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The 151 Greatest Metallica Songs of All Time

Metallica are undeniably the most influential rock band of the past 30 years, that fact can be perceived simply by looking at the numbers.

They are on the exclusive list of music artists who have sold more than 100 million records, and each of their albums has enjoyed multi-Platinum status.

An achievement that even AC/DC, the Rolling Stones and U2 haven’t matched.


And while they’ve never really had a bona fide pop hit, dozens of Metallica songs — including “Seek and Destroy,” “Master of Puppets” and “Enter Sandman” — have become vital landmarks on the vast landscape of music history, inspiring new generations of music fans and aspiring guitarists much the same way. In that respect, Metallica’s influence can be observed simply by tuning into the very culture of modern music. To put it simply, Metallica redefined metal music. During the early Eighties, bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were considered heavy metal. But after Metallica burst out of the underground and into mainstream awareness, the terms heavy and metal didn’t quite seem to fit those bands any more. Here it is, from the least song down to number one spot of Metallica’s songs.

Go through the whole article to see the rest of songs and watch music videos


It’s difficult to believe, but we’re now farther removed from the release of Metallica’s psychotherapy-bred St. Anger in 2003 than that LP was from the world-conquering Black Album in 1991. Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the international side-eye that greeted Load in 1996; just last weekend, we passed the 15-year mark on Napster shutting down, largely as a result of drummer Lars Ulrich’s heel turn against his file-sharing fans. This is all to say: There are kids starting college this fall that have never lived in a world in which Metallica wasn’t at least a little bit a punch line, a sad state of affairs for the once-unassailable metal lords.

It’s worth taking the time to remember the original run that established Metallica as one of the greatest, most important American bands in all of rock history, and also to look back at their more controversial last 20 years of music, hopefully with less bleary eyes than the first time around. Hence, we have ranked all 151 songs in Metallica’s back catalog — official releases only, with only the most famous version of each song included — to parse which of their post-imperial hits can actually stand up next to their accepted classics in the year 2015. Back to the front, let’s ride the lightning.

151. “The Unforgiven II” (Reload, 1997)
150. “Cure” (Load, 1996)
149. “You Really Got Me” (w/ Ray Davies) (See My Friends tribute album, 2011)
148. “We Did It Again” (w/ Ja Rule & Swizz Beatz) (Swizz Beatz Presents G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories, 2002)
147. “Dragon” (w/ Lou Reed) (Lulu, 2011)
146. “Just a Bullet Away” (Beyond Magnetic, 2011)
145. “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” (“St. Anger” B-side, 2003)
144. “Wasting My Hate” (Load, 1996)
143. “Cretin Hop” (“St. Anger” B-side, 2003)
142. “Prince Charming” (Reload, 1997)
141. “Little Dog” (w/ Lou Reed) (Lulu, 2011)

We kick off with a couple of the band’s dullest jams from their dullest period, including the lifeless “Unforgiven II” (No. 151), the Speed 2: Cruise Control of metal sequels. We also have two of the band’s least-forgiving Lou Reed collabs (“Dragon,” 147, and “Little Dog,” 141), and the two least-memorable covers from Metallica’s strange Ramones cover EP (“Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” 145, and “Cretin Hop,” 143). And yes, that collaboration with Ja Rule and Swizz Beatz (“We Did It Again,” 148) is a real thing, though Metallica didn’t actually record with Ja so much as let him bark over some of their unused riffs — making for arguably a stranger experiment than anything found on Lulu.

140. “We’re a Happy Family” (“St. Anger” B-side, 2003)
139. “Poor Twisted Me” (Load, 1996)
138. “Attitude” (Reload, 1997)
137. “Pumping Blood” (w/ Lou Reed) (Lulu, 2011)
136. “Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World” (“St. Anger,” 2003)
135. “The Ecstasy of Gold” (We All Love Ennio Morricone tribute album, 2007)
134. “- Human” (S&M, 1999)
133. “Hell and Back” (Beyond Magnetic, 2011)
132. “Bad Seed” (Reload, 1997)
131. “Cheat on Me” (w/ Lou Reed) (Lulu, 2011)

More Lulu, Reload, and Ramones, as well as the band’s cute-but-inessential cover of the climactic The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly theme “The Ecstasy of Gold” (135), which has also been the intro music for the band’s concerts since ’83. There’s also the first appearance of the smothering S&M live album (“Human,” 134), in which the San Francisco Symphony hopefully at least convinced some metal-fearing parents that Metallica knew too much about classical music to actually be satanists (or whatever).

