Best Metallica Songs

Over the past three decades, no other band has had a more significant effect on heavy metal than Metallica. As we await their highly anticipated 11th studio album, 72 Seasons, we’d like to look at some tracks that stood out throughout their illustrious career.

Here are the best Metallica songs!

Seek and Destroy

Song Year: 1983

“Seek And Destroy,” the final song from their debut album “Kill ‘Em All,” must be one of the most popular tracks of Metallica’s entire career. It has been their closing track for most live concerts in the last few years, and it’s understandable why. The song is catchy and has some great energy, characteristic of Metallica’s music style.

The lyrics focus on vengeance and a willingness to kill, which appear to reflect the characters of Metallica members during their teenage years. If you’d like a taste of a Metallica classic, look no further!

Creeping Death

Song Year: 1984

“Creeping Death” is the lead single off their 2nd album, “Ride The Lightning.” The track begins with a melodramatic intro and then transitions into a rapid riff. The vocals start with a pleasant yell that is almost melodic. The chorus features a softer, more epic-sounding riff.

The lyrics are based on a biblical tale known as the “Plague of the Firstborn.” The track is well-loved by metal fans, even being recognized as the best all-time Metallica track by Guitar World.

The Four Horsemen

Song Year: 1983

“The Four Horsemen” was initially titled “The Mechanix” and composed by Dave Mustaine for his old band Panic. Throughout Metallica’s party days, the tune was a favorite, but without a melodic transition and with new lyrics. The initial lyrics were about a sexual encounter at a filling station.

Upon firing Dave, James Hetfield stepped up to change the song’s lyrics into something darker. The outcome is the tune we currently know as “The Four Horsemen.” The lyrics describe the end times, referencing the biblical writings concerning the Apocalypse.

Hardwired

Song Year: 2016

“Hardwired… to Self-Destruct” is easily one of the best Metallic albums of the 21st century. Its lead single, “Hardwired,” seems to be a resurgence of the classic Metallica tracks. True to that, the track was nominated for the 2017 Academy Awards for “Best Rock Song.”

On the surface, the lyrics talk about overdosing and substance addiction and associated self-destructive behaviors. However, Hetfield claims it’s more than an individual’s internal struggle. He states that the rest of humanity appears to be on an unstoppable, self-destructive course.

Blackened

Song Year: 1988

“Blackened” is the lead single of Metallica’s 4th album “…And Justice for All.” The odd/eerie-sounding introduction consists of a backward riff followed by quick, powerful guitars. It decelerates into a hefty, rhythmic element accompanied by dual guitars and a slow-paced solo by Kirk Hammett. Afterward, the track picks up speed again with Hammett’s quicker solo.

The tune follows Metallica’s tradition of including a Thrash song as the album’s opening track. The track discusses nuclear war, the extinction of humanity, the total annihilation of the earth, and the extinction of natural life.

One

Song Year: 1988

“One” is one of Metallica’s most memorable compositions. It’s regarded as a masterpiece by guitarists and Metallica enthusiasts alike. From the elaborate guitars in the track’s start to the song’s numerous dynamic shifts and Hammett’s guitar solo, this song has some of the band’s most impactful moments.

For starters, it was the first time Metallic recorded a music video. The raw video and song’s lyrics are inspired by Dalton Trumbo’s book “Johnny Got His Gun.” The artists are simply trying to highlight the effects of war. Also, it was their first time incorporating Jason Newsted, who became their bassist following Cliff Burton’s death.

Fade to Black

Song Year: 1984

Many in 1984 didn’t acknowledge Metallica as a group that’d revolutionize hard rock and heavy metal. However, “Fade To Black” from “Ride the Lightning” became a fan favorite and was among the few Metallica songs to receive radio play in the mid-to-late 1980s.

The song’s simplistic melody and quiet progression contrasted with the band’s usually multilayered sound. The song’s slow introduction and intense, suicidal lyrics are disturbingly genuine, and the track has a sense of suicide. It laid the foundation for heavy metal composition with visual, realistic vision in songwriting, evident in their subsequent albums.

