Travis The Virus’ 20 Favorite Metal Songs Of All Time
Just so we’re clear, this is not meant to be a list of the greatest metal songs of all time. That would take more data and insight than any one person is capable of. These are just 20 metal songs that I always love to hear. They’re songs that I never get bored with and still sound as good to me as the first time I heard them. Some of you may agree, most of you won’t, because that’s just how ranking lists work. A list like this can never be complete, but as it stands now, here are my 20 favorite metal songs of all time.
20: “Fabulous Disaster” by Exodus From the album Fabulous Disaster, 1989 Relativity Records
After Metallica released their 5th album their spot on the “Big 4 of Thrash” should have been given to Exodus, complete with a trophy made of beer cans and a ceremony where Exodus got to trash Kirk Hammett’s car. Very few bands can do basic, straight for the throat thrash metal as good as Exodus can, and this tune is a prime example of their furious power.
19: “The End Complete” by Obituary From the album The End Complete, 1992 Roadrunner Records
The first time I heard this song I was floored by how dense Trevor Peres’ and Allen West’s guitars sounded. Just when the grove starts to kick in John Tardy roars something that sounds like “You will succumb!”,and with a voice like that who’s gonna argue? Writing stuff this catchy and this crushing isn’t easy, but “The End Complete” is one of the best examples you can find.
18: “Conquer All” by Behemoth From the album Demigod, 2004 Century Media
This song commands your attention from the very first cord. Dark and anthemic, this is the kind of death metal you can imagine hearing in some post apocalyptic arena while mutated beasts rip into masked combatants wearing discarded car parts. The double (triple?) tracking on the vocals make them sound huge, the drums are pummeling throughout the entire song, and the guitar solo adds a little atmosphere before the outro lumbers over to finish you off.
17: “Tornado of Souls” by Megadeth From the album Rust in Peace, 1990 Capital Records
The whole Rust in Peace album is near perfect technical thrash, but “Tornado of Souls” itself really captures the whole spirit of this album and this band. It’s fast, angry, surgically precise, and a huge leap forward in quality from their previous efforts. They released a few more good albums since, but Megadeth’s music never really got better this.
16: “Dominate” by Morbid Angel From the album Domination, Giant 1995
Yeah, I know, it’s not from Alters of Madness, get over it. Being a metal kid in high school during the 90’s “punk revival” wasn’t easy, and songs like this one helped me deal with asshats who criticized my musical tastes for not including NOFX. From its defiant lyrics to the ready-for war assault of the riffs, “Dominate” reminded me that it’s always important to stand your ground no matter what. Everyone has at least a few theme songs growing up. “Dominate” was one of mine, and it still gets me up pumped better than coffee and jolt combined.
15: “Orgasmatron” by Motorhead From the album Orgasmatron, 1986 GWR
Motorhead have a lot of kick ass tunes, but “Orgasmatron” has always stuck out for me. It may not be as popular as “Ace of Spades” or as fast as “Overkill”, but it’s heavier, darker and every bit as nasty. It only has a few cords, but sometimes that’s all you need if they’re the right ones. It also features some of Lemmy’s best lyrics, a grandiose poem about war, liars, power and death.
14: “All Hail The New Flesh” by Strapping Young Lad From the album City, 1997 Century Media
Years before Devin Townsend was known as an accomplished musician/composer/producer whose style and talent spanned genres, he kicked metal fans in the face with the post modern industrialized thrash attack of City, one of the most intense albums of its era. While technically not the opening track “All Hail the New Flesh” is when the album, and SYL itself, really took off. Frantic yet precise riffing, relentless drum beats (courtesy of drum lord Gene Hoglan), and a wall of electronics big enough to make Fear Factory jealous provide the perfect backdrop for Townsends’ rabid screams as well as his soaring clean vocals. Whether I’m driving, partying or blasting my way through a video game, the energy of “All Hail the New Flesh” neverfails to deliver.
