Lambgoat ranks the eleven greatest metal songs of all time. In history. Like ever.
So much great metal, how is it possible to decide which 10 songs are the greatest ever? We couldn't. So we went with 11.
When choosing which songs are the "greatest," what is the criteria? Do you go by speed? Power? Precision? Heaviness? Mood? How popular it is? How influential it was? How successful it was?
For us, we made it simple: these are the 11 heavy metal songs throughout the course of history that best embody the genre. They're dark, fast, heavy and laden with overt anti-establishment, demonic and/or morose imagery. But most of all, they simply grab you by the guts, force you to listen intensely and leave you no doubt that you've just witnessed the sheer ferocity of quintessential metal.
Here then, are Lambgoat's Eleven Greatest Metal Songs of All Time...
11 Lamb of God - The Faded Line (2004)
Lamb of God has about 20 songs that could make this list, including "Black Label," "Redneck," "Now You've Got Something to Die For," "Walk with Me In Hell," "Laid to Rest," "In Your Words," "Set to Fail," and "Insurrection." But we've chosen "The Faded Line" because of its raw fury, force and incredible musicianship.
The song, from the band's 2004 breakthrough, Ashes of the Wake, combines all that makes LoG one of the standard bearers in modern metal: gut-wrenching grooves, pummeling double bass, desperate, bleak lyrics of hopelessness and loss and furious time changes perfect for headbanging.
A modern classic.
10 Judas Priest - Painkiller (1990)
Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing, Ian Hill and Scott Travis have had lots of incredible metal moments but none that come close to the near-riot on tape captured in this 1990 tour de force.
From Travis' jaw-dropping fills to Halford's piercing screams to the face-melting solos swapped off by Tipton and Downing, it's hard to argue that this track isn't Priest's fiercest hour. Other songs were bigger hits and were perhaps even better songs, but the power, balls and stage-storming glory of this one make it onto our list.
9 Death - Pull the Plug (1988)
From the influential Florida band's second disc, Leprosy, this one hits like a sledgehammer to the face and is the late Chuck Schuldiner's crowning achievement.
The frenzied riffs, dark chug, hellfire solos and guttural roars launched the tech-death subgenre and inspired thousands of purveyors of brutality from the icy forests of Scandinavia to New York's seedy underbelly to the bowels of the Florida underground.
But beyond the influential aspects, it's simply a brutal four-and-a-half minutes that perfectly captures the heaviest, darkest, most extreme elements of metal in a tight, infectious package.
Punishing, riotous and filled with anger, it's a prime example of the coarse energy and precision that defines the greatest metal.
8 Testament - Into the Pit (1988)
While hair metal was exploding on Sunset Strip, to the north, Bay Area thrash masters Testament were ratcheting up the speed and intensity.
From 1988's The New Order, this one saw Chuck Billy, Alex Skolnick and company turning the amps up to 11 and pushing their own personal limits in stark defiance of the growing legion of hair bands cranking out cheesy ballads and dumbed-down jock metal. Machine gun riffs, a fretboard-snapping solo from Skolnick, sick mosh breakdowns, Billy's furious vocals and battering ram force make this one a speed metal classic.
7 Megadeth - Holy Wars (1990)
Dave Mustaine was famously booted from Metallica and is one of the most polarizing figures metal has ever seen.
But this track, the first from the band's 1990 classic, Rust In Peace, is Mustaine's full-fledged, unharnessed, audio vengeance. Furious from start to finish, it's driven by Mustaine's lyrics of war and religion and includes as raucous a speed metal rumble as has ever been recorded.
Mustaine and Marty Friedman swap frenetic licks and solos that define face-melting, all barely held together by the chaotic thunder of bass king Dave Ellefson and skinsman Nick Menza. A brief acoustic bridge and chugging groove mid-song serve as a momentary break from the carnage – perhaps a welcome respite to live audiences, who to this day, continue to be slain by this one across the globe.
6 Metallica - The Four Horsemen (1983)
One of just a handful of Metallica songs that credits Mustaine, the Megadeth maestro's influence is undeniable on this Metallica classic. There are many other Metallica songs worthy of this list – "Master of Puppets," "Blackened," "One," "Battery," "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)," "Creeping Death" – but this one is seven minutes of vintage Metallica, which means, simply, it is some of the most badass thrash metal ever laid to wax.
James Hetfield's possessed anger is palpable. His and Kirk Hammett's riffs are like an audio carpet-bombing one minute before veering into Sabbath-esque, bluesy doom mid-song. Along with late, great bassist Cliff Burton and then-emerging drum star Lars Ulrich, the foursome live up to the song's name, charging across the metal battlefield and into eternity with the type of reckless abandon only a piss-drunk, starving garage band could deliver.
