Wow, what a long, strange journey through time and sub-genres it’s been. Here we finally are at the center of the metalverse. After all the lead ups (50-41, 40-31, 30-21, 20-11 | And here’s Angry Metal Guy’s first 40: 50-41, 40-31, 31-20, 20-11), these my friends are the big enchiladas of metal. The best of the beasts, the cream of the corpse paint. You were all so very patient and now you can finally rest peacefully, having attained full metal enlightenment from the Steel Druhm. If you disagree with any of these final selections, kindly think it over until you agree. Take notes Gibson.

#10: QueensrycheThe Warning – “Roads to Madness” – Queensryche had a legendary run of great albums until they got all self important and sank into mediocrity and irrelevance. Some of their greatest material was on their debut and it was a mighty tough choice between this and “Take Hold of The Flame.” This gets the nod for its grim, brooding and melancholy atmosphere and emotional vocal performance by Geoff Tate. In fact, I think this song is his finest hour and showcases his considerable range and versatility. It’s also the song that hints at the male/female duets that would be so big on Operation: Mindcrime (though its Geoff approximating both male/female parts in the song’s last minute or so).  It’s a slow burning number for sure but it just gets better and better as it rolls along. They just don’t make em like this anymore, especially Queensryche!

 

 

#9: AgallochThe Mantle – “In The Shadow of Our Pale Companions” – One of the best metal bands of all time IMHO, this album is their timeless masterpiece and this track is the centerpiece thereof. Long, moody, dark and depressive but also oddly cheery, it blew me away on the first listen and every time since. The somber and beautiful acoustic guitar lead in just builds and builds and you can almost see the mist shrouded forest towering above. The eerie black metal rasps are subdued and provide just the right hint of menace without taking away from the song’s tranquil, morose vibe. Over the length of the song, many emotions and moods are explored and there isn’t one note out of place. A creepy yet dazzling triumph.

 

 

#8: HelstarBurning Star – “Run With the Pack” – Helstar has been plugging away in the traditional metal sphere since the early 80’s and they never really garnered the attention their talent deserved. Their long lost debut was host to several classic old timey metal songs, none better than this one. Leather lunged metal legend James Rivera (Destiny’s End, Seven Witches, Vicious Rumors etc.) was just cutting his tonsils as a singer and his raw, passionate performance here is flawed but metal as hell. The simple riffs are head banging heaven and the mood captures the spirit of 80’s metal better than almost any. What makes this rate so high is the stellar writing. Its just a great song, catchy, moody, simple but memorable. The original 1984 version has that special magic but the later re-recorded versions don’t. Run with the PACK!!

 

 

#7: MetallicaKill Em All – “The Four Horsemen” – These days I hate Metallica with a passion that only one who once loved them intensely could generate. Of all their classic songs, this one was the undisputed champion in my mind. With one of the greatest thrash riffs ever known to man and aided by classic “old” Hetfield vox and some of Kirk Hammett’s best solos, its  a relentless rolling juggernaut of blatant badassery. Another of those note-perfect songs and arguably the best thrash song ever, it truly highlights how great these guys were and by extension, how putrid they are now. That makes me so St. Angry!

 

 

#6: Mercyful FateDon’t Break the Oath – “Gypsy” – The first two Mercyful Fate albums will always be near and dear to my black heart and Gypsy was always my favorite of the bunch. King Diamond was still making effective use of ALL his voices instead of relying solely on his falsetto and his dramatic vocal work here shows him at his best. The guitar work by Hank Sherman and Michael Denner shines brighter than the sun and the solo beginning at 2:09 is my favorite of all time, no exceptions. I spent most of my youth thinking King shrieks “You are a mule” at the end and I didn’t question it because the song was so damn fine!

 

 

#5: Black SabbathHeaven and Hell – “Heaven and Hell” – Yes, it seems madness to have a Dio-fronted Black Sabbath song at the very top of the list but in all honestly, and despite my love for all things Ozzy, this is their best song. Taking the doomy core of the Sabbath sound and fusing it to Dio’s world class vox and downcast lyrics, the band exceeded all previous heights (of which they had many) and created one mammoth and timeless piece of metal gold. That crushing main riff, the immortal opening line “sing me a song, you’re a singer” over the ominous bass, pure perfection. Dark as hell but instantly memorable, it stays with you for life and captures lightning in a bottle. Playing it nowadays really makes me miss Dio and that one-of-a-kind voice.

 

 

#4: Judas PriestSad Wings of Destiny – “Victim of Changes” – Over their long and storied career Judas Priest explored many variations on their metal style but this early monolith of sound was one for the history books. From the slow fade in to that oh so simple lead riffs and on to Halford’s unrestrained rock meets metal vocalizing, something special is going on here. Slightly bluesy but anchored in metal by the heavy guitars, it weaves a strange spell and feels way more epic than it should (especially given the oddball lyrics). Halford’s poignant and emotive vocals in the back half of the song along with his glass shattering high notes put a huge exclamation mark on things and make this the high point of their enormous catalog of metal hits. Good God, PLUCK ME! (whatever that means).

