10 classic heavy metal songs only played live once

Photos of Metallica, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Ghost performing live
(Image credit: Metallica: Paul Natkin/Getty Images | Slipknot: Rob Monk/Metal Hammer/Future via Getty Images | System Of A Down: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic | Ghost: Will Ireland/Metal Hammer/Future via Getty Images)

Common wisdom says that, when a song becomes beloved, it gets played a lot. However, that’s not inherently the case. What a fan-base wants to hear and what an artist wants to play live can sometimes be at odds with one another, resulting in the odd phenomenon where a classic doesn’t get showcased anywhere near as much as it deserves. Below, Hammer’s listed 10 times where – for whatever reason – a metal band has played a popular song of theirs on just one isolated occasion, according to setlist.fm.

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Metallica – To Live Is To Die (…And Justice For All, 1988)

To Live Is To Die was penned as a memorial to late bassist Cliff Burton and appeared on the first Metallica album released after his death, 1988’s …And Justice For All. It’s since become one of their defining instrumentals. Despite (or perhaps because of) the intense emotion that spills from the song, however, it’s only ever been played during a 30th-anniversary concert in December 2011.

Slipknot – All Hope Is Gone (All Hope Is Gone, 2008)

Often regarded as the weakest album by The Nine’s classic lineup, All Hope Is Gone lacks the rage of Slipknot and Iowa and the ambition of Vol. 3. However, that title track remains a thrashing, visceral highlight – it was even the album’s lead single. It’s too bad that it got one airing at the 2008 Mayhem festival and was dumped straight into the setlist scrapheap afterwards, then.

Iron Maiden – The Ides Of March (Killers, 1981)

This beloved instrumental not only opens Iron Maiden’s Killers album – it also segues into one of the band’s most immortal songs, Wrathchild. It’s only ever been played from a backing tape since its release, though. The sole time Maiden actually performed these 106 seconds of marching metal was in 1979: two years before the wider world got a chance to hear it on vinyl.

Ozzy Osbourne – Hellraiser (No More Tears, 1991)

In the lead-up to Ozzy Osbourne’s solo album No More Tears, the ex-Black Sabbath man teamed with Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister to pen four tracks. Although Mama, I’m Coming Home would become the breakout song of this set, Hellraiser still found a life of its own after Motörhead’s reinterpretation. Bafflingly, Ozzy’s only performed his version at a 1992 concert in London, despite its serious streaming numbers.

System Of A Down – Boom! (Steal This Album!, 2002)

Since Boom! was released as a promotional single at the height of System Of A Down’s relevance, the smart money would have been on it becoming a mainstay. Instead, the song has languished in the sidelines for 21 years now, only glimpsing a setlist at a Hollywood Palladium gig in 2003. According to drummer John Dolmayan, the spoken-word verses mean Boom! “doesn’t have the same impact live”.

Ghost – I’m A Marionette (Abba cover; If You Have Ghost, 2013)

Normally we wouldn’t include a cover on a list like this, since bands do jams of their favourite songs as one-offs all the time. However, I’m A Marionette is a bona fide fixture in Ghost’s oeuvre: it appeared on their 2013 If You Have Ghost EP and boasts 12 million streams. Its first and last live performance was at Papa Emeritus II’s debut show in 2012.

Disturbed – Glass Shatters (2000)

Although Glass Shatters has never appeared on an official Disturbed release, it’s one of their most-heard songs. Pro-wrestling icon Stone Cold Steve Austin used it as his entrance theme in 2000, during the sport’s wildly popular Attitude Era. David Draiman and the boys played the rager on WWF TV in October of the same year, but that’s the only time it was actually blasted out by live musicians.

Gojira – Global Warming (From Mars To Sirius, 2005)

Global Warming ensured From Mars To Sirius ended at its most heartbreaking. Gojira eschewed hammering tech-death for this finale, using melodic singing and spacy instrumentation to lament the climate crisis. It’s a fan favourite, but the only live performance of it was in the studio for a 2018 YouTube video. According to the band, the song’s pensive tone would feel out-of-place in the context of their show.

Korn – Wake Up (Issues, 1999)

There’s no understating how enormous Korn were around the new millennium, so you’d expect the vast majority of their late-’90s output to be much-played bangers. This is largely true, although Wake Up has somehow eluded their setlist. It’s only been dusted off for a one-off 1999 gig where the band performed Issues in full, which is a shame given how slyly catchy that chorus is.

Celtic Frost – A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh (Monotheist, 2006)

Celtic Frost toured extensively after the release of their comeback album, Monotheist, in 2006. Although Dying God… was the only track from the whole thing to get a music video, it was strangely absent from the lion’s share of the sets they played before re-breaking-up in 2008. The sole airing, apparently, was when the band stopped at the Lawrence Theater in Granada, Kansas, midway through their US tour. 

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.