130. “Too Late Too Late” (“Hero of the Day” B-side, 1996)
129. “Carpe Diem Baby” (Reload, 1997)
128. “Sweet Amber” (St. Anger, 2003)
127. “Rebel of Babylon” (Beyond Magnetic, 2011)
126. “Thorn Within” (Load, 1996)
125. “Damage Case” (“Hero of the Day” B-side, 1996)
124. “The House Jack Built” (Load, 1996)
123. “53rd and 3rd” (“St. Anger” B-side, 2003)
122. “Fixxxer” (Reload, 1997)
121. “Frustration” (w/ Lou Reed) (Lulu, 2011)


10. “Fade to Black” (Ride the Lightning, 1984)

During my senior year, a classmate played this song for a communications class meant to teach you how to read and analyze songs and lyrics. Friends and teacher immediately wondered if the student was crying out for help (nope — he’s very much alive). That false alarm speaks to why the visceral “Fade To Black” is a jewel in the Metallica canon: the ballad (!), a poignant tale of depression and regret, was the first hint that Metallica was just as effective with a lighter touch. The band, then fixated on death, wrote the song after their gear was stolen. Years later, it’s impossible to think of this widely covered classic without thinking of bassist Cliff Burton’s untimely passing in a bus accident as Metallica was poised for global superstardom. — J.M.N.

9. “Am I Evil?” (The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited, 1987)

Metallica picked its cover songs wisely, and this tribute to NWOBHM heroesDiamond Head is one of their finest hours. Originally released as a B-side to the “Creeping Death” single in 1984, it survived as a cult hit and popped up on several reissues before getting its due on Garage Inc. in 1998.  It was also a bit of accidental philanthropy on their part, as the continuing success of “Am I Evil?” netted Diamond Head a metric s–t-ton of international attention. Plus, just listen to that riff — it doesn’t get much better. — K.K.

8. “Enter Sandman” (Metallica (The Black Album), 1991)

Metallica was a metal fixture by the time of their fifth album in 1991. “Enter Sandman,” the crown of their often-criticized partnership with mega-producer Bob Rock, was their introduction to a global listenership. The single was certified platinum and a big reason the album has sold more than 30 million copies and continues to sell more. Held together by Kirk Hammett’s career-defining riff, “Sandman” is the best of both worlds: early Metallica grit combined with pop veneer and sugary production. It’s a snapshot of when the band’s evolution from garage to arena worked; it’s catchy, yet still recognizably Metallica. For a generation of metalheads who exchanged tapes in the 1980s, “Enter Sandman” was a strange experience: the first time you could hear a band that united neighborhood metalheads played and celebrated in bars, weight rooms, and on the radio. After “Enter Sandman” things were never quite the same for Metallica — or their fans. — J.M.N.

7. “Battery” (Master of Puppets, 1986)

Most metal bands would be content with a song a tenth as good as “Fight Fire With Fire.” Metallica, being the most ambitious metal band of the ’80s, saw it as something to improve upon, and thus came “Battery.” The flamenco guitar is one such touch, but they’ve moved from warning of nuclear destruction to being the destructors themselves. The aggression is broad; it is the empowerment metal boasts but rarely delivers like this. If you are not stirred into battle, however mundane or serious your foe is, from that intro lead, you are dead — Hammett’s never busted out a more triumphant lead since. The bridge lead is equally as beautiful, and it’s too bad they’ve cut it out of live performances as of late. But much has been said about when they lost their fire. What once was is now crystallized and can be enjoyed forever, however long “forever” really is. — A.O.

6. “Ride the Lightning” (Ride the Lightning, 1984)

The title track of their second album is a young Metallica at their angriest and most feral. It’s a metal version of Ambrose Bierce’s short story An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge, the story of a man en route to face his death via electric chair. Unlike what some listeners think, it’s not a criticism of the death penalty (Hetfield mutters “guilty as charged” at the outset) as much as a matter-of-fact story like Slayer’s “Angel Of Death.” Written with an assist from Mustaine, “Lightning” contains a peerlessly glorious opening riff, inspired soling, and one of Metallica’s most memorable choruses (“Flash before my eyes / Now it’s time to die”). — J.M.N.

