Writing an article about a band this gigantic and epic can be difficult, but I’m going to try my best here. If you’ve ever seen this band live, as I have been lucky enough to do about five times now, you are familiar with the opening notes of the long-held intro music, “The Ecstasy of Gold.” It’s a western themed song from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, and believe it or not, it’s the perfect song to watch the band enter the stage.
Metallica is a one of a kind band. They brought heavy metal to households everywhere, became a huge name, not only in metal circles, but general music circles. They’re big enough that they headlined “Ozzfest,” and played after Ozzy Osbourne. As a band, they’ve made incredible music that gave metal kids an easy introduction to this world full of anger and frustration.
Certainly, not every album is a winner, but this band has done for modern metal what Michael Jackson did for pop music. Better known, and more popular than Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Slayer, Pantera, and all the other bands in the genre, they managed to attain quite an impressive career. They still tour often, and it’s always good. They’ve been around for so long, even my mother can probably name a song. If you haven’t ever checked out their discography, do yourself a favor. I consider the first four albums to be the best four metal albums ever written by one band back to back. The songs I’ve picked today are my ten favorites. Mostly older stuff, but all things any Metallica fan has heard before, and likely knows the words to. Simply put, you can’t screw around with “Metal up your ass.”Enjoy the list!
10 HERO OF THE DAY: LOAD
Perhaps the most surprising song on this list, which isn’t to say it's a bad song, albeit one that people don't often think of. “Hero” isn't the in your fac thrash of the bands early works, but as a thought provoking hard rock song filled with unstable emotion, it fits perfectly in this bunch. Hetfield’s voice and singing is genuine and crooner worthy. The song does build up during the second chorus and bridge, and while that small segment is powerful, the song maintains the opening rhyme. It's almost as if they injected the more intense section as a way of reminding everyone they still had the raw power.
9 BLACKENED: AND JUSTICE FOR ALL
So many of the songs work as openers for concerts, but this one is probably my favorite. The guitar work by Hammett is second to none, and the drumming that barges in the room and dominates the sound can only be interpreted as the arrival of doom. It’s an evil song, man. The breakdown after the first verse is still one of the briefest, yet most heavy things I’ve ever heard. It’s almost as if they wanted to prove they could have a mini-kill fest in between the verses and the chorus. This is probably my favorite of all of their albums, and as a kid who was bullied and dealt with tons of bullshit, it makes sense. Having these songs seep into your soul is good for overall confidence. Their songs are about triumph, never giving up, and taking what you think you deserve, even in the face of adversity
8 CREEPING DEATH: RIDE THE LIGHTNING
The guitars are simply polarizing at the start. I was fortunate enough to witness this song as the opener to their Bonnaroo 2009 set, and it shook the festival into a frenzy that my non-metal loving ex-wife was happy to leave immediately upon commencing. So many of their songs are epic, and this is certainly, but it’s prophetic also. The warning Hetfield is screaming out isn’t taken seriously, and from then on, “Creeping Death” is approaching. What works so well in this song isn’t only the context, but how well-layered the message is in accord with the killer guitar parts by Hammett. The oh so metal chant at the end of “Die by my hand” is also about as brutal as you can get
7 SEEK AND DESTROY: KILL EM ALL
Time for one from all the way back. While not quite as grandiose and magical as some of their albums that came after this one, you can tell they were never your typical metal band. They had equal parts metal, thrash, and anger to make people notice them. Seek & Destroy has since become a staple at their shows, and I’ve never been to a concert where it wasn’t played. Most of the time it's set closer, which is always great. You have to leave the crowd wanting more, and remind them how long you’ve been around kicking ass and taking names.
6 FADE TO BLACK: RIDE THE LIGHTNING
I always remember the amazing Behind the Music episode about the band, and when James is talking about playing the guitar part at the stadium show and catching on fire. Some images you just can’t get out of your imagination. In regards to the song though, it really does start out quite beautifully, and this is one of the best early examples that they could slow it down and be emotional and didn’t have to only rely on sheer power and force. Many may think of Lars Ulrich as an asshole, but this is a key track where the drumming perfectly contributes to every beat the other members are giving. It really is a depressing song. I can relate to the feelings of losing all sanity, hope, and slipping away. Slightly over half way through the song has a little change of heart, and they head into heavier territories, while still keeping the smooth effortless groove going. Not all bands could do that, but they do it with ease
5 THE UNFORGIVEN: BLACK ALBUM
This song has always been one of my favorite all time songs by this band, and as you can see, it’s my number two. By this album the band has turned a corner, and what they have emerged with is a still heavy sound, but it’s much more polished in certain areas. This doesn’t hurt the band though. This is easily the highest selling album, and it’s still one of the biggest selling albums of any rock album made in the 1990’s. “Unforgiven” though, is the masterpiece of this “Black” album. The lyrics, and the depth of their experimentation, on this song especially make it a classic in a long list of classics. It’s certainly not the heaviest Metallica song, but it’s heavy in an emotional way that many of their other songs simply can’t compete with.
