10 times legendary metal bands performed classic albums live in full

Photos of Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden and Slipknot performing onstage
(Image credit: Metallica: Michael Putland/Getty Images | Megadeth: Mick Hutson/Redferns | Iron Maiden: Annamaria DiSanto/WireImage | Slipknot: Edd Westmacott/Avalon/Getty Images)

Sometimes, an album is so perfect that you just cannot do anything to it. Every detail, from the individual songs to the way they’re arranged, is so good that to mess around with them would be heresy. When bands are acutely aware of this, it can result in the rare yet glorious phenomenon of them playing their magnum opus in full, at a live show, to the joy of their fans. Below, Metal Hammer’s compiled 10 times heavy acts did just this, airing their most excellent releases onstage from start to finish.

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Metallica – Ride The Lightning (1984) / Master Of Puppets (1986) / Metallica (1991)

Always eager to outdo their peers, Metallica have played not one, but three of their classic albums live in full. Master Of Puppets got the treatment first in 2006, followed by both Ride The Lightning and the Black Album in 2012. They were also performed in reverse-order, because why the hell not?

Slipknot – Iowa (2001)

The most beloved Slipknot album that isn’t their debut, Iowa affirmed The Nine were no flash in the pan by rocketing them to number one in the UK. The band celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2016, playing its every song at the US Knotfest in San Bernardino, California.

Iron Maiden – A Matter Of Life And Death (2006)

Iron Maiden have never wanted to slump into the lazy legacy act template. Look at this bold setlist choice for proof: playing A Matter Of Life And Death in full on tour the year it came out. Although the decision was controversial back then, the album’s considered the best of their 21st-century output nowadays.

Slayer – Reign In Blood (1986)

While touring the US with Ozzfest in 2004, Slayer took a day’s leave to march into Augusta, Maine, and play Reign In Blood in full. The fact that classic drummer Dave Lombardo recently returned to the band only made the occasion all the more momentous, and the gig got immortalised on the Still Reigning DVD.

Megadeth – Rust In Peace (1990)

Megadeth’s 2010 US tour was doubly special. For starters, classic bassist David Ellefson had just returned to the band following a near-decade absence. The year also marked the 20th anniversary of magnum opus Rust In Peace, which was getting played in sequence every night. What a time to be a ’Deth diehard.

Lamb Of God – Ashes Of The Wake (2004)

When the pandemic shut down live music, bands had to get inventive to make their money. Virginia groove metal crew Lamb Of God decided that hosting a livestream where they played their 2004 breakthrough, Ashes Of The Wake, in full was the way to go. As survival strategies go, it was pretty spotless.

Korn – Issues (1999)

The day before Korn released their fourth album, Issues, the nu metal megastars played the whole thing in full at a launch party in New York City. To this day, the gig remains the only time five of the album’s songs have ever graced a setlist. This needs rectifying immediately.

Mastodon – Crack The Skye (2009)

As it emphasised Mastodon’s progressive and melodic tendencies, Crack The Skye launched the band to a new apex, earning rave reviews and a number 11 slot in the US charts. The band responded by playing it in full on a 2011 tour. It was very much the correct response.

Opeth – Blackwater Park (2001)

In 2010, Opeth marked a special occasion with a special setlist. The band graced the hallowed grounds of London’s Royal Albert Hall to record a live album, echoing frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt’s heroes Deep Purple. In celebration, he and his cohorts busted out all of their masterpiece, Blackwater Park, in sequence.

At The Gates – Slaughter Of The Soul (1995)

Technically, At The Gates have performed their magnum opus in full twice. The first time around, during their 2008 reunion tour, they played its every song, albeit out of order. 14 years later, they got the sequencing right for a set at the Damnation festival in Manchester, UK.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.