Metallica‘s popularity is well-deserved. Their albums from earlier times are timeless masterpieces. Even people unrelated to metal today can easily recognize the best Metallica songs when they hear them.
Metallica is one of the essential bands in thrash metal. Indeed, they’ve been an inspiration not just to their genre but to all of metal music. Like many metalheads, I also love Metallica. So, I’ve prepared a list for you, consisting of the best Metallica songs.
Before diving into the list, let me explain something. I’ve compiled this list entirely based on my personal taste. I particularly adore Metallica‘s first four albums: Kill ‘Em All (1983), Ride the Lightning (1984), Master of Puppets (1986), and …And Justice for All (1988). Therefore, you’ll find many tracks from these albums in my list.
While many people appreciate Metallica’s softer, slower-paced songs, for me, Metallica equals the first four albums. Of course, their other albums contain memorable, worthwhile songs, but they are relatively fewer numerically.
Now that I’ve clarified, let’s dive into my list of the best Metallica songs.
Best Metallica Songs of All Time
- The Memory Remains
- King Nothing
- No Leaf Clover
- The Shortest Straw
- Harvester of Sorrow
- Metal Militia
- Dyers Eve
- Wherever I May Roam
- The Four Horsemen
- Sad But True
- Ride the Lightning
- Seek & Destroy
- For Whom the Bell Tolls
- The Unforgiven
- Creeping Death
- Fade to Black
- Hit the Lights
- Enter Sandman
- Master of Puppets
- …And Justice for All
The Memory Remains
“Nananananana nanana…” Yes, that’s the song. Once you’ve heard it, it’s impossible to forget. The Memory Remains is undoubtedly one of Metallica’s most memorable songs and unquestionably one of the best Metallica songs.
As the second track of the Reload album, The Memory Remains also boasts a visually appealing music video. The voice of the elderly woman in the song adds a unique atmosphere, creating a beautiful contrast between the harsh lyrics and riffs.
King Nothing is a highly energizing piece, a classic 90s Metallica song. It carries straightforward and concise lyrics, something I truly appreciate.
No Leaf Clover
There’s so much to say about this track. Performed alongside the San Francisco Symphony, this song is the 8th track on the 1999 live album S&M. Despite the initial oddity of combining classical music elements with metal, No Leaf Clover is a masterpiece. The song is like a spell, utterly enchanting.
“No Leaf Clover” is the most unique song among Metallica’s songs. Especially if you enjoy symphonies and classical music, you should listen to this song. It’s definitely one of the best and most unique among the best Metallica songs.
The Shortest Straw
The Shortest Straw is one of the most underrated songs from the …And Justice for All album and unquestionably one of the best Metallica songs. Its lyrics linger in your mind and come back to you at unexpected times.
“Pulled for you (Shortest straw)
Pulled for you (Shortest straw)
Pulled for you (Shortest straw)
Shortest straw has been pulled for you
(Shortest straw) Pulled for you
(Shortest straw) Pulled for you
(Shortest straw) Pulled for you
(Shortest straw) Shortest straw has been pulled for you”
Motorbreath, the third track from Kill ‘Em All, can be described as a mix of punk and thrash. I believe it pays homage to Motörhead due to its name. Each member of Metallica is a huge Motörhead fan.
Specifically, I think it was influenced by Judas Priest’s song Rapid Fire. The guitar solo midway through the song always reminds me of Rapid Fire.
The line in the lyrics, “Don’t stop for nothing, it’s full speed or nothing,” is absolutely fantastic. This lyrics seems more like summarizing the ‘Kill ‘Em All’ album.
Harvester of Sorrow
One of the darkest Metallica songs, Harvester of Sorrow, one of the standout tracks from …And Justice for All. Especially the initial guitar riffs in this song feel like sorrow creeping towards you.
Another underrated Metallica song is Metal Militia. It’s one of the songs that best reflects the early Metallica spirit, closing out the Kill ‘Em All album.
Metal Militia is an exemplary high-tempo thrash song that can invigorate your veins. It’s like an ode to metal.
Another dark Metallica piece is Dyers Eve. Looking at the lyrics, we can see the rebellion of a teenager against their family. The song encapsulates the desperate rebellion of a young person against their family. The opening line, “Dear Mother, dear Father!” is strikingly powerful.
The most impactful part of the lyrics for me is:
“Dear Mother, dear Father! Time has frozen still what’s left to be
Hear nothing, say nothing! Cannot face the fact I think for me
No guarantee, it’s life as is
But damn you for not giving me my chance”
Wherever I May Roam
Like many of Metallica’s songs, the intro to this song is incredibly catchy. Metallica truly excels at creating memorable tracks. This mid-tempo song is one of the best songs by Metallica. The lyrics about carefreeness, freedom, and rebellion resonate with many.
There isn’t much to say about this song. One of Metallica’s early songs, Whiplash is fast, intense, exhilarating, basically everything a thrash metal song should be.
The fact that Motörhead covered this song proves how much Lemmy appreciated Metallica. Whiplash is genuinely a great song. I’d recommend listening to both the original and the Motörhead cover.
The Four Horsemen
Listen to the story of the Four Horsemen told by Metallica. The Four Horsemen, the longest track on the album, is a 7-minute thrash delight. The part referencing the Four Horsemen is quite powerful:
“Time! Has taken its toll on you, the lines that crack your face.
