Quite arguably one of the greatest bands over the last 30 + years, Metallica have gone from thrash pioneers in underground venues in the San Francisco area to sold-out arenas all over the world, multi-platinum selling albums, nine Grammy Awards, and even have an annual Metallica Night every season with the San Francisco Giants baseball club.
Beginning in Los Angeles, California, with singer/guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich the only two constant members, they found bassist Cliff Burton who would only play with the band if they moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Northern California thrash scene was born. Firing now Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine while recording the first album, they quickly hired Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett to play lead, and has remained with the band since.
After on tour in Europe supporting the critically acclaimed Master of Puppets album, Cliff Burton lost his life in a tragic bus accident. Without taking too much of a break, the band held auditions for bass players, including Primus’ Les Claypool, with the job eventually being given to Flotsam and Jetsam bassist Jason Newsted. Newsted played with the band for 15 years, until turmoil set in the band, and Newsted left forming his own band Echobrain.
After some deep therapy within the band, Hetfield’s stint in rehab, and hiring former Suicidal Tendencies and Infectious Grooves Robert Trujillo, who is now in his eleventh year with the band, as seen in the Some Kind of Monster documentary, Metallica came back fighting and stronger than ever.
In celebration of the Mighty Metallica and their 30 years, we look at the Top 10 songs ranging from their ultimate head-banging classics, to moody and gut-wrenching power ballads, to a highly sought-after cover song that was only available as a b-side.
Image Credit: INFphoto.com
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10. “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth/Whiplash” – Kill ‘Em All
Coming out of the gate strong we have “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth/Whiplash”; the bass solo from one of the most influential metal four-stringers to ever play,Cliff Burton, “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth” quickly jumps into the metal giant that is “Whiplash”. Having one without the other just didn’t seem right.
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9. “The Unforgiven” – The Black Album
“The Unforgiven” was a step in a mature sound for the thrash metal giants, focusing on Hetfield’s masterful classical guitar artistry, with of course a mind-blowing solo from Hammett. The song, along with “Nothing Else Matters”, would serve to really give them an extra push to mainstream superstardom that “Enter Sandman” had already catapulted them to.
8. “Fuel” – Reload
As Hetfield belts out Give me fuel/give me fire/give me that which I desire, and Lars drums kick in, “Fuel” gives exactly that, 3 and a half minutes of non-stop adrenaline. Off of the somewhat ill-favored Reload there is no denying the ferocity at which this is played.
7. “Breadfan” ”Eye of the Beholder” single b-side (Budgie cover)
A tried and true Metallica fan knows the b-side “Breadfan” as one of their best songs live and their last encore of the night during the …And Justice For All tour. From a band called Budgie, Metallica keep pretty tried and true to the original, but do kick it up a few notches, especially with Hammett’s solo at the bridge. This was an especially great surprise to fans that bought the cassette single of the thunder-inducing “Eye of the Beholder”, and flipped it over to hear this gem.
6. “Creeping Death” Ride The Lightening
A ferocious song that really epitomized the genre of thrash, a bit slower than most on Kill ‘Em All but with a dark and heavy attack, which also showed the band’s progression with song construction. With a head-banging chorus “Die!” you really can’t go wrong either.
5. “Enter Sandman” Metallica/The Black Album
Metallica or The Black Album, sent Metallica into stratospheric superstardom, and no song did this more than “Enter Sandman”. It was only their second official music video in their 10-plus year career at that point, when most artist’s careers were completely dependent their getting their video played on MTV. Metallica debuted at No. 1 in ten countries and sold 650,000 in the US alone in its first week.
4. “One” – …And Justice For All
As the aforementioned “Enter Sandman” was video number two, “One” was their first official music video, and their third single from …And Justice For All, their first album without Cliff Burton. Much like “Fade To Black” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”, the build of the song is slow and then peaks in intense ferocity. The song not only showcases Hammett’s shredding but the well-crafted harmonies played between Hammett and Hetfield.
3. “Master Of Puppets” – Master of Puppets
The album Master of Puppets started the band’s road to success, debuting at No. 29 on the Billboard 200, and was their first gold record. The title track was just as impressive, clocking in at an epic eight and a half minutes, “Master of Puppets” gave every element of Metallica’s songwriting from solos, to a geniously crafted bridge and middle section, to sing-a-long and head-banging lyrics. By 2003 the album would be six-times certified platinum.
2. “Fade To Black” – Ride The Lightning
“Fade To Black” started the power ballad, even before there was such a label. Off their sophomore effort Ride The Lightning, the song written by Hetfield talks about suicide and what a lost and empty feeling it is. Although the band received harsh criticism for releasing a song about suicide, they received thousands of fan letters thanking them for the song, and how it eventually saved them from suicide, hearing someone relate to how they were feeling.
1. “Seek and Destroy” Kill ‘Em All
An entire generation of air-guitarists were created with the opening riffs of “Seek and Destroy”. Skate punks, head bangers, punk rockers, all found common ground with the rawness of the song from Metallica’s debut Kill ‘Em All . “Seek and Destroy” was, and is, a true anthem to the metal and thrash genre.