The most played live songs by 25 iconic metal bands

Various legendary metal singers
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're gonna write a kickass heavy metal song and you intend to be in this game for the long haul, you better damn well make sure you're gonna be willing to play it a lot. For some metal icons, that could mean you end up stuck with a song you wrote in your mum's basement as a youngster for life.

We scoured the ever-reliable databases at Setlist.fm, poring through the statistics for 25 of metal's most famous names to see which song they each had played more than any other. Some cuts have been around for decades. Some have popped up in more recent years. Here's what we found (note: times played all accurate at time of going to press).

Metal Hammer line break

Metallica - Master Of Puppets (1736 times)

While by no means their oldest hit, Metallica's signature song remains firmly top of the charts, with over a hundred plays more than the Four Horsemen's second most-aired live song, Creeping Death. Given the new lease of life that Master... received after its legendary drop in Stranger Things last year, we can't see Metallica even humouring winding it down as a live cut any time soon.


Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden (2357 times)

While even the likes of Run To The Hills, The Number Of The Beast and Hallowed Be Thy Name have been left out of sets over the years, an Iron Maiden set without their namesake song seems almost unthinkable, not least because it'd deny us the definitive Bruce Dickinson 'Scream for me!' Luckily, the band seem to agree.


Slipknot - Surfacing (1101 times)

The most bullishly aggressive song from one of the most bullishly aggressive debut albums of all time has detonated crowds over a thousand times so far. Perhaps unsurprisingly, almost all of Slipknot's top five most played tracks come from 1999's self-titled, with only Iowa favourite People = Shit breaking the combo. 


Tool - Stinkfist (787 times)

Tool's first official single remains their most aired song by a comfortable distance, beating out second-placed Forty Six & 2 by over a hundred plays. Taken from their second studio album, 1996's Ænima, it still sounds as vibrant, propulsive and eerie as it did almsot 30 years ago, so we can't really blame Maynard and the lads for letting it stick (stink?) around.


Avenged Sevenfold - Unholy Confessions (836 times)

Despite being a firm fan favourite for those that have been with the band since the early days, hardly any Waking The Fallen-era songs get a regular dusting off in Avenged's setlists these days. Luckily, Unholy Confessions is just so undeniable that it remains a firm staple. You'd have to go all the way to their thirteenth most played song to find another Waking The Fallen cut, though: the similarly mighty Chapter Four


Black Sabbath - Paranoid (1083 times)

The innovators of heavy metal bowed out in style in 2017, with over a thousand gigs to their name. Paranoid being their most played song might seem like a no-brainer, but it was actually a close-run thing: right behind it with just 33 fewer plays is Iron Man. Given the band have retired and there's no chance they'd ever drop Paranoid anyway, it's safe to say that gap will never close.


Ozzy Osbourne - Crazy Train (1172 times)

Given that on top of the shows he played with Sabbath, Ozzy himself played Paranoid an additional 1142 times, he'd be easily forgiven for being sick to the back teeth of the song. It isn't, however, his most played track as a solo artist - that honour goes to his similarly iconic hit Crazy Train, with I Don't Know close behind at only 12 fewer plays. 


Babymetal - Megitsune (305 times)

They may be relatively new on the block compared to some of these grand masters, but Babymetal have still managed to clock up an impressive 305 live plays of Megitsune, from their self-titled 2015 debut album. Just 11 plays behind, however, is breakthrough anthem Gimme Chocolate!!, so we wouldn't be too surprised if that eventually takes first place.


Slayer - Raining Blood (1876 times)

The thrash titans are sadly no longer with us after officially packing it in in 2019. In that time, they ripped through the iconic Raining Blood almost 1900 times, which, according to interviews by Kerry King in recent years, clearly still wasn't enough. Personally, we wouldn't be gutted to see Slayer back together to bump that number up a few notches.


Judas Priest - Breaking The Law (1339 times)

Only six plays separate the top two on Judas Priest's most-played list, the beloved British Steel anthem just beating out Hell Bent For Leather. We'd be amazed if the Brummie metal icons ever dropped Breaking The Law, quite frankly, so as close as it is at the top, we expect Breaking The Law to stay there.


Korn - Korn (1713 times)

Few bands came roaring out of the gates with an instant, career-defining classic like Korn did with Blind, so they were understandably, for want of a better phrase, stuck with it from the moment their genre-altering debut dropped in 1994. We say 'for want of a better phrase' because, let's be honest: no matter what musical detours and dramas Korn have experienced over the years, Blind never misses.


Megadeth - Peace Sells (1783 times)

The title track from Megadeth's incredible second album, 1986's Peace Sells...But Who's Buying? hasn't lost an ounce of its potency in the near-four decades since it first tore a hole through the burgeoning thrash movement. It's probably why it's pretty much stayed in Megadeth setlists ever since it was released, with only Holy Wars...The Punishment Due anywhere near it at 1712 plays.


