The 30 Greatest Hooks In Heavy Metal History

Published on:

Nothing takes a song to the next level quite like an amazing hook. Technical ability and lyrical poetry are always welcome, but an infectious morsel of music that gets more exciting every time you hear it will always be what music fans most adore. This is especially true in metal, a musical form not as obsessed with being catchy or approachable as others. If you can write a hook that enhances a song which sounds like a body dissolving in acid, then hell, you’re a master of your craft.

In honor of our love of drunken singalongs and hilarious car rides, we decided to collect the 30 greatest hooks in metal history. But what exactly qualifies a section of a song as the hook, you might ask? Here’s the criteria we used to judge this list:

  • The hook happens more than once in the song. It’s repeated.
  • The hook is the focal point of the song — the part around which the rest of the song revolves.
  • The hook is the earworm of the song, the memorable section. Plenty of metal tracks have choruses, but not all of them are memorable.
  • The hook is contained. So, for example, the main riff of Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” is the repeated earworm center of that song, but it’s just the riff. It plays over and over. It is the song, not the hook.

With that in mind, here are the 30 hooks that get us readiest to march into battle…

30. In Flames, “Only For The Weak” (Clayman, 2000)

Look, it’s no secret that In Flames took Sweden’s unique melodic death metal sound, dipped it in chocolate and rolled it in sprinkles. But pop sensibilities make for epic hooks, and the chorus of “Only For The Weak” is as infectious as a refrain gets. Not only does it come with a chug that’s impossible not to headbang to, but it also brings a melody that dances along to the vocal rhythm, making it singable even as the lyrics sound guttural. A little sugar never hurt anyone.

29. Blind Guardian, “Battlefield” (A Night at the Opera, 2002)

If you’re going to go fantasy metal, go full fantasy. Blind Guardian have never pulled their armor-clad punches, and on “Battlefield” they pour their whole sparkly, acrobatic hearts into their work. The song’s hook is huge beyond huge, an event every time it rings out across the heavens. It’s nearly impossible to hear this refrain and not lift an imaginary sword into the air in tribute (or a real one, knowing your average Blind Guardian fan). Sure, you might have gotten indoctrinated by a scrolling robot unicorn, but odds are high you stopped to find out what was being used as the soundtrack.

28. Exodus, “Fabulous Disaster” (Fabulous Disaster, 1989)

More than one dismissive outsider has been won over to metal by the chorus of Exodus‘ “Fabulous Disaster.” The thrash legends’ use of a catchy melody at the core of what’s otherwise a pure speed metal ripper illustrates how they’ve never considered sonic viciousness at odds with great songwriting. The hook only comes twice, but each one feels more exciting than the last, and will get heads to move without question. Not a track some metal fans will know immediately, but once they hear it, they’ll never forget it.

27. Darkest Hour, “Convalescence” (Undoing Ruin, 2005)

It speaks to Darkest Hour‘s intensity as a band that “Convalescence” is as close as they got to “clean vocals.” Sure, the track’s chorus sees vocalist John Henry singing amidst his rasps, but the band don’t rely on soaring chorus or emotional wails as did so many of their peers. Instead, the song uses a simple lilting melody to add a level of compelling humanity to the track’s commonly-scathing sound. Worth a revisit, which will undoubtedly lead to several more.

26. Dio, “Stand Up and Shout” (Holy Diver, 1983)

Given the massive success of the poppier tracks on Holy Diver, it’s easy to forget that the album opens with a straight-up thrash rager. But metalheads know that “Stand Up and Shout” is where Dio really shines, and a shitload of that is the song’s hook. Dio masterfully centers the track around its barked title, but the fist-pumping lead-up to it is what makes it so perfect (especially the double-length one at the end, which is as good an extended refrain as any). Go on, explode.

25. Machine Head, “Davidian” (Burn My Eyes, 1994)

Metal bands have for ages used a single line as an entire chorus, but few mastered that craft like Machine Head did with “Davidian.” The groove metal classic’s single isolated bellow of “Let freedom ring with a shotgun blast!” and the one-two drum pound that follows are the stuff of legend. The track’s hook also drives home the band’s whole aesthetic, stark, gritty, and urban while at the same time here to get the people moving. With a line like this, does a chorus really need anything else?