4 FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS: RIDE THE LIGHTNING
I assume they got the idea for the bells from AC/DC, but to me, when I hear bells starting a song, I ALWAYS hope it’s this one. One of the great things about this band is their ability to tell a powerful story through words and sounds. This is one of the best examples of that. I always think about a war-torn country, and scared people from all walks of life, of all religious beliefs, and of all colors, struggling to come to grips with the fact that death is likely close. It’s sobering to say the least, and the song speaks from the point of view of someone, who at least to me, wasn’t given any choice but to be there sacrificing his life. When James Hetfield bellows “Take a look to the sky just before you die, it’s the last time you will,” it’s incredibly sad and poignant. The overall message I take from this that we all have to die, but before you die, make sure you experience life and truly live. Then death is easier to accept.
3 BATTERY: MASTER OF PUPPETS
Another one with a great beginning, but this song goes above and beyond most standard album openers. Maybe it’s because of the opening, but it’s always struck me as extremely cinematic. The lone horsemen heading into town, and quickly realizing he’s gonna have to throw down with some unsavory folks. The vocals kick in right as he’s hiding behind a shop thinking his way out of another mess. The chants of “Battery” happen right as a courthouse full of villains blows up. If you look in the dictionary under songs that kick major ass while pummeling you into submission, “Battery” will almost certainly be the definition. Lastly, any song that has the lyric “Mashing non-believers” is a song I can get behind.” This song is force, and only force.
2 MASTER OF PUPPETS: MASTER OF PUPPETS
Never have I seen a better usage of a song in a film than this in “Old School.” The song is super serious, but in the film it’s perfectly used for comedy. You just don’t see it coming, which is what makes the “kidnapping” sequence so hilarious. The overall song though, is more than a little fucked up, and it’s commanding you to tread lightly, and make sure not to piss off whoever your boss in life is. You don’t want them playing with your life. They hold the strings, and they call the shots. Beyond all of that though, the middle section of the song is a lovely, well-played slower part. It’s a sandwich made of black bread, with a little bit of sunlight in the middle, and then guess what? You’re back in prison suffering at the hands of your master, and hoping for a reprieve that you’re not ever going to get.
1 ONE: AND JUSTICE FOR ALL
For me, this is the one that started it all. I owe my love for this band initially almost exclusively to the moment I discovered this song. The story of a veteran who is left in terrible shape, is a shocking, but sad reminder of the ravages of war, and how many people come home in worse shape than they left. I’m not sure if any of the members in this band were ever in the armed forces, but the song perfectly describes what I imagine the suffering of war to be like after the ashes have settled. The verses are shocking, and extremely dark. Our narrator is in almost literal hell. He can’t see, can’t walk, has less limbs than he left for war with, and all he wants is to be left to die. He’s a shell of himself, and the music brings everything into the sad, but often true light. The breakdown at the end is as technical as it is brutal, and for a band who have made a career out of morbid tales, this is the epicenter and capital of bone crushing force and sadness. If you read my top ten songs of the 80’s last week, you’ll remember this song being on there. It’s the best metal song of the decade, it’s most likely in the top 3 best metal songs of all time, and it’s my choice for the best all-time Metallica song. I hoped you’ve enjoyed the list. Thanks for reading!
Today we discuss Dan Deacon and his top ten songs. Over the course of five full length releases, he’s excelled at making music that is thoughtful, radiant, and a stark contrast to overwhelmingly simplistic ideas of other electronic musicians. He’s Daft Punk level good, except currently you wouldn’t know that unless you actively sought it out. Anyway, I present to you the Top Ten Best Dan Deacon songs. Enjoy!
10 TRUE THRUSH: AMERICA
With number seven and “True Thrush” from the dazzling and inventive “America,” Dan Deacon brings in a sort of communal element with music that swirls in a sound full of energy and vigor. The vocals are on the sweet sounding side, but the message is dark and honest, like the world it’s portraying. The slight echo effect on the chorus is a great idea as part of the mix. It really makes it feel you’re part of it, especially when you’re in a car driving into the adventure of the next. In the end, it's the dancey combo of the vocals swaying against the pulsating beats thats make the track so signature.
9 WHAM CITY: SPIDERMAN OF THE RINGS
This track, off his first official release, is an epic journey full of blasting electro beats, tales of mots, bridges, and wonderful images. It’s a slow build up of knobs and experimental beats, but it’s all in preparation for the dance party that takes over at around the three minute mark. The lyrics are great and mythological, but if you are familiar with Dan you know it’s all in service to the overall foundation of the song. I’ve seen this song performed a few times, and it’s amazing how much dancing you can get through in twelve fun filled minutes. For me, there’s little else in his discography that reaches this soaring and awesome song.
