Ten of my Favourite Metal Songs
Here are ten songs that represent a little of my taste in heavy metal. Nothing more, nothing less.
Sanctuary – Future Tense
For me this is the perfect thrash metal song. The guitar riffs, Warrel Dane’s high pitched vocals and the long haired head-banging in the video. But my favourite thing about this song are the lyrics which drip with cynicism. They are only reinforced by the now dated lyrics asking what the nineties will hold whilst suggesting nothing will change.
Austrian Death Machine – I Am A Cybernetic Organism Living Tissue Over Endoskeleton
Nothing beats a mash up of your favourite things like metal and the Terminator. The totally stupid Austrian Death Machine are a loving tribute to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Every song riffs on a classic Schwarzenegger film or even a single catch phrase. Nothing screams metal better than a killer time-travelling robot. This song has catchy riffs and I just love the lyric “Do you even know who programmed who?”.
Sabaton – Rise of Evil
Sabaton have been described as a history class on steroids. Their songs focus on the history of war from ancient times to modern day. I had a really difficult time choosing which Sabaton song to use for this list. Often telling the stories of the underdogs and the victims their music can be uplifting despite the subject matter. This song is different as it looks at the Nazis. It never fails to give me goosebumps when it talks about a Reich that lasts a thousand years. So I decided to choose the Sabaton song that elicits the strongest feelings from me.
This song and the similar song final solution, explore the propaganda that fuelled Hitler’s rise to power. History is especially important when it is relevant to the present and unfortunately divisive propaganda and racists looking for scapegoats is still a big problem today.
Van Canto – Badaboom
It is almost impossible to find a truly unique band but Van Canto are one such band. I love their covers but this video is a very fitting showcase for their skills. Featuring a mad scientist trying to steal guitars from the world of metal, it’s up to the one metal band that don’t need guitars to save the day. Most fans learn of Van Canto via their cover songs so I really appreciate the humorous send ups of the bands they have covered in the video.
Warrel Dane – The Day The Rats Went To War
As the lead singer of Sanctuary, this is Warrel Dane’s second inclusion on the list. This time it’s a solo effort, and more riffs of the highest quality. The lyrics send it over the edge for me, as I imagine an army of rats emerging from the sewers to overthrow their lizard overlords. This song somehow fuels my overactive imagination whilst having a concrete message at the same time.
Beholder – Never Take Us Down
I’m always amazed by the enduring unity and togetherness of the metal scene. There is a dizzying array of sub genres and people come from all walks of life and what could be a combustible antagonistic mixture is a welcoming accepting subculture. It may look intimidating from the outside, but if you like the music, you are accepted into the tribe, no questions asked.
For me the biggest reason for this is the prejudice and hostility metal-heads face for their taste in music. One of the most famous and extreme incidents was the murder of Sophie Lancaster by mindless thugs. She and her boyfriend were attacked for the crime of looking different. The Bloodstock festival has given a lot of support for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation set up by her family. ‘Never Take Us Down’ is a song by the band Beholder whose profits went to the foundation. It is a fiery and defiant rebuke to those brain dead morons that judge people for the music they listen to or the way they dress.
System Of A Down – Prison Song
This song has been part of two intense musical experiences. The first time I heard this song, I was having the worst hangover of my life. I had borrowed a few albums from a friend, and I woke up and decided to listen to some new music. This song hit me like nothing else. I tried listening to other songs and couldn’t. It was as if the sonic punch this song offered was the only music strong enough to bust through my hangover.
Ten years later and I got to see System of a Down live for the first time. I queued all day in the hot Parisian sunshine to get front row. Inside it was even hotter, and pressed up against the railings, it was very uncomfortable. Before their set, a huge curtain was hung across the entirety of the stage. While we waited Mexican waves were going around the auditorium, and you could watch the shadow of the Mexican wave racing from left to right across the curtain. When the lights went out, the crowd went nuts, and System opened with this song, my favourite. The band were hidden by the curtain only illuminated as they played music. Alternating between invisible silence and glowing the volume ramped up to a crescendo and the curtain was released, also releasing System to go nuts. After waiting all day, this all seemed to happen in slow motion. The whole show flew past in a sweaty-eardrum-bursting-heavy-metal-whirlwind, but the most memorable moment was watching this curtain gradually fall to the ground while System started the show with a bang.
Sylosis – Conclusion Of An Age
I’ve mentioned the lyrics a lot for other songs because they are the main way I connect to music. Sylosis are different for me, and I adore the foreboding atmospheric nature of their music. Storms are a force of nature and their power is captured in this song, which really feels like a world ending storm to me.
Plus Sylosis are fantastic live. I saw them at in a tent at Download festival. Where as most metal gigs have an area reserved for a mosh pit, this tent was completely filled with people moshing. It was a relentless thrash metal overload.
Black Sabbath – War Pigs
This would make the list for simply being one of the most iconic metal songs of all time. Like all of Black Sabbath’s monster anthems it only takes a few heavily distorted notes and you instantly recognise it. I chose this song to represent all of Black Sabbath’s earliest songs.
What I find particularly fascinating about Black Sabbath’s earliest work is how unprecedented they were. Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple all emerged at the same time. Before this, there is very little you can recognise as metal. There are a few influences, the occasional riff, and the odd song, including this Beetles one off, but absolutely no metal bands. When you listen to heavy music from before the 1970s, you quickly find the music is an obvious influence, but almost all of it doesn’t quite qualify as heavy metal.
Then in 1970, Black Sabbath release back to back albums that are unmistakably heavy metal. These albums are not prototypes, or underdeveloped or hints of things to come. They are fully fledged genre-defining classics. Everything is here from the distorted sound to the dark lyrics to even the artwork. Out of almost nowhere, we went from having no clear metal bands to having some of the best metal of all time.
Alestorm – Shipwrecked
I’ve written a few serious things amongst these songs, so let’s finish with another unashamedly silly song. Famous for their brand of pirate metal, Alestorm only do one thing, but they have a lot of fun doing it. I could say more, but pirate metal kinda says it all.