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Dissecting the Greatest Metal Songs of All Time

Updated on March 29, 2020
liladybugz26 profile image

Rachael is both an avid writer and music enthusiast, with a passion for metal. She enjoys researching and dissecting lyrics.


Heavy metal first pierced the ears of listeners in the 1970s with bands like Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper. The sound has since progressed, becoming louder and faster, while gathering a following of dedicated headbangers. It's hard to find fans who agree on the best metal song ever; however, these tracks are at the top of every greatest metal list.

Metallica (2003)

From left to right: James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich and Robert Trujillo
From left to right: James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich and Robert Trujillo | Source

Metallica: Master of Puppets

Metallica was creeping in on the metal watchlist when in 1986 they released their absolute voice of intent with "Master of Puppets". This title track is the second song on the shared name album. It is over 8 minutes long (8:26), and encompasses the enslaving power of drug addiction.

Singing the repeating verse of this song has become somehow a rite of passage to becoming a true metal head. This elemental song is most often found in the number one position on many greatest of all-time heavy metal charts.

Master of Puppets (Original)

Metallica is a very complicated, fragile thing. On the outside, it's all metal, but on the inside it's very delicate.

— Kirk Hammett, Metallica

Black Sabbath

From left to right: Tommy Clufetos, Geezer Butler, Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi
From left to right: Tommy Clufetos, Geezer Butler, Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi | Source

Black Sabbath: War Pigs

Black Sabbath unleashed War Pigs in 1970 as their opening track on the Paranoid album. This is understood to be a Vietnam war protest song; however, the band played live in the mid 70s and projected World War II scenes during its performance. The band later noted that it was originally entitled "Walpurgis", and is really about a witches Sabbath. Digital Dream Door ranks War Pigs number two of the "100 Greatest Metal Songs".

War Pigs (Live) - Paris, 1970

Metal is the feeling of being an outsider, but still being part of something huge.

— Brian Posehn, Actor

Iron Maiden


Iron Maiden: Hallowed Be Thy Name

In 1982, Steve Harris wrote Hallowed Be Thy Name for Iron Maiden. This progressive eighth track closes out The Number of the Beast album with its prime musical quality and lyrics. Told from the perspective of a marked man on the brinks of execution, this song breaths his fear and exhales a lengthy instrumental at his death leaving only his final words, hallowed be thy name. Every metal historian rates this dark composition at or near the top of their greatest all-time list.

Hallowed Be Thy Name (Live)

Heavy metal is a universal energy it's the sound of a volcano. It's rock, it's earth shattering. Somewhere in our primal being we understand.

— Billy Corgan, Musician

Metallica (2008)

From left to right: Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield and Robert Trujillo
From left to right: Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield and Robert Trujillo | Source

Metallica: One

The third single off of the 1988 And Justice for All album, "One" displays Metallica at the top of their colossal metal reign. Encompassed by dark melodic lyrics, this power baled is based on a 1939 war novel where a soldier is maimed and his arms, legs, ears, nose, mouth and eyes are taken leaving only his torturous thoughts. With this song, Metallica made their first music video which disturbed many viewers, and thrilled rockers around the globe.

One (Official)

Metal never goes away. It drifts in and out, but the true fans are always there for it.

— Eddie Trunk, Music Historian


From left to right: Vinnie Paul, Phil Anselmo, Rex Brown and Dimebag Darrell
From left to right: Vinnie Paul, Phil Anselmo, Rex Brown and Dimebag Darrell | Source

Pantera: Walk

Walk is Pantera's fourth and last single from the 1993 Vulgar Display of Power album. This song was written following the Cowboys from Hell tour after the band returned home and friends treated them incongruously. The forceful lyrics demand "stay away from me". Pantera has remade and remixed this song numerous times under names such as Walk Biomechanical and Walk Cervical. Many bands have covered this song including Disturbed, Seether, Avenged Sevenfold and Sevendust.

Walk (Official)

I've always said that Pantera fans were the best in the world, and I truly meant that, and I still mean it.

— Phil Anselmo

How This List was Calculated

All of these songs were compiled from the top five of several greatest metal lists, and a number of factors were used including impact, influence, popularity, lyrical quality and musical quality and composition to determine their ranking on this list.

What Heavy Metal Song Do You Think Is The Best?

What Song Should Hold The "Greatest" Title?

See results

© 2013 Rachael Ryhn


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    Post Comment
    • liladybugz26 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachael Ryhn 

      6 years ago from Cambridge, MN

      Thanks! I put a lot of effort into it. I looked at a lot of factors and many lists to come up with them.

    • smcgavin1 profile image

      Sean McGavin 

      6 years ago from Bowling Green, Ohio

      Wow that is a tough call. Good list.


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