The Top 10 Metallica Songs.
Aug 26, 2003 (Updated Sep 3, 2007) Write an essay on this topic.
Popular Products in MusicThe Bottom Line These ten songs have shaped the band we all know as Metallica. They are some of the finest examples of rock/metal music to date.
The name Metallica is synonymous with heavy metal music. Throughout their epic, twenty-year history, they have transformed from a grungy, underground street group into one of the most innovative and world-renowned rock groups of the twentieth century. Like any band that is able to stand the test of time and remain as popular as Metallica has, constant change was necessary to stay at the top. Over the years, their music has undergone a tremendous transformation in style like few other bands of the genre have ever done.
In the 80's and early 90's, the group was unmistakably bent on creating riff-heavy, pulse pounding thrash metal music. Songs dealt with notorious political issues such as suicide, capital punishment, and war. These traits were highlighted on the hugely successful thrash albums And Justice For All and Master of Puppets. The group was known for making very lengthy tracks, usually well over five minutes, and this trend would continue until 1990. By this time, heavy metal music was becoming less and less popular; people were listening to grunge bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, with shorter, edgier, and darker songs. Metallica realized that another album with seven, eight, and nine-minute songs would likely fail, no matter how popular they were. The group, with the help of new producer Bob Rock, decided to change their music style to fit the changes in mainstream music. With the release of their self-titled album Metallica, or "The Black Album" as many called it, the band had created a new style of more appealing, radio friendly music that rocketed the group into superstardom.
After selling over fifteen million copies of "The Black Album", the group had the support of the music media and millions of fans around the world. Metallica was now at a stage in their career where they could afford to take more risks with their music. Popular artists will always face two great challenges in their career; creating a likeable sophomore album to prove they are legitimately talented, and a follow-up to a smash-hit. Frequently, bands succeed with the former, but fail with the latter. The likely cause for this trend is the expectation of fans and the media to have the artists repeat the same format that made their smash-hit so profitable. Metallica had no interest in doing a retread of "The Black Album", and instead began to branch out with their music and experiment more than they had in the past.
The result was Load, an album that I believe is overwhelmingly their greatest accomplishment thus far. The album emphasized storytelling and simpler song structures over churning guitar riffs and screeching vocals. Musically, it was a noticeable departure from Metallica's usual array of fist-pumping rhythms and politically themed songs. Many longtime fans shamelessly balked at this new turn in style, and criticized Load on the grounds that it isn't the same as their older material, rather than seeing it for what it is: a brilliant heavy rock masterpiece and one of the best albums of the 90's. That may seem like a huge statement, but if youve listened to the album enough times and can appreciate Metallicas new sound, then its not hard to see why its one of greatest albums of the last decade.
In November 1997 came ReLoad, which follows in the same vein as Load, only with even more experimentation. While not as popular as "The Black Album" or Load, it is an album that is too often overlooked, even though the material is vastly superior to almost all of the band's previous efforts. I've stopped listening to the people who blast ReLoad because most of them that I know haven't even heard the whole album, and the others are simply too rigid and unwilling to accept any change in Metallica's music style.
The next few years would be a turbulent ride for the band. In 2000 came Metallica's well-known battle with the music sharing giant Napster, a spat that even further alienated the band's longtime supporters. In 2001, bassist Jason Newsted announced he was leaving the band, and vocalist James Hetfield checked himself into rehab for his frequent alcohol problems. During these times it was evident that the group had their share of demons to deal with, and there was a very real possibility that this was the end of Metallica. However, it was not to be, and with Hetfield finally ready and Bob Rock standing in on bass, the group recorded their eighth studio album, St. Anger
Widely, and unfairly, considered one of their worst albums, St. Anger nevertheless has since gone platinum, led by the hit singles "Frantic" and "St. Anger". While the lyrics are typically downright laughable (Frantic tick tock anyone?), it is still a very entertaining album that should have gotten a little more respect when it was released. I know that I wasnt terribly fond of it upon its release, but have since come to enjoy it quite a bit.
Which brings me to the purpose of this "review". After eleven albums, dozens of smash hits, and over twenty years of making music, there must inevitably be the discussion of the Metallica's ten best songs of all time. Granted, there is a huge list of excellent songs to choose from, but narrowing them all down to just ten is an extremely challenging task. So, without further adieu (I apologize for the length of this review, but I felt it necessary to give a brief recap on the band's career before starting), here are my choices for the top ten Metallica songs.
