Its easy to see that heavy metal music has drifted into a diverse and expansive genre over the years. Long ago we were limited to a few sub-genres with drastic lines that divided fan cultures. Today the landscape is much broader, and metal fans are commingling with each other as they embrace diversity. As we continue to progress forward, its important to remember the roots of where this genre built its foundation. Everyone will have their own opinion on what songs best represent metal in their eyes, and these are just the ones I consider to be the cream of the crop when it comes to my favorite form of aggressive sonic therapy.
Guitarist Tony Iommi opened the worlds eyes to what was known as the devils interval, a series of chords that were once believed to be so evil, they would invoke the dark lord of all that is unholy. Of course, that was back in the middle ages where they banned the use of such musical atrocities. Thankfully, society became a bit more lenient, which allowed Black Sabbath to lure peoples dark curiosity into their twisted realm of dark rock.
A great song transcends its time period, and snowballs into a timeless creation thats beloved far into the future. The second a metal-head hears those first notes and bombastic drums from Raining Blood, it triggers instant recognition. Slayer was able to brilliantly channel their controlled chaos into a track that reflected just how brutal the band was, both live, and in the studio.
Run to the Hills
A great deal of metal songs had always featured heavy guitars in the forefront, which is why Run to the Hills was such a refreshing change of pace once we heard a bass guitar take center stage. The galloping rhythm is what carries this track, and its all thanks to the frantic fingers of Steve Harris, Maiden’s bass player who also wrote the song.
Master of Puppets
Speaking from a musicians perspective, Master of Puppets is one of those songs that gets so deeply embedded in ones subconscious, that often times its structure is reflected in the majority of heavy tracks recorded since its inception in 1986. The song has it all, heavy parts, melodic parts, emotion, and unparalleled intensity. Many times a band will get lost writing complex riffs that tangle the song into a web of confused time signatures and frustrating contrasts between drums and guitars. Master of Puppets is a great example of how to weave complexity into a simplistic presentation that translates perfectly to the listener.
There are bands who prefer musicality over vision, and bands who use their image to fuel their sound. Then there are bands like Venom, who represent chaos and darkness in its most raw and emotional form. Granted, today many of us might be desensitized to the sound of these old school bands, but the respect they garner will always remain strongly rooted in this genre.
Like many of the bands mentioned on this list, there are numerous tracks in Pantera’s catalogue which could be listed here. I chose Im Broken simply because of the way it grabs my attention, and extracts all forms of aggression from my brain, body, and soul. This band struck lightning in a bottle with its perfect combination of rhythm, groove, power, and precision.
Blood and Thunder
Every couple of years, metal needs a swift kick in the ass to knock itself out of whatever trend is tiring itself out. In the early 2000s, we were plagued with Nu-Metal bands who caused all of us to favor removing our eyes with forks than listen to anymore whiny rap-rock. Mastodon revealed themselves at the perfect time, and gave us all a breath of fresh, evil, and sadistic satisfying air. They had a unique sound, which has continued to evolve into a massively embraced world of storytelling and musicality.
Over time the metal genre has become overwhelmed with bands claiming they are the most brutal, evil, diabolical thing since Satan himself. However, its no secret that most of us are not scared of these bands or their music in any way shape or form. Its all just been part of their act, and while we respect it, we don’t necessarily fear it. Except when it comes to Meshuggah. Countless metal musicians who have toured with these guys will always tell you how Meshuggah is both respected and feared on the stage. They don’t partake in backstage rock star nonsense, they play heavier than anyone out there, they play tighter than anyone out there, and their ferocity will never be surpassed.