System Of A Down - Sugar (491 times)

It speaks volumes of how relatively little System Of A Down have done since their heyday compared to their peers that they are yet to play a single one of their songs 500 times. Still, Sugar isn't far off now, the single from their brilliantly batty self-titled debut album still causing absolute, pogo-ing mayhem every time it gets played (which is, to be clear, is every time System play, even if that's not as much as we'd like).


Lamb Of God - Laid To Rest (979 times)

Lamb Of God's breakthrough anthem and by far their most popular song on streaming, we can't exactly be shocked that Laid To Rest remains a constant in the Richmond, Virginia legends' setlists. That said, Lamb Of God could probably just play the Teletubbies theme song on repeat for every show and it'd still be better than 99% of concerts out there.


Nightwish - Nemo (647 times)

After announcing earlier this year that they are done with touring for the forseeable future, exactly when we'll get to see Nightwish live again is anyone's guess. It means that the likelihood of anything troubling Nemo at the top of their charts is minimal, not least because it's been played almost 150 more times than their number two, I Wish I Had An Angel.


Deftones - My Own Summer (Shove It) (1293 times)

This stone cold nu metal banger remains one of the greatest metal drops of the 90s, and it's easily Deftones' most-played live song, with well over a hundred plays more than Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away). Despite being a huge hit single and packing an iconic video, the label interference that ultimately led to the hasty release of Back To School (Mini Maggit) clearly left a sour taste in Deftones' mouths, with the song languishing way down in 30th place with a relatively paltry 246 plays. 


Anthrax - Caught In A Mosh (1432)

Interestingly (if not exactly shockingly), two of Anthrax's five most played songs are covers - their versions of Trust's Antisocial and Joe Jackson's Got The Time landing at numbers 2 and 4 respectively. Neither have wrestled the top spot from Caught In A Mosh, however, the Among The Living favourite still inciting pit mayhem 36 years after its release.


Ghost - Ritual (851 times)

Tobias Forge's spooky crew are closing in on 900 gigs now, and they've played earlier favourite Ritual at damn near all of them. And who can blame them? No matter how grandiose, pompous and overblown Ghost's music may get, there's something so simplistically effective about Ritual that its chorus is still drawing full-hearted singalongs over a decade since its release.


Motörhead - Ace Of Spades (1427 times)

You'd bet your house on this one, right? Yes, despite being released four albums in (five if you count On Parole, which we don't, for the record), Ace Of Spades' position as Motörhead's trademark hit ensured that it stayed a part of their setlists for 35 barnstorming years. Understandably so: it's one of those foundational rock songs you just cannot get sick of, no matter how many times you hear it.


Limp Bizkit - Break Stuff (628 times)

Bizkit's lairiest hit remains their most played, but only by a gnat's pube - their ludicrous but beloved cover of George Michael's Faith just a meagre five plays behind! Amazingly, despite being a number one single in the UK, Rollin' not only doesn't make the top five, but is actually the fourth most-aired cut from Chocolate Starfish..., trailing Take A Look Around, My Generation, My Way and Hot Dog


Within Temptation - Mother Earth (677 times)

One of the biggest bands to break from the European symphonic metal movement of the 90s, Within Temptation remain one of the biggest metal bands going in 2023, headlining arenas across Europe and playing to larger audiences than ever elsewhere. Majestic early hit Mother Earth is still in regular rotation at their spectacular live shows, comfortably earning its position at the top of their most-played charts.


Five Finger Death Punch - The Bleeding (765 times)

While they've been impressively prolific in terms of album releases since 2007 debut The Way Of The Fist, it's still the breakout song from that album, The Bleeding, that has been played live more times than any other. A rousing, emotionally charged metal power ballad, it set a template for what's made FFDP such an enduring success: big riffs, bigger hooks and big-ass, arms-aloft singalongs.


Linkin Park - In The End / One Step Closer (both 735 times)

Our first tie comes courtesy of the legendary Linkin Park, who notched up close to a thousand shows together until frontman Chester Bennington's tragic death in 2017. In that time, they played both rollocking nu metal whopper One Step Closer and emotionally wrought anthem In The End the same number of times - a fitting testament to the band's ability to write both pit-sparking ragers and heartstring-tugging classics of the highest level.


Rage Against The Machine - Killing In The Name (384 times)

Much like Korn with Blind, Rage Against The Machine were pretty much 'doomed' to play Killing In The Name any time they hit a stage the second they released it on their incredible, self-titled debut album. Luckily, despite having about two billions plays on radio, TV, streaming and just about everywhere else Killing In The Name still slaps, so we don't think anyone will be complaining.


Sepultura - Refuse/Resist (1064 times)

Despite turbulent lineup changes that would have finished off a lesser band, Sepultura have continued to put out top-tier metal records and play consistently outstanding live shows - at which Chaos A.D.'s timeless Refuse/Resist has been played more times than any other song in their arsenal. Given that Max Cavalera has aired it a fair few times himself since leaving the band, it's fair to say Seps fans have never gone wanting for a burst of this absolute rager. 

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He is also probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.