The 10 Metallica songs most played live

Metallica live in 2021
(Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for P+ and MTV)

You don’t become the biggest band in heavy metal by having a crap back-catalogue, you know? Since forming in 1981, Metallica have built a canon with dozens of must-hear megahits, any one of which could send certain fans into a hissy fit if it were denied a spot on the setlist. Deciding what to play night in and night out must be more difficult for this band than actually playing it, but there are still songs that stand head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to what’s most-performed. Below, we’ve listed the 10 classics that have been busted out the most at Metallica shows, thanks to the stats on as of October 2023.

Metal Hammer line break

10. Welcome Home (Sanitarium) (Master Of Puppets, 1986)

Following the precedent set by Fade To Black on Ride The Lightning, Metallica also made a ballad track four of Master Of Puppets. Welcome Home is an ever-intensifying number about a revolt in a mental hospital and, ingeniously, it grows more and more aggressive to mimic the rising anger of the inmates as they plan their overthrow. At time of writing, it’s been played 1,020 times.

9. Fade To Black (Ride The Lightning, 1984)

Metallica toying with acoustic guitars got them lambasted as sellouts by people still clinging to the grubby thrash of Kill ’Em All. Over the years, though, Fade To Black’s dynamism and emotional vulnerability have seen it rise to fan favourite status. It’s now been played live 1,257 times, with any modern setlist feeling incomplete without it. It’s still not the band’s most-performed ballad, however…

8. Nothing Else Matters (Metallica, 1991)

Statistically, Nothing Else Matters is Metallica’s second-most-listened-to song, boasting more than a billion Spotify streams. You’d expect this tender, romantic number to make the winner’s podium of their most-played material, then – but it didn’t debut live until six months into the Wherever We May Roam tour in 1992. As a result, it falls behind some of the other, more monstrous tunes on the Black Album.

7. Sad But True (Metallica, 1991)

Metallica ventured into new frontiers with Sad But True: for the first time ever, they used drop-D tuning! As a result, the Black Album’s fifth and final single is one of the heaviest to bear the band’s name, marching along with forceful purpose. Both the oomph and that earworm hook – ‘You know it’s sad but true!’ – have made this a mainstay, with 1,386 airings.

6. Enter Sandman (Metallica, 1991)

It’s Metallica’s signature song, boasts 1.2 billion streams and marked the band’s gambit from thrash to stadium-sized anthem-making – of course Enter Sandman is here! It’s unsurprisingly the Black Album’s most-played cut, boasting 1,405 performances, yet it doesn’t even crack the top five of this list. It only makes sense when you remember that the single didn’t drop until Metallica were a decade into their career.

5. One (…And Justice For All, 1988)

Although it’s a weird thing to say about a seven-minute behemoth with machine-gun drumming and lyrics about warfare, One was when Metallica started to court the mainstream. Its video was the first they made and quickly became a smash on MTV, then the song earned the band their first Grammy in 1990. It’s been played 1,579 times now and you’ll never attend a gig without it.

4. For Whom The Bell Tolls (Ride The Lightning, 1984)

For Whom The Bell Tolls declared Metallica could do groovy shit just as well as – if not better than – they did thrash. Following the scrappy Kill ’Em All and the galloping one-two punch of Fight Fire With Fire and Ride The Lightning that opened their second album, Bell… slowed the pace to neck-snapping effect. It’s now been played 1,586 times and counting since 1984.

3. Seek And Destroy (Kill ’Em All, 1983)

The only song from debut album Kill ’Em All to truly become a live mainstay, Seek & Destroy ended every single Metallica show for years. You can certainly understand why, thanks to that instantly recognisable opening riff, plus that call-and-answer chorus of ‘Searchiiiiing! Seek and destroy!’, which just begs for crowd participation. These days it’s been relegated from its role as set-closer, but still boasts 1,592 plays onstage.

2. Creeping Death (Ride The Lightning, 1984)

Creeping Death was supposed to be the big single off of Ride The Lightning, which is hilarious in hindsight – you can really see mainstream radio jamming the airwaves with roars of ‘Die! Die! Die!’, can’t you? It’s actually one of Metallica’s heaviest songs, played 1,615 times since release, but has never been better than when Jason Newsted used to call everybody motherfuckers during the bridge.

1. Master Of Puppets (Master Of Puppets, 1986)

You knew this was coming. From its release through to its resurgence in popularity thanks to Stranger Things, Master Of Puppets has been hailed as Metallica’s masterpiece, weaving from pulverising metal to neoclassical nuance without sacrificing its immediate, ensnaring hooks. It’s basically been played at every gig since 1986, totalling a boggling statistic of 1,737 performances. Bar taking a crap or getting out of bed, we’re not sure we’ve ever done anything 1,737 times in our life…

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.