shredders, there was a subset of guitarists who were equally influenced by classical music and Van Halen's guitar style. They applied hammers and sweep-picking to classical pieces, using them as vehicles for their prodigious technical abilities. Yngwie Malmsteen was the head of these Neo-Classical Metal guitarists, yet he often worked within the framework of a fairly traditionalist metal band; his records were split between sung songs and instrumental tracks. By the second half of the decade, more and more neo-metal guitarists chose to work in a strictly instrumental vein. This was true of shredders in general -- most notably Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, who broke through to mainstream recognition -- but neo-classical metal guitarists particularly benefited from the sans-singers setting, since it gave them ample room to flex their musical muscles. After all, the primary value of these neo-classical metal guitarists was their technical acumen, and fans and other guitarists alike thrilled to the sounds of extended solos, consisting of blinding arpeggios and flurries of precisely picked notes. Of course, there is a limited audience for this kind of music, and by 1992, when alternative rock had replaced metal in the hearts of many hard rockers, neo-classical metal suffered accordingly. Soon, there weren't as many classical shredders, but a few of the prog-metal bands, such as Dream Theater, carried the flame by incorporating elements of classical and neo-classical metal into their dense music.