The 10 most underrated Metallica songs...
...according to So What! editor, Steffan Chirazi
Take this as you wish. It could Metallica’s 10 most underrated songs. Or it could be 10 of Metallica’s most ignorantly-maligned masterpieces, or it could even be 10 of Metallica’s most ignored-yet-excellent songs because some people have arseholes for ears.
Maybe that last one is a tad strong, but the truth is that there are still folks who evaluate how ‘good’ a song by a band is based on what the fastest, hottest internet bullshitter’s bandwagon is.
Now, there are certainly some Metallica songs that are clearly excellent, and grab you by the crotch within the first few seconds. But there are also many which would offer a similarly unforgettable sensation if they weren’t impeded by the afore-mentioned negative bandwagon stupidity, or morons waffling on about ‘sounds’ ‘they ain’t dun nuffink wot’s bettah than the furst three albums’.
So without further ado, let me bring you (in no order) to 10 of Metallica’s most underrated songs. Trust me, you need this opportunity to step out of common sheeple mode and embrace this opportunity to divest yourself of accumulated, and baseless, critical bullshit. You’ll thank me later.
MY WORLD (St.Anger, 2003)
It starts with a fairly standard drum/riff intro, but soon you’re on a ride. A raw ride in the middle of perhaps Metallica’s most absurdly over-criticised album, and a ride which picks up pace quickly, a riff which starts to hurl itself at you violently and lyrics which absolutely bristle with the energy of a man fighting to keep his mental health in one piece. ‘Not only do I not know the answer/I don’t even know what the question is’ is whispered, before Lars lays down an absolute gem of stability which allows James to blues-howl (in palpable pain) ‘God it feels/Like it only rains on me’ and Jesus Christ, you can wring the pain out of every word. He wears it raw, dripping with tortured blood, and by the time the song hurtles towards it’s conclusion, the sheer insanity of it all is delivered at break-neck speed-metal pace, James screaming ‘enough’s enough’ over and over. It's part of an album which is a genuine product of an angry, ugly time; it isn’t synthesised and it hasn’t been watered down so as you can have a ‘warmer’ experience. This means you should embrace it's feral beauty.
THE VIEW (Lulu, Lou Reed and Metallica, 2011)
It’s very simple. Stop obsessing on the union and start listening to the riff. Because whatever you think of Lou Reed, that riff is absolutely ginormous, a creature of such might and girth that what has probably happened to you is that rather than try to engage with (wrestle, if you will) the huge, fat-yet-muscular behemoth bastard, you decided to instead run away and hide behind all the trite and boring criticisms because giving in to the raw power this song oozes would’ve caused your mind to explode. Say what you like about Reed, he knows how to write a lyric, and when you match lines like ‘for worship of someone that actively despises you’ with the mid-paced groovy sledgehammer that had Metallica jamming like free-thinking spotty teenagers again, then you’ve got a monster tune.
NO REMORSE (Kill ‘Em All, 1983)
The riff charges in mid-paced before immediately giving the floor to Kirk ‘The Rippër’ Hammett, who slaps down a huge screaming solo before the main riff kicks in. It’s 1.10 before we hear Hetfield singing, and then around minute four, it breaks out the punk-metal riffery with the sort of sound that was to catapult them beyond everyone and establishes their progressive writing abilities (and preference) for a fresh/new part right in the middle of everything. It was essentially one of the template tunes on Kill 'Em All which gets glossed over quite rudely.
SUICIDE & REDEMPTION (Death Magnetic, 2008)
I have long argued that at the heart of Metallica sits a beast with some crumbs of Grateful Dead DNA. When infamous internet troll (and Rolling Stones guitarist) Keith Richards recently came out and guffed some nonsense about Metallica’s music being ‘funny’ or whatever, I wondered if he’d ever listened to, let alone tried to play, Suicide & Redemptoon before concluding that such an endeavour would’ve seen ‘is Keefness royally humbled. Producer Rick Rubin had maintained that *Death Magnetic *was all about embracing their youth, and thus we behold a 10 minute epic which traverses peaks, valleys, glaciers, a nice gentle fjord and cuts through a forest before arriving at a highway down on which we are rolling along before a fade cuts us off from hearing what I am convinced might well have been another 15 minutes of this prog-metal madness. It is an insane monument to Metallica’s muscle, musicianship and instrumental might (did I mention this entire journey takes place sans Het-words)?
FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE (Ride The Lightning, 1984)
Ride The Lightning was the first album I ever professionally reviewed (for SOUNDS magazine, I was 17) and as I was already a fan, I had been concerned that maybe their sophomore album would not be able to hit the thrash-meter quite as hard. When I placed the white-label advance on that Boots Stereo in my room, the twee little acoustic noodling that segued into the electricity and then plunged head-first relentless brutality sent my shoebox speakers sprinting for the door in tears, quivering in fear and pain. Me? Oh, how I flung my greasy teenage mullet around to that death riff, the one ripping my measly face off, my ears gorging on the robotic Hetfield vocals punctuating what is one of Metallica’s most incessantly brutal songs. The drums are magnificent, absolute cannons of might with double kick speed and action unheard of at time beyond Motörhead’s Philthy Animal Taylor, and Cliff’s bass supports the cheese-wire slash of those guitars with a current of rich, heavy warmth that adds raw power to the speed of it all. Is it one of the finest thrash metal pieces ever written? Oh, I think so mate.
LEPER MESSIAH (Master Of Puppets, 1986)
Look, I get it. On an album which contains some of the greatest riffs ever written in metal, a couple are going to sneak through the initial popularity fence…and somehow Leper Messiah is one of them. The main riff (carrying hints of Black Sabbath’s Electric Funeral) is a bit of a precursor to Frayed Ends in feel and approach, a ‘marching’ anthem, before picking up the pace to whip into a bit of a flurry from 4 minutes on. Leper… is a classic Metallica composition in terms of the changes and shifts, yet clocks in considerably shorter than much of their material from that era at five minutes and 40 seconds. James also screams LIE very loudly about 8 times, making it extremely clear what he (and the band) thought of televangelism (which is what the song was written about).
THE FRAYED ENDS OF SANITY (…And Justice For All, 1988)
Once upon a time, hardcore fans would hold regular candlelight vigils through sun, snow and rain, often stretching a full season or two huddled around fires, eating pot-noodles and waiting to hear a snippet of this firm cult-classic live (it has finally had some airings over the last couple of years thus the vigils are no longer necessary). Any Metallica fan would tell you it pretty much has every single thing you want in a Metallica song. Electric shifts, tempo changes, a searing main juggernaut and that tremendous mini-riff at five minutes, 25 seconds which brings us right back, full circle to where we started.
2 x 4 (Load, 1996)
This one grooves from the hips and is one of Metallica’s more experimental swerves. A smokey blues-infused late-night number, this hip-shaker takes a good grip from the very first minute, riding a pair of darkened riff from Hetfield and Hammett and even finding itself occasionally in Alice In Chains vocal harmonic territory. It is certainly a change of gear, and one which is probably under-appreciated again because it was part of an album which many cried was a ‘sell-out’ (when the truth is that ‘selling-out’ at the time would’ve resulted in an attempt to make The Black Album II, not an album which briskly sprinted as far from such territories as possible.
BLEEDING ME (Load, 1996)
It starts gently, a melancholic wander through some of the first times James really decided to self-examine on a whole other level, and the dynamic builds slowly, surely, classically into one of Metallica’s greatest non-classic classics. At times the guitar teeters on being Floydian as it wanders through the tricky emotions, and it’s easy to hear producer Bob Rock’s guiding hand in those first four minutes or so. Then, at 5.02, comes part two; the head-first tilt into a thicker, heavier sound as Hetfield screams ‘I can’t take it!’ repeatedly, and by the time Hammett is leaving his solo imprint, just before entering the seventh minute, you’ve realise you’ve been privy to the first James ‘journey’ post mega-success, the first to be somewhat fuelled by the consequence of that.
ALL WITHIN MY HANDS (St.Anger, 2003)
Look, this entire blog could’ve been written about St.Anger, because pretty much every song on it remains enormously underrated due to the fact a bunch of whingers and keyboard warriors got upset about the snare sound. These are doubtless the same legends who said the previous three albums had been ‘over-produced’ yet when faced with waves of wild, unfettered raw fucking VOLUME, quivered in the corner like pathetic lily-livered blancmanges! …Hands is the closer, and it is eight minutes and 47 seconds of blissful savagery, the main riff sprinting back and forth across your head in spiked biker boots whilst Lars goes nuclear on the drums, before they all drop back into a pocket. What makes this even better than most, is that it steadfastly refuses to end. Refuses to be edited. Refuses to be curtailed into a five-minute song, which means that suddenly, at six minutes 10 seconds, you realise that there is a whole other passage to come, Hetfield screaming that ‘love is control’ and ‘kill kill kill’ over such delicious discordance that ANY Metallica fan who complains they ‘sold out’ yet says they hate this gloriously crushing, apocalyptic chaos needs to remove their hypocritical head from their over-occupied arse and smell the coffee!
Steffan Chirazi writes for So What! on the recently revamped *metallica.com, Metallica’s new official fan club community – where you are invited to become the fifth member of Metallica.*