Friday 5: What are the Most Iconic Metal Songs of All Time?
Happy Friday, MetalSucks reader! Welcome to MetalSucks Friday 5, our awesome series that appears every Friday (duh) on MetalSucks (duhh) and involves the quantity of five (duhhh).
Here’s how it works: A list of best/worst/weirdest/whatever five somethings is posted by one of your beloved MetalSucks contributors or by one of our buds (like you?). Then you, our cherished reader, checks it out, has a chuckle, then chimes in with a list of the same. No sweat, just whatever springs to mind, k? (Just like that movie about those losers working at a Chicago record store!) After all, it’s Friday — the day dedicated by the gods to mindless, fun time-wasting.
Today, inspired by this recent “scientific” list of “The Fifty Most Iconic Songs of All Time,” we discuss the most iconic METAL songs of all time!
What are the most iconic metal songs of all time?
Axl Rosenberg, MetalSucks Co-Head Cheese
A couple of things I need to make clear before we begin: 1) this is a list of the most iconic metal songs, not the best metal songs, so don’t get your panties in a bunch because Maiden or Gojira or Pig Destroyer or [Your Favorite Metal Band Here] didn’t make the list, and 2) for the sake of convenience, I have disregarded any band whose status as “metal” is ambiguous — so no AC/DC, no Guns N’ Roses, no Mötley Crüe, etc. I love those bands, but they all get enough love each and every week at professional sporting events.
With that out of the way…
1. “Enter Sandman” by Metallica
Okay so right off the bat I’m kinda contradicting myself, because if ever a rock song got love at sporting events, it’s this one. That being said, i) Metallica are unambiguously metal and ii) no metal fan worth his or her salt needs to hear more than the first three notes of the song to identify it — and I not be surprised if many people knew what it was just from hearing the opening note. Part of that has to do with the recognizability of the guitar effect used during those opening moments, but part of it has to do with the fact that this is the opening track and lead single for basically the highest-selling metal album of all time, and that literally thousands of people still buy that goddamn record each and every week. Infamously, Kirk Hammett wrote the main riff when he was blackout-drunk; luckily, he called Lars Ulrich and played the riff over the phone, and Ulrich was smart enough to grab a tape recorder and get it down. Good thing: like all of history’s most famous riffs, from “Satisfaction” to “Purple Haze” to “Smoke on the Water,” the one for “Sandman” doesn’t have a hook — its got goddamn claws. “Enter Sandman” is larger than life, and even if you prefer “Battery” or “Ride the Lightning” or whatever, you can’t deny that this song has come to define Metallica — and metal itself.
2. “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath
Ever walked the halls of a music school where young kids are just learning to play their guitars? There are a few riffs you will hear every kid playing, because they’re so simple, so easy, and yet so — I’m gonna say it! — iconic, they not only work as a solid educational foundation, but they allow the kid in question to feel like a rockstar, even though he or she is still really, really, really bad at playing their instrument. Chief among these riffs is Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” which, like “Enter Sandman,” is as famous as any riff ever written. Your grandma knows “Iron Man.” If that’s not iconic, nothing is.
3.”Walk” by Pantera
After Dime was killed, roughly fifty percent of all metal bands added a cover of this song to their setlist. It was touching at first, and then it started to feel cloying — if you can’t get the crowd excited with your own material, well, you can always just play “Walk” and get a “DIME! DIME! DIME!” chant going. The reason this worked, though, isn’t just because of the tragic manner in which Dime lost his life — it worked because “Walk” is catchier than cholera. Not only is it yet another testament to the power of simplicity in riff writing, but more so than any other song on this list, its an anthem; resisting audience participation when it’s played it a futile task. In fact, I’d bet good money that even as you’re reading this, you are thinking, or singing aloud, “RE! SPECT! WALK! WHAT DID YOU SAY?” Don’t fight it, baby, just let it happen.
4. “Raining Blood” by Slayer
You can identify this song from a sound. Seriously. A fucking sound. That would be impressive enough, but “Raining Blood” is also basically the model for 98% of all death metal riffs ever. It is also, in my opinion, the single most evil-sounding riff written.
5. “Breaking the Law,” Judas Priest
Yet another riff which has transcended the genre of metal and broken into the mainstream. You know why so many people who aren’t really Judas Priest fans own Judas Priest shirts? Part of it is because those shirts look cool, sure, but a LOT of it is this song. Try and find someone who doesn’t find “Breaking the Law” both fun and catchy. Just try. Can’t be done.
Your turn! Have a great wknd!