For no other reason than to promote some metal discussion, I decided to put together a list of my favorite metal songs of all time. Note that this has nothing to do with Internet voting, nor is this an objective list of the "best" metal songs ever recorded. No, these are simply my personal favorites, the songs I've come back to time and time again over the years. Because this is an all-time list, many will come from my favorite periods in metal, with several 70's songs, a lot of NWOBHM and 80's stuff, and not a lot from more recent years. That doesn't mean there isn't great new metal out there, but I personally feel that songs for a list like this have to have stood the test of time. Some are well-known and familiar to all, while others are no doubt quite obscure. Some are legitimately great metal songs in a technical sense, while others are simplistic guilty pleasures that somehow struck a chord. And, no doubt, many songs are from familiar bands but not the expected pick, as in "of all the great songs from band X, that's the one that made this list?". Finally, I don't expect anyone to agree with all (or even many) of my picks. What can I say? These are my all-time favorites.
The order is approximate -- yes, #1 is my all-time favorite song, but after the top 10 or 20 it gets more random, as I'd be hard-pressed to insist that, say, #45 is clearly a better song than #46. Just to keep the list from turning into a Judas Sabbath lovefest, I came up with the arbitrary limitations of no more than 2 songs from any one album and no more than 5 songs from any one band.
"Veteran Of The Psychic Wars"
Blue Oyster Cult
Fire Of Unknown Origin (1981)
|Even by Cult standards, this is an unconventional song, and not a very metallic one at that. I remember hearing it when I first saw the "Heavy Metal" movie (it appeared on the soundtrack) and thinking it was quite cool. And it still is, with a haunting sci-fi mood that evokes great imagery (even without seeing the movie, in fact I have no recollection of what was showing on the screen when this song was played).|
The God Machine
Scenes From The Second Storey (1993)
|This virtually unknown band came out of nowhere in early 1993, as Scenes From The Second Storey was the very first album I bought that year, and it has remained my favorite album from that year ever since. Many of their songs (and this one in particular) have a sort of sad, melancholy undercurrent that runs through them, for reasons that are hard to pinpoint. Partially their fate might explain this, as their bassist passed away during the recording of their followup album and they broke up soon afterward. But besides that, Home in particular paints a somber picture, the lyrics seem to reference a young man dying in a crash before his time (I've always envisioned what a video for this song might look like, with quick flashes of a car crash, perhaps some sort of ethereal beings leading his soul to heaven). For the uninitiated, I'll stand by the description I once read of this band's style -- a cross of Jane's Addiction (vocals for sure), Soundgarden (not grunge, but the heavier alternative side of them), and Kyuss (general spaciness). Truly an underappreciated band.|
Hell's Fire (1981)
|Who knows where this band came from (I mean that figuratively -- literally, I know they were from Ohio). Even in its day this was a very obscure band, in fact I never owned the album, having tape-traded for it years and years ago before downloading the tracks some time later. The song was released in 1981 but sounds much earlier, the band had a clear 70's vibe and specialized in simply rocking out. The best thing about this particular song is, as the title implies, it's really two songs in one, merged together as one for no apparent reason. (Note: the clip below is actually the title track of the album rather than "Lies/Graverobber", as I couldn't find that specific song -- the style is quite similar.)|
|This was the opening track off Quartz's debut album, recorded at a time when the band didn't quite seem to know what they were going for. The mood and (especially) guitar tone just screams Dio-era Black Sabbath, which makes sense since none other than Tony Iommi produced the album. Consistency wasn't this band's selling point, but when they got it right, they excelled.|
Iron Maiden (1980)
|This is one of a handful of songs that basically jumpstarted the whole New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement. Curiously, it didn't appear on the band's debut album (except in the US), though a different version showed up on the infamous Metal For Muthas compilation. Personal memory: I had already bought the import version of this album as soon as I could (early 1980, I was still in high school), and a few months later, record store employees were actually handing out free copies of the US version for an event of some sort, and I grabbed one. I don't think anyone else in the crowd knew who the band was at all.|
"Walk Without Limbs"
Sombre Romantic (2001)
|This song is all about mood rather than classic metal heaviness, with the heavier moments effectively offset by hauntingly quiet interludes and spoken vocals. This is one of the best bands to emerge in the new millennium.|
Death In The Nursery (1982)
|Legend was my favorite band from the 80's and one of my favorite bands of all time. This track comes off their second album, the outstanding Death In The Nursery. There are several little touches that endear me to this track in particular, such as the stop-start drumming during the verses, the spiritual (but not preachy) lyrics, and a killer guitar solo.|
Led Zeppelin III (1970)
|That trademark Robert Plant wail heralds one of Zep's signature tunes. A lot of their work was really more in the hard rock vein rather than real metal, but I'd say this was one of their more metallic tunes. Short and to the point, it's been a favorite of mine for years.|
|There were a handful of Belgian bands making some noise in the early 80's, and I thought Acid was by far the best of the lot. At the time this was released, thrash was just around the corner, and this song isn't too far removed from that genre, but really this was simplistic yet effective speed metal. Not a lot in the way of originality and certainly not musical complexity, it's just a great song, though this probably belongs in the guilty pleasures category.|
Walls Of Jericho (1985)
|Not the most well-known of Helloween tunes, this was done way back when Kai Hansen was singing, one album before Michael Kiske joined and, via Keeper Of The Seven Keys, helped propel the band to stardom. But to me this was a fun little song (about pinball machines!) that I think is just plain great.|
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