Top 100 Metal Songs of All Time
Last Week Rolling Stone Magazine rolled out with a Top 100 Metal Songs of All Time List.
You know what? Instead of disparaging the content of their list, I'm simply going to say that I love metal. Metal sparked out of Black Sabbath in the 1970's and then caught fire across the musical landscape in about a dozen different directions. Our observation is that metal peaked with the Big 4 in the 80's and 90's, but there's still great metal to be found today across all metal subgenres.
Rolling Stone's philosophy is that metal peaked in the 70's and there's only 3 songs on their list recorded in the last 20 years. Their definition of metal includes a number of rock and alternative bands.
Editor's Note: When Beacon of Speech Founder Fred Hunt was asked to specifically define metal, he was quoted as saying "I know it when I hear it."
100. (1984) Nature Trail to Hell by Weird Al Yankovic
The Greatest Metal Parody of all time.
99. (1982) Metal on Metal by Anvil
Anvil sneaks on the list on the strength of their 2008 Documentary
98. (1987) Fighting the World by Manowar
One of many "guilty pleasures" on the list.
97. (2007) Dread Prevailed by the Red Chord
The Red Chord recently returned from hiatus.
96. (1984) Still Lovin' You by the Scorpions
I hate metal ballads. This one is probably the best in a weak field
95. (2007) Grandfather by The Number 12 Looks Like You
Listen to those time signatures.
94. (1984) Can You Deliver by Armored Saint
If you strip everything else away, Armored Saint had a great guitarist and a great lead singer.
93. (1994) Dope Hat by Marilyn Manson
Rolling Stone seemed genuinely upset that Manson portrayed a bad guy, who was supposedly a good guy, who was secretly a terrible guy.
92. (1984) Bears by Zebra
As a kid, my friend Brian said, "turn off that Zebra song and turn on Metallica."
91. (1976) 2112 by Rush
Parts of 2112 were a template for modern metal.
90. (2000) Swan Dive by (hed) P.E.
In hindsight, maybe I shouldn't have included (hed) P.E. They got really wakcy over the past few years.
89. (2012) About to Crack by VItamin X
Remember Bandana Thrash?
88. (1987) Babylon by Faster Pussycat
One of my favorite songs as a teen.
87. (1991) Surrounded by Idiots by Wrathchild America
Wrathchild America was a casualty of both bad luck and bad timing.
86. (2005) Man Behind the Curtain by Valient Thorr
Metal soaked in Southern influences.
85. (2006) Lost in Time by Blind Myself
As a Hungarian metalcore band, Blind Myself always had an uphill climb to make it in the States.
84. (1997) Voodoo by Godsmack
Voodoo conveyed dark atmospheres without being heavy.
83. (2011) Blodtørst by Kvelertak
Amazing guitar riffs.
82. (1983) Rock of Ages by Def Leppard
At one time, I really did like Def Leppard, but from Andrenalize forward, they were flat out awful.
81. (1996) Loco by Coal Chamber
Admit it, you're singing the refrain in your head right now, whether you like the song or not.
80. (1989) Critical Mass by Nuclear Assault
Dan Lilker's contributions are iconic in metal.
79. (1994) Dreamscape by In Flames
Polarizing vocals depending on the era, so we chose an instrumental from the early years.
78. (2014) Hail the Apocalypse by Avatar
I can't find my footing with Avatar. I can't tell if I like them too much for what they are, or not enough for what they aren't.
A classic metal anthem.
76. (2002) Crystalline by 35007
75. (2020) Underneath by Code Orange
Great vocal balance pulled together in one song.
74. (2020) Procession of the Wounded by Old Man Gloom
Aaron Turner is one of the most forward thinking (and busiest) men in metal.
73. (1987) Abigail by King Diamond
Always amazed by King Diamond's range.
72. (1984) Round and Round by Ratt
One of the songs that really brought metal to the masses.
71. (1993) Christian Woman by Type O Negative
Listen to that voice!
70. (2000) One Step Closer by Linkin Park
Chester Bennington made Linkin Park special.
69. (1992) Unsung by Helmet
There's a reason the video is in a factory. You are hearing a working man's metal.
68. (2007) Die in a Crash by Ministry
Ministry would be higher, but I classified their early material as industrial. When Paul Barker left, Ministry lost their balance and evolved into a straight forward metal band. There is no better example than Die in a Crash.