10) "Fuel" (ReLoad)- 4:29
- The countdown begins with the blistering heavy rocker "Fuel", which was the opening track off ReLoad. The list of tracks that could have snuck in at number ten was almost infinite, including several other ReLoad studs such as "Low Man's Lyric", "Unforgiven II", and "Where the Wild Things Are". In the end, this speedy headbanger about Hot Rods and street racing won out by an eyelash.
It begins not with an opening acoustic guitar chord or crashing drum pattern, but rather with James Hetfield barking out the familiar line, "Gimme Fuel Gimme fire/ Gimme that which I desire!". The lyrics are silly at best, but never really detract from the overall experience. Drummer Lars Ulrich is the backbone of this song, making good use of his cymbals and powering the song along when Hetfield isn't at the mike. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Kirk Hammett's fabulous guitar solo halfway through, which leads up to the devastating finale of blazing guitars, rumbling bass, and immaculate drumming. Probably the band's best opener, if it weren't for the next song...
9) "Frantic" (St. Anger)- 5:50
- Undoubtedly, the inclusion of this track will come as a surprise to most people. How best to describe "Frantic"? Just look at the title, it says it all. Despite a few snare drum incidents that plagued the album St. Anger, I thought it was actually Ulrich who was the best performer. He's absolutely electrifying on the drums from the first few charging drum patterns to the final crash of his cymbals when the song ends.
I realize the lyrics aren't of Shakespearean quality, notably the hilarious "Frantic tick tick tick tock". No, that's not a typo, those are the actual words sung with merciless menace and authority by Hetfield. Unlike many of Metallica's older records like "Kill Em All", Hetfield doesn't sing in one aggravating tone of voice for almost every song. In "Frantic" he displays flashes of the incredible range he showed on the Load albums. For example, he goes from a near whisper in the lines "This search goes on/ On and on.." to outright screaming in the "Tick tock" section. But the best part of this track is at the 3:45 mark where Hammett and Hetfield fire away on an amazing dual guitar segment before the rest of the band comes barreling in. This song is a headbanger's dream, and is clearly worthy of its number nine placing.
8) "The Struggle Within" (Black Album)- 3:55
- The list of brutal thrashers continues at number eight with the thrilling closer "The Struggle Within". Similar to the previous track, this opens once more with Ulrich carefully smashing away on his drum kit before everyone else joins in. The guitars gather momentum, and Jason Newsted fills in admirably with a low, vibrating bass until the song reaches a lightning quick tempo a few seconds later.
While some may argue that at just under four minutes, it's one of the band's shortest efforts, it's also one of the catchier songs too. Hetfield growls a lot, speaking about one man's inner pain and his hopeless outlook on life. This is evident from the lines "Struggle Within/ It suits you fine" and "Home is not a home, it becomes a hell/ Turning it into your prison cell". Compared the mediocrity of the Black Album, this track is a standout, and seems to harken back to the Master of Puppets days. It's a fast-paced and relentless effort that's sure to please any metal fan.
7) Battery (Master of Puppets)- 5:10
- Clocking in at number seven is Battery, which was the first track off Metallicas immensely successful album Master of Puppets. The opening acoustic guitar melody makes this track one of the most instantly recognizable songs of its genre, and is also one of the best. Hetfield once said when referring to this song, Theres a good and a bad side of a battery. We were very good at the negative. This song is special to me, as it was the first Metallica song I ever heard, and is to this day one of their finest achievements.
It was recorded in 1985, and it certainly shows. Hetfields vocals still hadnt matured yet, which is frankly the only downfall to be found in this otherwise vicious composition. By battery, its obviously not talking about the Energizer variety, but rather as a physical violence. Several lines, such as Hypnotizing power/ Crushing all that cower/ Battery is here to stay indicate that as a society, were unable to stop this type of assault. The superb lyrics are backed up by some wonderfully heavy thrash music. Both Hetfield and Hammett are on top of their game here, as their power chords chug along with blazing speed until Hammett is given the opportunity to let loose with a shredding guitar solo. The late Cliff Burton is equally effective with a deep, churning bass that adds a nice layer underneath the raging guitars and Ulrichs intense drum patterns.
6) "One" (...And Justice For All)- 7:24
- "One" is a chilling war story that Hetfield wrote after seeing the film "Johnny Got His Gun". It tells an uncomfortable tale of a World War I soldier who is shattered by a landmine, the outcome of which leaves him paralyzed and all alone. After losing his limbs, sight, hearing, and speech, the man is alive but is doomed to live out the rest of his life in his own hell.