To Live Is To Die

Song Year: 1988

“To Live Is To Die” is the 8th song from the 4th album “…And Justice for All.” It’s an instrumental tune in line with the band’s past three albums. For over 20 years, it’d remain their longest studio recording to be featured on an album.

The track features several spoken lines near the end that Paul Gerhardt, a German poet, penned and made famous by the 1981 movie “Excalibur.” Ideally, this is a tribute to Cliff Burton, the band’s bassist, who died in a bus crash in 1986. They even incorporated riffs written by Burton that hadn’t been used before his passing.

Master of Puppets

Song Year: 1986

“Master of Puppets” is the title tune of Metallica’s 3rd studio album. Although it doesn’t have a remarkable chart history, it’s hailed as a great metal track by prominent music institutions like Guitar World, VH1, and Total Guitar. A single release only in France explains why such a well-known song failed to make the charts. Nevertheless, it became Gold-certified in Italy.

Metallica has released numerous tracks referring to substance addiction. However, “Master of Puppets” is the most notable mention, where the “Master” is the drug and the “Puppet” the addict.

Dryer’s Eve

Song Year: 1988

“Dryer’s Eve” is a thrashy song that takes the shape of a furious, resentful letter written by a youngster. The kid’s fragile psyche was damaged throughout his formative years by those who meant to guide and protect him.

Lyrically, Hetfield rants against his parents. James’ father abandoned him during his young teens, and his mother succumbed to cancer. She declined therapy due to her Christian views. Also, James felt that his parents never permitted him to explore the world alone because their faith advocated “isolation.”

Fight Fire With Fire

Song Year: 1984

“Fight Fire With Fire” is the lead single from the album titled “Ride The Lightning.” It’s one of the quickest and most ferocious tracks on any of Metallica’s nine albums. The track begins with a lyrical verse with acoustic guitar harmonics. However, it swiftly transitions into a thrash metal onslaught driven by a guitar riff played by Hetfield.

This song’s lyrics focus on nuclear warfare and, essentially, the collapse of humanity as it consumes itself. When writing this song, Hetfield claims he’d become preoccupied with death.

Orion

Song Year: 1986

Orion marked one of Metallica’s bassist Cliff Burton’s last masterpieces. For us, the pure musical talent that flows in the track is unparalleled by any Metallica instrumentals that came before or after it. During Burton’s memorial, this was one of the tracks played to honor him.

Thanks to the track’s spacey-sounding bridge, it was named after Orion, the star constellation. It features three major sections. There’s a heavy intro, a spacey bass-led intermission, and a conclusion that returns the introductory heaviness we all associate Metallica with.

Sad but True

Song Year: 1991

“Sad but True” is the 5th and last single from their 5th self-titled album. The song is one of the band’s earliest attempts to tune down their guitars and get more intellectual with the lyrics. The song is centered on schizophrenia, and dissociative identity disorder, inspired by the 1978 film “Magic “starring Anthony Hopkins.

James Hetfield performs from the perspective of an evil individual. The track dominated Finland’s musical chart and featured on the US Billboard Hot 100 and Top 20 UK Singles Chart.

Welcome Home (Sanitarium)

Song Year: 1986

“Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” is the 4th single from Metallica’s 3rd album “Master of Puppets.” It was the band’s 2nd ballad after “Fade To Black.” Like the former and their subsequent ballad “One,” this song begins with a quiet guitar, followed by the drums and Hetfield’s vocals.

As with the other ballads, the chorus is heavy and distorted, quickly returning to the sorrowful and sluggish guitar part. Nonetheless, the conclusion is fast-paced and powerful, with Hetfield ranting passionately about his anguish and Hammett giving a solo. All the vocals feature a spooky echo sound throughout the entire song (probably to mimic being confined).

