What most outsiders don’t understand is that metal is a celebration. Even at its most disgusting and harrowing, metal music is about people coming together and rejoicing that the dark, foreboding universe has given them this music that makes them feel whole. Sure, we’re not known for smiling a ton, and we have a passion for riffs that sound like a pig getting butchered, but at the end of the day, all of this comes from a place of appreciation. This is our therapy and our escape, our way of understanding that we are not alone.
Maybe this is why metalheads so love metal songs that reference metal. Sure, Satan and Vikings and breakups are all great subject matter, but there’s something about the ouroboros of a metal band shrieking about how fucking metal everything is that whips us into a special kind of frenzy. To honor this unique feeling, we’ve put together a list of the best metal songs that literally use the word ‘metal’ in their titles. Here’s the most metal metal that has ever metaled….
Possessed, “Death Metal” (Seven Churches, 1985)
“DEATH! METAL!” If ‘death metal’ was a term before Possessed wrote this ripping tribute to the genre is questionable, but this song certainly solidified its use. A perfect closer to the absolutely perfect Seven Churches, the song is a whirlwind of fury and metal pride. Also includes a Slayer reference, which is always fun.
Sabaton, “Metal Machine” (Primo Victoria, 2010)
Given Sabaton’s penchant for warfare, one wouldn’t be surprised to think this song might be about an actual metal machine. But no, this track is a whole-hearted tribute to heavy metal and metal culture. With lyrical references to Ozzy, Judas Priest, Metallica, Rainbow, Accept, Manowar, and Mötley Crüe, the song is a loving anthem to all things leather and fingerless.
Venom, “Black Metal” (Black Metal, 1982)
Ah, the track that launched a thousand interviews in which Cronos explained that Venom invented the term ‘black metal.’ Still, the frontman isn’t lying, as the corpsepaint-clad masses of Norway have this record to thank for so much of what they are. Even Celtic Frost would be nowhere without Venom, as frontman Tom G. Warrior has described his childhood love for the band in great detail. Lay down your souls to the gods Rock and Roll.
Strapping Young Lad, “Far Beyond Metal” (The New Black, 2006)
As always, Devin Townsend operates with tongue firmly planted in cheek on this track by his ultra-thrash outfit Strapping Young Lad. But that doesn’t diminish the purity of his tribute, as evidenced by lyrics like, “Oh, you ironic pop-rock fuck/Don’t you fuck with metal!” (interestingly, Genius Lyrics reads this as ironic commentary, while metalheads will hear it as an honest rallying cry — guess that’s the difference between fans of a genre and a site originally created to explain rap lyrics to white academics). A goofy one, but one that none the less gets at the soaring, heartfelt emotion behind heavy metal fandom.
Sammy Hagar, “Heavy Metal” (Standing Hampton, 1981)
South Park viewers will know this track as the song Kenny hears when he’s cheesing his balls off in Boobworld. Featured prominently on the soundtrack to animated movie Heavy Metal, this song by second Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar is cheesy as all hell — but if you can get past that, it actually rules. Proof that the reward of being a metalhead comes biggest when you get over self-conscious irony and put on some fucking studded leather.
Alestorm, “Pirate Metal Drinking Crew” (The Curse of the Crystal Coconut, 2020)
Every Alestorm song is really about getting drunk with Alestorm, but this one is especially pointed in its devotion. That said, anyone here for an earnest tale of pirate metal is shit out of luck, as lyrics like, “We are the pirate metal drinking crew/We think you’re dumb and we hate you, too” continue the band’s time-honored tradition of not taking anything too seriously. Don’t just stand there, get drunk.
Tenacious D, “The Metal” (The Pick of Destiny, 2006)
“The Metal” is pretty much Tenacious D’s MO framed in some medieval metal bullshit. The result is a bitching deep cut about all of the other stupid genres of music that tried to surpass metal, only to fail and eventually fall…to the ground. Sure, it’s funny — as is metal, if we’re being honest, I mean look at what we’re fucking wearing — but that only makes it a more earnest battle cry. Metal: it comes from Hell.
In This Moment, “Sex Metal Barbie” (Black Widow, 2014)
For a more modern, self-aware look at the metal scene, In This Moment offer up “Sex Metal Barbie,” a track that sees vocalist Maria Brink examining the culture around her musicianship. As such, the song isn’t the chest-beating pro-metal anthem that many of the others on this list are, instead touching on the incongruous and sometimes toxic relationship metal has with its own artists, especially female ones. That said, it’s still a track about being proud to be an outsider, so it remains a banner for the weirdos out there, even if that means alienating some of the more traditional ones.
Manowar, “Brothers of Metal (Part 1)” (Louder Than Hell, 1996)
How an album like this came out in the mid-’90s is beyond us. Manowar will always be so ridiculously metal-obsessed as to move beyond parody and reach a point of ur-cheese, and “Brothers of Metal (Part 1)” is this take personified. With a chorus containing lines like, “We are fighting with power and steel/Fighting for metal — metal that’s real!” it’s hard not to love this track, even with its undeniable fromage. Hopefully “Part 2” will shout out the sisters as well.
