The 10 best Metallica songs not by Metallica

Photos of Metallica, Megadeth, Avenged Sevenfold and Trivium performing onstage
(Image credit: Metallica: Michael Buckner/Billboard via Getty Images | Megadeth: Chiaki Nozu/WireImage | Avenged Sevenfold: Kevin Mazur/WireImage | Trivium: Rob Monk/Future via Getty Images)

Every metal band wants to be Metallica. Whether they know it or not, all aspiring metal musicians pick up an instrument with the goal of doing exactly what James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich and Cliff Burton/Jason Newsted/Rob Trujillo did: broadening heavy music’s reach to unprecedented audiences.

This means that California’s heavy metal heavyweights have plenty who sound just like them. However, that’s not intrinsically a bad thing. Below, Hammer’s listed 10 magnificent songs that Metallica could have written, but were instead penned by those treading the road which was paved by our genre’s most trailblazing force.

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Megadeth – Mechanix (Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good!, 1985)

This entry’s a bit of a piss-take, admittedly. When Metallica booted lead guitarist Dave Mustaine in 1983, the future Megadeth man took his originals with him and, on his next band’s debut album, reverted The Four Horsemen to its initial, scrappier form. Mustaine lived up to his vow of being faster and wilder than his ex-colleagues with this thrasher, stamping the accelerator while chopping Horsemen’s extended mid-section. Debates over which version dominates still rage, but both are bangers for different reasons.

Avenged Sevenfold – This Means War (Hail To The King, 2013)

On Hail To The King, Avenged Sevenfold gunned for stadium-metal supremacy. The gambit paid dividends when the Californians headlined Download in 2014, but their self-simplification also drew comparisons to Metallica and Guns ’N’ Roses. Nowhere is such influence as apparent as on This Means War, which, from the intro’s start-stop march to the flurries of hammer-ons and pull-offs, is practically a beat-for-beat redo of Sad But True. Still, the single united arenas in singalong, so it did its job.

Sepultura – Inner Self (Beneath The Remains, 1989)

Metallica were always an influence on Sepultura, but the raw production of the Brazilians’ first albums didn’t let them fully recreate their idols’ excellence. The Roadrunner-endorsed Beneath The Remains, however, was a different story. Inner Self’s thudding rhythm guitar, flamboyant soloing and iconoclastic chorus (“Nonconformity in my inner self!”) rivalled ’Tallica at their best. The upstarts mastered the thrash formula early, granting them the confidence to break new ground on the slyly industrial Arise, then the samba-sculpted masterpieces Chaos A.D. and Roots.

Trivium – Becoming The Dragon (The Crusade, 2006)

Following the overnight success of their 2005 breakthrough, Ascendancy, Trivium refused to be pigeonholed. So, the youngsters rushed themselves into the studio for the still-controversial Crusade, where they shed screams and breakdowns to emulate their more classic influences. Although Metallica’s impact looms large over many of the songs, Becoming The Dragon demonstrates the strongest control over the masters’ characteristics. That shouted chorus and the rumbling bass solo have made this a fan favourite – even if the album as a whole is not.

Kreator – Violent Revolution (Violent Revolution, 2001)

Violent Revolution is broadly esteemed as Kreator’s return to form. After almost a decade of underrated goth/industrial experiments, the Teutonic trailblazers re-embraced thrash, and on the album’s title track, they stripped the genre to its most basic yet invigorating elements. It’s a career highlight that shares a stomping percussive pattern and chugging E-strings with the Four Horsemen, but it also goes above and beyond with that chorus, which is AC/DC levels of no-nonsense. Those twin leads are fucking gorgeous, as well.

Paradise Lost – Pity The Sadness (Shades Of God, 1992)

But Paradise Lost are a death-doom band!, you protest. And yes, that’s true, especially on the game-changing Lost Paradise and Gothic albums. Yet, during record number three, the Yorkshiremen proved their restless spirit by incorporating Hetfield-like snarls and chugging thrash metal instrumentation. On Pity The Sadness especially, they go full Metallica, although there’s still a signature, sullen majesty to Gregor Mackintosh’s lead guitar melodies. The misery merchants would reinvent themselves again on 1993’s more gothic Icon, leaving this as a striking standalone.

Testament – The Pale King (Brotherhood Of The Snake, 2016)

Of all the seminal California thrash bands, Testament have been among the most open to sampling even heavier sounds. The quintet dabbled in death metal while everyone else was chasing alt-rock, after all! However, The Pale King shows this band at their most accessible. The Brotherhood Of The Snake single is a beer-swilling classic-in-the-making, boasting a more simplified gallop from drummer Gene Hoglan and barrages of open-string riffing. Metallica brought thrash metal to the masses, and this anthem chased the same goal.

Sylosis – All Is Not Well (Monolith, 2012)

Around the dawn of the 2010s, metalcore was the trendiest sound in the UK scene, but Sylosis did not have time for it. Instead, Josh Middleton’s riff maestros staged a rebellion, rejecting breakdowns and drop-tunings, and they were a breath of fresh air for it. All Is Not Well is the closest any band post-…And Justice For All has come to recapturing the album’s progressive yet primal essence, those drums and chords rivalling Harvester Of Sorrow for heaviness. 

Evile – Cult (Five Serpents’ Teeth, 2011)

Evile started as a Metallica cover band, so it’s no surprise that, when they started writing their own stuff, thrash’s biggest giants cast a major shadow. This is especially true of the mid-paced Cult. The 2011 single aims for plenty of Black Album swagger as it sandwiches together grooving snares and hulking guitar chords. Matt Drake’s harsh but melodic singing and brother Ol’s squealing solo only further reinforce that this is a band eager to become the Metallica of the 21st century.

Xentrix – For Whose Advantage? (For Whose Advantage?, 1990)

From their twisting, Justice-esque thrash to frontman Chris Astley wielding a Gibson Explorer, Xentrix really wanted to be the British Metallica. Sadly, that campaign was halted by lineup changes, a 15-year hiatus and a lawsuit over the Northerners’ metallic cover of the Ghostbusters theme. At least For Whose Advantage? persists as a maelstrom of progressive speed, hammered home by some impressive technicality and Astley’s authoritative bark. The genuine article would be proud of this deft attempt to follow in their tracks.

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.