Nothing Else Matters

Song Year: 1991

Metallica might have baffled their casual fan base with the release of “Nothing Else Matters.” The song contrasts the “tough” imagery that had dominated Metallica’s previous decade. The sentimental ballad composed by Hetfield is about yearning for his then-lover Kristen Martinez while touring.

Nonetheless, for die-hard Metallica fans, the song represented the next natural step in the band’s evolution. From their 2nd album, Metallica started incorporating catchy hooks and melodies into their thrash sound. While Hetfield was initially shy to present this epic love song to his bandmates, it was just the breakthrough they needed.

Harvester of Sorrow

Song Year: 1988

In most of Metallica’s songs, Hetfield usually rants about his abusive childhood. “Harvester of Sorrow” isn’t any different from this viewpoint as the lyrics demonstrate a man who’s the victim of severe child abuse, which has traumatized him till adulthood. In the end, the lyrics point out that the individual loses his mind and murders his kin.

“Harvester of Sorrow” is the 6th single off Metallica’s 4th studio album. Unlike other tracks on the record that are somewhat fast-paced, this sounds quite sluggish, but still a great tune to headbang to!

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Song Year: 1984

“For Whom the Bell Tolls” is one of Metallica’s most recognizable songs. The track peaked at #18 on the US Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart. Over the years, the band has also released numerous renditions of the song featured on their compilation and live albums.

Lyrically, the song is focused on death. It borrows inspiration from Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Hemingway describes the process of death in modern combat and the terrible Spanish Civil War. While the track is mid-paced and not as aggressive as other Metallica songs, it still sounds natural for the band.

Wherever I May Roam

Song Year: 1991

“Wherever I May Roam” is the 4th track of the band’s self-titled 5th album. This album marked the first time the band deviated from its previous style. Rather than the adrenaline rush and aggressive music style, the band settled for a radio-friendly style that resonated with a greater audience.

This song’s lyrics are about a vagabond. Their incorporation of an electric Sitar demonstrates Metallica’s inventiveness and creativity for the introduction, which no other metal band had ever attempted.

Moth Into Flame

Song Year: 2016

With all four members clocking 50 years, Metallica isn’t getting any younger, yet that seems irrelevant to their music. Metallica’s precision, speed, and aggressiveness on “Moth Into Flame” demonstrate that this band is far from done! The band performed this track live for the first time on “The Howard Stern Show.”

Lyrically, this song explores the not-so-fancy aspect of fame and what occurs once the spotlight fades. Hammett and Hetfield kick off with a guitar duel, interweaving a melodic riff before slamming into the verses with mechanical accuracy.

Battery

Battery

Song Year: 1986

“Battery” is the lead single off Metallica’s 3rd album, Master of Puppets. Akin to the lead tracks from their past and follow-up album, the band begins with a calm, clean guitar line. Shortly into the track, they explode into full-speed thrash.

A minimalistic riff created by James Hetfield serves as the foundation for the rest of the track. And as you might expect from the title, the song’s lyrics are all about rage and violence, or, simply put, battery and assault.

The God That Failed

Song Year: 1991

“The God That Failed” featured on Metallica’s self-titled album. The track is hidden amongst some of the record’s numerous hits, but for frontman James Hetfield, it might be the album’s most personal track. Although the track explored the deeper lower tone range, it also addressed some of James Hetfield’s more profound lyrical concerns.

Hetfield’s background inspires the lyrics in a Christian Science home. After a cancer diagnosis, his mother could have undergone care, but she chose to pray instead, per Christian Science doctrine. In light of her death from cancer, Hetfield believed that God had let her down. 

Spit Out the Bone

Song Year: 2017

“Spit Out the Bone” is the final track off Metallica’s 10th album “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct.” The band first performed this track at the famous O2 Arena in the UK. The track is considered a critic and fan favorite of all songs on the album. It featured on the WWE 2K19 video game’s soundtrack.

