15 Best Metallica Songs, Ranked
Take my hand, we're off to never never land.
I have been a fan of Metallica’s music for as long as I can remember. Maybe it is because I am a child of the ’90s (when the band played on every rock and roll radio station), or perhaps because I am from Metallica’s home base in the San Francisco Bay Area. Whatever the reason, Metallica’s music has been with me my entire life. I mean, lead singer James Hetfield was one of my first celebrity crushes (who could resist that voice?). And yes, I have a lot of complicated feelings about them suing the once great file-sharing platform Napster.
After the band’s legendary song “Master of Puppets” was used on the popular show Stranger Things, Metallica’s back catalog is once again becoming hot. If you are an old fan like me, now is the perfect time to re-listen to your favorite Metallica songs. Or if you are a newcomer to the metal gods, maybe you need some guidance on what to listen to first. Either way, I’ve got you covered.
15. “Through the Never”
This is a really rocking song—just fairly simple lyrics backed up by fantastic music. Some bands wish they could write a song this good, but for Metallica, it is almost par for the course.
14. “Of Wolf and Man”
This may not be one of Metallica’s most well-known songs, but it is about werewolves so it had to have a spot on the list. There are not enough good songs about werewolves, and Metallica really delivered on this one. The guitar and drums hit you hard at the beginning and never let up through the song.
13. “The Unforgiven”
The music is so well done and layered in this song. Hetfield’s voice is transcendent as he sings a lot more on this track than in most of their other work. There is a lot of pain in this song, which is all about a character who has struggled to survive against the world.
12. “The Unforgiven II”
Yes, this is the sequel to the last song. If “The Unforgiven” is about surviving alone, this song is about finding that special someone to survive it all with. It builds on the other song in such a perfect way.
11. “Until It Sleeps”
A lot of metal songs can be boiled down to feeling “different” or like something is wrong with you. This is one of those songs, but it hits differently. In this one, he reaches out to other people, just wanting to be held until he feels better. It proves you can be badass and vulnerable at the same time.
For Metallica, this song may seem pretty simple. It is an anthem for the adrenaline high of driving a fast car and for those who live their lives a quarter mile at a time. It may be straightforward, but this song slaps hard and it always will.
9. “King Nothing”
Just listen to the bass in this song—I mean, how much more metal can you get? This is one of the best diss tracks ever written. They poke fun at someone who tries to claim glory for work they haven’t done. These days there are a lot of “King Nothing”s taking up space online. And I always enjoy it when rock bands put nursery rhymes in their lyrics.
8. “Wherever I May Roam”
With an opening like this, a song has to be iconic. The lyrics are about a person who wanders the world with the road as their bride. It is the epitome of cool; the lone wolf forging its own path. I can never get over how awesome this line is: “Carved upon my stone / My body lies but still I roam.”
7. “Nothing Else Matters”
The meaning of this song is a little ambiguous. It could be about a loved one or about something you are passionate about. That is one of the best things about this rock ballad. No matter the meaning you take away from it, everyone can agree that this song is beautifully done.
6. “The Memory Remains”
This song is all about a star who has grown old and fallen out of the limelight. Yet it seems like so much more than that. Legendary singer Marianne Faithfull sings the haunting “da da da da,” which adds a whole new layer to this song.
5. “For Whom the Bell Tolls”
The title and idea for this song came from the Ernest Hemingway novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls. It is all about the futility of war and how the death bell will one day toll for all of us. Can we talk about the bass in this song? Cliff Burton was a genius.
4. “Turn the Page”
Originally written and performed by Bob Seger, Metallica transformed “Turn the Page” into something special. There is so much honesty and rawness in this song. Even though it was written about being branded a social outcast if you are “a long-haired hippy,” it echoes with so many who have felt like they don’t fit society’s standards. The end of the music video might be triggering for some people, as it depicts domestic violence and some less-than-ideal situations for a child.
3. “Whiskey in the Jar”
Yes, this is another one of Metallica’s cover songs. They took a traditional Irish song and made it their own. This is one of my favorite songs by Metallica, period. I listen to it far more than any of their other songs because it is just that good. The phrase “Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da, heh, heh” sounds perfect coming from Hetfield’s lips.
2. “Master of Puppets”
It is easy to see why this song was used in Stranger Things. It is so rocking and cool, and there just aren’t many songs that can beat it. One thing about Metallica is they know how to work in catchy lyrics with hard-hitting guitars, drums, and bass to back it up.
1. “Enter Sandman”
This is the definitive Metallica song. The music is hardcore with creepy lyrics about dying in your sleep and the Sandman who’s always waiting for you to go to bed. Even when you think the song is fading away and ending, it hits you again with its epic-ness. If you only listen to one Metallica song ever, it has to be this one.
(featured image: Elektra Records / Metallica)
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