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10 lesser known Metallica songs that everyone needs to hear

Everyone knows Metallica’s big hitters, but these predominantly later-period tracks also deserve your love and attention…

Back in 2000, we ran down a list of the most influential bands in rock history. At Number One were Metallica, with our reasoning summed up as: you’re a rock band formed in the past two decades, they will have had an impact on you. 

A fair chunk of Metallica’s music is self-evidently important. Everyone knows all of Master Of Puppets. Everyone’s got The Black Album. It’s like eating food and saying you’re a fan of plates – it’s so fundamental that you don’t really get a choice, it’s just there, unless you like eating with your hands like some kind of savage. 

There is, however, plenty of material in The Four Horsemen’s catalogue obscured by the shadow of greatness. And even amongst that, there’s another level that’s not just the ones that are only occasionally played live, or part of a bigger classic, but genuinely lost treasures.

Here are 10 of them…

The Wait (The $5.98 EP – Garage Days Re-Revisited, 1987)

Originally by British post-punks Killing Joke on their self-titled 1980 album, The Wait was a curious choice of cover for Metallica’s $5.98 EP – Garage Days Re-Revisited. But part of the point of the exercise had been to dig up a few of their less obvious and less familiar influences. It helped that the source material is excellent, but firing up the original with heavy guitars only adds to the song’s mysterious power. And it was a far, far better and more enduring choice of song than when they resurrected the covers idea for 1998’s Garage Inc. covers double set (on which the $5.98 EP was included) and took on Nick Cave’s Loverman. 

The House Jack Built (Load, 1996)

As part of Load’s opening throw, The House That Jack Built had to do a lot of heavy lifting to help bring the world up to speed with what Metallica were doing, five years on from The Black Album. Where its two preceding songs, Ain’t My Bitch and 2×4, weighed in with aggression and big, fat-arsed riffs respectively, here they were in a slower, but no less heavy mood, with a picked, two-chord intro setting a more brooding atmosphere. Then Kirk Hammett comes in with a talking guitar halfway through like a metal Peter Frampton, which is worth the price of admission alone.

Ronnie (Load, 1996)

Although the almost-jaunty countrified riff is somewhat at odds with the lyrical tale of a school shooting, Ronnie is one of the more underrated moments on Load. Partly, this is because you’ve already had a good hour of the album by the time you get there, and at first glance is a fairly throwaway jam. But go back. Then go back again. And then suddenly what the band were aiming for unlocks and you get it. A curious one, some might say difficult, but worth a few spins all the same. 

Thorn Within (Load, 1996)

It takes ages to get going, but when it finally kicks in, Thorn Within’s main riff is an absolute cracker. Kirk’s solo is one of the best ones on Load as well. In the context of the album, it gets a bit lost amongst similarly paced stuff that’s not as good. Stick it on by itself, though, and this is a winner in its own right. 

Carpe Diem Baby (Reload, 1997)

Listen to the swaggering riff from Carpe Diem Baby. Now go and listen to Supa Scoopa And Mighty Scoop by Kyuss. Similar big, groovy, no-fuss stuff going on on both. Across Load and Reload, this new love for simpler, more jammed stuff could end up dragging along and not really doing much other than take up time. Here, though, Metallica hit the sweet spot between looseness and power, thundering along in properly satisfying manner, as they swap between fat riffs and a more traditional metal chorus. 

Where The Wild Things Are (Reload, 1997)

It perhaps doesn’t need to be all of its seven-minute length, but Where The Wild Things Are is a superb slab of dark, knotty metal that brings to mind Alice In Chains at points. It’s also a rare writing credit for former bassist Jason Newsted, which is both musically interesting, and a good fact to keep in your back pocket should it ever come up at a pub quiz.

Low Man’s Lyric (Reload, 1997)

Yes, that is a hurdy-gurdy you’re hearing there. Between this and its picked, almost 60s psych guitar parts, Low Man’s Lyric has more in common with the vast experimentation of Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness than Motörhead or Venom. It’s an unusual turn for Metallica, where a lyrical darkness comes more from a calm sorrow than the overt nihilism of something like Fade To Black. Some fans have interpreted the lyrics as being about addiction, others the suicide of a homeless man. However you pick it up, its woozy sense of deflation cuts unexpectedly deep.

Fixxxer (Reload, 1997)

You have to go a bloody long way to get to Fixxxer, all tucked away at the very end of Reload as it is. Weighty, slow and moody, the slow-mo riffs echo James Hetfield’s love of Chicago doom lords Trouble, especially with the harmonies, bringing the double set to a close in a smouldering, but supremely heavy manner. Lyrically, with its talk of voodoo dolls and lines like, Shell of shotgun, pint of gin / Numb us up to shield the pins’, it speaks of a troubled world and trying to avoid succumbing to it. That’s kind of based around the innocence of a child, and a sleeping baby, and just kind of telling this sleeping baby that, You’re in for a big surprise, my friend,’” explained Papa Het at the time. In your own way, when you get into adulthood, you’re trying to fix your little section of life.” 

Rebel Of Babylon (Beyond Magnetic, 2011)

Metallica wrote so much material for Death Magnetic that, inevitably, some of it ended up not making the final cut. Thus, in 2011 they put these extras onto an EP called Beyond Magnetic. Some of said music just doesn’t have the right stuff to be really good, but Rebel Of Babylon cannot be counted among this. It’s actually surprising that this thrasher didn’t get picked the first time around, but it’s also a very good thing that, even if as a curio for die-hards, it saw the light of day in some way.

Junior Dad (Lulu, 2011)

Had Junior Dad existed as its own thing, rather than as part of Lulu, it would be remembered very differently. It would be more remembered, for one thing. Where much of Metallica’s challenging collaboration with the late Lou Reed suffered from an insistence on its own obtuseness and sense of being un-commercial, this 20-minute lament is a huge, emotive, artistic success that shows the project at its very best. During recording, the heavy emotional weight of the music also overcame two of the band. I had just lost my father literally three or four weeks previously,” Kirk told Mojo magazine. I had to run out of the control room, and I found myself standing in the kitchen, sobbing away. And something else extraordinary happened right after that. James came into the kitchen in the same condition – he was sobbing too. It was insane. [Lou Reed] managed to take out both guitar players in Metallica in one fell swoop, with his amazingly poetic lyrics. And he came into the kitchen and he was laughing. He looked at James and I, and said: That’s a good one, huh?’”

Posted on April 1st 2021, 1:00p.m.
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