It’s the worst feeling in the world. You’re listening to a classic album by one of the all-time great bands, totally immersed in a sonic bath of excellence – then one song comes along and fucks the whole thing up. It’s a tale as old as the LP format itself, but it never gets any less heartbreaking.
Sadly, metal isn’t immune to this phenomenon. Because we’re gluttons for punishment, Hammer’s delved back into 10 times where way-below-the-bar songs sullied what are otherwise flawless masterpieces. Skip buttons at the ready, please…
Metallica – Escape (Ride The Lightning, 1984)
Not even Metallica like this one. Allegedly, Escape is the result of the band’s then-label forcing them to write a more radio-friendly hit single, but it sounds as wet as papier-mâché. It has none of the oomph of Ride The Lightning ragers like For Whom The Bell Tolls and Fight Fire With Fire, nor the progressive scope of Fade To Black and The Call Of Ktulu. The sound of the Four Horsemen stripping away their idiosyncrasies, Escape has only been played live (begrudgingly) once.
Iron Maiden – Gangland (The Number Of The Beast, 1982)
Similar to Metallica, Iron Maiden have no time for this Number Of The Beast cut. During a last-minute hooha over the album’s run-time, Bruce and the boys had to choose between Gangland and Total Eclipse as their penultimate song – and, for 40 years, they’ve been moaning about how they picked the wrong one. The track’s a bog-standard NWOBHM piece that adds nothing to the album, while Total Eclipse is an evocative triumph that would have segued seamlessly into Hallowed Be Thy Name. No wonder this one’s never been performed.
Black Sabbath – FX (Vol. 4, 1972)
“It’s just noise!” is an unfair yet commonly heard insult often slung at metal by people who can’t appreciate the artistic merits of the genre. That said… Black Sabbath’s FX is just noise. Separating Changes and Supernaut on the otherwise awesome Vol. 4 album, it’s 102 seconds of scraping, beeping and banging that serve no purpose other than to pad the run-time. Was the album really just two minutes too short and in dire need of the laziest possible interlude at the 11th hour? Lame – skip it.
Avenged Sevenfold – Lost (Avenged Sevenfold, 2007)
Avenged Sevenfold took a litany of risks on their self-titled album and, for the most part, they paid off. Critical Acclaim is a venomous, organ-backed savaging of the American political system, while A Little Piece Of Heaven is a boldly progressive symphony. However, Lost pushed in too nonsensical a direction, needlessly ruining M. Shadows’ vocals during the chorus with blatant autotune. This track would have been an anthemic powerhouse without it, but the robotic touch-ups are just too distracting for the whole thing to be enjoyed.
Slayer – Threshold (God Hates Us All, 2001)
God Hates Us All saw Slayer rediscover their nastiness after dabbling in nu metal three years prior. Disciple, Here Comes The Pain, Payback… all these songs tenderised eardrums harder than any of the thrashers’ music had since Reign In Blood. However, Threshold pushed that intensity into self-parody. “I can’t control the rage that flows from me!” Tom Araya yells, the mindless angst making it seem like he’s pulled the words straight from his teenage diary. “Can't stop the violence, I love it!” What an edgelord.
Megadeth – These Boots (Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good!, 1985)
We’re really spoiling you with this double dose of crap. On the original Killing Is My Business…, Megadeth’s These Boots cover was already naff enough, failing to balance the sultry tone of the Nancy Sinatra original with a petulant thrash metal attack. But then you hear the 2002 reissue. Following complaints from Team Sinatra, Dave Mustaine thought it’d be an excellent idea to keep the song on the album, but bleep out every lyric he changed. That sustained, atonal screeching drags the cover from dreadful to downright unlistenable.
Alice In Chains – Untitled (Iron Gland) (Dirt, 1992)
You had Tom Araya to hand and this is what you did with him? Bloody hell. While Dirt is arguably the greatest grunge album ever, Iron Gland is a flow-destroying parody(?) of an interlude that wrecks the emotional tones Alice In Chains otherwise mastered. “I am iron glaaaaaaaaaand!” the Slayer singer roars over clambering industrial noise, aping Black Sabbath’s Iron Man for… some reason. If it’s meant to be a dig at a classic metal band, we don’t get it. More importantly, though, it sounds crap.
Korn – All In The Family (Follow The Leader, 1998)
Korn singer Jonathan Davis once told Metal Hammer, “All In The Family is the worst song ever.” And, yeah, it sucks. It’s a faux-rap battle between Davis and Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, slinging childish insults back and forth for five unbearable minutes. The droning, squealing instrumentation and homophobic language only seal this song’s place in the dregs of heavy metal history. Apparently the band were all drunk when they dreamed up this collaboration – and we believe it. At least the rest of Follow The Leader slays.
Machine Head – Slanderous (The Blackening, 2007)
Slanderous is so problematic that it makes All In The Family sound as tame as Baby Shark. Musically, there’s nothing wrong with this Machine Head song per se, but… Jesus Christ, those lyrics. Robb Flynn screams racist and homophobic epithets during this Blackening number, ostensibly to “embrace” the names he’s been bullied with over the years. However, as a straight white dude, it really isn’t his place to embrace the F- and N-words. How this got onto the same album as Halo we will never understand.
Venom – Teacher’s Pet (Black Metal, 1982)
Venom’s Black Metal ignited the most evil musical subgenre under the sun. Its raw production values, snarling vocals and incessant brutality pushed metal to new, haunting extremes. Everyone conveniently forgets that weird song in the middle where the band play Ring Around The Roses and sing about wanking in class, though. Of course, the whole appeal of Black Metal is its sonic immaturity, but when said immaturity sees you shredding out nursery rhymes and shouting your schoolyard sexual fantasies, a bit of growing up wouldn’t go amiss.