Metallica are the biggest metal band of all time. Many metalheads would argue that they're the most important metal band ever. Many others would even claim they're the single best metal band of all time. But no one, fan or otherwise, would say Metallica are the heaviest band out there — and they've never tried to be. It's their possibly unmatched ability to bring widely accessible songwriting to the often inaccessible style of heavy metal that has made Metallica the megastars they are, but even so, the thrash titans have many legitimately crushing fucking songs kicking around their catalog.
We asked our readers to pick the single heaviest of them all. It was a tight race, but the top five vote-getters are ranked accordingly below.
The votes were incredibly close for this slot, but "Dyers Eve" just beat out Master of Puppets songs like "Disposable Heroes" and "Battery" to claim a place on this list. On ...And Justice for All, Metallica closed their record by churning out one of their toothiest riffs over a relentless groove that punches and pulls like ocean waves clapping the sand during a brutal storm. Plus, the unusually personal lyrics hit hard. It's a true ripper.
Ride the Lightning's showstopping opener lives up to its incendiary title. After a short bit of acoustic twiddling, in comes an ironclad thrash riff that rips through the mix like a swarm of hungry piranhas. The instrumentation is nasty throughout, but it's James Hetfield's ferocious vocal performance that makes this one of 'Tallica's heaviest. He almost sounds hoarse during some of these takes, making his shredded vocal cords sound all the more menacing. And the way he growls, "We all shall die," is downright Luciferian.
...And Justice for All is looked back on as the sunset over Metallica's straight-and-narrow thrash years, but "Harvester of Sorrow" was a peek into their next musical horizon. Stompy and swaggering, this cut sees Metallica dabbling in the darker, heavier sound that was permeating throughout the genre in the back half of the Eighties. It has the "Black Albums"'s tempo, but the stone-cold character of the crossover hardcore groups from which Metallica drew so much inspiration.
This had to make the list. Despite being one of the most well-known tracks in 'Tallica's Nineties repertoire, "Sad but True" is an absolute hammer of a song. The riff is gigantic, the groove could crack concrete, and the sheer force of Hetfield's vocal delivery gives it that stinkface-inducing bite. There's a reason this song gets played in football arenas: It makes you want to lunge at motherfuckers in an act of feral warfare.
Each song on this list is heavy in a different way, and "The Thing That Should Not Be" is heavy in all of the ways. The main riffing is rigid and sturdy throughout, only breaking every now and then for a few plodding clean strums before swinging back even harder than before. Hetfield's vocal attack is gnarly and menacing. But the thing that makes this proto-death-metal Master of Puppets standout the heaviest in Metallica's catalog its marching tempo, an unrelenting chug that never gets faster and therefore only sounds heavier as it grinds onward. By the time it's over, you feel like you've dragged a boulder up a mountain. Heavy.