13: “The Family Ghost” by King Diamond From the Album Abigail, 1987 Roadrunner Records
No matter what metal subgenre you find yourself favoring you gotta love King Diamond, the band and the man himself. The music tells a tale of macabre locations and supernatural horrors, and not just in the lyrics. Each riff, tempo change and guitar melody creates all the foreboding atmosphere of a classic Hammer film before Kings’ vocals are even factored in, and once they are his operatic wails, ghoulish narration and evil cackling cement him as one of metal’s greatest storytellers.
12: “Remain Nameless” by Napalm Death From the album Fear, Emptiness, Despair, 1994 Earache/Columbia
By album number 5 Napalm Death seemed bored with the simple “growling over 3 cords and a blast beat” sound that they themselves helped create, thus begun a series of albums that sought to expand upon the Napalm sound. The resulting album still grinded listeners to the core, but with added texture of discordant noise guitar and a wider variety of drum beats. “Remain Nameless” encapsulates this idea, from the sporadic arrangement to the layers of aforementioned guitar noise, all while keeping that classic Napalm Death feel intact.
11: “Flattening of Emotions” by Death From the album Human, 1991 Relativity
If you’re at all into extreme metal I shouldn’t have to tell you how great and important this band is. Human was the missing link between the grimy, primitive sound Death started with and the technical, progressive jazz metal they would pioneer later. With “Flattening of Emotions” we get the same level of brutality Death were known for with the tighter songwriting and emphasis on musicianship they had begun to explore on Spiritual Healing. It’s the best of both worlds.
10. “All I Had (I Gave)” by Crowbar From the album Crowbar,1993 Pavement
Yeah, fuckin’ Crowbar! For a band with such a deceptively simple sound, they were way ahead of their time. Intros, solos, progressive arrangements, they’re all great musical devices that definitely have their place, but when your riffs are as massive and powerful as what Kirk Windstein unleashed they can become superfluous. When you’re in the mood for straight forward meat and potatoes sludge metal it’s hard to think of a better example than “All I
Had (I Gave)”.
9. “Arbeit Macht Fleish” by Carcass From the Album Heartwork, 1993 Earache/Columba
While I do love the more grindcore sounding early work of Carcass, they really were better after they learned how to write coherent songs. The mix of their early energy combined with death metal and NWOBHM influences come together perfectly here. Galloping drums, driving riffs, not one but two rockin’ guitar solos, “Arbiet Macht Fleish” was, and still is, melodic death metal at its best.
8.”Regular People (Conceit)” by Pantera From the album Vulgar Display of Power, 1992 Atco Records
It may not be one of Pantera’s “hits” but it should have been! This track contains pretty much everything kick ass about the power groove sound that Pantera carved out for themselves in the 90’s. The main riff is heavy and instantly memorable. The rhythm section is locked into ferocious grooves throughout the whole song. Dime’s solos show just how soulful a shredder he could be and Phil Anselmo’s lyrics, like all his best, were a call to arms for every angry young metal head who listened.
7:”Nailed to Gold” by Immolation From the album Here in After, 1996 Metal Blade Records
Walking the line between chaos and technicality is a very difficult task, and a lot of bands struggle when they try for both. Immolation, however, had that shit down from damn near the start. The parts in “Nailed to Gold” are constantly expanding and contracting, one part overlapping the next, at times going in different directions entirely, yet it all stays together, even when it sounds like it shouldn’t. And Robert Vigna’s guitar solo, which sounds like angelic beings burning to death while getting curb stomped, is one of my favorite death metal leads ever.
6:”Pissing in the Mainstream” by Dying Fetus From the album Destroy the Opposition, 2000, Relapse Records
At the turn of the century Dying Fetus were one of the bands that came along and proved that death metal was far from used up. They had everything a modern death metal band needs: killer chops, heavy riffs, interesting arrangements and a seething anger that seeks to destroy all that oppose (pun intended). “Pissing in the Mainstream” delivers all of the above, flawlessly, in less than 2 minutes.
Still reading? Awesome, but if you want to know what songs made my top 5 you’ll have to listen to the next edition of Metal Shop, where we’ll be playing my 5 favorite metal songs of all time throughout the show!