While Metallica’s 40th-year celebrations have been continuing with no stop, we decided to list the best Metallica songs for you from the regarded band’s all albums.
Metallica is a heavy metal band known for being aggressive and loud. It was formed in Los Angeles in 1981. Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield are active members of the band, as are Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo. Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield were also founding members of the band. They have a large fan base and have been gaining great respect in the music industry. They have continued their music career since 1981, releasing ten studio albums, eight live albums, three extended plays, 43 singles, 10 video albums, 42 music videos, one soundtrack album, one collaboration album, and three box sets.
And as Metallica has completed its 40th year in the music industry, we have gathered the band’s best songs from each album and tried to explain their stories.
13 Best Metallica Songs
13- Seek & Destroy
- Album: Kill ‘Em All, 1983
The traditional closing song of Metallica concerts, Seek & Destroy, belongs to the ninth track from their debut studio album, Kill ‘Em All, which is also the first studio album, and the song also being first one recorded in a studio as well. On the other side, Seek & Destroy has become the third-most performed song in the band’s history, as Metallica has played 1,525 times as of October 2019 and has been frequently performed at the group’s concerts since its live debut in 1982.
While the song is also one of the regarded band’s oldest songs, which goes back to Dave Mustaine‘s tenure in the group, it showcases the urge to kill without literally doing it, which was also reflected as being about hunting by James Hetfield.
12- Creeping Death
- Album: Ride the Lightning, 1984
The one and only commercial single of Metallica‘s second studio album, Creeping Death was actually written from the perspective of the Angel of Death describing the tenth plague of Egypt. And the guitar riff for the bride section was already written by Kirk Hammett when he was only a 16-year-old teenager.
On the other hand, Kirk Hammett has also written the middle section of the song while he was still in Exodus. So, Creeping Death had also been used for the Exodus setlist for live shows as it was called “Die by His Hand,” although it was never used on any albums of Exodus, as well.
Ultimately, it’s also known that the song was inspired by the film based on the Bible tale of the Plagues of Egypt, The Ten Commandments. In the scene of the final plague killing every Egyptian first-born child, Cliff Burton remarked “Whoa – it’s like creeping death”, as the plague was represented by a fog rolling into the Pharaoh’s palace.
11- Master of Puppets
- Album: Master of Puppets
The only single from the band’s 1986 studio album of the same name, Master of Puppets has become arguably the best heavy metal album ever written, receiving everyone’s acclaim and admiration. The song is also the bassist Cliff Burton‘s favorite song on the album like almost everyone, as the regarded band frequently played it at concerts, too.
James Hetfield explained the song, saying,
“It deals pretty much with drugs. How things get switched around, instead of you controlling what you’re taking and doing, it’s drugs controlling you.”
- Album: …And Justice For All, 1988
An anti-war song, One is the third and final single from Metallica fourth studio album, …And Justice for All, written by band members Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield. The song tells the story of a World War I soldier, which is based on Dalton Trumbo’s nightmarish 1939 novel Johnny Got His Gun, praying God to take his life after he got wounded by a landmine and became blind and unable to speak or move.
On the other side, One also was Metallica’s first song that reached reaching number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. James Hetfield also explained the song during a past interview of his in 2013 and said: “War is a part of man. We’re just writing about it. It’s not good or bad, it’s just a thing.”
As One also won a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1990, the first-ever to win in that category, it’s also one of the most popular pieces of Metallica along with being the performed song from …And Justice for All.
9- Nothing Else Matters
- Album: Metallica, 1991
Nothing Else Matters was released in 1992 as the third single from Metallica‘s self-titled fifth studio album, reaching the top ten on many charts. The song is also one of Metallica’s best-known and most popular songs as it also has become a staple in live performances, this list wouldn’t be completed without it.
While the song was also seen as an unfamiliar theme for the regarded band, James Hetfield had actually no intention to release it when he first wrote the song to bum out about being away from home in 1990 during a tour. But later, Lars Ulrich heard the open-hearted love song the lead singer wrote for his girlfriend, and it was considered for the album afterward.
8- Hero of the Day
- Album: Load, 1996
Another power ballad like Nothing Else Matters, Here of the Day was Metallica‘s second single release from the album, Load, and became the regarded band’s second consecutive number-one hit on the US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
James Hetfield explained this song’s story as it is about children who look outside of their homes for heroes when their heroes should be their parents. And also Kirk Hammett talked about the power ballad, reflecting it contains one of his favorite Metallica guitar solos, and said: “it’s not a particularly shreddy solo, but it’s a really melodic and I feel it definitely lifts the song up to a different level after it comes in.”
7- The Unforgiven II
- Album: Reload, 1997
One of the most regarded and beloved song of Metallica, The Unforgiven II has also become one of the signature and acclaimed songs in all-metal music industry, for sure. The song was written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett for the album Reload as a sequel to The Unforgiven, which belongs to the second single from their eponymous fifth album Metallica (also known as The Black Album), as both songs have similar musical themes.
During one of his previous interviews, Lars Ulrich told how The Unforgiven II came to alive and was written, as the band wanted to try something new with the idea of a ballad. While having heavy, distorted verses and a softer, melodic chorus, instead of the standard melodic verse and heavy chorus like other previous ballads of Metallica, the song gathered everyone’s acclaim, dealing with the theme of the struggle of the individual against the efforts of those who would subjugate him.
