All the previous installments:
Introduction, 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41, 40-31, 30-21
#20: “Supernaut” by Black Sabbath I have to admit, when I set out to make this list I didn’t expect this to be the highest Black Sabbath song. In fact, it’s one of the least well-known songs from their first four albums. It’s not even one of their dark songs. It’s an extremely energetic song about (I think) drugs. It’s exactly the kind of song you want to hear when you’re in a really good mood. The main riff is awesome, and the solos make the song incredible. There’s a great guitar solo by the capable Tony Iommi and even an entertaining drum solo by Bill Ward. I suspect that it’s Sabbath’s answer to the accusations of the time that they couldn’t play. Steve Huey of All Music Guide said “the crushing "Supernaut" is one of the heaviest tracks the band ever recorded.” Enough said.
Black Sabbath, Volume 4 (1972)
#19: “Man in the Box” by Alice in Chains This bottom-heavy song of abuse is the best written by this Seattle band. While he is abused, he is defiant, unlike most of their other heroin-depressed songs. “I’m the dog who gets beat. Shove my nose in shit. Won’t you come and save me?” It even has some of the best interplay of vocals between Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell, and one of Cantrell’s better guitar solos.
#18: “Jailbait” by Motörhead This song has everything that makes Motörhead great: a raunchy, high energy riff paired up with irreverent lyrics sung by Lemmy Kilmister’s uniquely raunchy voice. “Teenage baby you’re a sweet young thing. . . . You’re jailbait and I just can’t wait. . . . Love that young stuff.” The solo is even entertaining, even though it’s nothing special.
Ace of Spades (1980)
#17: “Down with the Sickness” by Disturbed If this song doesn’t make you want to smash into the person next to you, nothing will. Descent into madness is the order of the day. The song begins with Draiman’s famous “evil monkey scream” along with decidedly White Zombie/Godsmack-inspired guitars, and everyone can get into the chorus. “Open up your hate and let it flow into me. Get up, come on get down with the sickness. You mother get up, come on get down with the sickness. You fucker get up, come on get down with the sickness. Madness is the gift that has been given to me.” It’s really too bad that the edited version has to cut out the insane rant near the end, because it’s filled with some of the most anger ever distilled into musical form.
The Sickness (2000)
#16: “Nothing to Gein” by Mudvayne This is perhaps one of Mudvayne’s most thoughtful songs. It’s written from the perspective of Edward Gein, first and foremost mother’s little boy and in his later years a model mental patient, and you can look up on Google what he did in between (hint: Hitchcock’s Psycho was based partly on him, and so was Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs). They handle the material somewhat sensitively, trying to figure out what made him the way he is, but definitely with a Mudvayne twist. The song moves through extremely heavy parts with screaming vocals and singing, and even goes through a funky part. “Masturbate, celebrate the fields of death with skin upon my face. Life, submissiveness. Hypnotizing the ignorant a little boy’s best friend is always his mother, at least that’s what she said. Life of a simple man taught that everyone else is dirty and their love is meaningless. . . . If I soak my hands in others’ blood am I sick? If I wash my hands in others’ blood am I sick? . . . If I bathe myself in others’ blood am I sick?”
L.D. 50 (2000)
#15: “Greed” by Godsmack This is exactly why Godsmack is the new millenium’s answer to White Zombie. They take no prisoners and give no apologies with their heavy, raw riffs and Sully’s perfect metal voice. There’s nothing that immediately jumps out as particularly brilliant about their music, until you realize that they have put their finger on the pulse of heavy metal and understood exactly what makes us love it. This song is the best example of that purification of metal: they have heated it, purified it, and forged it into Damascan steel.
#14: “Forty Six & 2” by Tool Although this is one of their little-known songs, it really is the quintessential Tool song. I don’t really know how to describe it, except as a complex blending of unusual bass and guitar riffs overlaid and gilded with Maynard James Keenan’s sometimes delicate and sometimes powerful voice.