Critics were quick to react to this track, especially when Hetfield revealed the meaning behind its title. The lyrics are inspired by how individuals today don’t connect except through mobile gadgets. The song also highlights how everybody is becoming increasingly reliant on technology.

Ride the Lightning

Song Year: 1984

“Ride the Lightning” is the title track for Metallica’s 2nd studio album. The track features a faster, darker metal infused with infectious hooks and melodies. This song was the start of what was to come for Metallica, as it was the beginning of a revolution to give their thrash track a new edge and some new variation.

Lyrically, the song addresses the criminal justice system. The artist sings from a death-row inmate’s standpoint. The inmate is bound to undergo the electric chair. However, the singer believes that it’s unjust to take away his life despite the inmate confessing to his crimes.

Disposable Heroes

Song Year: 1986

“Disposable Heroes” is the 5th track from Metallica’s 3rd album “Master of Puppets.” Unlike the title track, which was more melodic, this song is pure thrash from start to finish. Be ready to headbang!

The song sticks with the subject of deception and helplessness, consistent throughout the entire album. Lyrically, it’s about the draft system, war, and death. James Hetfield sounds incredibly outraged as he unleashes overly harsh words that attack the military. He also highlights the repercussions that the experiences of battle have on a soldier.

Hit the Lights

Song Year: 1982

“Hit the Lights” is the lead single off Metallica’s debut album “Kill ‘Em All.” The song featured on Metal Massacre hugely influenced the band’s popularity.

Lyrically, there’s not much to it, as the band members were 19 and 21 years old when it was recorded. As a result, the song brims with youthful vigor and ferocity. It’s all about the excitement of performing rock music and how much the band enjoys seeing its audience go wild. If you’d like to headbang to a Metallica tune, “Hit The Lights” is the perfect pick!

Hero of the Day

Song Year: 1996

“Hero of the Day” is the 2nd single from Metallica’s 6th studio album “Load.” At this time, the band had mastered blending their thrash metal with some melody and more intellectual lyrics. This track demonstrates these elements perfectly, as the intro features clean guitars that slowly lead you into the bass drumming and power chords.

In this song, Hetfield addresses the persons seeking heroes in the entertainment and media. The lyrics assert that anybody looking for heroes is blind to the fact that they encounter heroes daily. It’s a beautiful song that’ll get you in your feelings.

Frantic

Song Year: 2003

“Frantic” is undeniably one of the standout tracks from Metallica’s 9th studio album “St. Anger.” The track peaked at #15 on the UK Singles Chart and featured on Billboard Mainstream Rock. The song begins with a quick but subpar guitar riff and builds quite well, unlike most tracks on the album.

The lyrics focus on the extreme addiction Hetfield was dealing with during that time. In fact, during its release, he was in rehab. From his words, you can feel that he’s regretful about indulging and understands that addiction might have killed him.

Here Comes Revenge

Song Year: 2016

“Here Comes Revenge” is the 9th track off Metallica’s album “Hardwired… To Self Destruct.” While the track was released in 2016, it took nearly three years before the band started performing the track live. The reason behind this, as Hetfield explained, is the heavy theme of the song.

As per Hetfield’s account, a couple would turn up to the band’s live concerts with a picture of their daughter. Upon inquiring into the matter, Hetfield learned that their daughter, a fan of Metallica, had been a victim of a drunk driving accident. As such, you’ll feel the lyrics edge on the side of vengeance, which is understandable in such a situation.

The Unforgiven

Song Year: 1993

“The Unforgiven” is the 2nd single from Metallica’s self-titled 5th album. Ever since, the track has two sequels, “The Unforgiven I” and the “Unforgiven II,” that feature on their albums “Reload” and “Death Magnetic,” respectively. Despite being among the slowest songs on this album, the chord progression makes it one of the fiercest ballads.

The track’s theme is the individual struggle against those who seek to control somebody. If you’re a Metallic enthusiast, you’re familiar with Hetfield’s troubled childhood, and that’s what he’s trying to bring out.

