Track number one is the most important song on any album. Get it right and we’re with you all the way. Get it wrong and you’ve lost us. Metallica know this as well as anyone – they’ve served up some of the greatest album openers in the history of metal. But what‘s the best Metallica opening song of all? Read on to find out.
10. Ain’t My Bitch
Load was the biggest left-turn of Metallica’s career, and it was amply signposted by the opening song. While previous albums had commenced with rip-roaring thrashers or enormous arena-metal hits, Ain’t My Bitch was a crunching garage rocker. It’s a decent headbanger, but too generic to match the catchiness of Enter Sandman or the velocity of Battery.
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9. Frantic (St. Anger, 2003)
Following Jason Newsted’s departure and James Hetfield’s rehab, Metallica went back to basics with St. Anger. Frantic is one of the album’s most furious tracks, but its shifting dynamics make it hard to get a hold of this six-minute opener. Also loses points for being the song that introduced the world to that drum sound.
8. That Was Just Your Life (Death Magnetic, 2008)
After wobbly 10 years, That Was Just Your Life was a blaring signal that Metallica had returned to what brought them to the dance: technical songs, flashy guitars and searing, roaring thrash. This opener is one of Death Magnetic’s highlights, overcoming overly-compressed production with its triumphant riffs and James’s vitriolic barks.
7. Hardwired (Hardwired… To Self-Destruct, 2016)
Hardwired… To Self-Destruct is one of Metallica’s most diverse albums, taking in everything from thrash to hard rock to progressive metal. Its opening title track doesn’t really reflect that at all, instead coming in as a to-the-bone starter that acts as a riotous callback to their own high-velocity past. An album opener like they used to make.
6. Hit The Lights (Kill ‘Em All, 1983)
The first track one of metal’s greatest debut albums starts off with a wall of noise that quickly erupts into a 100mph statement of intent, complete with one of the great opening lines in history: ‘No life ’til leather, we’re gonna kick some ass tonight.’ If one song represents the birth of Metallica, this is it.
5. Fuel (Reload, 1997)
When Lars Ulrich told the world that, post-Black Album, Metallica were exploring a more “greasy”, dirty sound, he obviously had Fuel in mind. A Battery for the NASCAR demographic, there’s nothing subtle about the dumbed-down petrol head turbo-blues blaster which introduces 1997’s Reload album but there’s no denying its full-throttle roar. Shame the rest of the album didn’t match up.
4. Fight Fire With Fire (Ride The Lightning, 1984)
After the youthful thrash of Kill ’Em All, the opening track of Ride The Lightning was the most startling thing Metallica had recorded yet: a gentle intro gives way to a relentless sonic assault that was even faster than anything on the debut. It’s the sound of band who knew the future would be theirs.
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3. Enter Sandman (Metallica, 1991)
The opening track to Metallica’s world-conquering Black Album was both their passport to the mainstream and the song by which their decade would be defined. Thrillingly direct, immediate and impactful it kicked down the doors for the band on US radio, and ensured that the Black Album became first true ‘event’ album of the ‘90s.
2. Battery (Master Of Puppets, 1986)
The opening track on Master Of Puppets – the band’s third and greatest album – Battery lived up to its title and then some. After a slow and ominous intro, the calm before the storm, the band hit high gear in an all-out assault on the senses. Only Slayer, with their 1986 album Reign In Blood, could match the speed and intensity that Metallica achieved here.
1. Blackened (…And Justice For All, 1988)
…And Justice For All might have been the first Metallica album custom-built for CD – with a total running time of over 65 minutes. But the track sequencing still followed the same template as Ride and Master, beginning with a rallying-call opener, in this case Blackened, a howl of rage against the destruction of the environment. But where Blackened triumphs over Battery is in its musical maturity – this is sound of Metallica growing up. They made better albums, but none began with such venomous intent.