Every metalhead has a few skeletons in their respective closet. And by skeletons, we mean musical skeletons not anything particularly untoward or, possibly, illegal. Growing up first on pop music, then on cock rock, and then with thrash, death, black, and every fucking sub-genre (and sub-sub-genre) offshoot, it’s pretty easy to see and hear where extreme metal fails to scratch—traditional songwriting, for the most part—a particular itch. So, when metal bands—some not so metal in the eyes and ears of some—have a rare “song moment” and I’m not concerned about my scene cred allocation going into the negative, I get all stupid passionate about bands I normally wouldn’t give to the Decibot’s mega-brutal auto-delete bin.
So, here’s my Top 5 Metal Songs I had to admit I like. Tell us your Top 5 in the comments section.
5. Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Love Kills
Vinnie Vincent had a brief, albeit productive time in idiots KISS before he was summarily executed by chief dickheads Simmons and Stanley. After making KISS better, he ventured into solo territory with Vinnie Vincent Invasion. One record with ex-Journey frontman Robert Fleischman and one with future Slaughter star Mark Slaughter hit listeners with marginal success. That is until “Love Kills” appeared as the main tune for A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. It’s a prudent argument on whether or not Vinnie Vincent Invasion—and in particular “Love Kills”—is metal, but one listen to “Invasion” (HERE) and Vin-meister’s roots are evident. And, hey, Jeff Scott Soto’s on backing vox. “Love Kills” is a tried and true heavy metal ballad, with Slaughter’s saccharine vocals leading the charge. The thing is “Love Kills” is hard to forget. When the chorus hits, Vin and his boys are full-on Velveeta and, shockingly, brilliant. Sure, Dokken also knocked it out of the park with “Dream Warriors”, but “Love Kills” is a go-to song when the chips are down or I’m tired of hearing songs about slimy monsters from the abyss.
4. In This Moment – Forever
I’m half scared to admit I like—no, really like—this song. If only to continue to get assignments with Decibel, actually. Believe it or not, I combed In This Moment’s early catalog to much dismay, except for this song, “Forever”. Half Lita Ford, half new wave, “Forever” has that end-of-summer quality to it. That the video was filmed on a beach with a setting sun doesn’t really have anything to do with the sentiment either. Maria Brink is strong here. Her dynamic range is great and her emotion well-positioned. The band is also on point musically and compositionally, particularly at 2:21. I’ll defend the reasons why I like this tune to the death (if asked), but I can’t say I’ll militarily support In This Moment’s other stuff, like “Whore” (HERE, if you dare).
3. Deathstars – Blitzkrieg
Uh, oh! If names Ole Öhman, Emil Nödtveidt and Andreas Bergh ring a bell, well, you were well entrenched in mid-’90s Swedish black/death metal. Öhman was a one-time drummer for Ophthalamia, but he famously beat skins in Dissection, while Nödtveidt—Jon’s (RIP) younger brother—and Bergh were stakeholders in Swordmaster, whose Deathraider EP remains the only decent part of the group’s repertoire. Anyway, Deathstars formed in the post-abortal glow of millennial black metal, ’80s gothic music, and whatever Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson call themselves. It’s pretty easy to ignore most of Deathstars’ industrial goth, but “Blitzkrieg” is stupid catchy. Metal bands, even Swedish ones, weren’t known for a wicked hook, but between pseudo-Nazi uniforms and creepy Carl McCoy altars, Deathstars wrote a song that should’ve been major label and Hollywood-supported. Can’t really vouch for the rest of Deathstars’ catalog, but this song is great, even if it’s as stupid as Glen Benton’s best lyrics.
2. Metallica – King Nothing
St. Anger was Metallica’s Episode I – The Phantom Menace. There’s nothing remotely interesting on that record. When Death Magnetic hit, Metallica weren’t much better (less Jar Jar Binks level horseshit), so looking for a fix, I reluctantly went back to Metallica albums I initially heaved out of mind and thought with great force in the mid-’90s. Load and Reload are still Metallica neutered—compare any song from the self-titled, for example, to hear my point. But out of an embarrassing shitstorm comes “King Nothing”. Hetfield’s still can’t sing very well, but the Hammett’s at least riffing and soloing like he’s Hammett; not the shade of a shade of his former self as on St. Anger and Death Magnetic. “King Nothing” was probably written in the early ’90s only to surface on Load. It has that cutting floor quality to it. Nonetheless, when I’m trying to figure out where and when Metallica when awry, “King Nothing” is a cogent starting point.
1. P.O.D. – Sleeping Awake
There’s a theme here. Bands with songs written for movie soundtracks. P.O.D. (short for Payable On Death) were rock radio and MTV darlings for a good number of years. I have no idea what happened before “Sleeping Awake”, a song written for Matrix Reloaded, or after—likely Andrew knows—, but I remember when this song first aired on radio. Who is this? P.O.D.? No shit. Yeah, the singer-guy’s rap-like cadence grates a bit, but compositionally I’ll take this any day over any song on Tool’s 10,000 Days or Mastodon’s The Hunter (for a in-era and out-of-era comparison). It’s got an easy build, the backward rhythm—the drummer and bassist are on fire!—thing is ridiculously cool, and a viciously smart chorus. Not sure if P.O.D. did anything remotely similar to “Sleeping Awake”—doubt it—but this is a song that’s remained discreetly filed in my digital collection for years. In WAV format, too.