I’m a pretty secretive guy. I’m not the type that puts his life on public display, hell my own parents don’t even know what the inside of my apartment looks like. That said there are three things about me that everybody knows:
1) I drink a lot of rum.
2) Pizza is my favorite food.
3) I love Metallica.
Thats right, I said it. I know its not a popular opinion to have these days buts its true, Metallica is with out a doubt the most influential musical force in my life. So When Stoudman suggested I spend some time creating more content for the music section, I thought long and hard about what to write. It’s a widely known fact that top ten lists are incredibly popular on the web, If for no other reason than they give people something to fight about. The same could be said for the subject of today’s list. It seems that no other band in heavy metal history has a fan base more dedicated and divided than Metallica. While fans of the group have no problem praising the individual time periods of Metallica’s career, I find it kind of startling that very few of us can celebrate the band as a whole. With all of that out of the way, here is the criteria for this list:
- Every Metallica album comprised of Original material will be fairly represented here. No bias towards band members appearing on them or the era in which they were produced. That being said, Lulu will be excluded because it is, in the bands own words, a collaborative effort with Lou Reed and I simply don’t know enough about him and his music to find a spot for it on this list.
- This is not a greatest hits package. Let’s be honest with each other, anyone who has listened to Metallica extensively has heard the bands biggest hits and knows why they are great. As a result, Songs like Master of Puppets and Enter Sandman may not be present here.
This probably goes without saying, but the songs listed here as well as the spots they hold are in no way definitive. I just wanted to bring attention to some gems that I feel are significant.
10 ) Trapped Under Ice (from the Album Ride The Lightning, 1984)
Trapped Under Ice is one of those songs that seems to be thrust to the wayside by fans as well as the band. Prior to the 2009 World Magnetic tour, Metallica had only performed this song (about a panicking man frozen in a cryogenic tube with his mind still active) live on five occasions. On one such occasion, Metallica front man James Hetfield was Quoted as saying “Some guy asked us to play this song before the show. We haven’t played it in like 15 years. So don’t blame us for the fuck ups.”
9 ) Dyers Eve (From the Album …And Justice For All, 1989)
Its no question that …And Justice For All was an all around difficult album for Metallica. It was the first time they stepped into the studio without Cliff Burton and the first time they did so with Jason Newsted. More importantly, they had to prove that without Cliff Burton behind them, they were still capable of producing the same brand of metal that made them icons of the genre. Metallica may have proven themselves a bit too much. The music video for the song One served as a double-edged sword, making Justice Metallica’s most commercially successful album of the eighties, while at the same time creating controversy throughout the fan base, who had come to value Metallica’s opposition to media outlets like MTV. Many of the songs were so long that in order to be digestible during radio play and live sets, they had to either be trimmed down or cut out all together. No other song has been as unlucky as Dyer’s Eve. Its only appearance on a Metallica set list was in 2007, reportedly because the speed and complex song structure made it too difficult for the band to perform in front of a live audience.
8 ) Attitude (From the album ReLoad, 1997)
Metallica has always been praised for their guitar work, and it is with that in mind that this song represents ReLoad on our list. Say what you will about the album itself, but Attitude’s introductory chords are enough to make anybody turn their head and take notice. That’s it, no back story, no in depth analysis of the lyrics, just an acknowledgment of some badass rock n’ roll guitars.
7 ) The House That Jack Built (From the Album Load, 1996)
The House That Jack Built is a real mixed bag. It’s arguably one of the weirdest songs on the Load album, which is arguably Metallica’s most experimental record. In place of the fast machine gun style guitar riffs and driving bass drums (as well as the traditional political and social themes previously associated with the band), Metallica opted to try something different. In a way, they gave fans something they had always wanted: an up close and personal look at Metallica. Songs like Momma Said would chronicle James Hetfield’s relationship with his mother as well as her battle with cancer, while Until It Sleeps would serve as an acknowledgement of his legendary temper. House That Jack Built on the other hand, would illustrate the band’s relationship with drug use and alcoholism. The extensive use of whammy bars and dark crunching riffs would accent the effects of substances and the settings in which users may commonly find themselves, while the lyrics would concentrate on a more personal meaning: the band’s (ever) growing dependency on vice, the effects it was having on their bodies, and the deterioration of the friendship between them. Nowhere is this more present then the song’s chorus: “The higher you are the farther you fall, the longer you walk the further you’ll crawl. My body, my temple, this temple it tilts step into the house that jack built.”
