Championing a mix of thrash and metal that carried speed, volume and might, Metallica entered the scene in the early-‘80s and quickly became one of the greatest heavy music acts of all time. Now with the “Quebec Magnetic” DVD on the horizon and talk of the band heading back into the studio to start recording a new studio album, it seems the perfect time to look back on Metallica’s catalog and highlight some of their greatest songs and riffs. In that spirit, we present the Top 10 Metallica Songs of All Time. Add your picks to the comments section below, metallers!
“Battery” kicks off Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” album with an unforgettable acoustic guitar riff before launching into a strong metal track with power and focus. The late Cliff Burton’s bass lines really shine here, which is why current bassist Robert Trujillo asked to start his audition with Metallica swapping licks on this ditty.
9. “…And Justice for All”
“…And Justice for All” brings drama and suspense to Metallica’s mighty catalog. The song features a memorable build-up that starts slow and lingering and gradually launches into an intense, fast, crushing close. That’s not to mention guitarist Kirk Hammett’s sky-high solo at the end and drummer Lars Ulrich’s double-bass drum lines.
While Metallica’s lyrics often get fans chanting along at shows, it’s songs like “Orion” that remind us Metallica have it with or without the mantras. “Orion” is the only instrumental song on “Master of Puppets,” and it’s a track Metallica have quietly put away following Burton’s death. It starts with Burton’s wah-wah sound, launches into some thrashing passages and goes on to feature two of Burton’s most famous solos. It’s easy to see that “Orion” is one of the most unforgettable songs Metallica have ever captured on a recording.
7. “Fade to Black”
“Fade to Black” might be Metallica’s first official ballad, but don’t let that fool you: There’s lots of might and intensity here. Despite being on the softer side for Metallica, the tune still carries the outfit’s signature brutal character, thanks to Hammett’s guitar solos and frontman James Hetfield’s lyrics dealing with the sensitive subject of suicide. Ask any Metallica fan, and you’ll quickly learn “Fade to Black” is a fan favorite.
6. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”
Like “Fade to Black,” Metallica’s “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” is a power ballad that pushes the envelope of the band’s softer dynamics. The track is the last single to feature Burton, and it appears on “Master of Puppets.” Even though this is a ballad, things get forceful towards the end of the track a la several guitar solos and some fast drum action.
5. “Creeping Death”
“Creeping Death” churns out a mid-tempo, lingering, thrash-y riff, and the song’s creepy sound lives up to its name. While the track’s meaty guitars usually get crowds pumped at shows, it’s also the chant-y chorus, which begs audiences to cry out “Die! Die! Die!” and headbang the night away.
4. “Ride the Lightning”
Lyrically, “Ride the Lightning” delivers a dark story of an innocent man who is given the sentence of death after being falsely convicted of a crime. Musically, the shady-sounding track perfectly complements the song’s grim storyline with thunderous tones and a riff that sounds like a march straight to one’s fate. Hetfield and Hammett are at their best here.
3. “For Whom the Bell Tolls”
The real star of this song is the opening guitar line, which actually has Cliff Burton playing his bass guitar through distortion and a wah-wah, creating an almost sitar-sounding passage. With such a unique guitar sound, there’s little question about Metallica’s ability and desire to branch outside of the metal norm.
2. “Seek & Destroy”
While Hetfield and Hammett’s riffs and solos are central to “Seek & Destroy,” let’s get real: What really gets the crowd psyched is the track’s call-and-response lyrics. Head to a Metallica show, and you’ll find fans just waiting for Hetfield to shout out, “Searching!” They respond, “Seek & Destroy!” It doesn’t get much more metal than this.
1. “Enter Sandman”
“Enter Sandman,” arguably, is Metallica’s most popular song. The “Metallica” album on which it appears is the best-selling metal album of all time, thanks in no small part to this grand track. “Enter Sandman” also carries one of the most popular riffs of all time, as Hammett’s simple, winding, distorted line repeats throughout the track and makes “Enter Sandman” a one-riff masterpiece.