The song's speaker-demolishing finish remains one of metal's finest moments.
5 Pantera - Mouth for War (1992)
Long before there was Lamb of God, Whitechapel, Suicide Silence and like-minded extreme acts, there was the mighty Pantera.
Blending hardcore and metal was new. And no one did it better than Vinnie and Darrell "Dimebag" Abbott, Rex Brown and their fearless vocalist Phil Anselmo.
From the depths of Texas they rumbled forth, with a guttural sound that infected the underground. Dime's thrashing solos and ball-rattling riffs collide with Big Vin's thunderous drums and Brown's driving bass in a caustic cacophony all fused together by Anselmo's angry, tortured wails of survival, perseverance, war, death and destruction.
It is the massive "Mouth for War" that best brings together all the aforementioned elements. Live, it was a song that simply tore venues in half.
With Dimebag's riffs blaring from towering stacks of amps and Anselmo urging soldiers in his metal army to turn their hatred into power, it is, simply, a primal call to arms.
4 Black Sabbath - War Pigs (1970)
The working class foursome from Birmingham delivered a lot of heavy metal to the world, but they never got it more right than on this dark, scathing anti-war screed.
From Geezer Butler's thumping bass to Bill Ward's pounding tribal beats to Tony Iommi's doom riffs and metallic solos to Ozzy's shaky wails about burning bodies, Satan's wings and destruction, what more could one want in a heavy metal song?
If metal was created by Sabbath, then it was perfected in this eight minute opus filled with violent imagery, occult overtones and loud, distorted guitars.
Ever since this one emerged from the darkness to shatter the hippie dream, generations of metal fans and musicians have been obsessed with the song's themes of war, death, and Satan.
Thank you, Sabbath.
3 Dio - Holy Diver (1983)
When it comes to the more fantastical side of metal – swords, storming battlefields, wizards and warlocks and chalice-hoisting – the one and only Ronnie James Dio is the undisputed emperor. And you really can't have a "best of" list in metal without including the dude who gave us the devil horns.
Guitarist Vivian Campbell crafted one of metal's greatest single riffs on this classic, while Dio belted out lyrics of tigers, diamonds, cats and deep blue seas. It all added up to a mystical, mysterious pastiche that has mesmerized generations of metal fans – and will continue to do so for generations to come.
2 Iron Maiden - Number of the Beast (1982)
Most metal purists will put "Hallowed Be Thy Name" at the top of the list of Maiden's greatest songs.
But it's the title track of the band's 1982 breakthrough album, Number of the Beast, that gets the nod from us.
Short of Dio's horns, the "666" mark of the "beast," is about as metal as it gets and it was this song that sparked accusations that Maiden were Satanists, fueling controversy that made the album a must-have for every burgeoning headbanger from London to Chile to California to Tokyo.
The New Wave of British Heavy Metal was largely propelled to the American shores via this amazing album, and "Number of the Beast" was its darkest, most evil and heaviest moment.
It's mystical, dangerous and perhaps even scary, and, like other songs that made our list, has that little something extra that infects your very being.
Resistance is futile.
1 Slayer - Raining Blood (1986)
Choosing the greatest Slayer song is like a parent trying to pick their favorite kid.
You can't go wrong. Pretty much every song on Reign in Blood, Seasons in the Abyss and South of Heaven are essential metal listening.
But the big debate with Slayer is always "Raining Blood" vs. "War Ensemble" vs. "Angel of Death." For us, it's "Raining Blood" because of its sheer speed, reckless abandon and pure metal fury. It's like a tribal pummel that gets into your soul and just drives you right to the brink of sanity.
Whether it's the dueling fretboard blitz of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, Dave Lombardo's demon-summoning double bass assault or Tom Araya's maniacal war chants, this song pushed the genre to the brink and took metal to the next level – both sonically and with regards to speed and heaviness.
Simply put, this is the song that most likely made that dude carve Slayer in his forearm.
And what's more metal than that?
– "New Millennium Cyanide Christ"
– "Wait and Bleed"
– "I Don't Know," "Mr. Crowley"
- "Rapture," "God of Emptiness"
– "Arise," "Roots Bloody Roots"
– "Davidian," "Halo"
– "Snakes of Christ"
– "Dead by Dawn"
– "Bridge of Death"
– "Elimination," "Ironbound"
– "Caught in a Mosh"