While sitting in the living room playing music today, I decided to put my leisure to good use. To that end, here is a list of my 25 all-time favorite metals songs. I repeat, these are MY FAVORITES. This is not an objective list of the best metal songs.
Some of the cuts I had to make were rather painful, and of course any list like this is subject to almost constant change. I tried to step back and look at my listening habits over the past year or two rather than just my current mental state, so I think the end result is fairly representative, with the songs near the top being particularly stable in my mind. My one condition was that only one song per band could make the list. That was only a relevant issue with a few bands, though, so that rule didn't affect the final list very much.
Anyway, without further ado, here it is:
25. "Into the Grave" by Grave
The crushingly heavy, catchy, infectious title track from 1991's Swedish death metal classic Into the Grave.
24. "Majesty and Decay" by Immolation
I appear to be in the minority of this one, since Immolation's new 2010 album Majesty and Decay is my favorite album of theirs. The main riff in the title track is one of my favorites in all of death metal.
23. "The Morning Never Came" by Swallow the Sun
Yet another title track (I promise I'm not doing this on purpose), this time the 9-minute epic from 2003's death-doom masterpiece The Morning Never Came.
22. "Brother Blue Steel" by The Obsessed
The opening track from 1991's Lunar Womb is the one of the catchiest traditional doom metal songs you'll ever encounter, and I love Wino's vocals.
21. "Screaming For Vengeance" by Judas Priest
1982's Screaming For Vengeance has a title track with one of the best choruses in metal history. Rob Halford stands out, really showing off his pipes on this song.
20. "Hallowed Be Thy Name" by Iron Maiden
1982 also saw the release of one of metal's most celebrated records in The Number of the Beast. The closing track is a heavy metal classic of monumental proportions.
19. "Brothers of Metal, Part 1" by Manowar
Cheesier than hell, but I don't care. This track off 1996's Louder Than Hell is just pure over-the-top fun.
18. "Symphony of Life" by SpiRitual
A brilliant, complex fusion of electronic, folk, and gothic metal with widely varied vocal styles. This track comes from the EP Pulse, which was released in 2005 and is sadly the only record the band has ever produced.
17. "My Ending Quest" by Gorement
Stunningly beautiful, the opener from 1994's criminally unknown The Ending Quest is probably the single greatest old school death metal track I've ever heard.
16. "Lord of the Seas" by Nomans Land
Coming from Hammerheart, the 2005 release by a largely unknown Russian outfit, this was one of the first Viking metal songs I ever heard, and it's still one of my favorites. It's lighter and bouncier than many of the more subdued songs in this style, but it's a fun, catchy listen.
15. "A Tout Le Monde" by Megadeth
From 1994's Youthanasia. I've heard considerable debate as to whether or not this was still thrash metal, but regardless of what you call it I'll keep playing this song again and again.
14. "Black Sabbath" by Black Sabbath
Possibly the first heavy metal song. Definitely the first doom metal song. The eerie, atmospheric classic from 1970's monumental Black Sabbath is more than just a personal favorite, it's one of the greatest and most groundbreaking tracks in metal history.
13. "I Was Buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery" by Woods of Ypres
A slow, faintly unsettling track from the largely unknown Woods IV: The Green Album, released in 2009. This is an idiosyncratic blend of atmospheric black and doom metal which is hard to describe to somebody who has never heard it.
12. "Enter Sandman" by Metallica
Yes, I know Metallica (The Black Album) was where the band "sold out" in 1991. And I know this gets played every day on every rock station in the country. I don't care. I still love this song, and I enjoy listening to it more than any other single track in Metallica's formidable thrash catalog.
11. "Holy Diver" by Dio
Probably the best-known recording by the legendary vocalist Ronnie James Dio, the title track from 1983's Holy Diver has seemingly infinite replay value. It has become one of heavy metal's most recognized classics.
10. "Born Too Late" by Saint Vitus
The title track and opener for 1986's Born Too Late is good old traditional doom metal at its absolute best. The entire album is just well-executed Black Sabbath worship, but this particular song really stands out to me as something special.
9. "Return Trip" by Electric Wizard
Incomparably heavy and inhumanly slow, this monolithic wall of crushing psychedelic fuzz opened the 1997 release Come My Fanatics.... A nearly-10-minute slab of thunder and bong water, it's everything an extreme doom metal song could hope to be.
8. "Token of Time" by Ensiferum
Marvelously energetic and melodic, this ultra-catchy track appeared on the band's 2001 full-length debut, Ensiferum. It's brilliantly executed and surprisingly upbeat Viking metal that makes me want to start jumping up and down every time I hear it.
7. "Gods of War Arise" by Amon Amarth
This was one of the bands I had to institute my 1-song-per-band rule for. Picking a favorite Amon Amarth song is like picking your favorite individual berry from a blueberry pie. That said, I love this track from 2006's awesome melodeath album With Oden on Our Side and I feel perfectly happy placing it high on this list.
6. "Monkey Junction" by Weedeater
From the first time I heard this hateful southern sludge monster, I was hooked. It is from And Justice For Ya'll, which was released in 2001. This thing is fuzzy, druggy, and hostile in a strikingly catchy way.
5. "Dunkelheit" by Burzum
I'm not the biggest fan of Norwegian black metal, but I love this song. It's dark, atmospheric, and strangely haunting in a way that many later acts have tried to capture but have never succeeded in equaling. It was released in 1996 as the opening track of Filosofem.
4. "The Jester Race" by In Flames
As my longtime favorite band, I naturally had a little trouble picking out my very favorite of their songs. After some thought, the title track from 1996's melodic death metal masterpiece The Jester Race came out on top. This is a slightly redundant, ultra-catchy, chorus-oriented affair that many fans would claim is not even one of the better tracks on the album. This is my list, though, and I've played this song into the ground without ever tiring of it.
3. "The Leper Affinity" by Opeth
The opener for Opeth's phenomenal 2001 album Blackwater Park was possibly the single most pivotal song in forming my metal tastes. I encountered it early in my journey, and I was blown away. Nothing was ever the same after that for me, at least not musically. This deathy, progressive titan occupies a very special place for me.
2. "Inis Mona" by Eluveitie
I just love this song. This carries no deeper explanations or personal history, just pure enjoyment. Coming from Slania in 2008, this wonderfully balanced melodeath/folk metal track is insanely catchy and a ton of fun to listen to, no matter how many times I play it.
1. "One Rode to Asa Bay" by Bathory
I didn't even have to think about this one. This 10-minute-plus epic from 1990's Viking metal classic Hammerheart stands in a class by itself in my mind. Beautiful and deeply emotional, the narrative surrounds the forceful Christianization of Scandinavia, and the subsequent demise of that region's traditional culture. The compositions is amazing, and Quorton's warbling voice cracks with such genuine heartbreak that I find it impossible not to be totally captivated. My feelings about this song are so strong that I even made it the subject of a college essay last school year.