 

 

#3: ManowarHail to England – “Bridge of Death” – Manowar takes a lot of abuse for their over-the-top approach to an already over-the-top genre (and for screwing over AMG’s beloved cheese whiz-ards Rhapsody of Fire) but man, their early albums were God-like. “Bridge of Death” is essentially their “Stairway to Heaven” and yes, I see the irony. Its the most epic thing since the Big Bang and from start to finish it screams METAL with every fiber of its loinclothed being. Joey DeMaio’s bass work is extra amazing and Eric Adams puts on his premier vocal performance, from quiet crooning to rafter-shaking screams and every note in between. You simply can’t listen to him singing “I know the one who waits, Satan is his name” and not get gleaming metallic goosebumps of steel. Even DeMaio’s silly distorted vox work well and who can argue with a line like “cut off my head, release all my evil”? The bells chiming “Joy to the World” at the end are simply Manowonderful.

 

 

#2: Iron MaidenNumber of the Beast – “Hallowed Be Thy Name” – Everyone has their favorite Maiden song and this is mine and also one of the best metal tunes ever composed. If anyone needed proof that Bruce Dickinson took Maiden to the next level upon joining, this is Exhibit A-Z. Taking the oft used “about to be executed” theme to glorious new heights, Dickinson lends his golden throat to a monster song and makes it even better. Great guitar riffing, Steve Harris’s usual bass heroics, a real knack for lyrical storytelling and an ability to wring every ounce of drama from the concept make this one very hard to forget. Songs and albums like this made the 80’s such a special time to be growing up a metal head. You bought the album, heard one classic after another only to crushed by this at the end. Hallowed grounds here folks.

 

 

#1: RainbowRising– “Stargazer” – Not what most were expecting I’m sure but this song is the most rare and wondrous of all things heavy. You may argue that Rainbow was barely a metal band but that can’t be said about this song. Not only is this the best song Richie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio ever wrote or performed in their long musical careers, it’s also the premier metal song in existence. At eight minutes plus, it features a prodigious amount of mood, power and emotion. Dio’s world-shaking vocals never sounded as emotional, heartfelt and intense. Add in Blackmore’s fret mastery and you get the Mona Lisa of metal. Lyrically it paints a simple but very compelling tale and few could put the material over as well as Dio does. The final stanza where Dio goes off over that grandiose flourish is so amazing, especially when he starts singing about going home. Truly a case of everything coming together into a perfect moment of artistic expression. The only flaw is that it eventually ends. Massive.

 

 

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  • Soze

    8-10 I couldn’t care less about and was beginning to wonder what sort of crazy list I was going to see. But after that…stone cold classics all the way. Stargazer, Bridge of Death, Hallowed Be Thy Name and Heaven and Hell would probably make my top 5 as well.

    • NIC

      Must admit I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this countdown. Couple bands I wasn’t aware of that now I have to check out. Only wish the year of release was included somewhere but no biggy. Keep up the great work guys. Can’t wait for AMG’s top 10. Should be interesting…

  • Steel Druhm

    NIC,

    Glad you enjoyed the countdown! It was fun to do and got me going back to revisit some classics and loving them all over again. Now that you mention it, we probably should have included the year of release as well. Good point!

  • JonSnow

    Well, finally we saw the end!
    Really interesting charts, I have to say my top ten would be really similar to this one :D

  • zolos

    great countdown man :)

  • Rodrigo Cardoso

    My #1 is “Hallowed Be Thy Name”! Anyway, your list is a very good one. Great job!!!

  • Astennu

    Good end to the list. Like Dio being in the top five twice. Also great calls on Queensryche, Mercyful Fate and especially HELSTAR. I’ll never understand why Helstar have never gotten the respect they deserve from the masses.

    • Steel Druhm

      Astennu,

      I think you and I are in a very small minority as far as Helstar goes. They just never seemed to catch on. Glad you like the list!

  • Dennis

    Stargazer is the best song ever.

  • Dio Disciple

    Great top-10. Bridge of Death, Heaven and Hell, Stargazer – real epic stuff. And Sad Wings of Destiny is by far the best Priest album. I probably would have chosen Tyrant or Dreamer Deceiver from that album though.

  • Jupz

    Wow, incredible top 10! Agree with it all the way through, possibly the best top 10 I’ve seen!

  • The Metal Pig

    Love Metallica – The Four Horsemen…but shouldn’t it be some of Dave Mustaine’s best solos…and riffs…and songs???

    • Steel Druhm

      Metal Pig,

      Valid point.

  • Anonymous

    Did you hear the cover of your favorite song on the latest Tyr album?

    • I did indeed and a fine job they did too!

