What can you say that hasn't already been said about Master of Puppets? The album is a goddamn masterpiece, and every track is an all-time classic. But because we like to confound, challenge and torment you, our gentle fans and followers, we posed an admittedly absurd question: What is the single greatest song on what might be metal's single greatest album? You responded in droves and with passion; below are the ranked results.
Prime-era Metallica were kings of the build and release. Take songs like "One" or "Fade to Black," tracks that start with introspective acoustic guitars, then snowball with intensity until they explode. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" is another graduate from the Metallica school of drama, adding badass riff upon badass riff that swell and crescendo all the way until the close. It's the kind of song that has you quietly mouthing the verse yet screaming "SANITARIUMMMMM LET ME BEEEEE" by the time the chorus has arrived.
Ending Master of Puppets and following "Orion" is no small task. Instead of attempting to write something as "heady" or intricate as its previous song, Metallica just said, "Fuck it, let's bring something heavy" with a relentless song in "Damage, Inc." After an atmospheric beginning section, it's all fury. The guitar work is an all-out onslaught, solidifying a machine-gun rhythm of headbanging chugs. Vocals are barely needed on the track — the speed speaks for itself.
From the clean-tone open notes of "Battery" into the melodic dual-leads, it's clear — this is a sophisticated band that knows their instruments. By the time the thrashy-punk part settles in, all of the intense melancholy that preceded it has been forgotten, and headbanging — intense and virtually involuntary headbanging — is well underway.
Opening with a badass riff that just screams "Let's pit!," "Disposable Heroes" avoids the obvious and goes a different way, opting for a half-speed drum approach to slow down the entire thing. It's the kind of thing that crossover bands in the day looked to with awe, realizing that there wasn't a giant chasm between metal and hardcore after all. Yet, just as the listener has gotten used to the change in ideas, Metallica switch it up again — jumping right into a thrashy riff and what might be the meanest chorus in the band's history, speaking on the horrors and atrocities of war: "You will do what I say, when I say/'Back to the front'/You will die when I say, you must die/Back to the front."
If there were ever three things that showcased Cliff Burton as the musical genius that he was, the first might be the classic snarling bass riff that opens "Orion," the second would be the high-pitched bass line from the chorus of the first section of "Orion" and the third is probably the slower, quieter rolling bass line from the slow middle section of the song. The entire instrumental track is such a ripping, emotional feat of badassery that even parsing those sections out as highlights seem like a travesty. "Orion" is clearly one of the band's greatest achievements in a time and place where virtually every song they released was a trailblazing masterwork.