Top 10 Metallica Songs of the ‘80s
Metal gods Metallica may still be going strong 30 years into their career, but the foundation for that strength lies primarily within the music they released in the ’80s. Over the course of four landmark albums, the Bay Area thrashers helped define the sound of a decade and position themselves to become the most successful heavy metal band in history. Our list of the Top 10 Metallica Songs of the ’80s is where it all starts.
This absolutely devastating display of epic thrashing has been criminally overshadowed by ‘Master of Puppets” equally phenomenal title track (see No. 1 on our list of the Top 10 Metallica Songs of the ’80s), but give it a fair shot and you’ll agree that ‘Disposable Heroes’ showcases the band’s awesome high-speed precision and songwriting versatility at its absolute best. Not bad for album “filler.”
‘Seek and Destroy’
‘Seek and Destroy’ may be the slowest song on Metallica’s thrash benchmark debut, ‘Kill ‘Em All,’ but it quickly became a fan favorite thanks to its signature riff and repetitive but efficient chorus (listen for Cliff Burton’s wah-wah bass underneath). A mandatory, and almost nightly, show-stopper ever since, the song has rarely left the band’s set lists.
‘Fade to Black’
Few songs recorded by Metallica in the ’80s were as controversial as ‘Fade to Black.’ It was the band’s first power ballad, testing thrash fans’ allegiances. But the song’s sheer melodic mastery proves downright undeniable, and its subject matter, suicide, is far from light. More than anything, ‘Fade to Black’ helped expand Metallica’s songwriting horizons.
‘Master of Puppets” final onslaught is also one of the heaviest, fastest and most aggressive songs of Metallica’s career. Over the past three decades, it has probably caused more mosh-pit bruises and broken bones than any other Metallica thasher. As the lyrics point out, “blood will follow blood.” Get those elbows up and jump in, if you dare.
Cut from the similarly bloody cloth as fan favorites ‘Damage, Inc.,’ ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ and ‘Dyer’s Eve,’ ‘Whiplash’ showcases the debut album’s most unswerving display of pure velocity. It even uses the word “thrashing” — one of the first times it was applied in this musical context — and builds a bridge back to the proto-speed metal records by ancestors Motorhead and Judas Priest.
‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’
‘Ride the Lightning’s’ takes things down a notch. ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,’ whose battle horrors are inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s novel of the same name, replaces wanton accelerated savagery with nearly inconceivable heaviness. The song ended up luring many traditional metal fans (still growing accustomed to the relatively new thrash subgenre) to Metallica’s cause, while paving the way to future standards like ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ and ‘Sad but True.’
It’s one of Metallica’s most overplayed songs, but it also remains one of the most influential of their long career. Even if it lost a deserving Grammy to Jethro Tull, ‘One’ introduced more new fans to the band than any other song up to that time. It’s also one of the most depressing tracks to ever receive radio play.
‘The Four Horsemen’
‘The Four Horsemen’ ranks as the first of many multi-part thrash-metal epics conceived by the band. Countless other groups would try (and fail) to match its power for decades to come. Beyond its vast stores of imaginative riffs and changes, this classic — co-written by original guitarist Dave Mustaine — helped fuel Metallica’s fast-growing mythology, connecting them to the doomsday riders of the title.
A Metallica standard of literal biblical proportions, ‘Creeping Death’ welds Old-Testament lore to 20th-century head-banging. So spectacular is this multifaceted monument to staccato riffing that no one really cares that its title is sorta silly. Because it was co-written by all four members of Metallica (the legendary, pace-changing bridge was adapted from Kirk Hammet’s old Exodus demo ‘Die by His Hand’), ‘Creeping Death’ is pure ’80s Metallica.
‘Master of Puppets’
Many fans would agree that the massive title track of Metallica’s third album represents the artistic apogee of thrash metal, coalesced to its most daring, sophisticated and incontestably violent and authentic point. ‘Master of Puppets’’ caustic but lucid condemnation of hard drugs even lends it a significance that’s lacking in many other thrash classics. ‘Master of Puppets’ is a total encapsulation of what makes the band so great and the logical choice to top our list of the Top 10 Metallica Songs of the ’80s.