24. Dragonforce, “Through the Fire and the Flames” (Inhuman Rampage, 2006)

You could say that every single section of “Through the Fire and the Flames” tries to be a hook, and we wouldn’t disagree, but you can’t fuck with the last line of that chorus. Dragonforce are mercenary in their catchiness, and the refrain of “Through the Fire and the Flames” is a spot-on distillation of that. While certainly not the band’s only massive hook, its unabashed cheese and metallic positivity definitely make it their most memorable. Ever wanted to feel like you’re piloting a jet over a sunset? Here you go.

23. Killswitch Engage, “My Last Serenade” (Alive or Just Breathing, 2002)

If all of metalcore were to be summed up in four bars of music, it’d be the hook to Killswitch Engage’s “My Last Serenade.” Unlike many of the other choruses on our list, this one isn’t catchy or poppy or traditional. Instead, it’s sweeping and honest, a vented anguish that just so happens to come in the form of a belted declaration. For a subgenre of metal focused on genuine emotion and vulnerability, there could be no greater battle cry.

22. Deftones, “My Own Summer (Shove It)” (Around the Fur, 1997)

The word ‘angst’ is traditionally portrayed as negative in metal, but the hook of Deftones‘ “My Own Summer” proves that when done right, angst rules. Chino Moreno’s frantic shrieks feel believable in their frustration and terror, and the gilded vocals that follow only seem to up the emotional ante of the previous section. Not only that, but including the shouts of ‘SHOVE IT’ make this hook feel vulgar without including any actual swear words. The kind of chorus that hits you hard when you first hear it and then sticks with you forever.

21. Alice Cooper, “Feed My Frankenstein” (Hey Stoopid, 1991)

While “Poison” will always be Alice’s biggest hair-metal hit, it’s “Feed My Frankenstein” that wins hook-wise. The track’s mid-paced sleaze beat and reference to everyone’s favorite Halloween monster gives the whole thing a spooky stripper vibe, while Alice’s closing line of, “Hungry for love, and it’s feeding time!” is absolute perfection (aw, man, and when they bring in the Frank voice at the end? Love it). When you’re rock’s ultimate showman, a chorus fans will never forget is vital, and thankfully the Coop and his songwriters knew what they’re doing. Eat it up.

20. Disturbed, “Down With The Sickness” (The Sickness, 2000)

With “Down With The Sickness,” Disturbed became so iconic that they ushered in their own parody. It’s easy to snicker David Draiman’s hoarse-bird-mating-call in this song (“OOOOWAKAKAKA!”) or lyrics like, “You mutta get up.” But there’s a reason why this song — not even the album’s first big single at the time, which fell to “Stupify” — is an immediately identifiable piece of metal history, and its how catchy, bouncy, and different that hook is. Metal purists can harrumph about this song’s inclusion here, but talk to us when karaoke night goes down and we’re sure they’ll WAKAKAKA a different tune.

19. Accept, “Balls to the Wall” (Balls to the Wall, 1983)

How do you get a room full of butch dudes to yell about balls? Make them the central theme of a bitchin’ mid-paced metal song. “Balls to the Wall” is one of those tracks that solves for X; its title and hook seem to have the rest of the song built around them, not the other way around. Accept could’ve literally put this hook on repeat for ten minutes and we’d have headbanged to it; that they didn’t only heightens the chorus’ power, giving us a build-in during which to anticipate its inevitable bust. Not the most modern or edgy of metal anthems, but hey, if you can’t shout about balls, metal’s too good for you.

18. Lamb of God, “Now You’ve Got Something to Die For” (Ashes of the Wake, 2004)

Overall, Lamb of God aren’t necessarily a ‘hook’ band, with their aggressive riffs and pummeling rhythms doing much of the catchy work for them. But “Now You’ve Got Something to Die For” is pure hook, opening and closing with its massive battle cry of a chorus. Not only is this one’s hook easy to get stuck in your head, it’s also a oroborus of energy, its vengeful message feeding into its free-wheeling anger, which in turns only further fires up its message.  The mosh pit equivalent of a Cup O’ Noodles — instantaneous and fucking delicious.

17. Anthrax, “Madhouse” (Spreading the Disease, 1985)

More than any other band in the genre, Anthrax showed off just how much fun thrash could be, and nowhere is that more evident than “Madhouse.” Rather than get caught up in the faster-louder-angrier arms race, the boys from Queens reveled in delicious chant-along gang vocals and relatable metaphors, painting the world around them as one big insane asylum. As such, the hook to this track is not only easy to sing along to at a moment’s notice, but it also feels uniquely realistic, echoing the listener’s inner thoughts. With the physical reaction this song inspires, you’ll need a padded room.