Amon Amarth, “Metalwrath” (The Avenger, 1999)
“Now the falses will pay!” Fuck YEAH, dude. On “Metalwrath,” Amon Amarth do what they do best, taking a potentially hokey subject — in this case, how rad metal is — and using it as the basis of an absolutely crushing death metal song. What results of this is a track about the glory of our favorite music that sounds like a flaming sword one can use to cut down posers. We’re not wearing this bulletbelt because it’s comfortable.
Judas Priest, “Metal Gods” (British Steel, 1980)
Somehow, Judas Priest are the only band on this list whose ‘metal’ song isn’t about metal. No, Priest got in early enough that self-examination with metal wasn’t so much a thing (the genre has barely existed by ‘80). Instead, the track is about what people in the early ‘80s worried about the most: giant robots enslaving mankind. Whatever, you can’t argue with that opening riff.
The Crown, “Death Metal Holocaust” (Crowned In Terror, 2002)
As always, The Crown managed to inject a psychological frenzy into a subject as seemingly straightforward as loving metal. Lyrics like “Smiling at the gates of hell/Pure soul distortion” accurately sum up the emotional experience of being a death metal fan without just describing denim clothing. This, coupled with the track’s tireless riff gyre and the twin vocals of The Crown’s Johan Lindstrand and At The Gates’ Tomas Lindberg make it a perfect distillation of fandom on a Boschian level. Plus, another Slayer reference!
Metallica, “Metal Militia” (Kill ‘Em All, 1983)
Given how many bob-along classics Kill ‘Em All features, it’s sometimes easy to forget that it ends with this absolute blisterer. Metallica may be talking about going on tour and sleeping with groupies, but they believably sound like an organized crew trying to force metal upon the people around the world. One can see the seeds of the band’s more nuanced work in this track — though it’s to their credit that they started off with this purity of sound and message.
GWAR, “Metal Metal Land” (Lust In Space, 2009)
“Smash your face and go shoot up!” Well, all right then. GWAR’s depiction of a metal heaven of sorts is as gross and inappropriate as we all want it to be. There’s definitely a layer of parody here, as lyrics like, “Bullet belts and denim jackets/Crystal meth in tiny packets” seem to suggest, but it’s also the offensive free-for-all many of us dream of in our seedier moments. Sorry, mom.
Dee Snider, “For The Love of Metal” (For The Love of Metal, 2018)
Though obviously better known as the frontman of Twisted Sister, Dee Snider’s 2018 solo album For The Love of Metal is pretty fucking solid, and the title track proves why. Referencing Dio, Motorhead, and Slayer (that’s three!), the song feels like a genuine outpouring of appreciation for the genre by one of its proudest champions. Of course, it helps that Dee has never strayed from the path, staying dedicated to heavy music his whole career regardless of trend. Enjoy, Tipper!
Anthrax, “Metal Thrashing Mad” (Fistful of Metal, 1984)
Steely, fast, and big as hell, this track from Anthrax’s debut is as much about driving a fast car as it is loving metal. But the attitude of the two intertwine well, in part due to the vocals of the band’s first singer Neil Turbin, who adds some fun ‘80s flare with pronunciations like, “Di-SASTA!” Not death metal-heavy, obviously, but also not for the weak of faith.
Usurper, “Kill for Metal” (Cryptobeast, 2005)
Chicago’s Usurper weren’t fucking around, their death-thrash sound definitely more hard-hitting than speedy and fun. But “Kill for Metal” still celebrates such honorable pastimes as drinking too much and banging whores. Of course, we’re all really here for the chorus, a massive group chant of, “KILL, KILL, KILL FOR METAL!” Fuck, it gets us every time.
Quiet Riot, “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” (Metal Health, 1983)
Is there a more classic song about being a metalhead? Quiet Riot‘s “Metal Health” has it all — mid-paced, anthemic, lyrics about the experiences of everyday metal fans. One can easily laugh off a line like, “I’m a finder, and I’m a keeper/I’m a loser and I ain’t no weeper,” but if you live by those ideals, this is fucking gospel. Sure, it’s tightly wrapped in cheetah-print spandex, but if you can’t get down with the clownishness of the ‘80s sometimes, why are you even here?
Gama Bomb, “Metal Idiot” (The Terror Tapes, 2013)
This track by Irish thrashers Gama Bomb isn’t just some fun send-up of a headbanging moron, it’s actually about calling out of Nazis in the metal scene. The band take two and half minutes to laugh at skinhead assholes who think metal is still about them and pointing out that they’re anything but a master race, all culminating with the lyric, “Stamp it out!” If it were up to us, every song would be about this.
Slayer, “Metal Storm/Face The Slayer” (Show No Mercy, 1983)
The most referenced band on this list finally get an entry! “Metal Storm/Face The Slayer” may not be Slayer‘s most memorable track, but it’s as close to a malevolent epic as you’ll find on their debut Show No Mercy. Meanwhile, lines like, “You think you can destroy me? You better think again/I am eternal terror, my quest will never end” are the stuff satanic thrasher dreams are made of. Only metal is real.
Words by Chris Krovatin