I like your old stuff better than your new stuff
Not only am I an 80s metal tragic but I have been a massive fan of the heavy metal band Metallica since their insurrection in 1983 with the album Kill Em All. As a guitar player I often spent countless hours in my bedroom learning riffs, rhythms, and solos and despite my frustration at times, I lived for the challenge.
The following top 20 songs are my personal collection of favourites taken from everything recorded up until the Black album.
I guess they kind of lost me after that. But that’s not to say I don’t like their newer stuff… I just like their older stuff better.
Okay here goes …
20. Hit the lights (Kill Em All)
When you loaded this cassette into the deck and pressed play you knew what you were going to get right from the start.
This opening track from Kill Em All rips you out of your seat and thrusts you straight into the mosh pit. A cracking track from a cracking album!
19. And Justice For All (And Justice For All)
When I hear this song my mind races back to the Wallaroo sandhills in South Australia. It was a time of mullets, ghetto blasters, and double D batteries.
We were a motley bunch who would scramble all the money we had to buy as many beers as we could afford. We would then spend the night drunk and head banging to this album around the campfire. Oh the joy of being a broke teenager.
18. Nothing Else Matters (Black)
Wow! I’m sure Miley Cyrus and Elton John would agree this is such a well composed song.
Check this out if you haven’t already:
It shows a softer, more reflective side to the band both musically and lyrically.
17. Blackened (And Justice For All)
A guitar shredding masterpiece. Didn’t quite hit home to me just how amazing this song actually is until I saw a teenage girl playing the song on guitar in its entirety on YouTube.
Yes I did try and learn it but got as far as the main solo and … well yea… leave that one to the masters.
16. Battery (Kill Em All)
Best intro ever and the song that Robert Trujillo nailed in his first jam with the band!
Inverted chords and acoustic guitars lead you into a frantically-paced finger bleeder.
15. Wherever I May Roam (Black)
This is the song you play when you go to a party and all the jukebox offers is top 40 rubbish.
Like a diamond in the rough, I came across this song and thrashed it so loud I managed to scare off the techno heads long enough to play it twice.
14. One (And Justice For All)
The pivotal and probably most defining song of their career. I was 15 and MTV was huge. Not only did I engage with the official video but had to learn this song.
I still remember when the band played this at the Music Awards and the audience realised that Metallica aren’t so scary. Yes you can appreciate them.
13. Whiplash (Kill Em All)
Ahh the first album. What can I say.. the genius of bassist Cliff Burton added with a dash of Dave Mustane (Megadeth).
A real head banger and great for doing a gym workout.
12. The Last Caress (Garage Days Re-Revisited)
This little gem hints at the band’s punk influence and general rawness of sound in the early days.
Even in the garage they sounded great. Warning, lyrics are explicit.
11. The Four Horsemen (Kill Em All)
What a killer rhythm! This track defines the sound of the Kill Em All album. In particular, the young raw vocals of James Hetfield.
Crank it up loud and bang your head to the change at 2 mins 33 secs. Your bass player will love it!
10. For Whom The Bells Toll (Ride The Lightning)
The amps got bigger and the guitars got louder on this album. And I can’t help but feel a slight tribute to AC/DC’s Hells Bells, nevertheless, a great song.
The opening and verse riffs are just trademark Metallica. Kirk Hammett plays some of his best fills on this track.
9. Welcome Home Sanitarium (Master Of Puppets)
The opening riff is an inspiration to lounge room guitarists alike. In fact my drummer only knows one chord (the power chord) but could still play this song note for note on a beat up acoustic.
Chopping solo riff.
8. Enter Sandman (Black)
Now, many would argue this was the breakthrough song for Metallica and I do agree it did muster much support from a mainstream audience.
This song taps into a child’s fear of the dark and is something we can all relate to. Simple but effectively haunting riff. Even your grandparents would like this track.
7. No Remorse (Kill Em All)
Blistering solos, great riffs, great changes.
What can I say? A great song.
6. Jump in the Fire (Kill Em All)
This intro/chorus riff is one of my favourites especially how it flows so organically into the verse riff. James really belts the vocals out on this. The lyrics are simple and the song is a bluesy hard rock sounding track that is fun to play.
A good one to learn when you’re just starting out although once again Hammett shows his pace and skill in the outro solo. Good luck with that.
5. Ride the Lightning (Ride The Lightning)
It took me the best part of a month to learn this song but it was well worth it. I remember I blew up my amp and had to revert to an acoustic.
The instrumental break and Hammett’s solo really set the scene for the next album, Master of Puppets.
4. Orion (Master Of Puppets)
This instrumental song showcases the band’s ability to vary time signatures and seduces you into feeling mesmerized from the rhythm.
There’s a strong emotion underlying the solo with a melodic change that brings a sense of sadness reminiscent to the style of Iron Maiden.
A big shout out to My good friends, Hidden Intent who play this song regularly at their live shows and do it the justice it deserves.
3. Seek and Destroy (Kill Em All)
The first ever Metallica song I learnt. Certainly achievable for any budding 13 year old guitar player with a second hand Gibson and distortion pedal.
Everything about this song is just cool. Especially the faster tempo change, riffs and solos. My only regret is I didn’t think of those riffs first.
2. Fade to Black (Ride The Lightning)
When I die, could someone please play this song at my funeral. Yes it’s that kind of song and that’s how I feel whenever I hear it. Such a simple chord progression (Am, C, G, Em).
The lyrics are poetic and the symphonic sounding solo over the intro riff sends chills up my spine every time. The outro solo over B, A, G progression finishes with gusto. I had to learn this song note for note. Don’t ask me to sing it though.
1. Master of Puppets (Master Of Puppets)
Okay, so my number one song is this belter of a track from the album with the same name. I’m sure everyone has an opinion on what is their best song, again it’s a personal preference, but this song to me is the essence of what Metallica are about.
A friend of mine played this entire song on an acoustic guitar in front of me and my jaw dropped to the ground. I just had to learn it! Whether you are a guitarist or drummer you will appreciate the arrangements and technique it requires to play this track.
On a deeper level the song protests the stupidity of war! Who can argue with that?
So there you go. My top twenty. I’ll finish by asking why do songs resonate with people?
For me a great song is something that makes you feel emotion. As a musician you not only appreciate the arrangements, sound, energy and lyrics but you will want to learn the song.
There is no doubt Metallica are an extraordinary band with a very unique sound. I think they are extremely talented. James Hetfield is an exceptional singer/songwriter and guitarist. Lars Ulrich is renowned for his drumming and rightly so.
But the key difference for me however, is Kirk Hammett writes solos that are memorable.
This little Minion, when not binge-ing on TV series, loves to fill in his time by moonlighting as a freelance blogger and writing the occasional opinion piece for his best friend Lace.