10 Heaviest Led Zeppelin Songs
Music doesn’t get too much heavier than Led Zeppelin. Especially back in the day, when they practically invented a couple of new genres to define and contain their awesomeness. Sometimes they wrote about less heavy things, like Hobbits and citrus (lemons, tangerines, etc.), but you won’t find any of those cuts on our list of the 10 Heaviest Led Zeppelin Songs. These tracks are all about charging vikings, generations-crippling battles and crumbling levees. And because this list is so heavy, it goes to 11 instead of 10.
‘The Wanton Song’
Like many of Led Zeppelin’s heaviest cuts, ‘The Wanton Song”s monster sound was achieved by putting Jimmy Page‘s guitar through a bunch of different tricks, including one where he ran it through a Leslie speaker cabinet to change its frequency. It gives the song an almost disorienting effect, way harsher and heavier than it would be under normal circumstances. ‘Physical Graffiti’ may be the band’s most aurally adventurous album, a whirlwind trip through some new territories that opened up the second half of its short career while closing the first. They find common ground in the album’s heaviest moments.
Led Zeppelin’s classic fourth album splits the difference between their pastoral third LP and their first two heavier blues records. Songs like ‘The Battle of Evermore,’ ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘Going to California’ don’t get too worked up. But on the opening ‘Black Dog,’ the band pile-drives straight into one of its best riffs, pulling a whole mess of heavy noise behind it. Jimmy Page’s multi-tracked guitars know no end, layering a pile of dirty, sexy grooves on top of a song that revs up the blues’ basic dynamics.
‘Achilles Last Stand’
‘Presence’ is pretty much Zeppelin’s prog album, or at least it’s the closest they got to the genre, with expanded song lengths, tricky time signatures and some prog-worthy themes. ‘Achilles Last Stand’ is one of the longest songs in their studio catalog, clocking in at more than 10 minutes. But it never feels like it. Featuring one of John Bonham‘s greatest drum tracks, and a dozen overdubbed guitars that maximize the song’s overall heaviness, ‘Achilles Last Stand’ stands as one of the band’s most powerful cuts. You can practically feel the density of this one as it rattles every single bone in your body.
The riff alone nearly seals ‘Heartbreaker”s place on our list of the 10 Heaviest Led Zeppelin Songs, but it’s Jimmy Page’s mid-song solo, and the band explosion that follows, that permanently stakes it there. This is rafter-shaking rock ‘n’ roll at its hardest and most efficient. On the surface, that solo may seem a little sloppy, but once it all falls together with the heaviest 50-second boogie Zeppelin ever laid down, it becomes clear that this is no mistake — every single note was planned for prime heaviness.
‘Whole Lotta Love’
Like ‘Heartbreaker,’ ‘Whole Lotta Love’ is built on a killer riff. But unlike its fellow ‘Led Zeppelin II’ track, ‘Whole Lotta Love’ carries its heavy load almost all the way through. Even the psychedelic midsection — an orgy of orgasmic voices and instruments — is sorta heavy, a setup for one of Zeppelin’s greatest between-song “we’re back!” moments. Plus, that celebrated riff is heavier than most bands’ entire albums.
‘In the Evening’
The heaviest song on Zeppelin’s final album charges like a ‘Presence’ leftover, a stomping monster that rivals anything in their classic catalog for general heaviness. It takes a minute to kick in — as ‘In Through the Out Door”s opening track, ‘In the Evening”s intro builds to the crashing drums and guitars that tear into the rest of the song — but once it does, it doesn’t let up for nearly seven gargantuan minutes. Even the synths — usually more playful in Zeppelin songs — go heavy here.
Led Zeppelin’s third album was partly conceived as a reaction to the band’s critics who viewed them as one-note, recycled-blues merchants. Stripped down and digging some folk roots, the band kept its usual force in check while it pursued more acoustic goals … for the most part. The opening ‘Immigrant Song’ is one heavy exception, a galloping tale of Norse bluster matched by the thunderous music that accompanies it. We like to think that, back in the day, warring Vikings used a song much like this one to pump themselves up for combat.
‘Dazed and Confused’
Don’t be fooled by that slinky, descending bass riff that opens ‘Dazed and Confused.’ Once Jimmy Page whips out his bow and goes to town on a mind-warping middle passage that launched a thousand acid trips, the song dips into some major heaviosity. It’s actually the instrumental breakdown — and an awesome guitar solo that Page brought over from the final Yardbirds days — that gives ‘Dazed and Confused’ its heavy rep. It’s the centerpiece of the group’s first album and the moment where they took flight onstage. Heavy.
‘When the Levee Breaks’
Things don’t get much heavier than this pounding beast, which sounds like a looming threat from a hundred miles away. No surprise, since John Bonham recorded his drums at the bottom of a stairwell, giving them that sense of impending menace that echoes throughout. Even Robert Plant‘s vocals and harmonica fills are heavy on this reworking of a song by 1930s blueswoman Memphis Minnie. There’s no doubt at all that the levee’s gonna break — something’s gotta give with all that heaviness coming down.
‘Kashmir’ has always sounded to us like the entrance song for a giant monster made entirely of stone — maybe on his way to crush the tiny village beneath his feet. Or maybe he’s just out for a stroll. Either way, that’s pretty heavy. All these years later, the song takes on some mighty monolithic proportions. Even the strings, deepened with guitar and Mellotron, sound ominous in this setting. ‘Physical Graffiti’ featured a mix of old and new numbers, funky songs and classic rock songs. ‘Kashmir’ is the one that sounds like a ton of solid mass is about to fall down on you.
‘Nobody’s Fault but Mine’
There’s plenty of heaviness in Led Zeppelin’s nine-album catalog, but none may be as heavy as 1976’s oft-neglected ‘Presence.’ Recorded while Robert Plant was recovering from a car accident, the album goes deeper and, um, proggier (see No. 9 on our list of the 10 Heaviest Led Zeppelin Songs) than any of their other records. Even though it’s based on an old blues song, ‘Nobody’s Fault but Mine’ becomes something way more sinister here, almost signaling an apocalypse in its ferocious and unyielding charge. Led Zeppelin were never heavier than they are on this six-minute bruiser.