Much like Angry Metal Guy, I took issue with Gibson’s Top 50 Metal Songs of All Time. While AMG was primarily offended by the paucity of post-1980s selections and the Anglocentric focus, my biggest gripe was the inclusion of bands that weren’t/aren’t metal (that also pissed me off, I’m just not eloquent when I’m pissed. – AMG). As good as bands like KISS, Van Halen and AC/DC may be, they just aren’t heavy metal bands (Don’t even get me started on Korn). Even when Gibson managed to stick to the correct genre, some of their choices were quite baffling to me. Of course, if you put fifty metal fans in a room and told them to do their own lists, each would be unique and vastly different. That’s the wonderful subjectivity of music, it means something different to each of us and who are we to judge what others like? That being said, Gibson’s list blows moose cock, so here’s mine.
#50: Ulver – Bergtatt– “I Troldskog Faren Vild” – When I first heard this album, and this track in particular, I was entranced and intrigued. Building on later period Bathory but surpassing it in scope, execution and atmosphere, this was a major highpoint in black/folk metal. The haunting feeling, the subtle intensity as the song builds, everything just works to perfection. It’s metal but also beautiful and touching. This is still my favorite example of folk infused black metal and probably explains why I love Agalloch so much since they borrowed a lot of the Ulver’s early style.
#49: Sacred Reich – The American Way – “The American Way” – As Angry Metal Guy pointed out in his list, Sacred Reich came to the thrash party a little too late to get the attention they deserved. Although their first three albums were great, this album and the title track really had them performing at their peak. Featuring the sneering, acid tipped voice of Phil Rind and a monster riff, this thing grabs hold and shakes you around. You can almost feel the disgust and disdain from Big Phil and although the lyrics bash all things American, it’s such a great song that I just don’t care. This is a sadly overlooked thrash classic.
#48: Amon Amarth – Twilight of the Thunder God – “Embrace of the Endless Ocean” – Yes, I’m an Amon Amarth fanboy, no sense in denying it. I love their entire ethos and style and this song has a certain morose vibe that really clicks for me. No other song makes me visualize those dragon ships charging through the waves quite like the guitar lines here do. On top of that, this is one of Johan Hegg’s best vocal performances to date and he manages to sound powerful but emotional. Few can convey that level of feeling whilst croaking like a viking cookie monster.
#47: Saint Vitus – Born Too Late – “Dying Inside” – in the pantheon of doom, this song and this band should have a very large statue indeed. Featuring sludgy, mournful riffs with emotive accents along with front man Wino’s whiskey and regret soaked vocals, it tells the tale of a man drinking himself to death. This has everything you could want in a doom song and its literally drowning in morose, downtrodden atmosphere. Wino’s otherworldly singing during the chorus is amazing and depressing as is the solo that follows. Whenever I (accidentally) overindulge in spirits, this is the soundtrack for the bad morning after.
#46: Testament – The Legacy – “Burnt Offerings” – Testament was always a top shelf thrash act with amazing musicianship and this track from their debut hit the hardest for me. The fluid, intricate leads and solos by Alex Skolnick and Eric Petsersen are amazing and totally bad ass. Chuck Billy is at the top of his game here as well and snarls his way to glory. This is one of those songs that sticks in your head for decades. Growing up, I thought the lyrics said “slip into the house of Slayer,” which made the song even cooler to me. Mistaken lyrics and all, this is one of the best Bay Area thrash songs ever written.
#45: While Heaven Wept – Of Empires Forlorn – “Of Empires Forlorn” – These guys seemingly came out of nowhere and as soon as I heard their take on doom metal I was hooked. This track is the highlight of an excellent album and manages to feel huge, grandiose, mournful and hopeful all at once. The pseudo-operatic vocals of Tom Phillips soaring over the pounding drums and thick doom riffs create a immense, hypnotic effect and you can almost see the ruins of a once great empire all around you. The inclusion of death metal vocals later on in an otherwise beautiful, sad song are unexpected, effective and quite jarring. A Majestic winner.
#44: Pantera – Cowboys From Hell – “Cemetery Gates” – When this album dropped, it left a big impression on me and my metal loving friends. Fusing elements of thrash, power and classic metal into a Texas sized sound, it was tough to ignore. This super-sized power ballad instantly become a beloved favorite for yours truly. Phil’s reserved lows and angry highs showed him at the top of his ability before he eventually regressed into a boring, one dimensional screamer. Dimebag’s instantly recognizable riffs speak for themselves and I miss the guy anytime I hear this song. R.I.P. Dimebag.
#43: Metal Church – The Dark – “Watch the Children Pray” – These guys always played the underdog to Metallica, Anthrax and Slayer but their first two albums were great. Featuring strong songwriting that utilized the freaky talents of singer David Wayne to the fullest, this was their dark, moody “hit” song. It’s creepy coolness sets it slightly above the rest of their many classic songs for me. Wayne’s vocals runs the gamut from quiet to criminally insane and this contains some of the coolest screams ever recorded. Touching, eerie and a little melodramatic, as all good metal should be. R.I.P. David Wayne.
#42: Possessed – Seven Churches – “The Exorcist” – At the crossroads between thrash and the primitive beginnings of death metal sat Possessed. Their 1985 debut was chaotic, heavy and EVIL and this was the monstrous opener that scared the bejesus out of me as a youngster. From the creepy keyboard intro to the unforgettably cool, black metal-ish guitar lead that keeps popping up, this is a milestone in the history of extreme metal. This song and the Seven Churches album helped launch the entire death metal genre and they even coined the term. Go listen to that guitar lead then try to forget it, I dare you. HA! you couldn’t do it!
#41: Edge of Sanity – Crimson– “Crimson” – Is Steel Druhm cheating by including a forty minute song? Fuck no! (Actually, yes. – AMG) If a band can make an album-length track that’s great from start to finish and keeps the listener on the edge of his seat (and sanity), that’s a spectacular accomplishment. That’s exactly what the mighty Dan Swano and company pull off here as the song rambles and rumbles from old school Swedish death to gothic doom and classic heavy metal, never failing to impress along the way. It even features Opeth’s Mikael Ãkerfeldt on guest gurgles. These guys churned out a lot of top quality death metal but this was their moment of pure creative genius.