14 rock and metal songs that are legitimately terrifying
From Pink Floyd to Rammstein, these bands have seriously freaked out their fans…
Truth be told, this is a bit of a fruitless exercise. Many years ago, when Kerrang! came up with the undisputed countdown of the 20 greatest Guns N’ Roses songs ever, nine of Appetite For Destruction’s 12 tracks were among its number. Four of its songs were lodged in the top five. For lots of people, Appetite For Destruction is Guns N’ Roses. What the hell, then, are we doing ranking the best collection of songs by one of the best bands of all time?
Let’s get one thing straightened out before we begin: Appetite For Destruction, from start to finish, is brilliant. Near-perfect, in fact, as we will see. And that's what makes arguing about Appetite so much fun – few albums that are fit to rub shoulders with it contain such scope for debate over its individual highlights.
Luckily, we’re here to set the record straight. Below, then, is the definitive ranking of Appetite For Destruction’s 12 tracks. You might disagree. You’d be wrong. But that’s okay. Learning from our mistakes is what makes us better people. Remember that.
Anyway, where were we? Let’s begin…
A song that pre-dates even Guns N’ Roses, with its harder, heavier roots as the Hollywood Rose song My Way, Your Way – hence the writing credit appearance of one Chris Weber – Anything Goes is probably the one song that stands between Appetite and being the ‘perfect’ album, in that it’s the most skippable song on the album. Would its absence make for a better album? That might be a stretch, but no-one would lose a second of sleep if they never heard it again. A rare moment where Guns neither swagger with enough style, or punch with enough purpose – and a strong contender for Axl Rose’s worst lyrics, too.
Originally written as the bluesy, slowed-down and stripped-back version that would appear on 1988’s Lies EP, You’re Crazy loses much of its feel to the breakneck speed in which it’s rattled through on Appetite. A third version – something of a sleazy halfway house between the Appetite and Lies takes – appears as the B-side on the UK Welcome To The Jungle single, but the song’s superior bare-bones version is the known favourite of both Steven Adler and Slash, so take up any of your moaning with them.
Perhaps Appetite’s most underrated – or, in fact, most forgotten – track. Challenge anyone to name all of the album’s songs, and chances are this will be the last one they name. Weird, really, given its positioning as a driving force in side B’s mid-tempo top-half. A rare example of Izzy Stradlin on lead, too, which is only fair, seeing as he wrote the bloody thing. Also: Sweet Child O' Mine doesn’t explode out off the bat in the same way without Think About You’s tee-up.
Well, well, well… Let’s just come out and say it: My Michelle isn’t as good as you remember. Embark on your own attempts at putting Appetite’s tracks in order of greatness, and your first draft will no doubt have My Michelle higher up. That, though, it an entirely forgivable mistake. Sure, hold this up as the example of Izzy’s importance to Guns’ strut; yes, that opening couplet is one of Appetite’s most memorable. It’s a killer song, no doubt. But its second verse and chorus never quite hit the heights promised by …Michelle’s blistering opening, and when you’re in a class of competition as good as this, even a second’s weakness is gonna be punished.
Perhaps this is unfairly harsh on Mr Brownstone. Perhaps this whole exercise is unfairly harsh. Mr Brownstone is a brilliant song. Appetite is full of brilliant songs. Yet, if we’re being harsh for the sake of a list we’re semi-regretting even beginning, Mr Brownstone doesn’t do any of its component parts as well as other songs on the rest of the album. It is Appetite’s jack-of-all-trades. Most other bands would be blessed to have a song this good. They’d build a whole career around it. That it’s Appetite’s eighth best track is a problem it’s just going to have to come to terms with. There’s nothing wrong with being a team player.
See Mr Brownstone, but add an opening riff that just reeks of the Sunset Strip. Like so much of Appetite, Out Ta Get Me is a time capsule of a song, GN’R’s “big anarchy statement”, as Slash put it, of a period when the band’s five members only had to so much as fart to feel the long arm of the law.
Here’s a fact you can learn to live with: Sweet Child, considering its gargantuan size and universal recognition, isn’t the knock-em-dead classic it’s held up as. Familiarity breeding a touch of contempt? Maybe. But there’s a reason GN’R’s Geffen A&R man Tom Zutaut says the band positioned Sweet Child on side B of Appetite, in the hope that label higher-ups wouldn’t notice the song that Slash said made him “sick” early enough to use it as the album’s lead single. Yes, it features one of history’s most famous riffs and one of Slash’s strongest solos, but Appetite’s crowning glory? Behave yourself. It very nearly didn’t even make the album at all.
The members of Guns – and in particular Axl, who to this day sports a tattoo of the band’s Black Rose album art on his right arm – are long-term devotees of Thin Lizzy. And if the Irish legends’ Whiskey In The Jar has gone down as one of rock’s ultimate drinking songs, then you can take Nightrain as GN’R’s own ode to the Devil’s drop. Immortalising the cheap-as-hell wine that would fuel the band’s early rampages, Axl’s lyrical profession that 'I’m drinking gasoline' would perhaps have been a wiser choice than the $1.29-a-bottle paint-thinner of the song’s title. Still, it only takes the first three beats of Steven Adler’s opening count-in to make us immediately want to fuck off work and stand in the sunshine with a pint.
To the uninitiated, that GN’R have spent the past two years opening their Not In This Lifetime tour with a song that isn’t Welcome To The Jungle would appear a curiosity. But in It’s So Easy, Appetite possesses the ultimate album opener that never was. Much of the album’s grit, potency and heart comes in its autobiographical nature, yet while many of its numbers detail stories told through the prism of romanticism and exaggeration, It’s So Easy is as raw an account of the band’s formative years as having a bottle wrapped round your head. Only more welcome.
On any other album? A stand-out, career-making highlight. On Appetite? Slash’s favourite Guns hit is simply Just Another Classic. We could argue for another three decades years about whether Appetite is the best hard rock album of all time, but what’s indisputable, as evidence by this list, is that Appetite possesses the single greatest side A ever. Fact. Taken as a six-song set, Paradise City becomes our de facto closer, as it has long been in the live arena, and the double-time two-minute closing salvo is Appetite at its most free-wheeling and exhilarating.
Okay, the recorded sex towards the end of the track is lame. But Rocket Queen captures every inch of Guns at their finest: the tight, driving rhythm section of Steven Adler and, in his finest hour, Duff McKagan; irresistible Slash leads backed up with flickknife-sharp melodies from Izzy Stradlin; Axl showing a depth and dexterity in both his vocal and lyrics. No finer album closer you shall find, and a fitting debut album curtain-dropper from rock’s most dangerous quintet.
Just as Rocket Queen proved the ideal choice for Appetite’s conclusion, could you imagine the album not starting with Welcome To The Jungle? Like a putrid home-brew fermented in a discarded bathtub, it’s the very essence of Guns N’ Roses bottled into four minutes and 31 seconds and used to wash down a speedball. Name a better ‘side one, track one’. Name a better song on Appetite For Destruction. It’s fine, we’ll wait. We’ve got nothing better to do.
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