- Album: St. Anger
Even if it seems that this song hasn’t got the attention and acclaim it deserved, becoming one of the classics of Metallica, it is one of the most honest and regarded songs of the band along with its content.
Frantic tells the story of the band’s past struggles with addictions like many others on St. Anger album, especially lead singer James Hetfield‘s alcohol problem, for which he spent many months in rehab. On the other side, its lyrics also draw on Zen axioms, as also Kirk Hammett brought up the Buddhist concept of dukkha and explained, saying, “Birth is pain. Life is pain. Death is pain. It’s All The Same.”
5- The Day That Never Comes
- Album: Death Magnetic, 2008
The lead single from Metallica ninth studio album, Death Magnetic, The Day That Never Comes has become one of the most touching ballads of the band, as it tackles the subject of forgiveness and resentment. Lars Ulrich explained that the lyrics were inspired by a father-son relationship, as also Kirk Hammett added to Lars Ulrich explaining the concept of the video as it deals with humanity and the relationships between human beings and how your basic sense of humanity can override any sort of politicized situation.
Also, James Hetfield talked about the lyrics of the song, along with explaining the radical difference between the song lyrics and vision intended for the music video, and said:
“That’s the beauty, I think, of writing vague but powerful lyrics – that someone like a movie director can interpret it in his own way and obviously, someone creative is able to take the metaphors and apply them to whatever he needs in his own life. The main theme of the video is the human element of forgiveness and someone doing you wrong, you feeling resentment and you being able to see through that in the next situation that might be similar and not take your rage or resentment out on the next person and basically keep spreading the disease of that through life…The one thing that I wasn’t keen on here was Metallica plugging into a modern war or a current event that might be construed as some sort of political statement on our part… There are so many celebrities that soapbox their opinions, and people believe it’s more valid because they’re popular.
For us, people are people – you should all have your own opinion. We are hopefully putting the human element in what is an unfortunate part of life. There are people over there dealing with situations like this, and we’re showing the human part of being there.”
4- Spit Out the Bon
- Album: Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, 2016
Released as the fifth single from Metallica’s tenth studio album, Spit Out the Bon has earned enormous regard and criticism as the favorite song of the album, hitting the ground at 100mph and refusing to let up.
James Hetfield explained the title “Spit Out the Bone” was taken from British punk rock band Charged GBH‘s song “Passenger on the Menu” from their 1982 album City Baby Attacked by Rats, as he also explained how it was written and its lyrics’ meaning, saying:
“We could be a much more efficient race if we just allow computers to help us. And yeah, they are helping us, but how far does that go? All of that craziness. So ‘Spit Out the Bone’ is that your bones aren’t needed. They break.
‘Spit Out the Bone’ was just an adventure, man. I have versions of that song that are two to three minutes long. We just kept going and going and going. That was also the first song where we went, ‘Wait a minute, is there too much of a good thing here?’ And then we started peeling it back. It was one of those where you just keep going to different universes and different modes and areas because it was super fun.”
3- Enter Sandman
- Album: Metallica, 1991
The opening track and lead single from Metallica’s self-titled fifth album, Enter Sandman has become the regarded band’s one of greatest songs undoubtedly, as it reached number 16 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and achieved platinum certification for more than 1,000,000 copies shipped in the United States. It also spurred sales of over 30 million copies for Metallica, propelling the regarded band to worldwide popularity.
The song first started evolving from a guitar riff that Kirk Hammett wrote after he was inspired by Soundgarden‘s 1989 album Louder Than Love. While its music was getting shaped, the lyrics of Enter Sandman were among the album’s last to have lyrics, as it was built by a dark narrative. The song was written by Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, and Lars Ulrich, telling the story of a child’s nightmares. Lyrics are also about destroying the perfect family with a huge secret, while it also refers to crib death, as well.
2- Ride The Lightning
- Album: Ride The Lightning, 1984
The self-titled track of Metallica‘s second studio album, Ride The Lightning is one of the two album tracks that credits Dave Mustaine in it, as the song was the first with a sound big enough to match the ideas at play, emphasizing the misery of the criminal justice system.
With its impressive philosophical depth that still merits discussion today, James Hetfield also explained that the song is actually about a tale of a man sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit, but not a criticism of capital punishment, anyways.
1- Fade To Black
- Album: Ride The Lightning, 1984
Released as the first promotional single from Metallica‘s second studio album, Fade To Black is sure one of the greatest and best-known songs of the band, gaining everyone’s acclaim while it was also ranked as having the 24th best guitar solo ever among its other success.
Fade To Black is the first slow song of Metallica, as it reflects suicidal thoughts, written by James Hetfield when he felt powerless after the band’s equipment was stolen before the January 1984 show in Boston. James Hetfield also explained Fade To Black in the past, saying:
“That song was a big step for us. It was pretty much our first ballad, so we knew it would freak people out… Recording that song, I learned how frustrating acoustic guitar can be. You could hear every squeak, so I had to be careful. I wrote the song at a friend’s house in New Jersey. I was pretty depressed at the time because our gear had just been stolen, and we had been thrown out of our manager’s house for breaking shit and drinking his liquor cabinet dry. It’s a suicide song, and we got a lot of flak for it, as if kids were killing themselves because of the song. But we also got hundreds of letters from kids telling us how they related to the song and that it made them feel better.”
So, what about your favorite songs of Metallica? Let us know down below in the comments. And you may also want to check out what Metallica has been up to lately, as there are so many things going on in their career and their agenda.