Well, it was inevitable.
When I first published my Top 50 Metal (and Quasi-Metal) Songs of the 1970s, reaction was strongly positive. Readers appreciated the diversity of acts on the list beyond the usual and expected entries from genre heavyweights like Black Sabbath. Album cuts beyond the well-known hit singles were also well-represented, and overall it was just a lot of fun to put together and to read.
Of course, the listening and exploring never stops, and at some point while researching my four-part doom metal history series I realized there is a lot more old-school metal to be found out there still. I became especially interested in heavy music from beyond the Anglosphere, and came to appreciate a few more underground acts that did not get the kind of exposure that others did back then. The quality of those bands’ output is the biggest reason I wanted to expand my top 50 list by another 25 entries.
You’ll still find a number of well-known favorite bands in this expansion, but my hope is that you’ll discover a killer band from the same time period…just buried by time and dust. Enjoy part three!
76. Blues Creation – “Atomic Bombs Away”
Along with fellow countrymen Flower Travellin Band, Blues Creation led the proto-metal charge in Japan with thick, sludgy riffs, highly proficient lead guitar, and blues-based songwriting. Not long after this classic was released, the band would change its name to simply Creation and switch its sound somewhat.
75. Nektar – “King of Twilight”
I’m stretching the heaviness definition just a bit here. Steve Harris of Iron Maiden has covered this song with his band, citing it as a key influence on his songwriting. Nektar leader Roy Albrighton just recently passed from this world into the twilight, leaving prog-land bereft.
74. Rainbow – “Starstruck”
On track 3 from 1976’s Rising, Ronnie James Dio and Ritchie Blackmore weave this tale of revenge, obsession, and danger. Theirs was a volatile partnership that would only last a couple of years longer before they would each move on to bigger and better things.
73. Lucifer’s Friend – “Ride the Sky”
This German heavy-prog outfit had a halfway-decent showing in US markets with its powerful hard rock sound in 1970. Depending on your ears, the opening brass riff may or may not sound similar to a certain Led Zeppelin song farther up on this list. A complete performance all around, and the rest of the band’s debut album is no exception. Great stuff from Deutschland.
72. Flower Travellin’ Band – “Satori Part 1”
Along with Master of Reality, this Japanese band was responsible for the heaviest production sound of 1971. This muscular, full-body stomp kicks things off for a largely-instrumental album that proved a band from the Land of the Rising Sun could watch and learn. And that wild screech to start it off…
71. Death SS – “Murder Angels”
Those of us who choose to dig deep into the roots of extreme metal will unearth this Italian outfit. Death SS was simply way too ahead of its time to garner any mainstream public appreciation. Perhaps if they had hailed from another country, Death SS’ career might have been different. Fans of black metal especially should find this horrific band familiar, with its raw production, quick-fire pacing and strangled vocals by Steve Sylvester.
70. Judas Priest – “Let Us Prey/Call For the Priest”
One of the 70s-era Priest’s strongest songs, this album track from Sin After Sin is just begging to be used as a set opener (in case they get tired of “Metal Gods”). Its high-energy, thrash-like pace and tight, well-phrased dual guitars make it a perfect addition to the Brutal Legend soundtrack alongside several other Judas Priest classics.
69. The Scorpions – “Another Piece of Meat”
As usual in Scorpions land, sex is primal, dirty, and hungry–like Klaus Meine’s yells in this track from Lovedrive. Mad axeman Michael Schenker leads his German brethren in this tale of evening debauchery, a quite British-sounding late 70s metal escapade.
68. Dust – “Suicide”
In one of the first uses of the words “heavy metal,” Creem magazine mentioned a local Brooklyn band called Dust as part of its discourse. Gallows humor runs through this classic of early New York metal, featuring fuzzed out bass and also drumming from one Marc Bell, who would become more famous…under the name Marky Ramone.
67. UFO – “Rock Bottom”
UFO was always more popular in its native UK than stateside. Featuring Michael Schenker shredding lead guitar for a time, the underrated band kicked off its career with this stellar suite of angst and aggression.
