It’s August here in the United States. It’s hot. It’s really hot. If you live up in Northeast like I do, it’s really humid as well. It’s harsh, bright and it BURNS. As miserable as that all sounds, you have to admit it’s pretty metal as well. Metal has a few subjects it’s mined very prolifically over the years: death, war, destruction and so on. There’s a lot of fire mixed in there as well, so much so that there’s quite a few classics that are about burning or at least have the word “burn” in the song title.
A search on Metal Archives for these songs will spew forth 4523 entries…that’s a lot of burning! So instead of desperately running through this treacherous blaze (and probably suffering through hundreds of 15th-generation gore-grind bands), let’s narrow the selection down to the real scorchers!
Judas Priest- Freewheel Burning
I love how effortlessly Halford sings the rapid-fire lyrics to the bridge in this live clip. Plus, the band does look pretty sweaty in this video, which seems to fit nicely with our theme here. At this point in the Judas Priest’s career, any traces of 70s prog-rock were long gone and the band were a roaring heavy metal machine. “Freewheel Burning” is one of those songs that utterly floors you the first time you hear it.
Venom- Don’t Burn the Witch
Despite the name of this album, Venom were much more of a NWOBHM band than a black metal band, as their influence on the second wave sound was more aesthetic and lyrical. But don’t let that discount how menacing they could be, especially on the opening riff to this song. Beware: this flame burns black.
Bathory- Burn for Burning
Bathory retained some of their early crudeness and NWOBHM swagger on this second album, but “The Return…” was still much darker than its predecessor. This tale of a fearless witch ready to burn feels almost like a preview of what was to come on “Woman of Dark Desires.” Crushing, haunting and fierce, “Born for Burning” shows why Bathory has such a glorious legacy.
Possessed- Burning in Hell
Where would we all be without this album? Everything about this track totally rips, from the chaos created by the guitars and drums, to the hellish vocals of Jeff Becerra. It’s hard to go back to regular thrash once you’ve walked down the path of Possessed.
Deicide- In Hell I Burn
Noticing a bit of a theme here with the death metal tracks? Well, it is Deicide. If you don’t know what to expect from them, there’s not much we can really talk about. And if you don’t like what they have to offer here, there is much I’d really want to talk about anyway. The scooped guitars on this track are basically the sonic equivalent of heat-seeking missiles, blasting all mid-frequencies into oblivion!
Pig Destroyer- 4th Degree Burns
What a song name! If you really like Pig Destroyer, you should check out the latest issue of Decibel, featuring a cover story about these grind heroes and their new album.
Caustic Christ- Burned
I forget where I first Caustic Christ. It might have been from a mix a friend put together or perhaps some compilation hiding in the back of my CD collection. Anyway, these ragers play a thoroughly satisfying style of hardcore punk, propelled in large part by guitarist Bill Christ who was originally in CT-punk legends The Pist.
Lamb of God- As the Palaces Burn
Couldn’t leave this one off the list! This was my first exposure to Lamb of God back in 2003, thus fixing my image Randy forever with that very 2003-style haircut. Saw these guys recently open for Slayer on their farewell tour. And while they didn’t play this short-but-sweet crusher, they still put on an excellent set with no signs of mellowing out with age.
Meshuggah- Soul Burn
I really have to be in the mood to listen to Meshuggah. And when I do, I almost always crank this song first. It’s got that right mix of Cynic-style chords with several extra layers of groove that built Meshuggah’s name in the underground. I also appreciate how the guitars sound here, not quite as tinny and um…djenty as they would later become.
Emperor- With Strength I Burn
Dark, soaring, epic. This is Emperor at their very best. There’s so much going on in this song, and yet it’s played in a way that you can still easily follow along. And it has that excellent combination of black metal fury and melodic grandeur that make it such a glorious closer to Anthems.
(Note: Although I’ve focused on metal and hardcore for this list, don’t forget to light up some non-metal tracks as well!)