For both metal fanatics and casual observers, Metallica represents the pinnacle of song-writing in heavy music.
A look back over their celebrated career tells the story of a band that defied the odds and took Bay-area thrash from the clubs of San Fransisco to the stadiums of the world, becoming literally one of the biggest acts of all time in the process.
Rather than rest on their laurels, the group are synonymous with forward motion – be it controversial split albums with country legends and the occasional pop-star, documentaries detailing their in-fighting, shows with the best orchestras around the world: they’re never ones to get comfortable.
It’s no wonder that even their contemporaries see them as the creative act to which to aspire.
However, there are some (albeit many) who see the band’s first five albums – their pummelling debut Kill ‘Em All, thrash opus’ Ride The Lightning, Master of Puppets and And Justice For All and going supernova with the accessible but iconic Black Album – as the band at their creative peak.
A look at the bands’ setlists would suggest the same. Sure, they have a healthy dose of new material in their shows, but it wouldn’t be a Metallica gig without the rollercoaster of ‘One’ or the party anthem ‘Enter Sandman’.
However, revisionist historians (ahem, music nerds) have been hard at work dismantling the notion that Metallica peaked in 1992. Had they never released those seminal first five records, they would still be one of the finest heavy bands in the world today.
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So without further ado, here is our hypothetical dream Metallica setlist comprising only of post-Black Album material, taking us from the Load LP all the way up to 2016’s excellent Hardwired…To Self-Destruct.
We based the shape of the set off their recent Worldwired world tour, with all the anthems, thrashing daemons and heavy stompers in (roughly) the right places.
Get ready for some serious St Anger loving.
1. ‘Ecstasy of Gold (intro)/ Hardwired’
It’s hard to look past the intro that the band have used on this world-tour. From the iconic intro, penned by the late Ennio Morricone, straight into a no-bullshit thrasher with the catch-cry “we’re so fucked!”, everything about this as an opener is perfect. *chefs kiss*
2. ‘The Memory Remains’
Again, this is following on from the band’s current setlist from their recent tour dates. A stomper with one hell of a sing-a-long to take it home.
If hating on an album based off the snare sound is really why you don’t like St Anger (I suspect its because the internet tells you to hate it) then you’re missing out on some really sweet riffs. Example A -‘Tallica at their heaviest.
4. ‘Devil’s Dance’
One of the finer moments from the band’s blues-rock experiment. One to get the toes a-tappin’ after the heavy opening numbers.
5. ‘The Day That Never Comes’
One of the longer cuts from Death Magnetic, but another example of the band’s ability to fuse ballad and speed metal concepts into proggy riff-fests.
6. ‘Until It Sleeps’
A tune that deserves far more love than what it receives. With singer James Hetfield’s creepy vocal delivery and heartfelt lyrics, it shows vulnerable darkness to the band. Also, a great tune to recharge the batteries.
7. ‘Sweet Amber’
Some of the most balls-to-the-wall riffs the band has ever turned in. This face-puncher belongs in your workout playlist ASAP and is sure to get the blood pumping for the heaviness to come.
8. ‘The Judas Kiss’
This deep cut from Death Magnetic boasts a hell of a chorus and some of Kirk Hammet’s best fret-work in recent years. What Load and ReLoad could have been with a tad more metal.
9. ‘Bleeding Me’
To close out the first act comes a ten-minute slow burner that rises to a thrilling conclusion and never feels too long. An example of why Metallica will always be a cut above the rest when it comes to song-writing.
10. ‘Suicide and Redemption‘
Metallica’s early instrumentals have been widely celebrated, but this ten-minute jam from Death Magnetic is really Hetfiled’s moment to shine, with a rare solo from the singer, and some thundering bass work courtesy of the excellent Robert Trujillo. A great jam to start act two.
11. ‘St Anger’
Oh God, that RIFF!
12. ‘Halo On Fire’
Taking the pace down a bit with this mid-tempo progressive chugger, ‘Halo On Fire’ offers another huge sing-a-long moment and has some vintage lead work. A wonderful twilight piece.
Written specifically for the bands’ celebrated S&M show, ‘Human’ is powerful and brooding. Don’t mess with Metallica, they’re as dangerous now as they were in ’89.
14. ‘Spit Out The Bone’
It can’t be said enough – Hardwired is a stunning album for the band, with their most challenging compositions since …And Justice For All. This epic example has the attitude, it has the thrash and most importantly, the atmosphere that made their ’80s period so celebrated.
Ending the main set with this live staple will get the biggest sing-a-long of the night – and for good reason. It might be the band at their most cliche, but once you hear it you can’t get it out of your head.
16. ‘Mercyful Fate’
Metallica are well known for throwing in covers to their live set, from Queens’s ‘Stone Cold Crazy’, to live favourite and Irish folk-tune ‘Whisky In A Jar’. However, their combination of these thrash anthems by the band of the same name is second to none and was a mighty fine inclusion on the Garage Inc. EP.
17. ‘All Nightmare Long’
It’s surprising that it took the band over 20 years to write a song about zombies (with this tune finally appearing on 2008’s Death Magnetic), but when it surfaced, boy did it satisfy. A live favourite, ‘All Nightmare Long’ is a sinister, twisted journey and captures the band in peak long-form thrash mode.
18. ‘Moth Into The Flame’
It was tempting to close the set with the aforementioned ‘Fuel’. However, ‘Moth Into The Flame’ has emerged as an instant classic for the band, with a rollicking riff holding down some of the band’s best melodic work. It will go down as one of the band’s most celebrated tunes and is a worthy finisher to any Metallica show.