66. Pentagram – “Review Your Choices”
One of the biggest reasons I expanded this list was to give the early-70s Pentagram stuff the recognition it deserves. Simpler is better, as the American doom godfathers knew. Listen to that riff–one note more and it just wouldn’t have the same impact. Haunting and hazy.
65. Black Sabbath – “Symptom of the Universe”
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth has stated his belief again and again that this is the first thrash metal song ever crafted. It’s proof that Sabbath’s influence powers through most of the metal subgenres spawned in its wake. Maybe they really did write everything already…
64. Nazareth – “Hair of the Dog”
I really thought Nazareth was AC/DC when I first heard this, their signature song (it was the vocals). I can’t tell you how many times I tried finding a song called “Son of a Bitch” by AC/DC…which didn’t exist. Quite a shock when I found out.
63. Cactus – “Evil”
‘”Evil” was a monster song,’ says Cactus drummer Carmine Appice. Monstrous like the character singing it! A Howlin’ Wolf cover, this track was amped up beyond belief with one of the best lead guitar tones ever put to tape.
62. Leaf Hound – “Freelance Fiend”
Though the sound and name of the group Leaf Hound would suggest, ahem, a certain type of mushroom, the band members deny that was the case. Shrooms or no shrooms, “Freelance Fiend” (and its accompanying album, Growers of Mushroom) is a hidden treasure of stoner doom-dom worth seeking out.
61. Dust – “From A Dry Camel”
With an atmosphere that positively reeks of hazy, acid-and-weed-fueled visions and the desert’s raging heat, New York proto-metal act Dust wraps its trip around one slow riff and from there charges into a middle section for the ages.
60. Blue Oyster Cult – “Godzilla”
The Long Islanders present a lumbering riff worthy of the beastly character. Buck Dharma’s underrated, constant lead guitar mirrors the air raid sirens and destruction. Run for your lives!
59. Death SS – “Terror”
Opening with an eerie rainstorm close to the original “Black Sabbath,” “Terror” is a suite of heavy horror music from the super-underground Italian outfit Death SS. Read the translated lyrics for maximum chills. “My God…what is it?!?!?”
58. Motorhead – “Limb From Limb”
The closer for Motorhead’s greatest album, 1979’s Overkill. A fat, buzzed-out groove where the guitar and Lemmy’s bass are near indistinguishable from each other, and you can’t help but sneer and bang your head. I dare you.
57. Pentagram – “20 Buck Spin”
A doom classic that went through a number of iterations before finally appearing in album format on 1985’s Relentless, this early-1970s version introduces us to devil-clown Bobby Liebling. I still don’t know what this song is about, and I honestly wonder whether he does either!
56. The Scorpions – “All Night Long”
When you can open a Tokyo set with a new song you crafted just for the occasion, your band has truly shown up to play. Uli Jon Roth’s guitar playing–sharp, clear, and seemingly never-ending–provides both the fireworks and the rhythm.
55. Deep Purple – “Black Night”
An irresistible, up-stroke guitar groove, I think “Black Night” has the fuzziest performance of the period…a production so distinctive that even Deicide’s modernized death metal cover can’t match, as technically accomplished as it is.
54. Mountain – “Don’t Look Around”
One of the heaviest of the old-school power trios, and openers for Black Sabbath on their first ever North American tour, was Mountain. Its members pushed one another along with aggressive musicianship, as on “Don’t Look Around,” where there is no place for anybody to hide amidst the electric organ.
53. Black Sabbath – “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”
While recording their fifth LP in an ancient, haunted castle, Tony Iommi’s writer’s block was busted wide open by this singular riff. The rest of the titular album fell right into place afterwards.
52. Pentagram – “Forever My Queen”
Throughout the decade, record labels were trying very hard to find “an American Black Sabbath.” But the truth is, we had that band in our mid-Atlantic/DC region all along. Pentagram did not have nearly the sales or accolades of its British peers, but they surely deserved it, especially with songs like this one matching them at their own game.
Written by Matt P