The other day I listened to “One,” just a fantastic Metallica song, and thought, why not a Top 10 list of Metallica songs.
I enjoy reading Top 10 lists and have occasionally done them for other publications but it’s something I’ve never done before in this forum.
I, like everyone else, get drawn into reading them. They’re quite often enlightening, usually entertaining and Top 10 lists provide an easy read for readers. However, these lists tend to be subjective and sometimes, if not always, raise the ire of someone, somewhere. Especially when it comes to music. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never thought about posting one. Providing an opinion on a concert or album is risky enough!
However, I thought it would be fun to do, stretch my boundaries and hopefully this exercise will elicit positive responses and get others to share their Top 10 songs by Metallica. If it does well and serves a purpose I’ll do more. From other bands, not Metallica.
Metallica has lots of great songs so choosing wasn’t super easy though the first five or so came rather quickly when I thought about what Metallica songs I would want with me on a deserted island. So that’s what it boiled down to. *If I had to choose what songs would accompany me on a deserted island? I only get 10 – so relax a bit if I leave out your favorite.
Best Metallica Songs
These songs are in no particular order but you can probably guess what #1 will and should be.
- Battery – Master of Puppets (1986)
Don’t let the pretty acoustic guitar opening this gem fool you, it’s about to get hard, really hard. The opening song for Master of Puppets sets the pace for the entire album. It’s one of Metallica’s most popular songs but unlike some of the more oft played ones on local radio, you leave this one on because no matter how many times you’re heard it, “Battery” gives you a charge every time.
- Fade to Black – Ride the Lightening (1984)
Lyrically as dark as it gets, “Fade to Black” is about death and suicide but seriously check out the music arrangement. You don’t even need the lyrics to know this song is depressing. It’s truly a great song to wallow your sorrows away if you find yourself at a crossroads in life, but seriously it’s just a song. Listen to the next one on this list before you get too deep.
- For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ride the Lightening (1984)
There are two rather popular songs that start off with a bell chime and if you’re in the car, faintly listening your first thought is, oh please not that song. Then Lars Ulrich drops the hammer, or at least drum sticks. Hammett’s guitar work is fantastic and just three songs in on the album know you know why Metallica was making waves in the 80s music scene dominated by New Wave.
- Orion – Master of Puppets (1986)
Not a lot of bands can pull off an eight-plus minute instrumental so maybe that’s why “Geddy, Alex, Neil of Rush” get a thank you credit in the linear notes on Master of Puppets. Metallica isn’t known for their instrumentals but of the handful they’ve done “Orion” is a standout. It’s much more progressive rock than heavy metal and if it already wasn’t clear being the penultimate song on the album, these guys are much more than a 4/4 time every song sounds alike band.
- Am I Evil – Creeping Death (1984)
Putting a cover song on this list gives a bit of disservice to some other worthy original selections however, what Metallica accomplishes with Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil” is on par with what Joe Cocker did with the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.” The song now belongs to the metal giants. Released as a B-side to the limited run single “Creeping Death” from Ride the Lightening “Am I Evil” is a solid anthem for the band featuring blistering guitar work and that awesome opening drum cadence.
- The Day That Never Comes – Death Magnetic (2008)
Constructed in the same vein as “One,” “The Day That Never Comes” builds on a solid crescendo for nearly half the song before a blitzkrieg of sonic delight. Whatever your opinion of the band’s albums between this 2009 effort and 1991’s self-title album, Death Magnetic brings Metallica back full circle to their metal days of yore. However, “The Day That Never Comes” just made this list and possibly would not be the lone song from the album if not for the production. It’s a hard record to hear because the recording is so dang loud. Apparently this was done purposely but whatever the reason, it backfired.
- Holier than Though – Metallica (1991)
The so-called Black Album, more aptly their eponymous album, was also the so-called selling out album. This is when longtime fans of the band felt Metallica went mainstream and sold out with their catchy hit “Enter Sandman” which did indeed put the California natives on radio everywhere. (Remember when KROQ in Los Angeles played Metallica for about a month?) But that over-played single is not the best song on the album. Nor is the somewhat monstrosity that for some reason gets airplay “Wherever I May Roam.”
“Holier Than Though” is short, rips, and shows the guys didn’t stray too far from what their fan base felt otherwise. By the way, I applauded their effort to reach for new heights on ensuing albums but I didn’t connect well with them. Until…
- Ride the Lightening – Ride the Lightning (1984)
Another title tract! “Ride the Lightening” rides one of the purest metal solos to greatness. On just their sophomore album way back in 1984 Metallica proved they were a force to reckon with on the metal stage and it all starts with this slick tract.
- Master of Puppets – Master Of Puppets (1986)
The title song off Metallica’s seminal 1986 album quite possibly raised the bar of heavy metal. In fact, heavy metal doesn’t seem a proper description for such a profound song. Progressive metal? Is that a term? It’s a song about cocaine and really why would anyone need to chop their breakfast on a mirror when they can get a taste of this high octane, eight and a half minute tract. The adagio section that starts at 3:30 – stellar musicianship.
Best Metallica Song
- One – …And Justice for All (1988)
If the song was entitled “Two” I’d put it at #2 though if pressed certainly “One” would compete for the #1 Metallica song. “One” is so well done musically and lyrically it ranks right up there with Rush’s “Red Barchetta” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” for storytelling. It’s pleasantly long and superbly put together. This song so ruled the late 80s that even followers of New Kids on the Block blasted it from their daddy bought cars. The guitar and double bass before the five minute mark is, well, just go listen to it.
Several others were considered but ultimately these songs made the list which of course could change over time as Metallica continues to write and record new music.