  • Anonymous

    I know I’m a few days behind, but I’m just catching up after some time away.
    Once again SD, a great list of tracks and a really powerful way to finish your countdown, but I’ve just got a couple of points to make and questions to ask.
    These 10 tracks would make for the world’s best Metal Mix Tape. In 1984.
    4 of these 10 were released in ’84 alone, and, with the exception of Agalloch’s massive track, the rest are even older. And I have to say that, apart from that same song, there is a certain dated ‘sameness’ about most of them; strong heavy beats, magnificent guitar leads and soaring, powerful vocals frequently hitting falsetto levels.
    As I said, great tracks the lot of them, but isn’t it just a little sad that nothing in the whole wide world of Metal in the last 25 years has come along to knock at least some of them further down the list? That of all the variety and experimentation in that time, from Death to Doom, from Prog to Black to Symphonic to Power and all the mixing and mashing and short lived genre labels that’s been done since the early eighties – isn’t it a just a little bit worrying that these ‘Classic Metal’ can still dominate the top end of such a chart?
    SD, I do not pretend to have anywhere near the knowledge or range of metal as you do, nor even the range of taste within metal, and I have not been through AMG’s Top 10 to compare the two, but I was just interested in the fairly narrow line of tracks you have chosen to complete your list. (Maybe you could compile some Top 10’s from the decades since then…)
    Thanks again for your efforts and keep the reviews coming.

    • Martus,

      I can totally see your point and I think the reason for my tending to skew toward the early 80’s is simple and twofold. First, that period of time was like the golden age of metal and so many classic albums came out around then it was insane. Secondly, I think the songs that hit the hardest and leave the biggest impact can often be the ones you are exposed to in your impressionable youth. I was a young lad in the 80’s and the songs I picked were a huge part of my early metal experience. As I did this best 50, none of the newer stuff surpassed these classics in my mind. I love death metal and black metal but as you said, only Agalloch could knock into the top ten.

      • It’s important to note that my top 10 list also skews towards the my youth. I think we just are more impressionable and open to new things and bands have a much more profound effect on us when we’re young and impressionable. It’s been a while since I’ve heard an entirely new band that affected me in the way that Iron Maiden or Opeth did when I first discovered them. You start hearing the influences in everything and become a bit jaded, I think.

        • Yeah, I think that plays a role. The longer a beloved song is with you, the more sacrosanct it becomes in your mind and the harder it is for newer stuff to equal it.

          • Anonymous

            Thanks for responding to my post.
            I have often thought that becoming jaded could prove to be something of a reviewer’s curse: You start out doing something for the love of it and it becomes a chore. You end up losing sight of what it was you loved about it in the first place – and everything new gets lost in the haze of recent stuff. It must be difficult to keep it fresh.
            For my part, it would seem I am of similar vintage to you gents, but didn’t really start to explore metal until far more recently. AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ was the heaviest thing I owned until I picked up Metallica’s eponymous album. Since then its been a fabulous path of discovery, and I continue to learn and to search for more, new music.
            Now, lets go and have a look at the AMG Top 10…

          • I don’t know if jaded is the right word. I still get excited about quality metal and it can still feel new and exciting. However, the songs that blew me away as young guy and made me commit to metal in the first place, those are tough to unseat from their places in the pantheon of greatness.

  • Dániel Arató

    Wait, guise, isn’t Enslaved missing?

    • Not missing, just not included. They have great albums that work as albums but no particular song worthy of top 50 status.

      • Dániel Arató

        Oh well. I’m that much more curious about the upcoming top albums list now.

      • That’s how I feel about it, too. Great records don’t always include the best songs. For example, Blaze’s first record has Stare at the Sun which is AMAZING. But Tenth Dimension is the much stronger album despite not having stand out tracks in the same way.

  • Anonymous

    I think Bridge of Death is the strong point of this list to be honest.

  • Jamison Roberts

    I’m commenting over the entire 50, and really it’s not too bad.  There’s a startling absence from early Swedish Death Metal (Left Hand Path surely should have been included …), and of Norwegian black metal at it’s height (“Into the infinity of thoughts” would be my pick).  Also, no Morbid Angel or Sepultura, which in my opnion really owned the ’89-91 time period in extreme metal with “Altars of Madness and Blessed are the sick” for the former and “Beneath the remains and Arise” from the latter.

  • Michael Bircher

    I literally said “no way” out loud when i saw #1.  and here i thought i was the only one who knew rainbow existed.

    • Like my Great Grand Moma always said, if you don’t know Rainbow, you don’t know jack shit about metal!

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I agree with 60% of your top 5, just in a different order. It’s sad how Stargazer never gets the praise it deserves from the press. The first ‘epic’ metal song written imo. My top 5 would be:

    5.Victim of Changes(just can’t get enough of Halford’s closing scream)
    4.Stargazer(the first power metal song, and probably the best imo)
    3.Master of Puppets(yeah whatever, piss off, this is probably the best thrash song ever written after Angel of Death)
    2.War Pigs(War FUCKING Pigs, nuff said)
    1.Hallowed Be Thy Name(greatest metal song ever written, simply flawless throughout)

  • Anonymous

    Any list omitting any of Motorhead’s first three albums is seriously flawed.  You have also missed Holocaust, a group that influenced many.  Also puzzled by any list that has Metallica not having Diamond Head, as that is the band they “borrowed” their style from. But, this is your list and is only opinion.

    • If it was a list of influential bands I would include Diamondhead. This isn’t that list. Holocaust wouldn’t even make that list.

  • Almost perfect top 10 – I would have left the Helstar and Allagoch songs out, otherwise brilliant – my choices exactly

  • Is this list ironic?