10 Brilliant Metal Songs That Last Under 2 Minutes
In the blink of an eye, these ten tracks achieve more than some songs twice their length.
When the casual music fan thinks of heavy metal, they tend to think of overblown guitar solos and long stretches of instrumentation. More avid followers, however, will know that metal doesn't always signify eight-minute epics.
There's a certain art to making good songs that don't outstay their welcome. The most popular time constraining sub-genres tend to be thrash and grindcore, but they aren't the only styles that utilize speedy songwriting techniques. Because as you will see here, many of metal's greats like to dip into more 'to the point' compositions on occasion.
Short on time? Feel free to blast out some of these entries, as we look at ten brilliant metal songs that last under two minutes.
10. Municipal Waste – Masked By Delirium (2009)
Clocking in at a brisk 1 minute, 57 seconds, Municipal Waste's thrash/punk speeder "Masked by Delirium" packs a real punch despite its brevity.
Featured on their 2009 LP Massive Aggressive, the song is a testament to the crossover band's sheer love of finger-peeling riffage. Serving as the opener for the album, "Masked by Delirium" starts with some melodic, Maiden-esque, guitar harmonies before descending into a no-nonsense, punk rock onslaught – one that maintains its fierce and fiery pace for the remainder of the track. No frills, just blood spills.
Although the group certainly possess no shortage of brief numbers in their back catalog, few ooze the same venomous attitude that's exhibited on this shredding call-to-arms.
9. System Of A Down – CUBErt (1998)
All bets are off when metal wizards System Of A Down roll into town. On top of a discography that boggles the senses, SOAD also like to keep their musical ideas and song structures as focused and contained as possible. It's a kind of controlled chaos you could say, and on their debut album, they showcased one of the best examples of this.
"CUBErt" sounds like an '80s horror movie that's been condensed into a two-minute metal song. Frontman Serj Tankian delivers a demented vocal performance, leading the band into a rolling death march that features some quirky guitar work, rumbling bass notes, and a cranium crumbling drumbeat to round out the paranoid number.
Not only is "CUBErt" one of the band's best short songs, but it's also one of the most overlooked tracks in their bonkers musical library.
8. Pig Destroyer – Trojan Whore (2001)
The words 'relentless' and 'savage' spring to mind when thinking about this raw cut from grindcore outfit Pig Destroyer. From their 2001 sophomore album Prowler in the Yard, "Trojan Whore" still remains one of the band's most scintillating songs to date.
There's an intensity on "Trojan Whore" that sets it apart from many of the other grindcore acts of the time, mainly due to the band's insanely aggressive performances. They accomplish a lot in just 1:34, thanks to a throat-tearing vocal display courtesy of singer J.R. Hayes, breakneck speed riffs from guitarist Scott Hull, and some pedal to the metal stick work by drummer Brian Harvey. Who needs a bass guitar when it sounds this good?
Pure unrestrained rage pretty much sums up the group's intentions on "Trojan Whore", and thankfully for fans of the sub-genre, it doesn't get any more effortless when it comes to sheer brutality than it does here.
7. Life Of Agony – River Runs Red (1993)
As one of the best metal bands of the mid-'90s, Life Of Agony proved that metal could be just as introspective as any other genre. And on the title track to their career pinnacle River Runs Red, they also infuse their alternative metal stylings with a sinister Alice In Chains tinged sound.
While singer Keith Caputo's voice might not be to everyone's liking, there's a passionate quality in it that brings this song to life. Not to mention, the rest of the instrumentation really showcases the group's chops when it comes to musical arrangement. In two minutes the band knock out a killer guitar solo, stretches of groove-based riffing, thunderous drumbeats, and an infectious vocal refrain in "The river runs red and I think I'm dying!."
If you can get past the somewhat hammed up sounding vocals, you'll find a stellar song from a particularly stellar album lurking.
6. Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us (2016)
The most recent entry to be featured on this list, Nails' "You Will Never Be One Of Us" is among the heaviest songs to sprout out of 2016, and one of the fastest too.
The track doesn't even reach the 1:30 mark in its devastating quest to shatter the very conventions of sound as we know it. Nails tend to keep it short, but far from sweet, and on the title-track to their latest record, their towering wall of sound got ever bigger. Starting with an ear bleeding thrash workout before locking into a balls to the wall groove, this brief explosion of energy achieves more than most metal bands can muster up in four times the length.