It starts off with the faint noises of soldiers screaming in the background, bombs being dropped, and the ominous sounds of helicopters passing overhead. Slowly the band comes in to get the song moving, but not in the typical Metallica fashion. The first three and a half minutes are gracious, almost a ballad-like pace similar to "Sanitarium" from Master of Puppets. The last four minutes are some of the most intricate and harrowing metal music ever made. Hetfield's guitar riff that carries most of the second half is outstanding, Ulrich paces everything with his spot-on drum work, and the lyrics are expertly written.
"Now that the war is through with me"
"I'm waking up, I can not see"
"That theres not much left of me"
"Nothing is real but pain now"
"One" was also the first video the band made back in 1988, although it had to be cut down due to its long running time. Even so, it manages to perfectly capture the terrifying mood of this track. I was particularly impressed by the fact that instead of letting Hetfield scream away throughout the final two minutes, the band instead chose to let their instruments do the talking. Smart move. Led by a breathtaking guitar solo by Hammett and a punching low bass from Newsted, these final minutes are utterly stunning in their raw power. This is another fine example of Metallica's talent, as the song builds from a delicate beginning to its ultimately savage climax.
5) Hero of the Day (Load)- 4:22
- The deceptive and mesmerizing Hero of the Day kicks off the top five in fine style. A song I originally despised for a long time, basically because of my own stupidity for not listening to it all the way through. A lot of people I talk to about this track always say its too slow and boring, and I once thought like them, only to realize there is in fact, a spectacular second half.
Its songs like this which demonstrate the growth and maturity of the band. The first two minutes are generally slower and groovier, but they still manage to be extremely likeable without sounding dull or tedious. The lyrics are nicely arranged, with Hetfield speaking about a person searching for heroes on television and in music, but ignoring the real heroes in their everyday life. This message is quite clear in the music video for this track, which was filmed in black and white to give it an old 50s style appearance.
The second half of this track is a ruthless montage of Metallicas trademark rapid-fire guitars and ceaseless drumming, and is unquestionably some of the groups most furious and uncompromising work in the last decade. My favorite part was the last lines, where Hetfield hauntingly chants, Mama they try and break me over the surging background music. This is an unfaltering, aggressive, and fantastic track that is well deserved of its number five position.
4) Dyers Eve ( And Justice For All)- 5:13
- Moving on to number four, Ive chosen the mother of all thrash songs, Dyers Eve. This is, without a doubt, the quintessential speed-metal song of the 80s. It is also Metallicas fastest and most punishing song by a long shot. For its entire running length, Dyers Eve doesnt let up, even for a second. I first downloaded it (heh heh, take that Lars) last August, and have not stopped listening to it since. Theres a reason why Metallica rarely ever performs this song live. That is, of course, because its simply so fast that it would be nearly impossible to pull it off on stage without butchering the sound quality.
Speaking of sound quality, the only flaw to found with Dyers Eve is the atrocious production values by producer Flemming Rasmussen (who was consequently dumped in favor of Bob Rock for the bands next album). The song is wall-to-wall thrash at its absolute best. Ulrich crashes in on the drums while Hetfield plays an angry guitar riff that sets up the next five-minute onslaught of this barbaric track. Fuming about overly protective parents, Hetfield screams out excellent lines to the effect of Im in Hell without you/ Cannot cope without you two/ Shocked at the world that I see/ Im living blindly!. Hammetts raging guitar solo seamlessly caps off this staggering beast of a song.
3) Until It Sleeps (Load)- 4:29
- The next song needs no introduction. What is easily one of the most universally recognized and accessible songs of the 90s; Until It Sleeps is one of the defining pieces of Metallicas career. As graceful as it is heavy, and clocking in at just the right time under four and a half minutes, this song is commonly accepted as one of the bands all-time greatest hits. Due to my disdain for radio music, I never got the chance to listen to this song as much as other people, who say it was overplayed on radio stations everywhere during the release of Load.
In any case, Im not sure if I would have cared about hearing it a million times, because after three years of listening to it, Ive yet to tire of it. Thats an amazing accomplishment in and of itself. Jason Newsteds famous bass line gets things started until Hetfield creeps in with his dark, malevolent vocals Where do I take this pain of mine/ I run but it stays right by my side. Ulrich doesnt overpower the group like he frequently did on St. Anger, and just keeps things steady most of the way with a few quick drum patterns to speed things up.