67. (1993) I am the Bullgod by Kid Rock
Kid Rock may be a knucklehead, but for a brief flash of time (1998-2000), Kid Rock was on top of the world.
66. (2007) Sadistic Magician by Municipal Waste
Municipal Waste is a fun thrash band. There's not a lot of those out there.
65. (1986/2020) Anarchy up Your Anus by Mr. Bungle
Originally recorded as a demo in their teens, Mr. Bungle released the album to the masses in their 50's.
64. (1994) Clean My Wounds by Corrosion of Conformity
I saw Corrosion of Conformity perform this song live last year. They have NOT lost a step.
63. (2005) The New Black by Every Time I Die
Drama killed a great band.
62. (1983) Metal Health by Quiet Riot
Started in 1973 (!), Quiet Riot rose to fame in 1983, and then faded back into oblivion by 1986.
61. (2013) Secular Haze by Ghost
Single from the Papa Emeritus II Era.
60. (1992) Cop Killer by Body Count
I always liked the Cop Killer album, top to bottom. Then Born Dead came out 2 years later and it was horrible. I almost wanted to call Ice-T myself and say "see, metal is a hard genre to pull off." If you are offended by the content of Cop Killer, I hate to tell you, but there's about a half dozen songs ON THIS LIST ALONE that are worse. (And don't watch that Acid Fuzz video.)
59. (1996) Eye by Neurosis
I specifically chose a song from Neurosis' mid 90's transition period.
58. (1980) Back in Black by AC/DC
Why so low? (I always thought AC/DC was overrated.)
57. (2017) Steambreather by Mastodon
Did you know Mastodon has had 6 Grammy nominations?
56. (2013) Acid Fuzz by Toxic Holocaust
At one time, Joel Grind WAS Toxic Holocaust.
55. (1987) Nightrain by Guns 'N' Roses
"Guns N’ Roses were fans too, recording “Nightrain” in 1987. It was a tribute to the bargain booze that sustained them in their early days, scraping by on whatever they could make playing Los Angeles bars and clubs." - Modern Drunkard Magazine
54. (2017) Fuck this Place by GWAR
Stellar acoustic metal.
53. (1973) Sabbath Bloody Sabbath by Black Sabbath
The last great Black Sabbath song (with Ozzy) before the wheels started to fall off the wagon.
52. (2004) Duality by Slipknot
51. (1998) Alpha Male by Anthrax
Best John Bush-led Anthrax effort.
50. (1996) Bleeding Me by Metallica
Best Metallica effort post Black Album. (We did not like the Black Album)
49a. (1983) Shout at the Devil by Mötley Crüe
49b. (1989) Kickstart my Heart by Mötley Crüe
Same band members, very different vibe. Equally great.
47. (1996) Ratamahatta by Sepultura
The importance of phonetics in metal.
46. (1992) Walk by Pantera
Just brutal metal.
Please read our postscript.
44. (2007) Black Bubblegum by the Dillinger Escape Plan
The closest that the Dillinger Escape Plan ever came to being accessible.
43. (2007) Conquerer by Jesu
Favorite Justin Broadrick song.
42. (2007) Torquemada 71 by Electric Wizard
Dark, sludgy, gloomy. The evolution of the Sabbath Sound.
41. (2006) To the Rats by Trivium
"This next song is a thrash metal song, so I want to see your heads bangin' and I want to see some movement."
Bleak darkness coupled with soaring harmonies.
39. (2005) Bat Country by Avenged Sevenfold
Sex, Drugs and Metal!
38. (2001) Bodies by Drowning Pool
Sadly, it wasn't excess that got Dave Williams, but heart muscle disease.
37. (2005) Operation Ground and Pound by DragonForce
There was no more talented threesome in the history of metal than Theart, Li, and Totman.
36. (1980) Breaking the Law by Judas Priest
35. (1982) Run to the Hills by Iron Maiden
Just an aside, as soon as I linked Breaking the Law, the YouTube Algorithm suggested Run to the Hills. We'll talk about this later in this article.
34. (1985) Bonded by Blood by Exodus
If there was a "Big 5," Exodus would have surely slid into that spot.