8 WEEPING BIRCH: MYSTIC FAMILIAR
It's my opinion that this song wouldn;t have been possible even ten years ago. Deacon has grown so much so quickly it's inspiring. This piece has a serene, yet vibrant tone to it. This toine helps build images of nature existing without the need or want of the outside world. With no vocals around, the synths and either instrument paint an almost musical waterfall of sounds, like gushing rapids over rocks. It’s inspiring and brave in a way most music in 2019 was. At a lieel over four minutes, it gets everything done in such a succinct, exacting way that the rush of emotion at its climax makes for a moment of oure surrender and pleasure.
7 SHEATHED WINGS: GLISS RIFFER
When this song was played on this record's tour, the response from the crowd was that of mesmerizing movement, as Deacon;s backup glowed in an array of deeply bright colors, the crowd whirling with hips popping and heads lost in dance. The mythological aspects of the lyrics blend nicely with the fast paced beat. For some reason its almost a reminder of me to a hyper clothes dryer, swirling in dark color of variety.
6 LOTS: AMERICA
Another one that has a tiny bit of intro but descends into a dance fueled meltdown that is impossible to resist. It’s one of the stand out tracks from “America,” and it’s not hard to see why. Quite simply, there are entire bands that could learn from Dan Deacon on how to make exciting music. He gives it his all consistently, and it really shows. One of my favorite parts of this track are the little chants prevalent in the background of the song. It’s almost joyous and holy in the way it’s presented, and while I think organized religion is a detriment to society, if it’s all about the experience and the dancing, I’d likely join Dan’s religion, if he had one. Although I guess in a musical way he already does.
5 THE CRYSTAL CAT: SPIDERMAN OF THE RINGS
One of his earliest hits, if you'd call it that, finds us at number six on the Top Ten Dan Deacon songs. “The Crystal Cat,” is a highly explosive, frenzied song that barely slows down, even initially. It’s frenetic in ways many artists couldn't even compare with. The uptempo track is a staple at his live shows, and transforms even the tamest of audiences into a full fledge dance machine numbering in the hundreds. It’s also one of his most verbose tracks, but the lyrics only add to the fun, and as you can imagine,they inspire fantastic chants at live shows. An early sign of greatness.
4 WHEN I WAS DONE DYING: GLISS RIFFER
A newer track, sure, but one the Top Ten Dan Deacon songs, “When I was Dying,” stands out as a sign of both where he came from as a musician, but also how he;s grown over the years. The lyrics are eye opening to say the least, but the message is one that remains hopeful, at least to me. The composition of the music is also brilliantly balanced and layered, which gives added weight to the central theme of the song, which to me is the greatness of living a life for all it’s worth, and never being guided by anger or hostility. Musically it’s not the most in your face upbeat track he has in his arsenal, but you don't have to always go that route to make an impact.
3 SNOOKERED. BROMST
Maybe the track that broke him in a bigger way? I’m not so sure of that, but plenty of people have been moved by this gradually great track. I’m easily one of them. It always reminded me of “With or Without You” by U2 in the way it’s able to slowly build layer on layer until it’s so involved and thoughtful you just can’t even imagine something better. The bells, and slow beats that open the song eventually give way to a solemn, but glorious reflection of what life is, struggles and achievements alike. For me this was the moment where Deacon become not only someone who deserves a bigger audience, but also one of the most emotionally talented musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
2 FEEL THE LIGHTNING: GLISS RIFFER
Everyone keeps saying this is a return to form. In some ways it most certainly is, but in other ways it’s a natural progression. The opening beat quickly gives way to a more elaborate, and densely structured sound, but it’s all in service to the music. Dan also has a way of layering his vocals to both sound like someone from a Crystal Castles track, but also himself. These sections weave in and out, but it always works great. The video is also really fun and imaginative, and finds the basis for it in the theory that our household objects come to life, a la Toy Story. It’s a solid track, and it lands at Number two of the Top Ten Dan Deacon songs.
1 BUILD VOICE: BROMST
This insanely brilliant, eye opening song slowly grows over cold, distant beats, like an astronaut looking for life on alien worlds. “Build Voice,” our number one Dan Deacon song, finds the strength build and build as Dan’s voice and normal mythical lyrics reach places few others are capable of. It’s lyrically not a super long track, but what is said is masterfully done and perfectly sets the stage for the explosion of power that finds the listener shortly after the three minute mark. Even the piano keys towards the end before the last little upbeat section work in a way you might not expect them to. The only bad thing is the fact that it’s maybe only been played two times at most in its existence. Hopefully someday that will change and the world will get to experience this truly marvelous track in a live setting.
