Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Top Ten Things: Metallica Songs (50-41)

Welcome to another special Metallica-related Top Ten Things, here at!

Yup, I still have Metallica on the brain so I decided to expand and update my old Top 10 list of Metallica songs from 2015 or so, and since the band just dropped another 12 tunes courtesy of their new album 72 Seasons it's as good a time as any.  This list is very subjective and tough to pin down, and would probably change somewhat on a daily basis, but hell, let's give it a go.  

Side note: I'm only including original Metallica tunes and not the numerous covers they've done.  Why?  Just wanted to have more space for the originals I guess.  Maybe I'll write up a separate covers list.

Anyway, here's Part 1, covering songs 50-41.....

50. Too Far Gone?

Right out of the gate we have one of the new tracks, "Too Far Gone?" which is a short, fast-paced banger with a memorable, hooky chorus.  The vocal harmonies remind me a bit of Misfits tunes like "Last Caress," while the lyrics more or less convey a desperate cry for help.  The middle section features some of those gorgeous, signature Metallica guitar harmonies that help make this song an 11th album highlight.


49. Hate Train

The Death Magnetic sessions yielded ten album tracks but also four leftovers, which the band released three years later as the Beyond Magnetic EP.  This roughly mixed quartet of tunes featured some very overlooked material, the best of which in my opinion is "Hate Train," another experiment in dynamics where the verse sections are heavy and the first two choruses bring it down with clean guitars and melodic vocals.  Then following the solo section the band explodes with a double-time, chugging chorus variation.  I actually find this song superior to a few of the DM album tracks and it's a shame it didn't make the cut.

48. Sweet Amber

St. Anger is pretty universally considered Metallica's weakest album, but that doesn't mean there aren't good songs on it.  One of the best for me is this addiction-themed piece that features a memorable galloping guitar riff and cleverly introspective lyrics like "She holds the pen that spells the end/She traces me and draws me in."  "Sweet Amber" is one of several later Metallica songs that resonates more as I get older.

47. Spit Out the Bone

This blistering Hardwired closer about machines becoming self-aware and taking over the world has a similar feel to its Death Magnetic counterpart "My Apocalypse," but is given a more epic feel at seven-plus minutes.  My favorite section (and I wish this had been chosen as the chorus), is the lightning fast bridge where James sings "Stop breathing and dedicate to me/Stop dreaming and terminate for me."  It's a great, outside-the-box segment that would've elevated this song higher on the list for me if it had been used as the main section.  But as it stands, "Spit Out the Bone" is a killer tune to cap off Metallica's tenth record.

46. You Must Burn!

Another one from 72 Seasons, "You Must Burn!" is a slow groover in the vein of "Dream No More" and "Devil's Dance," with an undeniably hooky chorus and lyrics that seem to tackle the subject of cancel culture - "Smile as it burns to the ground/The perfect don't want you around."  Everyone is a fallible human and deserves the chance to learn from mistakes.  This ranks among Metallica's best sludgy tunes.

45. Mama Said

One of the most unconventional tracks from one of their most unconventional albums Load, this country-tinged ballad shows James at his most vulnerable, lamenting his strained relationship with his deceased mother.  This one could almost be on a Hetfield solo album, as it bears little resemblance to most of Metallica's catalog, but it's nonetheless a beautifully written, emotionally affecting song.  The dense vocal harmonies in the bridge are stunning.

44. The Unforgiven II

This one gets a lot of undeserved flak, I think mostly just because it's a song sequel.  But the continuation of Metallica's 1991 mega-hit is a very moving complement to that song, repeating the basic chord structure but adding a B-bender country guitar riff and reversing the heavy verse-mellow chorus dynamic.  Where "The Unforgiven" was a bleak parable about a man lost inside an emotional prison of his own making, the sequel gives him a kindred spirit to connect with and ends on a hopeful note that each of them can pull the other to freedom ("The door is closed, so are your eyes/But now I see the sun").  It's another beautiful ballad from a band that really doesn't get enough credit for their melodic songwriting. 

43. Hero of the Day

Another one from Load, "Hero of the Day" is perhaps the grungiest song on Metallica's playlist, a rarity in that it's mostly in a major key.  The subject matter is left open for interpretation (like most of the Load/Reload tunes, hence the inkblot motif in the liner notes) but I see it as a combination of James working through parental relationships ("Don't want your aid/But the fist I made for years can't hold or feel") and perhaps overcoming personal struggles that leave a person broken in some way ("Now deservingly this easy chair/But the rocking's stopped by wheels of despair").  Whatever the meaning, "Hero of the Day" is another standout from what I consider Metallica's most underrated record.

42. Lux Aeterna

I said in our 72 Seasons review that "Lux Aeterna" is pure joy, in the form of a Metallica song.  This three-minute barnburner harkens back to the band's Kill 'Em All days, heavily influenced by NWOBHM legends Diamondhead and lyrically just a meditation on the rush of being on stage before a sea of headbanging fans.  Like DH's "Helpless" and "It's Electric" or Metallica's own "Hit the Lights" and "Whiplash," "Lux Aeterna" is a no-nonsense heavy metal song about the thrill of playing heavy metal.  "Full speed or nothing!"

41. Halo on Fire

The longest track from Hardwired is also its most emotive.  "Halo on Fire" uses religious imagery to tackle the subject of nightmarish guilt; projecting the veneer of a saintly person in the frantic effort to bury one's inner evil, until the guilt becomes too much to bear.  "I fear to turn on the light/For the darkness won't go away."  Structurally this song follows that of the classic Metallica power ballad - clean verse/heavy chorus/bridge/solo/outro - and it's one of the standouts from Hardwired.

Alright, there's Part 1 in the books.  Comment below with your thoughts and click here for Part 2!

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