33. (1983) Institutionalized by Suicidal Tendencies
Watch the video closely, do you SEE punks or metalheads? Ah, ah, ah, now close your eyes and put on some over sized headphones. Do you HEAR punk or metal. Don't forget, one of the graduates of Suicidal Tendencies University is now a key member of Metallica.
32. (1994) Blind by Korn
Korn had about 10 really great singles to choose from, we'll go with their first with that iconic growling bass line.
31. (1990) The Salaminizer by GWAR
A very bad song (lyrically) that I absolutely love.
30. (2007) Rumors of War by High on Fire
Correction, Grammy award-winning High on Fire.
29. (1976) Calling Dr. Love by KISS
This song is over 45 years old and KISS is on their "final" tour. I don't know how they're going to do it, but I fully anticipate my great-grandchildren talking about going to see the KISS Hologram Tour. The KISS Corporation hasn't churned out anything great in about 4 decades.
28. (1995) More Human than Human by White Zombie
Unfortunately, my opinion on Rob Zombie varies with each movie. After House of a 1,000 Corpses, I couldn't get enough of Rob Zombie. After The Musters, I didn't even want to listen to his music.
27. (2007) The Goatrider's Horde by 3 Inches of Blood
In case you haven't noticed, I am a sucker for clean/dirty vocals.
26. (2018) Black Hole by Puppy
This is the type of metal Rolling Stone should be championing, not ignoring.
25. (1999) Solitaire/Unraveling by Mushroomhead
Local Cleveland music legends Mushroomhead should be taking victory laps, instead personnel changes have crippled a once great band.
24. (1981) Tom Sawyer by Rush
Not sure how Rolling Stone missed Rush.
23. (2012) Devoid of Redemption by Pallbearer
Sorrow and Extinction had an epic 5 songs in 50 minutes. Pallbearer's debut was Pitchfork's metal album of the year in 2012.
22. (2005) The Last Day of Winter by Pelican
Pelican captures the mood of the day perfectly for a list published in mid-March.
21. (2002) Weight by ISIS
Weight is the jewel on the crown that is Oceanic.
20. (2009) Ich Tu Dir Weh by Rammstein
Rammstein bludgeons you with German lyrics and metal sensibilities.
19. (2008) Bleed by Meshuggah
The Bleed video is extreme metal high art.
18. (2003) Relentless by Strapping Young Lad
Both Devin Townsend and Gene Hoglan were on at their thrashiest best for this effort.
17. (2019) Inner Paths to Outer Space by Blood Incantation
My personal favorite death metal band.
16. (1996) 1996 by Marilyn Manson
The problematic Marilyn Manson will be discussed in more detail later.
15. (1980) Ace of Spades by Motorhead
14. (1999) Bled for Days by Static X
13. (2010) Exit Sun by Shining (Nor)
The Shining mixed Jazz and Black Metal perfectly. (For one album.)
12. (1996) AEnima by Tool
Maynard's lyrics are spot on.
11. (2000) Dig by Mudvayne
Best nu metal song of all time.
10. (2014) Marrow by Yob
The most beautiful metal song of all time.
9. (1986) Angel of Death by Slayer
Slayer's brand of metal still makes me uncomfortable in my advanced age. Music is not always a comfort food.
8. (1984) Last in Line by Dio
This video scared the crap out of me when I was a kid.
7. (1980) Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne
The Prince of Darkness goes mainstream without compromising his sound.
6. (1970) War Pigs by Black Sabbath
The most poignant, and timely, of Black Sabbath's commentary.
5. (1987) Welcome to the Jungle by Guns 'N' Roses
Don't forget, Guns 'N' Roses was a slow burn on college radio before their breakthrough.
4. (1999) Wait and Bleed by Slipknot
Slipknot should be the biggest band in America today. I honestly don't know why they're not.
3. (1992) Sweating Bullets by Megadeth
I think history will vindicate Dave Mustaine's contributions away from Metallica.
2. (1985) Gung Ho by Anthrax
The very definition of speed metal.
1. (1986) Battery by Metallica
The perfect metal song.
Bon Jovi? Nope, they just suck.
Led Zepplin? Awesome. Not metal.
Blue Oyster Cult? A few great songs, Godzilla was right on the metal line.
Alice in Chains? We love 'em. Not metal.
Nine Inch Nails? One of our favorites! Not metal.
