As metal fans self-destruct with excitement today for the new Metallica album, we look at the ten most underappreciated gems in the band’s back catalog.
It’s been over eight years since Metallica last released a studio album, so it’s no surprise that excitement among metal fans is at a fever pitch level. After a marathon couple of days which saw the band release a video for every song on the record, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is already shaping up to be the best Metallica album in at least two decades.
But at a running time of a whopping 80 minutes, there will no doubt be some cuts that get overshadowed by the rest. Because as you will see on this list, even a band as popular as Metallica are susceptible to having some great tracks in their discography be overlooked.
From their revered early releases to their divisive later years – There’s still sadly some songs that have slipped through the cracks. The ten on this list are underrated, either because they rarely make it into the band’s live set or because they are simply not classed as worthy contenders among the four-piece’s most successful songs.
Before we get into the thick of it, here are a few honorary mentions that almost made the cut:
The Outlaw Torn (Load, 1996)
The Frayed Ends Of Sanity (…And Justice For All, 1988)
The Call Of Ktulu (Ride The Lightning, 1984)
Judas Kiss (Death Magnetic, 2008)
Where The Wild Things Are (Reload, 1997)
So with that said, here are the ten most underrated tracks from the group's thirty-plus year career.
10. Leper Messiah (Master Of Puppets, 1986)
If there's one song on Metallica's 1986 game changer Master Of Puppets that's underrated, it's the marching masterpiece "Leper Messiah".
Sandwiched between "Disposable Heroes" and "Orion", this one never really got enough props for its crunching brilliance. The song's deceptive simplicity is also one of its greatest strengths, with the band utilizing direct drumbeats and simple riffage for maximum impact. Throw in a killer breakdown and some fantastic stop/start trickery, and you have a track that batters the listener's ears with expert precision.
This one's certainly underrated, but considering the fact that it's featured on what is arguably the most highly regarded metal album of all time, placing it higher than the number ten spot would be tough to justify.
9. The Unnamed Feeling (St. Anger, 2004)
St. Anger was just downright bad for the most part, but there were some glimmers of hope in songs like the furious title-track, the belting bruiser “Frantic”, and the driving anthem “My World”.
Another track that provided some respite from the album's ear-bleeding racket was the metal balladry of “The Unnamed Feeling”. Despite starting with a guitar line that sounds like it was plucked from a P.O.D song, the raw cut quickly gets into an insatiable low-end groove – all be it a pretty tuneless one.
With a drum sound that’s about as effective as Slipknot’s Clown smacking his beer keg with a baseball bat, the song is already in an uphill battle with itself. Fortunately, James Hetfield’s ever reliable vocal melodies and the track’s sheer brute force help to take this one past the finishing line.
If you can stomach the very abrasive production, you'll find a pretty solid track buried beneath the rubble.
8. Junior Dad (Lulu, 2011)
Chances are you never made it to the end of the grueling Metallica and Lou Reed collaboration Lulu, and I wouldn't blame you either. The record was a messy and convoluted experience, but not one that was completely without merit.
The album's closer "Junior Dad" is the most effective cut on the record, and points to what the supergroup were always striving for with this recording oddity – some form of musical enlightenment. The song functions more as a mood piece than anything else. With its reminiscing quality and symphonic grandeur, the whole thing is actually quite beautiful.
With Reed comes a whole host of influences that wouldn't otherwise make it onto a Metallica LP, such as the droning repetition of krautrock and the free-form spoken word. But Metallica's influences can also be heard with their anthemic riffs and neat guitar licks, creating a successful blend of styles that was sorely lacking on the rest of Lulu.
This visceral song is only let down by a running time that is ridiculously bloated and unnecessary, but don't let that stop you from bathing in its warm hypnotic glow.
7. My Friend Of Misery (Metallica, 1991)
It's not uncommon for a highly successfully album to feature a few tracks that get overshadowed by the rest. This was certainly the case for Metallica's monumental 1991 self-titled release, with stellar songs like "My Friend Of Misery" taking a back seat to the album's biggest hits.
You'd be mistaken though to look past this rip-roaring riff-fest, because it's actually one of the album's best songs –regardless of popularity. It features one of the most eargasmic riffs ever concocted by the band, thanks to its bluesy rhythm and sleazy groove.
It's a song of two parts – one that is full of sorrow and another that is full of bravado. It works brilliantly too. They ratchet up the tension before delivering a full-blown onslaught for the outro in a way that only Metallica can do.
On an album littered with standout tracks, this ballsy banger is arguably the most aurally pleasing of the lot.
6. Fixxxer (Reload, 1997)
The hard rock sound of 1997's Reload may have left a bitter taste in the mouths of diehard Metallica fans, but one song from the divisive record may be the exception. You have to get through quite a bit of filler, but once you hear the menacing intro of album finisher "Fixxxer", you may be glad you hung around.
Opening with some ominous, reverberating guitar chords, "Fixxxer" quickly launches into a full-scale assault through its menacing bassline and Sabbath-inspired riffs. The chorus is really the star here though. It sees James Hetfield deliver an emotive vocal melody, further guided by Lars Ulrich's slow deliberate beat and Kirk Hammet's effected guitar licks.
Reload may remain one of the band's less focused records, but "Fixxxer" can stand proudly on its own as a thrilling roller coaster ride that demands compulsive listening. Oh, and it's never been played live! The band need to fixxx that…
The top 5 underrated songs are on the next page.