16. Rammstein, “Sonne” (Mutter, 2001)

Haunting, beautiful, powerful, inspiring — the chorus to Rammstein’s “Sonne” is as artistic as an earworm hook can get. That the song also feels like a rousing singalong only speaks to the German band’s ability to combine infectious melodies with soul-deep meaning. Originally written for boxer Vitali Klitschko, the song would be equally powerful as both entrance music and a soundtrack to Lucifer’s fall from heaven. True majesty, and catchy as fuck to boot.

15. Testament, “Into The Pit” (The New Order, 1988)

So many of the hooks on this list are defined by being simple, catchy, and easy to love. But “Into The Pit” defies that logic by using odd time signatures and uncommon vocal patterns to great effect. Hearing Chuck Billy’s speedy lyrics come before the group chant of “IN-TO THE PIT” makes this song feel unexpectedly jazzy and spunky, not just relying on thrash’s love of shouting a chorus and moving on. Testament were never the most typical thrash band, and a song like this proves why that worked so well in their favor.

14. Korn, “Got The Life” (Follow the Leader, 1997)

The hook of “Got The Life” shows how much Korn learned from the hair metal bands before them. This song’s big chorus doesn’t explode, or have particularly inspiring lyrics. But its three big soaring notes and bouncing rhythm makes it easy to find yourself moving to even if you’re not a huge fan. “Got The Life” is a song that creeps into your life, forcing you to admit you might like it simply because you can’t stop singing it under your breath. Proof that nu-metal’s kings knew exactly what was up.

13. Hatebreed, “I Will Be Heard” (Perseverance, 2002)

“I Will Be Heard” begs an interesting question — what’s the hook? Is it Hatebreed’s repeated opening declaration? Is it the gang-vocal chorus? Is…is this song made up entirely of hooks? At the end of the day, it could be either or all, and this track would still land so high on our list. If a track makes you instantly want to take your shirt off and slam your fist against your chest, well, its hook rules, no matter what part of the song it is.

12. Scorpions, “Rock You Like A Hurricane” (Love at First Sting, 1984)

Like many other songs on this list, the lyrics to the hook of Scorpions’ “Rock You Like A Hurricane” would be nothing without the killer riff behind it. But that riff’s rhythm is only completed by the chant of this track’s bitching title. In the end, the two come together as a grand announcement of the positivity in metal’s heart, an invitation from listeners who desperately want to have their necks wrecked. If you can’t get down with this song, fuck, why’d you come here?

11. Mötley Crüe, “Kickstart My Heart” (Dr. Feelgood, 1989)

On the one hand, the most important words in the hook of “Kickstart My Heart” are ‘WOAH’ and ‘YEAH.’ But if you’re the kind of band who can write a chorus that only needs those two exclamations to make it great, then damn, nice work if you can get it. Mötley Crüe were great before this track dropped, but it’s certainly a song that vaulted them up to a higher pedestal, injecting their sleazy vibe with speed, rage, and more fun than most could handle. Get into it, b-b-b-b-b-baaaaby.

10. Drowning Pool, “Bodies” (Sinner, 2001)

Sorry, stodgy metal purists, but if you know a hook that’s better known than this one, we’d like to hear it. The truth is that while the refrain of Drowning Pool‘s “Bodies” may be an exercise in simplicity, it’s also instantly memorable, and kicks off a pit like no other. In that way, the band automatically cemented themselves among metal’s greatest with this kinetic face-smasher of a refrain. How’s it feel knowing the chorus of this song will outlive you?

9. Fit For An Autopsy, “Hydra” (The Great Collapse, 2017)

Will Putney may be a mad genius, but he also knows the good a hammerblow to the chest can provide. “Hydra” is the rare example of a song whose hook isn’t exactly its chorus, but the track’s opening salvo and detonation is so compelling that the listener instantly wants to hear it over and over again. In that way, Fit For An Autopsy combine death metal and hardcore’s most powerful weapons — the breakdown, the drop, the cruel riff, the gang vocal — into a single killing machine that crushes everything in its path. Steer clear of the pit when this one lights up.