Enter Sandman

Song Year: 1991

A shift between two albums can be huge, which Metallica demonstrated with “Enter Sandman.” This song contrasted with their more technical tunes like “Master of Puppets” and “…And Justice for All.”

This song is one of their most tremendous successes, charting in more than 15 nations, including the US Billboard Top 100. Lyrically, it focuses on dreams or nightmares, steered by an infectious melody and Hammett’s renowned riff.

The Call of Ktulu

Song Year: 1984

“The Call of Ktulu” is the closing song from Metallica’s 2nd album “Ride The Lightning.” The tune is the album’s longest instrumental and the longest track overall. In addition, it’s the final song to include guitarist Dave Mustaine, who was expelled before recording the band’s debut album.

This track begins melodically and steadily builds in intensity as the song develops, quickly hooking you to listening till the end.

Whiplash

Song Year: 1984

“Whiplash” is the 6th track of Metallica’s debut album “Kill ‘Em All.” The track is similar to “Hit the Light,” so if you love one, you’ll appreciate the other.

Whiplash is a serious health condition that can be brought on by excessive headbanging, resulting in injuries like those sustained in a vehicle crash. As such, the song’s lyrics are simply a dedication to the band’s fans, who love headbanging during their live performances.

Low Man’s Lyric

Song Year: 1997

“Low Man’s Lyric” is the 12th track from Metallica’s record “Reload.” James Hetfield teamed up with Lars Ulrich to pen the song’s lyrics. In some renditions, the hurdy-gurdy is incorporated into the song.

This song doesn’t adhere to Metallica’s customary thrash metal sound. It resembles more of their metal ballads, such as “Nothing Else Matters.” The song reflects the sentiments of a homeless man enduring hardship and yearning for a second chance.

The Thing That Should Not Be

Song Year: 1986

“The Thing That Should Not Be” is the 3rd track from Metallica’s 3rd album, “Master of Puppets.” The Cthulhu fictional works of early 20th-century American author H.P. Lovecraft inspired the lyrics. These tales feature a terrifying monster named Cthulhu, which shouldn’t exist.

Unlike the previous tracks on the album, “Master of Puppets” and “Battery,” this track features a slightly slower tempo. However, as it builds, you can feel the effects of the band’s thrash metal, which is raw aggressiveness.

The Outlaw Torn

Song Year: 1996

“The Outlaw Torn” is the 14th and last single of the 6th album “Load.” The lyrics talk about losing somebody significant and anxiously seeking a replacement, which never materializes. You might interpret this song as referring to the band’s deceased bassist, Cliff Burton.

The track has some blues hints and is among the album’s most vocally accented tunes. Initially, the track was longer than ten minutes, but it couldn’t fit on a compact CD, so they had to cut it.

Fuel

Song Year: 1998

“Fuel” is the 3rd track off the band’s 7th album, “Reload.” It’s likely the fasted and most aggressive track on the album. The song’s composition was a collaborative effort by all band members, including Lars Ulrich.

The track received an Academy Awards nomination for “Best Hard Rock Performance.” On the charts, it was slightly successful, peaking at #6 in the Billboard Mainstream Rock category and featuring in the top 10s in Hungary, Finland, and Australia.

Ain’t My Bitch

Song Year: 1996

“Ain’t My Bitch” is the lead single from the band’s 6th album “Load.” Once released, the song became a regular in their live performances, especially during Metallica’s world tour “Poor Touring Me.”

Thanks to its title, the song quickly garnered media notoriety and attention. Later, the band’s frontman, Hetfield, clarified that they used the word “bitch” as a metaphor for an issue, not a lady. According to this interpretation, the track’s subject is a person who’s oblivious to the troubles of others.

Top Metallica Songs Ever, Final Thoughts

Metallica is one of the most influential heavy metal bands of all time. Their vast catalog of 12 albums and over 65 singles is a testament to their longevity. Overall, this is the ultimate compilation of their most popular and influential songs.

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