It's hard not to be impressed by Nails' uncompromisingly heavy approach, and on "You Will Never Be One Of Us", they sound even more pissed off and seething than ever before.
5. Napalm Death – From Enslavement To Obliteration (1988)
The charmingly titled "From Enslavement to Obliteration" was never going to be a love song, but who could have predicted just how aggressive it would actually turn out to be?
From the album of the same name, the song is hilariously one of the longest cuts on the LP, and also one of the best too. Because while they may be infamously known for their seconds long songs, their version of a long track is usually pretty epic. Here they allow the instruments to breathe for once, treading a precarious line between restrained anger and full-blown rage. As such, it's certainly a song of two halves – a first half that sets a steady pace without over accelerating, and a second half that dives headfirst into a brick wall.
Very few bands in metal can claim to be true pioneers. In the case of Napalm Death however, they can comfortably claim that honor with a sound that is still influencing metal acts to this very day.
4. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Party Smasher (2007)
There's a lot to love about schizophrenic sound sculptors The Dillinger Escape Plan. Not only have they hit the mark with every one of their six studio albums, as well as being one of the best live bands of the past 15 years, but they have also managed to evolve their own scattershot sound scheme in many unique ways over the years.
On one of their career highlights (the phenomenal 2007 release Ire Works), the group showcased their love for songs that don't overstay their welcome. Exhibit A sits with the angst-ridden firecracker "Party Smasher". Launching into a bizarre song structure from the off, the track is incredibly diverse thanks to its divergent musical sections and spontaneous transitions, once again showing how insatiable the band's appetite is for adventurous songwriting.
Guitar noodling never sounded as good as it does here. Throw in a pounding drumbeat, vicious vocal velocity and intricate bass and lead guitar chord progression, and you have the perfect song to smash any party with.
3. Van Halen – Eruption (1978)
It’s not just raging riffs and angry vocals that can make for a cracking short song, but bucket loads of expression too. And there's no better example out there than on the weeping guitar solo that makes up "Eruption".
Courtesy of guitar virtuoso Eddie Van Halen, the focus of the song is solely put on the lone lead guitar – one that Van Halen wields with unwavering confidence. It shows too. Because while there's not much in the way of instrumental variety, it's an aspect that's not even missed thanks to the musical prowess of the guitar trailblazer.
In terms of what can be achieved within a short time frame (not to mention with a minimal toolset too), Van Halen nails it every step of the way on this scintillating breathtaker.
2. Slayer – Necrophobic (1986)
This early harbinger of death metal found its way onto one of the most influential metal albums of all time: the beastly Slayer release Reign in Blood. From the band's third studio album, the crazed crusher "Necrophobic" epitomizes everything that made the record such a tour de force in the metal world.
On "Necrophobic", frontman Tom Araya takes up the daunting task of trying to keep up with a guitar refrain that is practically fizzing with high-speed intensity. There's also the vicious drumming showcase from percussive pulverizer Dave Lombardo to contend with – one which sees him beat the holy hell out of his kit for the song's 1:40 duration.
There may be more standout numbers on Slayer's monumental '86 release, but you can't deny the impressive succinctness that lies at the heart of the vicious "Necrophobic".
1. Sepultura – Biotech Is Godzilla (1993)
Fans of these Brazilian bruisers are divided on what exactly there best album is, but for this writer, the combination of thrash and groove metal that was effortlessly concocted on 1993's Chaos A.D. has to be the pinnacle.
Just take the relentless "Biotech Is Godzilla" for example. Besides being an absolute musical wrecking ball, the track is also a lyrical masterclass from a band that were raising political issues at a time when most metal bands were more interested in commercializing thelmselves. From corporation corruption to political injustices – former frontman Max Cavalera lambastes the social climate with genuine frustration. It also doesn't hurt when you've got punk rock legend Jello Biafra penning the lyrics.
Both lyrically and musically – you'll be hard pressed to find a better song with such a limited time span than this raging ravager. Quick, powerful, to the point, and most importantly, heavy as hell.
What are your favorite metal songs that clock in under 2 minutes? Let us know in the comments!