Some songs are forgotten soon after they are first heard but others will still be played in a hundred years. These tracks certainly fall into the latter category as they are amongst the greatest and most influential metal tracks ever made. Nobody can doubt the pedigree of at least some of these songs. Here are five of the most influential metal tracks ever put to tape.
Black Sabbath – Paranoid
Originally released with the B-side, The Wizard, it soon became clear that Paranoid was the first real success story for Black Sabbath. The track was the band’s first charted single in the UK, climbing as high as number 4 in 1970.
It wasn’t ever supposed to be the quintessential Black Sabbath track that is known as today. The band originally wanted to name their album after its opening track, War Pigs and quickly recorded Paranoid as an afterthought. The record company saw Paranoid as a less controversial title and the rest is history.
“Basically, it’s just about depression, because I didn’t really know the difference between depression and paranoia,” Geezer Butler said of the song back in 2013.
The song itself has been featured on numerous films, television shows, and video games down the years. It’s certified gold in the UK after selling over 400,000 copies in the country that this band calls home. Ozzy Osbourne’s vocals paired with one of the most recognisable riffs of all time create a metal classic. It’s worthy of closing any show and Sabbath finished with it on their final live tour date in Birmingham back in 2017.
Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast
The Number of the Beast comes from Iron Maiden’s 1982 album of the same name. It was a hugely controversial track upon its release as Iron Maiden became accused of Satanism and devil-worshipping in large parts of the mainstream media. However, the band themselves disagree with this analysis.
“Basically, this song is about a dream. It’s not about devil worship,” says bassist Steve Harris of the track.
Still, there can be no doubting its influence. The Number of the Beast charted in countries across the world and has featured in all sorts of pop culture from video games to the BBC television show, Sherlock.
Motorhead – Ace of Spades
There’s no doubt about this one. Motorhead released Ace of Spades back in 1980, the lead track from the album of the same. Much like Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, Ace of Spades is certified gold in the United Kingdom after selling over 400,000 copies. The drums and guitar riff are unforgettable but it is Lemmy’s vocals that really make this song.
Ace of Spades has had a rather unique impact on what aspect of popular culture. The song is a popular hit in the casino world for its association with blackjack and poker. Lemmy himself was a keen slots player so the connection was well-deserved. The bond is so deep that Motorhead have their own online slot game. It’s hard not to think about Motorhead’s metal anthem when you see the ace of spades in a pack of cards.
Metallica – Master of Puppets
In 1986 Metallica released Master of Puppets, the titular track on their third studio album. There can be no doubt that it deserves a spot on this list but so could any one of Metallica’s other top tracks. There’s a reason why Metallica have played Master of Puppets live more than any other song.
In 2016, Master of Puppets became the first metal song added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. The track was deemed to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” enough for a place in this illustrious club that includes The Beatles, Ray Charles, and early audio recordings from Thomas Edison.
Slayer – Raining Blood
Raining Blood is the best-known track from thrash royalty Slayer. According to the band, the song itself is all about overthrowing heaven. The raining blood comes from the angels above. That hasn’t stopped the song from becoming a major success as their first single release. It’s also the only song on this list that has been covered by the classically-trained singer-songwriter, Tori Amos.
It has been used in numerous other elements of popular culture. The song featured prominently in an episode of South Park, something that the band greeted with enthusiasm. Raining Blood was also used in a couple of hugely popular video games. It was on one of the radio stations in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City as well as a playable track on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. Despite that, the band is still enamoured with their first single.
“I still love playing that song live,” admitted guitarist Jeff Hanneman. “You’d think we’d be tired of it – I mean, I’d love to know how many times we’ve played it live.”