I remember in tenth grade or so, when Mtv showed the best moments of the recently held Tibetan Freedom Concert, Adam Yauch, Adam Horowitz and Mike D, otherwise known as the Beastie Boys, performing their set in a set of Doctors lab coats. For some reason I loved it, and instantly I wanted one, even though I, as a 17 year old kid with no interest in science, and had no need or actual desire to own one. They were only cool because rock stars were wearing them.
Now, in the world of music and fandom, it's not uncommon for fashion to pass between stars and their fans. Plaid sold well during grunge, white kids at my school wore Malcolm X shirts because Tupac did things like that. It just happens one way or another. Anyway, to have worn Beastie Boys shirts would have been better, but in that moment the lab coat spoke to my very weird teenage aesthetic. I was all over the place. My point with this is the band felt like something positive, new and inventive, which is why I gravitated so hard to their music.
From the onset the band was stylish and culturally relevant, with anthems like “Fight for Your Right,” propelling the fixation of young men to take the world and make it what they wanted at the time. They had huge initial success, but the act got old. If you’ve watched last year's “Beastie Boys Story” like I have, all this is discussed in depth, but the early days of the band's enormous success left something to be desired once they figured out they didn’t want to just be characters pretending to be wild uninhibited still growing young men. From that point they struggled with staying relevant, but as the nineties crept closer, so did a trio more focused on musical experimentation and figuring out what really moved them towards being better people.
This happened a lot I think during that time, where the open world idea of music being positive and transformative took shape. Hip hop, still young at age, hadn’t quite made it to the level of eye openness that it has to some extent today. Gone were the days of bashing women in lyrics, or just generally being misogynistic, or gone at least when it came to the Beasties. We’re talking about the past, but even know, the band is the single biggest argument for white people can’t rap ( even though their rhyme schemes and word choices are hella strange) to ever break though as a legitimate Hip Hop juggernaut, but they have some of the best hooks, lyrics, and beats in the genre. People tend to notice that.
Eye opening moments in the BB story also acknowledged the road being traveled by how different the two remaining members are compared to the early days of the 90’s. Growing up and changing sometimes means being held accountable for your opinions and the growth or resistance to growth that could come from holding the mirror up to yourself.
It bleeds through in their music in the best way possible, with engaging and cerebral moments coming on all three of their 90’s masterpieces, starting with “Check Your Head,” followed by “Ill Communication” and ending with the genre defying “Hello Nasty.”
Throughout the way you get classics like “Sabotage” and “So What’cha Want,” which further cement their creativity in the alternative music world of the 90’s. For me, the Beastie Boys don’t get any heavier or in your face than they do on “What’cha”. It’s so in your face it’s ridiculous, and the guitar sample in the beats shows you exactly what type of jam this is gonna be. The video is also really cool, and goes very well with the song. Sadly, I wish Biz Markie would have had a bigger presence here, besides the “You can’t front on that” segment, but we can overlook that. The song kills it, and it’s heavy in many ways that you simply don’t hear in most hip hop songs.
But then “Sabotage” is just another whole type of vibe. With the lyrics written as a very direct tongue in cheek moment of frustration for Ad-Rock, the track is now a classic. I mean really, how can you talk about this song without mentioning the video? This is easily their biggest hit, and it’s their most rocking song. It’s so refreshing to hear a band that’s known for primarily doing one thing to hit you with something completely opposite, but they succeed valiantly. Now, that’s not to say it totally abandons hip hop, but it just brings in everything. The video, with the boys dressed as absurd cops, works in a way that very few videos do. Almost none of the band's videos has anything to do with the song, but when they’re that entertaining and funny, you don’t really give a shit.
Along the journey , the band redefined what hip hop could be, growing in themselves more than most do while in the spotlight of yes men and adoring fans. I was in awe of their cool, easy goi swagger, but by the time “Hello Nasty” debuted, in the summer of 98, music was very different, and the differences were not far more obvious. In that time, Nu metal had started to be more and more dominant, while hip hop was still struggling with the weights of its own effect on culture. The beasties now in 1998 represented a different way of approaching art, through kinder, more mature ways. I mean think about it, in 98 the despair of Korn, Manson and the other rockers was well known, while the rap world was at the height of its sexism and misogyny, only concerned about the bling and little else. MCA, Ad-rock and Mike D had already moved past that, and they were making the best hip hop of their careers, not to mention of the late 90’s.
It's hard to say what could have been had Yauch not passed, but that thought process gets you nowhere fast. I find it's better to remember the music by singing to it, dancing to it, and bringing it up when talking about bands that will never die. That's how music stays relevant. It's still all word of mouth, but in a multitude of different ways
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
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