6 ) The God That Failed (From the album Metallica, 1991)
Metallica’s self titled release from 1991 (known to fans as “The Black Album”) is with out a doubt the hardest album to put on a list like this, mostly because it is without a doubt the most popular heavy metal record ever. As such, there aren’t really any hidden gems on it so to speak, nor is there anything I can say about the songs from that record that hasn’t been said thousands of times over. With that in mind, I present you with my favorite song from the record. The God That Failed is an essay on mankind’s dependence on faith, as well as a Jab at Christian Science by James Hetfield after his mother refused traditional cancer treatments, instead relying on her faith in God to provide her with a cure.
5 ) All Within My Hands (From the album St. Anger. 2003)
If Metallica’s 2003 outing is the story of a band falling apart at the seams, then All Within My Hands is the first string pulled. It deals with themes of control and the lengths some people will go to in order to have it. There isn’t much in the way of musical greatness on this record. The garage sound and mish-mashed lyrical styles of four different people make it a difficult record to digest, even for the most seasoned Metallica fan. Still, that’s the definition of a hidden gem, isn’t it?
4 ) No Leaf Clover (From the album S&M, 1999)
You might think I’m cheating here, and yeah I guess I am. S&M is a live collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony that is comprised mostly of previously released material with an orchestral accompaniment. This is not exactly an original concept. However, there were two songs performed that night that were written specifically for the album; No Leaf Clover is one of those songs. Typical lyrical arrangement found in Metallica’s previous efforts continue here, this time centered around themes involving the intruding consistent nature of bad luck, while the orchestral backdrop provides a sense of legitimacy to the heavy metal genre and serves as a perfect accent to the band’s already apparent musical prowess.
3 ) Welcome Home (Sanitarium) (From the album Master of Puppets, 1986)
Once again I find myself at the same crossroads that appeared while trying to represent the Black Album. Master of Puppets is considered by every Metallica fan to be their finest work, and by many people the greatest heavy metal album of all time. Everyone who considers themselves to be a metal head knows of it and as such there aren’t any hidden gems for us to explore. Instead, I’m going to rely on the familiarity of the subject matter. Welcome Home (Sanitarium) is Metallica’s tribute to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The lyrics depict the blight of a man trapped in an asylum, his ongoing moral battle characterized with lyrics and guitar that become harsher, and more distorted as the song goes on, eventually concluding in the title character leading a revolt inside the asylum.
2 ) My Apocalypse (From the album Death Magnetic, 2008)
Death Magnetic…Say that name and watch the room part like the red sea. Metallica’s most recent album was initially greeted with high praise from both fans and critics who saw the record as Metallica’s return to form. My Apocalypse was often cited as proof of that argument. While it’s not the longest song on the record, all of the signature elements are there. It’s just a shame they chose to follow this with Lulu.
1 ) The Four Horsemen (From the album Kill em All , 1983)
The Four Horsemen isn’t an underrated song. It wasn’t passed over by the fans or ignored by the band, doomed to collect dust in the annals of Metallica history. No, this song is on here for the same reason as Attitude, it’s just a bad ass song! Originally conceptualized by Dave Mustaine (barf), Metallica increased the tempo and stripped the song of the sexually provocative lyrics, putting in their place a roaring re-telling of the biblical texts in which the horsemen are mentioned. The title would go on to be used as the bands nickname, accenting the ferocity of their live performance.