B-sides and bonus tracks rarely stand the test of time. Shoved onto the back half of a single or the very end of an album, they’re usually viewed with condescension and are never expected to live up to the “A material” that comes before them. However, as such anthems as Elvis Presley’s Hound Dog and the Beatles’ Revolution prove, a b-side can sometimes be killer.
It’s the same story in metal. To give some b-sides and bonus tracks lost to time their flowers – and to expose you to some rarely-heard ragers by your favourite bands – Hammer’s compiled 10 heavy rarities that could have been classics given the chance.
Iron Maiden – Total Eclipse (1982)
In one of the most infamous heavy metal regrets in history, a pressed-for-time Iron Maiden had to choose between putting Total Eclipse or Gangland on The Number Of The Beast – and, for 40 years, they’ve been vocal about how they backed the wrong horse. This track would have fit perfectly before Hallowed Be Thy Name: vocalist Bruce Dickinson, in his Iron Maiden debut, hits all of the right emotional notes, before a molten frenzy of guitars rides alongside Clive Burr’s trademark gallop. Total Eclipse has since been taken on and off Number… again and again, and, as it stands, is not part of the album on streaming services. It did get a standalone release in 2022, though.
Slayer – Aggressive Perfector (1983)
Poor Aggressive Perfector. The track was the first original Slayer song ever heard, appearing on Metal Blade Records’ Metal Massacre III compilation in 1983. However, it’s always been tucked onto the arse-end of the band’s releases. Despite being a corrosive, two-and-a-half-minute, lo-fi beatdown, it was merely a reissue bonus track on the Haunting The Chapel EP, then a reworked version only appeared on Reign In Blood when the album got re-released in 1998. None of that stops this thrasher from being a blistering cranial assault, mind – it could even stand shoulder-to-shoulder with anything on Reign…’s original tracklist in terms of quality.
Motörhead – Cradle To The Grave (1987)
We’re baffled that the b-side to Motörhead’s Eat The Rich didn’t make the final tracklist of the Rock ’N’ Roll album – particularly given that album’s arid second half. Ripping along at a sleazy, four-on-the-floor tempo, Cradle To The Grave delivers all that’s right and good in a Mötorhead song: lighter-raising solos, lyrics about hard living, and riffs so filthy you’ll want to hose them down before bringing them inside. Thankfully, the song found some life a year after release when it appeared in the documentary The Decline Of Western Civilisation Part II: The Metal Years.
Judas Priest – Living Bad Dreams (1990)
Originally recorded during the Painkiller sessions, this soaring power ballad features a stridently soulful performance from Rob Halford amid stunning interplay between guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing. It remained metaphorically locked in the Judas Priest vault until 2001, when the track was added to the album’s reissue – 10 years after Painkiller received its gold certification. Though Living Bad Dreams appeared only as a bonus on the reissue, it proved astonishingly fitting as the closer for one of the best and most important albums Rob and co. have ever released.
Cradle Of Filth – Black Metal (Venom cover) (1998)
No offence to Venom, but you wouldn’t bat an eye if someone threw this Cradle Of Filth cut onto a list of “Covers That Are Better Than The Original”. The classic Black Metal ignited a powder keg in its shuddering wake, lending its name to a terrifying genre to come. Cradle’s take pushes it even further into the style that it spawned, delivering a siege of shrieking vocals, unrelenting tempos and razor-wire riffs flying at neck-breaking speed. That this is merely a bonus track on the “Celtic Cross” version of Cruelty And The Beast should be a crime.
Mastodon – Cut You Up With A Linoleum Knife (2007)
Mastodon’s contribution to the 2007 soundtrack for Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters is every bit as violent, absurd and OTT as you’d expect. Cheesy and profane, Cut You Up… instantly takes a G-force turn skyward with a pummeling hardcore tempo and a siege of flamethrower riffage. Drummer Brann Dailor channels his inner King Diamond with a full-on falsetto as guitarist Brent Hinds hisses Purge-style movie etiquette. Pearls include, “Did you bring your baby? Babies don't watch this! Take the seed outside! Leave it in the streets!” To enjoy this track at its fullest, you’ll need to watch the complete scene from the movie.
Metallica – Remember Tomorrow (Iron Maiden cover) (2008)
Iron Maiden released the original Remember Tomorrow on their self-titled debut. Always up for a good cover, Metallica took a crack at it for a tribute compilation in 2008. The Four Horsemen commented at the time, “[Remember Tomorrow] was basically the blueprint for songs like Fade To Black and Sanitarium.” Recorded during the Death Magnetic sessions, the band put their inimitable Metallicised sheen over the structure of the original, layering in extra guitars and utterly scorching fretwork in the galloping mid-section. One of the few Metallica covers not to show up on Garage, Inc., this instead became a bonus track on Hardwired… To Self-Destruct in 2016.
Slipknot – ’Til We Die (2008)
This downtempo bonus track, with its captivating melody and squalls of distortion, plays from a tape at the end of every Slipknot show, and was recorded during the sessions for All Hope Is Gone’s long-teased sister album, Look Outside Your Window. It was a pivotal time for the band, which saw them jettison former producer Rick Rubin in favour of Dave Fortman and record in their home state of Iowa for the first time. ’Til We Die exemplifies The Nine’s growth since their rough-and-tumble early days, showcasing a fearless view towards experimentalism and a disarming lyrical vulnerability.
Ghost – Zenith (2015)
With its spectral piano and seething guitar lines, Zenith builds to a demonic hard rock frenzy, complete with goosebump-raising chants and icy atmospherics. This superb Ghost offcut was recorded during the Meliora sessions but left off that album’s original tracklist. It remains unavailable on streaming services such as Spotify, which some fans speculate is down to an ex-band member having a co-writing credit. It was eventually included on a Scandinavian version of Meliora called Meliora Redux, though. Adding to its cult status, there is no evidence that the song has ever been performed by the band live. Thankfully, it’s all over YouTube, because it absolutely rips.
Linkin Park – Fighting Myself (2023)
In the wake of the stratospheric Hybrid Theory, Linkin Park faced supernova-sized expectations for the follow-up. Against all odds, 2003’s Meteora convincingly established the band as a bona fide force, with an ambitious, polished vision that synthesised a range of styles into a singular thrilling sound. When presented with an opportunity to release a 20th-anniversary version, the band scoured their hard drives and discovered Fighting Myself. Ultimately released six years after Chester Bennington’s 2017 death, the track features an impassioned performance from the late frontman, as well as some slingshot rapping from Mike Shinoda and sharp, blistering riffs.