You know, I’ve had some quiet, introspective time to think about this whole “best songs list” thing. Maybe we’re wasting our time preaching about our metal cred. Maybe Gibson’s list is just as valid as Angry Metal Guy’s (50-41, 40-31) list or my list (50-41). I’m sure many of you out there have your own lists and they’re great too. As I mulled this over and over, I more I was forced to finally accept that my list is the one true list and superior to all others (except mine, of course – AMG). Now that we cleared that up, here’s more of THE List (that is right below Angry Metal Guy’s list on the pecking order – AMG).
#40: Holy Terror – Terror and Submission – “Alpha Omega – The Bringer of Balance” – These guys are pretty much forgotten nowadays but they put out two very excellent progressive thrash albums in the late 80’s and this song is their unholy war banner. Featuring furiously insane guitar thrashery and the one-of-a-kind manic vocals of Keith Deen, this is a face peeling, chaotic monster but manages to keep things incredibly musical and catchy. Deen screams, sings, squeals and grunts in a myriad of ways, always perfect for the moment. Something about the sound and approach here takes it beyond thrash and into a whole new realm of heavy. So metal it hurts!
#39: Candlemass – Epicus Doomicus Metallicus – “A Sorcerer’s Pledge” – These Swedish doom meisters were always well regarded but their best work was on their debut and the closing track was their juggernaut. An eight minute plus doom odyssey akin to Rainbow‘s “Stargazer”, this song is rich with atmosphere, emotion and melancholy. Original singer Johan Lanquist bleeds into the microphone with one of the most heartfelt and impassioned deliveries you will ever hear. For a doom fan this has it all, crushing riffs, mournful solos, arcane concept and soaring vocals all working perfectly to craft an epic, timeless classic. The keyboards add even more mood and it also features one of the all time best drum sounds in metal. Simply beautiful.
#38: Saxon – Crusader – “Crusader” – Saxon needs no introduction. They’ve been around forever and have a lot of classics under their studded belts. To my ears, this is their defining moment and one of the true classics of the genre. The epic feel, the well-done historical lyrics, the feeling of power and majesty conveyed by the simple guitar arrangements, it all screams metal classic. Although Biff Byford was never the most powerful of singers, he has that something that fits the music perfectly and his performance here is spot on. They just don’t make em like this anymore.
#37: Darkthrone – Transilvanian Hunger – “Transilvanian Hunger” – The raw black metal style Darkthrone adopted after their first album really blew me away and this song in particular was a violent revelation. It sounds like someone throwing a garbage can down metal stairs with an angry gnome trapped inside but man, it kicks so much ass. That main riff has been rattling around in my head for years and never really goes away. I’ve listened to tons of black metal but this gets it right in a way that nothing else does. A raucous milestone in the genre.
#36: Amon Amarth – Once Sent From the Golden Hall – “Victorious Match” – I love pretty much everything these vikings have released but this is their best song. Far more raw and ugly than their polished modern sound, this truly sounds like a war party hitting the shores to pillage abnd burn. The riffing is fantastic and memorable and Johan Hegg’s roar is pure Nordic rage. It sounds just like the title suggests.
#35: Cirith Ungol – King of the Dead – “King of the Dead” – These mega-obscure doom lords fell under the radar for most metal fans but their raw, dirgy and sludgy take on epic doom metal was something special. This number shows them at their heavy best and the raw, tinny guitar sound had the black metal vibe long before black metal even existed. The vocals of Tim Baker are very strange and a love or hate thing but to me he’s perfect for this style. This is ponderous and mammoth doom with a dark and eerie vibe.
#34: Artillery – Fear of Tomorrow – “Deeds of Darkness” – Featuring one of the most mammoth and heavy guitar tones ever recorded, the debut album by these Danish thrashers stands as one of the best ever and this was the huge centerpiece track. The combination of the overwhelmingly heavy guitar riffs and the unusual vocals of Flemming Ronsdorf proved unbeatable here as they weave a tale of evil and unholy worship. This is one of those rare tracks that only gets better with time. “I’m totally insane, I feel no pain!!”
#33:Katatonia – Brave Murder Day – “Brave” – One of the best doom-death songs of all time, “Brave” combined low, guttural death gurgles with melodic, gloomy riffing and spacey soloing and the effect is amazing. As long as the song is, the guitars mesmerize and it all just floats by in this trance-like way. When the vocal come roaring in they sound so huge and powerful, its brilliant. While I like modern day Katatonia, I wish they would still write more tracks like this too.
#32: Symphony X – The Divine Wings of Tragedy – “The Accolade” – There’s no need to explain why a song by these guys is on my list. This is a metal super group and their output is always impressive. This song had the biggest impact on me and made me a fan for life. Russell Allen’s vocals shine brilliantly, Michael Romeo’s fret work is astounding and the keyboards of Michael Pinnalla add the perfect atmosphere to this epic tale. A metal masterpiece loaded with moods and emotions.
#31: Overkill – Feel the Fire – “Feel the Fire” – New Jersey’s finest metal export Overkill have kept the metal fire burning for decades but it’s their debut that had much of their classic material and none more classic than the title track. The hysterical, maniacal vocals of Bobby “The Blitz” and the riffing of Bobby Gustafson merge excellently and the rousing chorus of “Higher! Higher! Feel the Fire!” was a huge part of my youth and it still gets my blood fired up. One of the best early thrash songs.