With Metallica set to play Slane Castle on June 8th, the thrash metal icons will return to Ireland after an extended absence.
From their early output with the likes of 'Kill 'Em All' and 'Ride The Lightning', to their more experimental work with 'Re-Load' and 'St. Anger', Metallica's output has divided like no other act in the metal genre. The same goes for their public persona, with the laying bare of their inner workings in the clawingly cringey documentary, 'Some Kind Of Monster'.
Leaving all that aside, however, their work still speaks for itself. Here's our ranking of ten of their best.
10. 'SEEK & DESTROY'
Although it's taken from their first album, you can hear the attention to rhythm and hooks in 'Seek & Destroy' that would come to define some of their most seminal, recognisable works. The clear, singalong chorus is a live staple, and while it might go on about two minutes longer than it needs, it's still a cracking song.
While 'Re-Load' may have a certain smell or vibe concerning Metallica's "experimental" phase, there's no denying that 'Fuel' was the standout track of the album and one that's always a welcome addition to any live set from them.
8. 'ALL NIGHTMARE LONG'
'Death Magnetic' felt like a return to the era of '...And Justice For All' with its extended song lengths, doom-laden lyrics and themes, and a willingness to go harder and angrier than they had in years. 'All Nightmare Long' could have easily been written in the '80s and nobody would have known any better.
7. 'FADE TO BLACK'
Ballads aren't something Metallica are particularly known for, but almost any mention of it brings up 'Nothing Else Matters' from the self-titled, so-called Black Album. It's a fine song, but does it have the same kind of depth and clarity of purpose that 'Fade To Black' has? Absolutely not. The only ballad worth talking about in Metallica's repertoire is this. Don't even mention 'Until It Sleeps' either.
'St. Anger' is generally known for Lars Ulrich's trashcan-style drums and the... interesting choice of tuning in the guitar tracks, but it only works well together on one song - 'Frantic'. The grinding, snarling riffs and Hetfield's increasingly frantic - hey, that's the name of the song! - singing just adds to the tension around it.
5. 'THE THING THAT SHOULD NOT BE' (S&M VERSION)
A forgotten album track from 'Master of Puppets', 'The Thing That Should Not Be' is vintage Burton with its atmospheric bass intro and Lovecraftian themes. It wasn't until the live album with the San Francisco Symphony that it reached its potential as a swirling odyssey of horror beyond imagining. This and 'Of Wolf And Man' are better than their studio versions.
4. 'WHISKEY IN THE JAR'
While not technically a Metallica song, their cover of 'Whiskey In The Jar' is a live staple and is an intriguing reinvention. When you listen to the original, it's hard to know if it's a ballad or if it's a straight-up rock track. That Metallica took it and reinvented it without losing any of its heart or soul shows how deftly they can handle covers. It's probably why they made a whole album out of covers in 'Garage Inc'.
3. 'SAD BUT TRUE'
The track that most people associate and remember from the Black Album is either the aforementioned 'Nothing Else Matters', or 'Enter Sandman'. They're both fine songs, and 'Enter Sandman' is almost always a feature of live sets and best-of lists. Yet, for all of that, 'Sad But True' has so much metal in its DNA that it's actually the spinning metal core of our planet. Never, ever, ever mention Kid Rock when discussing 'Sad But True'.
2. 'MASTER OF PUPPETS'
The title track from their final album with Cliff Burton, 'Master Of Puppets' is vintage Metallica. There's the palm-muted riff from Kirk Hammett, Burton and Ulrich's solid drum and bass underneath, and Hetfield's ragged, deranged vocals tying the whole thing again. The chorus is purpose-built for call and response in live shows, and so often acts as the highlight that audiences regularly sing the opening verse all by themselves.
In general, heavy metal music often has elements of maybe not glorifying war, but certainly engaging with it in a way that wasn't an examination of it with any kind of depth. Iron Maiden, for example, had 'The Trooper' and 'Run To The Hills'. Megadeth had 'Rust In Peace' and 'Peace Sells.. But Who's Buying?', whilst Motorhead had the likes of 'Bomber'. For Metallica, their defining song on the topic of war has got to be 'One', from the album, '...And Justice For All'. The music video, intercut with scenes from Dalton Trumbo's anti-war movie, 'Johnny Got His Gun', underlines the horror of war and the lyrics beautifully. It's terrifying, deeply emotional and haunting in a way that few heavy metal songs are.