#13: “More Human Than Human” by White Zombie This is the most memorable song ever performed by Mr. Zombie. Everyone knows the porno-esque bass line at the beginning, made complete with the sounds of a woman moaning in ecstasy. The lyrics simply talk about how invincible and scary Rob is as the epitome of all the bad things about society in the world of Blade Runner. “More human than human” is the company’s motto in that movie, the company that makes replicants. He even quotes the big bad guy near the end: “I want more life, fucker.” You could either mosh or grind to this song if you wanted to, and I think that’s what makes its appeal so wide.
Astro-Creep: 2000 (1995)
#12: “Into the Coven” by Mercyful Fate The pretty little intro music deceives you, and then it turns to a more dramatic metal sound and you realize what you’re in for. “Howl like a wolf” King Diamond sings in his falsetto, “and a witch will open the door.” He wants you to be Lucifer’s child. The whole song has this perfect air of bad Satan-themed horror movie, and that’s one of the reasons we love King and company. The solos also complement the loping rhythm of the music as well on this as on any of MF’s tracks. If you want a dramatic song that will send chills up and down your spine, this is the one to listen to, and King minces no words about why you’re here to enter his coven: “My soul belongs to Satan.”
#11: “Master of Puppets” by Metallica
Master of Puppets (1986)
I’ve heard this one so many times I don’t even need to listen to it again to write this review. This could rightly be considered the predecessor to “One” on Justice, and although it’s generally not as highly rated I have placed it ahead of that particular epic. While “One” has a particularly heavy and fast climax, this one is heavy and powerful the whole way through, and the main riff is the best that Metallica has ever written. The lyrical imagery is at least equally as powerful as that in “One,” with the continuing theme throughout the Puppets album (all-encompassing, abusive control by some dominant entity) powerfully present: “Master! Master! Where’s those dreams that I’ve been after? Master! Master! You promised only lies! Laughter! Laughter! All I hear or see is laughter. Laughter! Laughter! Laughing at my cries!” This theme is echoed by such later giants as Tool (“Prison Sex”), Alice in Chains (“Man in the Box”), Megadeth (“Captive Honor”), and Black Label Society (“Counterfeit God”). It’s even better live, when 80,000 people scream “Master” along with the band (or at least that was the seating capacity of the packed former Mile High Stadium where I saw them the first time in 2000), or when they play “Sanitarium” when the song hits the mellow part and then pick up where they left off when “Sanitarium” is over, or how they replace the words “You’re dedicated to how I’m killing you” to end with “how I’m f*ing you”. Here’s what Steve Huey of All Music Guide said:
Even though Master of Puppets didn't take as gigantic a leap forward as Ride the Lightning, it was the band's greatest achievement, hailed as a masterpiece by critics far outside heavy metal's core audience. It was also a substantial hit, reaching the Top 30 and selling three million copies despite absolutely nonexistent airplay. Instead of a radical reinvention, Master of Puppets is a refinement of past innovations. . . . Everything about it feels blown up to epic proportions (indeed, the songs are much longer on average), and the band feels more in control of its direction. You'd never know it by the lyrics, though -- in one way or another, nearly every song on Master of Puppets deals with the fear of powerlessness. Sometimes they're about hypocritical authority (military and religious leaders), sometimes primal, uncontrollable human urges (drugs, insanity, rage), and, in true H.P. Lovecraft fashion, sometimes monsters. Yet by bookending the album with two slices of thrash mayhem ("Battery" and "Damage, Inc."), the band reigns triumphant through sheer force -- of sound, of will, of malice. The arrangements are thick and muscular, and the material varies enough in texture and tempo to hold interest through all its twists and turns. Some critics have called Master of Puppets the best heavy metal album ever recorded; if it isn't, it certainly comes close.(Emphasis added, and liberally applied.)
And finally, the moment you've been waiting for, the Top Ten.
UPDATE 1/5/2010: Check out my new list, The Top 50 Metal Albums of The Last Decade