Soundgarden? One song is on the list, then they evolved away from metal.
Rage Against the Machine? They are basically in their own category. Not metal.
Angry Reader: But you included Linkin Park.
Yes I did. Now we are really splitting hairs.
Angry Reader: Where did you draw your line?
Basically at AudioSlave. Chris Cornell + Rage rhythm section = Not metal. Soundgarden and Rage suffered because of it.
Angry Reader: Metal is an attitude!
Listen, go make your own list. I welcome it!
When you say popular bands like Led Zepplin are metal, you are trying to re-define the genre. I tried to wade into more of the newer metal subgenres.
Speaking of which ...
Your Favorite Hair Metal Band? Oh we do NOT like hair metal at Beacon of Speech. We barely lived through hair metal.
Faith No More? Now they are the pitch perfect example as to why metal is not an exact science.
When Faith No More blasts you From Out of Nowhere you scream Metal! But when you listen to their albums in full, you get an overarching experimental/alternative/rock vibe. Faith No More is one of my favorite bands because they are hard to categorize.
But are they metal?
Now if you want to stop reading here, I wouldn't blame you one bit. I thank you for your time.
(We are now going to get political.)
Rolling Stone's List still bothered me a week out and I couldn't figure out why. Their Metal List wasn't as bad as some of their other lists, but it wasn't great either, it didn't represent the breadth and depth of metal. My omissions seemed to focus on the argument of "what is metal?"
Rolling Stone's omissions seemed to be based on a theme of "metal is dead and we're burying it." Why would they bury metal? Ahhhh...
The spirit of metal is supposed to be DANGEROUS. There is still great metal out there, but how do you find it? Rolling Stone used to cover it, but other than Turnstyle, the magazine does a terrible job of promoting the genre. Do you hear your favorite metal bands on terrestrial radio? Yeah, if their songs were released in the 1980's. Sirius XM is in financial distress and is teetering on bankruptcy, you may not hear your favorite metal bands there tomorrow. Spotify is probably your best bet for newer metal, but they only pay artists fractions of a penny for streams. YouTube algorithms don't foster exploration either, they circle you back to heavily trafficked areas and like-minded artists. I can't think of any metal artists that were able to make a living off of YouTube
Now Gene Simmons would argue that so far I'm right, the business mechanisms for a band to be successful don't exist anymore.
But if you hop in the way back machine to 1988, Metallica was on their way to being one of the biggest bands in the world by selling albums, moving merch, and touring incessantly. They succeeded by circumventing the business model (until the Black Album.)
The guys in Anthrax talked about being startving artists farther into their career than you'd believe. What both bands had in common was a cult-like following and were members of a burgeoning music underground. Rolling Stone USED to be the counter culture, now they're the corporate culture.
By burying metal, and passing it off as an art form of a by-gone era, Rolling Stone is doing something a little more sinister with their list.
I believe the woke writers at Rolling Stone are de-emphasizing new forms of metal by tying them into the concept of toxic masculinity. Celebrating cuddly ol' Ozzy is popular now, but Ozzy used to be a pariah.
You know who's the most subtle genius in the history of metal? Sharon Osbourne. She took a burned-out drug addict, who once bit the head off of a live bat, and actively worshiped Satan, hosed him off, and sold him as just the average family-man next door. Don't forget, Ozzy was once sued in an American Court of Law because one of his fans listened to the song Suicide Solution and then killed themselves. "But Fred, didn't you watch the Osbournes?"
Even in his advanced age, Sharon catches Ozzy f---ing his hair stylist and you can hear her say, with a sitcom laugh track underneath, "Oh Ozzy." < canned laughter >
Sharon founded Ozzfest to give her husband a headlining platform AND to keep the metal art form vibrant by booking young metal bands as the openers.
Notice that current metal bad boys, and OzzFest veterans, Marilyn Manson and Tim Lambesis are not on the Rolling Stone list.
Rolling Stone magazine is now a marketplace of followers. They follow the trends, where they once set the trends. Will Rolling Stone cover metal better in the future? Not unless that magically becomes trendy.
I'm sorry, a Generation Alpha kid just asked me what a magazine was.
I don't want this article to end on a down note.
Let's have some fun.
Don't forget about Blotto...
Or Richard Cheese...
And we'll end here.
Were the Dayglo Abortions punk?