Famine! Your body it has torn through, withered in every place.
Pestilence! For what you had to endure and what you have put others through.
Death! Deliverance for you for sure, now there’s nothing you can do.”
Blackened, the opening song of the album ‘…And Justice for All,’ starts slowly and then suddenly accelerates like many Metallica songs. Excluding the simplistic drums, this song is one of the best among Metallica’s tracks.
Sad But True
A mid-tempo song, Sad But True is one of Metallica’s tracks that’s closest to heavy metal. It’s repetitive and memorable choruses linger in our minds; it’s one of those Metallica songs that you can’t easily forget.
Ride the Lightning
This song makes you feel like you’re sitting in an electric chair, a lightning bolt coursing down your spine. It has a very fast introduction that captivates you within the first seconds. The song seems to be written from the perspective of a prisoner facing execution on an electric chair. Ride the Lightning is a remarkably powerful song that has become iconic over the years.
Seek & Destroy
Opened with an incredible guitar solo, Seek & Destroy is a must-listen on this list. I’m sure everyone, after listening to this song once, hums along to the choruses. It’s almost impossible not to accompany the “Searching… seek and destroy” part, especially during live performances where the entire audience sings along.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Starting literally with the sound of bells, this song is taken from the English writer Ernest Hemingway’s novel of the same name. For Whom the Bell Tolls, a mid-tempo song, showcases how influenced Metallica is by literature.
And finally, for whom do the bells tolls?
One of Metallica’s slow and mellow pieces, The Unforgiven is a favorite among those who don’t necessarily prefer their heavy music. A more melancholic and emotional piece, The Unforgiven represents the essence of 90s Metallica.
Following this, two more songs were released: The Unforgiven II on the Reload album and The Unforgiven III on the Death Magnetic album.
Enriched with mythological elements, Creeping Death is the 7th track on the Ride the Lightning album. It’s one of my favorite tracks from the album. The repeated lines in this song impact me deeply:
By my hand
I creep across the land
Killing first-born man”
It’s impossible to stand still while listening to this song. Battery is one of Metallica’s fastest and most aggressive tracks. Starting with an extremely slow and calm guitar melody, it suddenly explodes into the beloved Metallica sound.
This song is perfect for the gym or any high-energy activity and is definitely one of the best Metallica songs. The guitar solo is mind-blowing.
Fade to Black
Fade to Black, Metallica’s first slow song in their career, impressed even a metalhead like me who prefers faster tracks. It starts quite slowly, speeds up a bit, and ends with a striking finish. It’s a magnificent song.
Hit the Lights
Break it, hit it, smash it, cut it… Hit the Lights is exactly that kind of song. If I had to summarize thrash metal with one song, it would be this. It’s the first track on the Kill ‘Em All album and serves as an epitome of the album. A song that’s so fast-paced and relentless surely deserves a spot on this list.
This might be the first Metallica song many people have heard. Enter Sandman, the most listened-to Metallica song on Spotify, has surpassed 1.23 billion listens. That’s an incredible number.
One of the most listened-to Metallica songs by the masses, Enter Sandman, is a track that every Metallica fan knows by heart. It’s delightful to sing along to its choruses during live performances.
Master of Puppets
Master of Puppets is one of the best Metallica songs. It’s hard to describe Master of Puppets in words. A masterpiece that spans 8 minutes, Master of Puppets is Metallica’s most iconic song.
The song that gives its name to the album, Master of Puppets, is a masterpiece that precedes ‘…And Justice for All.’ It triggers many emotions in the listener and epitomizes Metallica in every aspect.
…And Justice for All
The song that bears the album’s name, ‘…and Justice for All,’ best expresses Metallica’s political stance. This song, themed around injustice, essentially curses the justice systems of many countries.
You can still discover new things after listening to this song hundreds of times. For me, the pinnacle of this song is the part that says.
“Lady justice has been r*ped, truth assassin.
Rolls of red tape seal your lips, now you’re done in.
Their money tips her scales again, make your deal.
Just what is truth? I cannot tell, cannot feel.”
We’ve arrived at the absolute best Metallica song. “One,” is one of the greatest Metallica songs. Not just musically but in terms of lyrics and spirit, it stands out among Metallica’s tracks. The anti-war theme is often explored in metal, especially within the thrash metal genre. The song “One” is one of the finest examples of this.
It feels like this song is written from the perspective of a soldier severely injured during war, living connected to machines. The disturbing song lyrics and the continuously shifting tempo leave you astounded while listening. Starting very slow and calm, the beat of the song keeps escalating. At the end of the song, the music suddenly stops, much like the abrupt death of someone connected to life support.
As a child, I was deeply affected when I first watched the music video of this song. It’s a deeply layered work that narrates the events that occur to Johnny, the character in the “Johnny Got His Gun” movie. It’s impossible not to be moved by the intertwined music video and song, coupled with the anti-war theme of the film “Johnny Got His Gun.”
We’ve reached the end of my list of the best Metallica songs. I hope Metallica fans who may have missed songs like “Nothing Else Matters” or “Mama Said” on this list aren’t triggered.
That’s all I have to share regarding the best Metallica songs. I hope it has been beneficial for you. So, what’s your favorite Metallica song? Is there another Metallica song you believe should be on the list? Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments section below.