Guest Post by Mark Crook
It’s “METAL” time again and it is also time to focus on arguably one of the biggest and most successful bands (metal or otherwise) of all time… METALLICA!
I remember hearing them for the first time thinking that no other band was doing what they were doing… playing with the speed and razor sounding thrash that was the signature of their early work.
At that time, the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) was in full swing and “ heavy” was Priest, Maiden, Ozzy, etc. Metallica’s intensity was on another level (with amps on “11” as Spinal Tap would say). And to this day, there is no better metal rhythm guitar player than James Hetfield.
Though some would call it a stretch, there is a little bit of “6 Degrees Of Kevin Bacon” between me and Metallica….
I used to shop religiously at this metal music store at Route 18 Flea Market in Jersey called “Rock & Roll Heaven”. For those of you in central/ north NJ and my age, you knew this was the ultimate place to find metal, especially rare Japanese imports, concert bootlegs, etc. The owner, Jon Zazula (“Jonny Z”) eventually formed Megaforce Records and signed Metallica to their first recording contract.
In the old and poor days, Metallica and Anthrax were both signed to Megaforce and shared a rehearsal studio (I believe Metallica even bunked there as they were so poor). My brother, Paul, ended up playing in Anthrax for about 6 years (John Bush era) and has hung with Metallica a number of times.
I played in a metal band at the same time Metallica was playing my local rock club circuit. There could be a weekend that they played a show one night and we played the same club the following night.
Not sure what went wrong as they went on to sell and make millions and my band’s success ended with a few “Battle of the Bands” wins, haha.
Anyway, on to our list. Given the vast catalog of Metallica music, I chose to limit this list to the “Black” album and prior. It is my favorite era. I’ll prepare a future “Top 10” for the post “Black” album era.
As usual, I also need to add my caveat…. these are not necessarily my favorite or what I may consider the best Metallica songs written nor are they in any particular order. They are songs that have that sustained intensity that I prefer when I train… the old “run through a wall” feeling I like.
For those unfamiliar with Metallica music other than the hits you may have heard on the radio, you won’t go wrong adding these to your training playlists… though I need to admit, if you are not really a metalhead, these may take some time to get used to and appreciate.
And if your training usually takes 55 minutes, you’ll be done in 40 as this Metallica playlist will quicken your pace and send your heart rate through the roof.
Ride The Lightning: Ride The Lightning
A story written from the perspective of an innocent man who is anticipating death by electrocution for a crime he did not commit. A riff that perfectly matches the grim and dark storyline.
For Whom The Bell Tolls: Ride The Lightning
This is the perfect warm up song. Nothing fast but super heavy– builds up perfectly. Bassist Cliff Burton (RIP) dominates the first portion of the song with an unforgettable, distorted and nasty bass riff. Inspired from the Ernest Hemingway novel of the same name, I also learned the intro of this song is used in Rutgers football games on 3rd downs (I went to my first game last year and loved hearing this riff blast through the stadium PA all day and watching the fans perform their required action each time it played).
Creeping Death: Ride The Lightning
The highlight of the song is also one of the highlights of a Metallica live show.The chanting from the crowd of ‘Die! Die! Die!’ shakes the arena and just further cranks up the intensity in the air, if that was even possible.
Master Of Puppets: Master of Puppets
Though I mentioned earlier that these songs are in no particular order, I’ll go out on a limb and state this is the best Metallica song ever and for that matter, one of heavy metal’s best songs ever. An incredible riff combined with a dark and sinister story about drugs and addiction, Hetfield delivers his message with an anger and desperation that brings you deep into the story.
Damage, Inc.: Master of Puppets
Corporate greed delivered with the anger one would expect if he were a victim of that greed.
Blackened: And Justice For All
There are many debates about the production of this album and the choice to all but remove the bass tracks but what can’t be debated is how heavy this song is.
Shortest Straw: And Justice For All
The common answer is that it is a song about blacklisting. Correct or not, everyone has heard the phrase “pulled the shortest straw” which is an expression for getting the raw end of a deal, or having bad luck.
Whiplash: Kill ‘Em All
A song about the feeling (or results) of headbanging. Enough said.
Hit The Lights: Kill ‘Em All
The very first song from their first album and an indication of what was to come and how the metal world would change forever.
Holier Than Thou: Metallica (Black Album)
“Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones”.
BONUS: Phantom Lord: Kill ‘Em All.
Listen to the Anthrax cover version. My brother, Paul, played lead, engineered and produced this for a Metallica tribute album, “A Tribute To The Four Horsemen”. I remember him telling me that while hanging with Metallica one night, Kirk told Paul how much he liked his playing and interpretation. I agree.
Let the “Top 10” debate begin…