The first song on an album is almost the most important. It's the listener's gateway into who a musician is at that point in time. Are they building slowly into a powerful overture, or throwing you head first into a meat grinder? Even using intro track says a lot about a band -- sometimes that that they like performing skits, other times that they dislike throwing out fun but unnecessary riffs. And especially in metal, where gut reaction is cultural currency, instantly sinking your hooks in a listener is of the utmost importance (especially given that metal was born in the age of vinyl and 8-track, when you had to listen to the whole album every time).
In the spoken-word tradition of sketchy cousins in basement rumpus rooms, we decided to rank the best opening tracks in metal. But we laid down rules first:
The bands have to be discernibly metal. Just for specificity's sake. Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Guns N' Roses all rule, but they’re arguably not metal
No intro tracks. The songs we're ranking are side one, track one, not the first song proper after the intro track. Sorry, Type O Negative; sorry, Celtic Frost.
This has to be the generally-accepted first track. For example, some vinyl versions of classic albums have the orders switched around. These have to be definitively the first tracks of their albums.
Here are the 50 best starting guns in the metal arms race…