Much like the song God That Failed off the Black Album, this song is about Christian Science. Hetfields mother refused to accept modern day treatment for her cancer and believed that God would heal her, and with her passing comes the inspiration for this song. Hetfield essentially lets loose the pain and anguish he suffered through after her death, which is quite clear in the lyrics So tear me open but beware/ Theres things inside without a care. Until It Sleeps is neither a slow ballad nor is it a fast rocker like the previous song, but it expertly mixes both elements together to form Metallicas third most outstanding song thus far.
2) Fixxxer (ReLoad)- 8:15
- To put it bluntly, Fixxxer is Metallicas most unheralded song. The likely cause for this is because it does take time to fully appreciate the masterful quality of the music and lyrics, but also because it had the unfortunate fate of being the closing track from ReLoad, an album most people foolishly ignored. Ive honestly never heard a song more harrowing and emotional than this one.
The theme behind this songs lyrics is definitely an ugly one, that being child abuse. Ive personally never had any experience with this topic, so I cant really relate to it, but that in no way diminishes how powerful this song is. Much like One, the build-up is slow, beginning with a soft guitar rhythm and another guitar rhythm cutting in and out before Newsted breaks in with a cavernous, droning bass line. Before long Fixxxer gets going, featuring extraordinary vocals by Hetfield and Ulrichs unwavering drumming. The lyrics are far and away the best the band has ever written. Hetfield compares the child to a voodoo doll, with each pin jabbed into him symbolizing the striking blow from the father. Here is an example of how good the lyrics get:
So tell me, can you heal what Fathers done?
Or fix this hole in a mothers son?
Can you heal the broken worlds within?
Can you strip away so we may start again?
Tell me, can you heal what Fathers done?
Or cut this rope and let us run?
Just when all seems fine and Im pain free
You jab another pin, jab another pin in me
No more pins in me
If there were ever a more stirring chorus in rock music history, Ive yet to hear it. The last ninety seconds ranks among the all-time greatest moments in the genre, where Hetfield goes for broke with an amazing vocal display that is simply unmatched in terms of sincerity and passion. If you havent heard this monumental achievement by now, then you have no idea what youre missing.
1) Bleeding Me (Load)- 8:18
- It all comes down to this: Bleeding Me is unquestionably Metallicas best song, I cant put it any simpler than that. I think its fitting that Metallicas best album, Load, would yield their best song as well. I would unreservedly recommend buying the album entirely for that song alone, its that good. Bleeding Me is flat-out an astounding musical masterpiece that soars to unparalleled heights, accompanied by terrifically written lyrics and rhythm changes like no other song the band has done before.
A beautiful guitar melody, rumbling bass line, and smooth drumming opens the song. Eventually it gives way to Hetfield, who vocally, is at his best. He speaks softly while the rest of the band gathers some momentum until they break out in a wonderful crescendo with Hetfield singing and I bleed until he reaches the equally humbling chorus:
Caught under wheels roll
I take the leech, Im Bleeding Me
Cant stop to save my soul
I take the leash thats Bleeding Me
The Bleeding of Me
I have two favorite parts to this track. The first is around the 3:35 mark, where all the instruments fade except for Ulrichs light drumming and a lingering; almost pulsating guitar rhythm thats eerie enough to send chills down your spine. The second best part of this song is two minutes later, at the 5:35 mark where Hetfield sings the chorus once more, the pace quickens as he barks out I cant take it! with so much energy and fury itll knock you off your feet. After a mind-blowing solo by Kirk Hammett, the song begins to gradually make its way back to the opening groove and ends in the same touching way as it began. All together, Bleeding Me is an epic musical feat and a phenomenal success that is hands down, the single greatest accomplishment of Metallicas career.
So, to bring closure to this enormous review, these ten classic songs define the band known as Metallica. Even though some of them are pure, hard hitting thrashers and others are more methodical but equally brilliant pieces of work, they all are stunning in their own way. Whether its the wailing guitars of Fuel, the wicked drumming of Frantic or the chilling chorus of Bleeding Me, these are the ten most impressive songs by the massively popular music group known as Metallica. Thanks for reading.
The Top 10 Tool Songs
The Top 10 Our Lady Peace Songs
More Metallica Reviews
And Justice For All
Master of Puppets
Ride the Lightning
|Read all comments (30)|Write your own comment|