There’s nothing worse than an album that ends with a musical equivalent of a damp fart. Metallica know this more than any band, which is why they’ve often saved their hammer-blow songs until last. Often, but not always. We've taken the closing tracks from each of the the San Francisco giants’ 10 studio albums and arranged them in order of greatness, from worst to best. Strap in, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.
10. All Within My Hands (2003)
St Anger has its defenders, but even they’d be hard pushed to justify its 75-minute running time. Just when you think the slog is almost over, along comes this near-nine minute closing track – the musical equivalent of approaching the finishing line in a marathon, only to find some joker has moved the flag a couple of miles down the road. In fairness, All Within My Hands starts promisingly, shifting between sparseness and intensity, but it runs out of ideas long before its conclusion, descending into a painful dirge that can’t work out how to put itself out of its misery.
9. The Struggle Within (1991)
For all its world-beating commercial success, the Black Album is a flawed masterpiece that starts strong but tails off as it approaches its conclusion – something the band implicitly acknowledged by starting at the end and working backwards when they played it in full a few years ago, getting the weaker numbers out of the way first. The Struggle Within isn‘t a bad song, it’s just unmemorable - certainly not the triumphant victory lap you want to close out the biggest metal album in history.
8. Fixxxer (1997)
Reload is the Metallica album Metallica fans never talk about, and Fixxxer is the closer everyone ignores. Unjustly so on both fronts: Reload showed off Metallica at their most wide-ranging and experimental, and Fixxxer weighed in like Sad But True with an actual tune at the heart of it. Kirk Hammett hits the wah-wah hard, lending its monumental crush a pyschedelic tinge, while the drop-out two-thirds of the way through is something Metallica should have done more often. It's just a shame they couldn’t bring the track to a properly monumental close.
7. My Apocalypse (2008)
Death Magnetic was the sound of Metallica getting their mojo back, and pummelling closer My Apocalypse – at five minutes and one second, the shortest song on the album by nearly a minute and a half – called back to the old days of thrash, right down to its short, sharp solo. Headphone nerds complained about the album’s compressed sound, but the whiff of fuzziness only added punch to this track. And James Hetfield has rarely sounded so venomous, tumbling over his own words mid-song in a rush to spit them out.
6. Metal Militia (1983)
You can almost smell the vodka and acne cream baked into the grooves of Metallica’s debut album, Kill ’Em All, and Metal Militia is the perfect way to end it: a breathless blast of OG thrash noise that alternately chugs and rages. You can hear the imprint of Kirk Hammett’s old band – and Bay Area scene pioneers – Exodus in its jarring riff, and James Hetfield’s adolescent bark is an attempt to copy that band’s late, great singer Paul Baloff. But it has a genuine (leather) charm all its own.
5. Spit Out The Bone (2016)
Where had this version of Metallica been hiding for the past 20-odd years? Turbocharged, full of piss and vinegar, Spit Out The Bone is a circle-pit inducing thrash masterclass that would’ve sounded perfectly at home ending any of their 80s energy. A blast of thrash nihilism with a lyric celebrating humanity’s extinction at the hands of genocidal machines. ‘Utopian solution!’ Hetfield barks, ‘finally cure the Earth of Man!’ The relentless energy is almost palpable, and longtime fans breathed a sigh of relief: the old Metallica really were, finally, back.
4. The Call of Ktulu (1984)
Inspired by horror author H.P. Lovecraft, who created the alien deity Cthulhu, Ride The Lightning’s grand finale picked up where Kill ’Em All’s Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth) left off: an epic instrumental that showcased the supreme confidence of a band who had truly found themselves. Ironically, for such a landmark album closer, the band have used it to open their two orchestral S&M concerts.
3. Dyers Eve (1988)
While …And Justice For All was Metallica’s big prog metal statement, its closing track was a direct connection with their thrash past. a speedy razor-cut riff which shows how far the rest of the album strayed from the band’s sharp as a tack thrash metal roots. Dyer’s Eve was notable, too, for directly addressing some of the issues James Hetfield carried from his troubled, religious childhood: ‘Dear mother, dear father/What is this hell you have put me through?’ The definitive kiss-off to the thrash era from the definitive thrash band.
2. The Outlaw Torn (1996)
One of the under-rated highpoints of Metallica’s mid-‘90’s output, Load’s closing track is an atmospheric weighing up of loss and regret, which unfurls into a widescreen cinematic epic. Metallica were forced to cut a whole minute from the song’s outro on Load to accommodate the CD’s running time - the full length version later surfaced on the B-side of the The Memory Remains single, wryly sub-titled Unencumbered by Manufacturing Restrictions Version – but its the breath-taking version on S&M that shows this remarkable band at their transcendent best.
1. Damage, Inc (1986)
How do you close one of the greatest metal albums ever made? Simple: with one of the greatest metal songs ever written. From Cliff Burton’s distorted, ominous bass intro (inspired by Bach’s classical piece Come, Sweet Death) to its emphatic, locked-brakes ending, Damage, Inc. is five and a half minutes of malicious intent with venom glistening on its fangs. The PMRC-baiting sticker on the front of the album said: “The only track you probably won’t want to play is Damage Inc., due to multiple use of the infamous ‘F’ word.” It delivered on its promise – ‘Fuck it all and fucking no regrets,’ howled Hetfield, summing up metal’s sheer nihilism in seven short words. Not just the best Metallica album closer, but one of the best album closers ever, full stop.