5. “Wherever I May Roam” (Metallica (The Black Album), 1991)

While “Enter Sandman” was the Black Album’s monster single, its smartest song comes four tracks later. Boasting a clever, exotic lead riff that pays sly homage to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns, this is the “life on the road” song these well-travelled road dogs were born to play. Hetfield’s self-mythologizing is not unlike Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive,” but unlike that band’s gaudy cowboy shtick, Hetfield takes on the persona of an old blues lifer, a ragged, weathered troubadour wandering from town to town. Atop an absolutely ferocious groove on an album that’s all about groove, Hetfield echoes Robert Johnson with his finest lyric, exuding not arrogance but iconic gravity: “Carved upon my stone / My body lie, but still I roam.” — A.B.

4. “Seek & Destroy” (Kill ‘em All, 1983)

Metal riffs mixed with punk aggression — that is what’s best in life. Metallica had yet to perfect the balance of sophistication and unbridled power on their debut, but they were still way ahead of the pack, and “Seek” best encapsulates the album’s “punch first, talk later” attitude. Who knows if they intended to play off of “Search and Destroy,” but it’s as much of a ripper. Hetfield’s voice hadn’t matured yet, and he, like the rest of the band, are still calling upon Angel Witch and Diamond Head to guide them. It’s all for the better — they took Motörhead’s motto of “Born to Lose, Live to Win” to heart in those riffs. If you played bass in high school and scoured eBay for Morley Power Wahs, Burton’s chorus rhythms — which sound more like theBat Out of Hell cover than Bat Of Out Hell itself does — are why. Metallica is as much defined by obsession — in their rabid fans, their equally determined detractors, the quality of their early works, their personal descents into madness and addiction — and “Seek” showed that early on. There is no escape, that’s for sure. — A.O.

3. “One” (…And Justice for All, 1988)

The clip for “One” elevated the band to an entirely new plane of darkness: It was bleak, it was unrelenting, it was utterly soul-destroying, and that’s exactly what Metallica wanted for its first video. Blue-tinted band members howled amidst spliced-in footage from the chilling anti-war film Johnny Got His Gun, landing them on MTV, winning them a Grammy, and establishing the band as a household name — albeit a grim specter of one. The song’s cleanly melodic but utterly chilling opening notes ushered in a tale of abject horror, and the Venom-inspired machine-gun riffs that sputter to life afterwards are jarring, adding another level of intensity to what remains one of the band’s most demanding compositions. — K.K.

2. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (Ride the Lightning, 1984)

Kill ‘Em All established Metallica as the standard-bearers for speed, but it took the rolling thunder of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” to prove the band was just as powerful taking their f—king time with it. Audaciously opening with the title-referencing ring — just four years after an even more famous hard-rock band had done the same, on the opening track to one of the best-selling albums ever — the band forever established their authority with just five notes of head-banging, chest-caving fury. The most electric moments in “For Whom” aren’t the frenzied guitar triplets or the fist-hurling chorus exhortations (though, goddamn, are those good too), but the times when the whole band pauses, mid-lurch, as if to take a moment to properly marvel at their own majesty. “Take a look to the sky just before you die / IT’S THE LAST TIME YOU WILL!” Hell of a way to go. — A.U.

1. “Master of Puppets” (Master of Puppets, 1986)

Go to any Metallica concert and every single time, the biggest audience reaction will be to the opening bars of “Master of Puppets,” and for good reason. When it first came out in early 1986, heavy metal had never heard anything like it. Sure, structurally it was similar to “Ride the Lightning” from two years earlier, but this was so much more commanding. It remains the perfect crystallization of what Metallica was all about in the ’80’s, in which intricacy, intensity, power, and melody coalesced in astonishing, unprecedented fashion. Ulrich and Burton form a rhythm section that finds that sweet spot between control and chaos: that former attacking the skins in primal fashion, the latter delivering a bass line of cool fluidity. Hammett adds valuable texture along with swift-fingered solos. And Hetfield, the greatest rhythm guitarist heavy metal would ever produce, anchors the song with playing that is pure muscle. The energy and proficiency of this song would shake the genre to its core, and like “Black Sabbath” 16 years prior, metal would never be the same afterward. — A.B.

StreeXB extends special thanks to Spin for the article. Click here to listen and watch a hundreds of Metallica song.

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