Here it is, Part 2 of the best metal songs of the 1970s, one headbanger’s idea of the cream of the crop.
This was a pretty tough list to make, but I tried not to overthink the order too much (otherwise I’d rewrite it a million times and never have it published). So try not to obsess over the exact placing, because frankly these are all great songs; you could probably switch around the order for any of them outside the top 15-20 and I wouldn’t have an issue.
Enjoy and have fun with my list, and of course hit right back with your own greatest list should you feel compelled!
25. Thin Lizzy – “Massacre”
For the most blistering and intense song in their catalog, Thin Lizzy visit an ancient battlefield. Hear the version on “Live and Dangerous” for the full effect.
24. Alice Cooper – “I’m Eighteen”
One of the iconic shock rockers biggest hits. We were all at that age once, in the middle without any plans. So was Marilyn Manson, who duets with Alice on occasion.
23. Led Zeppelin – “Immigrant Song”
Led Zeppelin on balance isn’t metal. But this song is. Enslaved covers it too, in their live shows.
22. AC/DC – “Beatin Around the Bush”
Angus Young cranks up the boogie even faster than usual for a raucous, dirty, barroom energy that made AC/DC Australia’s loudest–and greatest–band.
21. Black Sabbath – “Hole In The Sky”
“Sabotage”‘s opening song made such an impact that it inspired the name of the famous black metal festival in Bergen, Norway many years later. Its energetic riffing has an almost swing-like quality to it, leaving you only wishing that the song was just a bit longer than four minutes. And when Sabbath was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Metallica graciously inducted them by performing this track while a very happy Ozzy moshed in the audience. Good times.
20. Deep Purple – “Child In Time”
A 10-minute anthem that encroached upon progressive-rock territory, “Child In Time” featured precise guitar and keyboard interplay that especially came to life onstage in Tokyo.
19. Judas Priest – “Dissident Aggressor”
The final track of Sin After Sin was one of early metal’s most distinctive intros–a glass-shattering Rob Halford shriek. Won a Grammy 40 years after its original recording, too. Powerful stuff, also covered by Slayer.
18. UFO – “Lights Out”
One of the earliest examples of the “gallop” rhythm that has become ubiquitous in metal. It commemorates the experience of the Blitz: “Lights out, lights out in London…hold on tight till the end…”
17. Black Sabbath – “Into The Void”
Tony Iommi has said this is one of his favorite songs to play live (and Exhorder has done it too). One can see why: it is a hulking monstrosity of a groove that in a stadium, sounds simply invincible.
16. The Stooges – “Down On the Street”
The opener to the 1970 “Fun House” album is usually considered a template for punk rock, but the dirty, rusty groove speaks to all genres of extreme music.
15. Budgie – “Breadfan”
In Metallica’s earliest days, they were looking for a lead guitarist. So they put out an ad asking for a musician who loved Motorhead, Iron Maiden….and Budgie. That ad was answered by Dave Mustaine. For Lars Ulrich and company, it wasn’t enough to be a fan of the popular metal bands–it helped to know about the more obscure stuff too (and this wasn’t as easy back then, before the Internet). Budgie is a band that really should have been bigger than they were, not least for the sharp fury of their signature song, which Metallica later covered. So hey, at least more people know about Budgie now!
14. Black Sabbath – “Supernaut”
Like a blackened, evil companion piece to the Elton John hit “Rocket Man” released in the same year, Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” finds each member of the band at the height of his prime. Ozzy wails about “reaching out to touch the sky” and “climbing mountains of the moon.” Mr. Iommi and Mr. Butler produce one of their best riff-and-rhythm combinations ever as a duo. And of course, there’s Bill Ward’s drum solo, still keeping time while showing off the chops. This song from Volume 4 is regarded as one of the band’s best by hardcore Sabbath fans, including industrial act Ministry, who covered it.
13. Kiss – “God of Thunder”
Death metal giant Chuck Schuldiner covered multiple versions of this Kiss classic with his band, Death. Say what you will about Kiss’ image, but if it’s good enough for Chuck, it’s good enough for metal.
12. Rush – “Working Man”
Before becoming international giants of prog, Rush played a furious mix of hard rock and blues, with “Working Man” the best surviving example of this earliest, pre-Neil Peart lineup of Rush.
11. Ted Nugent – “Stranglehold”
Uncle Ted blazes forth with a massive groove that’s always fun to break down and jam on. Ted Nugent has played over 5,000 concerts, and “Stranglehold” has been a centerpiece at almost all of them.
10. Black Sabbath – “War Pigs”
Black Sabbath’s anti-war suite is set to the sounds of combat, from air raid sirens to machine gun solos and doomsday-prophet vocals. Although written for the Vietnam War period, its message transcends all conflict from ancient times to the present day.
9. Motorhead – “Overkill”
A showcase for drummer Mikkey Dee, who starts (and restarts) the song 3 times, “Overkill” has inspired at least one New Jersey thrash metal band’s name and been an encore at Motorhead shows for many years.
8. The Who – “The Real Me”
The Who’s most metallic assault on tape features the most dominant bass and drum section of the 1970s, together with crashing power chords and one of Roger Daltrey’s most leather-lunged vocals (an inspiration to Rob Halford of Judas Priest). John Entwhistle’s bass could drive the song all by itself!
7. Judas Priest – “Victim of Changes”
One of early metal’s great epics, “Victim of Changes” has been called “the greatest metal vocal ever put on tape.” Like many early Judas Priest songs, the definitive version took place not in the studio, but live in Tokyo on Unleashed In the East.
6. Rainbow – “Man On The Silver Mountain”
For his first musical project after Elf, Ronnie James Dio partnered with Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore for this stunning howl of a song, a call from the heart for salvation and redemption. “‘Man on the Silver Mountain’ is a God figure everyone’s crying out to,'” the singer explained.
5. Black Sabbath – “Iron Man”
Applied to superheroes as far different from each other as Dumas’ Man In the Iron Mask to the recent Robert Downey, Jr. movie, Iron Man is simply a gargantuan metal anthem with a riff that has the size to match. Luckily Tony Iommi was up to the task of writing it.
4. Rainbow – “Kill the King”
“It’s about a chess game,” says Ronnie James Dio about this 1978 classic from Long Live Rock and Roll. A furious call to arms, the song is a tremendous inspiration to almost every power metal band in existence, and many others besides. It was Rainbow’s concert opener for years, and Dio continued to perform it after he split with Blackmore.
3. Judas Priest – “Hell Bent For Leather”
When Rob Halford comes roaring onstage riding a motorcycle, dressed to the metal 9s in studs, leather, and sunglasses, fans know it’s time for “Hell Bent For Leather.” Its power and sense of the grandiose catapulted Priest into the burgeoning New Wave of British Heavy Metal. An energetic live draw by 1979, “Hell Bent For Leather” added yet another encore-worthy hit to Priest’s burgeoning catalog.
2. Deep Purple – “Highway Star”
“Everyone who wanted to learn guitar only wants to play lead and learn the solo,” Masa Itoh laughs in “Global Metal.” Storming onstage with this unstoppable anthem in Japan in 1972, “Highway Star” was the song that turned Deep Purple into legends.
1. Black Sabbath – “Paranoid”
Two minutes and fifty-two seconds. That’s how long it took Black Sabbath to create the definitive blast of old school metal. And to think it was just recorded and thrown onto the record that bore its name at the very last minute. Why the title? “It’s what people are always telling me I am,” laughs Geezer Butler.
For sheer efficiency and completeness, “Paranoid” is the #1 metal song of the 1970s.
Written by Matt P