8. Slayer, “Dead Skin Mask” (Seasons In The Abyss, 1990)

Only Slayer could get thousands of people singing along to lyrics about infamous necrophiliac Ed Gein. The chorus of “Dead Skin Mask” may be about a psychological obsession with the dead, but its eerily simple melody makes it a ghoulish brain drill. Catch the band live and you’ll find that even the most rabid fans stop in their moshing to call out to the dead in unholy supplication. Why even listen to metal if you can’t join a rousing singalong about a dude who studded his belt with human nipples?

7. Metallica, “Master of Puppets” (Master of Puppets, 1986)

Though not the #1 on this list, Metallica‘s “Master of Puppets” might have the most recognizable hook of the bunch. This is in part the sharp bellowing of the title’s first word, which has become a rallying cry among metalheads unto itself. But more important is how identifiable it is; hearing this hook kick in lets you know that shit is about to get real, and causes an immediate adrenaline spike. Try it right now: Master. MASTER. See, enjoy your day.

6. Iron Maiden, “Run to the Hills” (The Number of the Beast, 1982)

You’ve never experienced live metal until you’ve watched a field full of people singing this chorus in unison. “Run to the Hills” marked Iron Maiden’s greatest breakthrough moment, and almost all of that is the song’s chorus. All of the tracks parts — the churning riffs, the galloping beat, that descending pre-chorus, the massive bridge — seem to close in on this refrain like stinger missiles, landing in an explosion of pure metal celebration. Try not to sing along. We dare you.

5. Pantera, “Walk” (Vulgar Display of Power, 1992)

Usually, a hook is a song’s chorus, but technically, it can be a riff as well — which makes you wonder which hook of Pantera‘s “Walk” is better. Dimebag’s central riff is an undeniable earworm, to be sure, but it’s only truly perfect when coupled with the band’s chant of “RE! SPECT! WALK!” At the same time, that shout is nothing without that groaning riff behind it. When all is said and done, it doesn’t really matter — both are so catchy it hurts, and take this song to towering heights that modern tracks can never imagine. Which makes you wonder: is there no standard anymore?

4. Slipknot, “Duality” (Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, 2004)

Sometimes, you listen to a song and can tell the band were very aware of what they had. That’s why Slipknot starts “Duality” with its hook — because the Iowan band knew exactly how quickly it would indoctrinate the ears of anyone who put it on. From the moment the track kicks off, all the listener wants is to hear that chorus again, one more time, to the point where each refrain is an event unto itself. A hook so catchy it becomes literally addictive — how perfectly Slipknot.

3. Judas Priest, “Breaking The Law” (British Steel, 1980)

Besides being the killer chorus of one of metal’s earliest classics, Judas Priest’s “Breaking The Law” also provided headbangers with an important cultural landmark: a phrase they can shout at people. Long before Slayer’s very name became an affront to passerby, “Breaking The Law” was THE phrase to yell at passing norms with your fist in front of your face. In fact, it goes with anything: spraypainting your name on a wall, shoplifting a tall boy, removing the tag from a mattress, all are made better by mumbling this hook. Go ahead, be somebody.

2. Rob Zombie, “Dragula” (Hellbilly Deluxe, 1998)

There’s a reason the chorus of “Dragula” has been so meme-ified in the recent past: it’s eternally memorable, and it’s rad as fuck. Not only are those three chanted lines from Rob Zombie’s solo megahit very hard to get out of your head, but they also reference burning witches and slamming the door of your vampire-themed hot rod. As such, it’s unsurprising that you can now find a million ‘Live Laugh Love’ products and acoustic covers of this track on the Internet these days. Let’s be real: you know this one by heart.

1. Twisted Sister, “I Wanna Rock” (Stay Hungry, 1985)

Guess we gotta spell it out for you. While “We’re Not Gonna Take It” will always be Twisted Sister’s biggest single, “I Wanna Rock” will forever be their greatest heavy metal anthem, thanks almost entirely to its hook. In classic hair metal fashion, Dee Snider kicks off the whole song with the chorus, but then repeats it constantly, knowing that it’s what fans are here for. Unlike their peers, though, Twisted Sister don’t get bogged down in trying to come up with a catchphrase that everyone can enjoy — this one is for the headbangers, the air-punchers, the diehards who never worried about being hot or cool. There’s no purer declaration of our love for metal than this.


Words by Chris Krovatin