10 Most Underrated Metallica Songs
Featuring nine studio albums, four live albums, six compilation albums, one covers album, one collaboration album, and a handful of singles, Metallica‘s discography is an impressive one. With the exception of Black Sabbath, Metallica are arguably the most influential heavy metal band in the history of the genre, and they’ve done it while still taking bold stylistic chances. They’ve stumbled more than a few times along the way, but the artistic experimentation has paid off more times that not.
Some of the songs Metallica have recorded for their more polarizing projects have been overlooked because of the stigma attached to their parent releases. While other underrated Metallica songs are just victims of being included on albums brimming with other stellar material. Noisecreep is taking a look at the 10 Most Underrated Metallica Songs in honor of the heavy metal giants.
Perhaps the most straightforward moment on our 10 Most Underrated Metallica Songs list, ‘Sweet Amber’ comes off ‘St. Anger,’ the most polarizing album by the thrash kings until they released the Lou Reed-assisted disc known as ‘Lulu.’ ‘Sweet Amber’ is a riffy rocker that wouldn’t sound out of place on one of those Corrosion of Conformity albums when Pepper Keenan was fronting them. It’s great stuff that deserves better than the record it lives on.
The only song co-written by former bassist Jason Newsted for their ‘Reload’ album, ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ has yet to receive the live treatment by Metallica and likely never will. A moody, mid-tempo stomper, the song uses an effective double-tracked James Hetfield vocal throughout most of the verses and chorus. The watery flange on one of the guitar tracks is also a fine touch, adding to the already dreamlike feel of the song.
Although ‘Rebel of Babylon’ appears on ‘Beyond Magnetic,’ an EP that was released to coincide with Metallica’s 30th anniversary shows in early 2012, the song sounds like it could have come off the group’s mega selling 1991 eponymous album. Despite its 8-minute length, its various tempo shifts and melodic guitar runs keep you hooked in from start to finish. Hopefully the Bay Area bashers throw ‘Rebel of Babylon’ back into their set lists someday.
After turning off some fans with ‘St. Anger,’ Metallica took a few years off and returned in fighting shape for 2008’s excellent ‘Death Magnetic’ album. With searing lead guitar work from Kirk Hammett, ‘The End of the Line’ is the second cut off the record and echoes the rest of the album’s multilayered arrangement style that made fans of late ‘80s Metallica bust out their old denim vests in tribute. That makes it the perfect fit for the 10 Most Underrated Metallica Songs.
Noisecreep isn’t alone in its appreciation for ‘Phantom Lord.’ Anthrax recorded a cover of the song in 1998 as a B-side for their ‘Inside Out’ single. Co-written by former Metallica guitarist and future Megadeth mastermind Dave Mustaine, there’s nothing fancy about ‘Phantom Lord,’ just the Motörhead-inspired speed demon savagery that is the future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s early material. Anthrax’s version of the song is also worth your time.
‘No Leaf Clover’ was one of two new pieces completed for the Metallica’s 1999 collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony. It’s a downcast number, featuring a haunting string accompaniment, written and conducted by Michael Kamen. The song hit the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart upon its release, but ‘No Leaf Clover’ seems to have either been forgotten by old-school Metallica fans or undiscovered by many of the group’s younger listeners. Let’s change that.
You know it’s a tough battle for an underrated song when even the band that originally wrote and recorded it treats it like a stepchild. But we didn’t feel right having this list without ‘Escape’ on it. Originally titled ‘The Hammer,’ the song has only been played live by Metallica one time, but its tasty main guitar riff and hard rock-flavored chorus was a welcome change of pace during the group’s earlier thrash days.
According to Metallica’s official website, 1988’s ‘The Frayed Ends of Sanity’ is the only track from their landmark ‘…And Justice for All’ album that has never been performed live in its entirety. It’s a shame since the song includes a topnotch vocal performance from James Hetfield and one of the better arrangements on ‘Justice.’ Trivia nerds should already know the monkey chant sampled in the song was lifted from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’
Hetfield’s parents were Christian Scientists and didn’t believe in modern medicine, rather putting their faith in the idea that God is the only true healer. Hetfield has described being forced to leave health class as a teen due to his parents’ religious beliefs. Both his father and mother eventually succumbed to cancer and ‘The God That Failed’ deals with the Metallica frontman’s anger over the situation. ‘The God That Failed’ is a heavy song for a heavy subject.
With lyrics inspired by horror/fantasy author H.P. Lovecraft's short story ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth,’ ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ finds its main character fighting unearthly forces in a classic battle of good vs. evil. Included on an album that features classic ‘Tallica songs such as ‘Battery,’ ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ and ‘Master of Puppets’ has left ‘TTTSNB’ a bit overshadowed, but at least it stands here, at the top of our 10 Most Underrated Metallica Songs list.