Now, there's nothing like trying to do the impossible. With a genre that's been kicking around in some form since the early 1970s, distilling its essence into 25 essential tracks is essentially ridiculous. Because there are so few slots I established the rule that there could only be one track per band, except for Black Sabbath and Metallica because I make the rules and I like to be arbitrary. Classic antecedents to heavy metal such as the Beatles' "Helter Skelter," Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression" and Blue Cheer's "Summertime Blues" were passed over, while Led Zeppelin were allowed entry, since it made sense to me.
For the most part, there's an emphasis on the heavier aspect, except when there isn't. A few songs were hits. But heavy metal, at its heart, is not a commercially friendly music, despite whatever success it has had. Though don't count me out just yet at compiling another list of pop metal and power ballads. I've also considered writing up a list of the best albums with the word "The" in the title, so there's really nothing I won't try at least twice.
Shout-outs to Bill Billoney, Joey Leshko and John Chernack, all who added key tracks, though don't hold them accountable for the stuff you don't like. That's my doing.
Not get ready to bang your head! Or if your doctor has advised you otherwise, tap your foot.
Bonus: I need to fit John Chernack's choice of Exciter's "Violence and Force" in here. So, consider it #26, but figure, any of these tunes deserve to be on your heavy metal playlist.
24) "Communication Breakdown" -- Led Zeppelin: Surely, even without Jimmy Page guitarists would learn these tones and that aggression, but damn if this doesn't kick out the windows of an old car. For better or worse, Robert Plant was also among the first guys to reach for notes that even most women didn't bother with. Shall we put the Stairway to Heaven on your Amex card, Sir Bob?
22) "Peace Sells" -- Megadeth: It turned out to be a good thing that Dave Mustaine split from Metallica. As a chief architect of the thrash approach, Mustaine needed his own firm. Metallica weren't likely to get as political or as into ellipses and they sure didn't stick to the thrill of the speedchase. Who's buying? I'm buying.
20) "Toxic Waltz" -- Exodus: I've read that metalheads wish this could be their school dance song. At my old school it might have had a shot. I mean, when they wrote up the time capsule in the yearbook, Slayer got mentioned as music of the era. Maybe this explains why I can't take Def Leppard seriously and why I cut Quiet Riot from the list. (I kept Guns N' Roses, but really, they're folk music.)
18) "War Pigs" -- Black Sabbath: I could've taken "Paranoid," "Symptom of the Universe," "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," "Supernaut," "Children of the Grave," "Into the Void," "Fairies Wear Boots," "The Wizard," "Iron Man," "Sweet Leaf"… but I had to draw the line somewhere. And Ozzy only knows how many cover bands I've watched do this song with a conviction you don't hear when they cover "Wonderful Tonight." Thank you, gents.
16) "Over The Mountain" -- Ozzy Osbourne: My buddy Joey Leshko chose "Mr. Crowley," which surprises me since he's a drummer and I would've thought he'd go for the double bass drum kick of "Over the Mountain." But maybe he prefers to sing "Crowley" in the shower. You really can't go wrong with anything from Blizzard of Ozz or Diary of A Madman.
14) "Metal Thrashing Mad" -- Anthrax: I've never understood how singers could reach those high notes. Or how there were so many guys who could. And do the guitarists now all have carpal tunnel? And the fans concussions? You'll have to speak up. I can't hear you.
12) "Screaming For Vengeance" -- Judas Priest: I struggled with this one. Any number of JP songs could've fit the bill. Finally, I went with this classic from 1982. Yes, "Victim of Changes" and "Beyond the Realm Of Death" fans should be disappointed, but it just goes to show how rock solid JP were for so many years. (I swear to you, every time I see Kelly Ripa on TV, I yell out, "Never turn your back on the Ripa!" Unleashed in the East fans know what I'm talkin' 'bout even if my long, suffering girlfriend does not.)
10) "Detroit Rock City" -- Kiss: Most guitar solos are just there, that's all. But this one makes the song. Kiss always sided on the pop or hard rock side of heavy metal, rarely going for the full-on and therefore were never considered an "official" metal band. Sorry, I misplaced the rule book. If I were a hardcore metalhead, though, I'd be proud to have this song among the ranks.
8) "At War With Satan" -- Venom: "This is horrible music" says one YouTube commentator. "This is terrible" says another. With endorsements like this, I can't see how you wouldn't be interested. I figure what evokes strong emotion is worth checking out. I'm not interested in hearing stuff that people describe as "uh, it's OK, I guess." Added bonus? This cut is twenty minutes long, so you can listen to it three times an hour! That's 24 times in an 8-hour shift. Anyone know who wins?
6) "N.I.B." -- Black Sabbath: "My name is Lucifer, please take my hand." Well, he said please. I could listen to this riff for an hour. In fact, I have. The song is so sturdy that not even an underrehearsed, emergency Ozzy Osbourne band could mess with it. That's indestructible power.
4) "Satan's Fall" -- Mercyful Fate: I played with a couple different tracks here. Billoney says "Gypsy." Chernack says "Nightmare." I even toyed with "Melissa." But in the end I went with "Satan's Fall" because it's long as hell. Shouldn't all songs open with a guitar solo?
2) "Black Sabbath" -- Black Sabbath: One final Black Sabbath tune before I go. Sometimes I think I should start up a 'Concerned Parents Committee' and dredge up all that PMRC type hysteria just so kids today will immediately want to check out old Black Sabbath albums. You heard it from me, kids, DON'T listen to Black Sabbath. It will ruin your life. Whatever you do in life, do NOT put this record on. I can trust you, kid, right?
- Arts & Entertainment/Media/Music
- Arts & Entertainment
- Heavy Metal