Let’s put the argument to rest: Led Zeppelin weren’t a metal band. Though certainly heavy, and undeniably an inspiration to the world of heavy metal, the Zep’s mule-faced sex-nomad sounds were just a little too jangly and good-timey for rock’s loudest niche. On the one hand, this led them to levels of popularity that early metal bands’ sonic bummers could never reach. On the other, it has resulted in over fifty years of music fans arguing about whether or not the band fall into the metal category.
@ledzeppelinLed Zeppelin x TikTok ##ledzeppelin ##rocktober ##classicrock♬ Immigrant Song (Remaster) – Led Zeppelin
But while Zeppelin were never metal sonically, plenty of their tracks are super metal spiritually and stylistically. At their hardest, Zeppelin were a beast, and several tracks from throughout their careers helped usher in metal subgenres, from the sprawling agony of doom to the knee-jerking energy of thrash. And since the band have launched their official TikTok channel today, we decided to honor their insane legacy by listing the Zeppelin songs that one could add to a metal playlist without getting their head bitten off.
Here are 10 Zeppelin songs that will have us throwing beers and headbanging any day…
10. “Trampled Under Foot” (Physical Graffiti, 1975)
Much of what makes “Trampled Under Foot” so metal is its momentum. The track just has a chug to its tempo that great metal songs pretty much require. That energy, coupled with Jimmy Page’s guitar wails and Robert Plant’s belted vocals, take this song from simple hard rock to overdriven metal territory. The title certainly doesn’t hurt either.
9. “Black Dog” (Led Zeppelin IV, 1971)
When Robert Plant promises he’s “gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove,” one can’t help but wonder if they’re going to get laid tonight. There’s something about “Black Dog” that feels sexy beyond words, its driven riffs sensuously braided together with Plant’s moaned cries. Plus, the way each reintroduction of the main riff gives fans a massive drop is perfect for headbanging. More humid than humid.
8. “Stairway to Heaven” (Led Zeppelin IV, 1971)
Okay, Slayer fans, let’s not pretend like metal’s journey isn’t packed with hobbits. “Stairway to Heaven” may be a sprawling mainstream success story, but it’s also a sonic epic, a song style that metal has always prided itself on championing. Strip away ironic music critique, and the most requested song in rock radio history is a giant, earth-bound magic ritual that smoothes out the wrinkles in the listener’s soul. Go big or go home, and if you’re going big, go this big.
7. “The Rover” (Physical Graffiti, 1975)
“The Rover” is an example of why the argument over whether or not Zeppelin are a metal band continues to rage. Jimmy Page’s guitar sound is a blade on this track, sawing through the bullshit and getting to a biker-y core that ‘70s rock fans lived and died for. Equally powerful are John Bonham’s drums, which sound like gunfire during his fills and accents. Get out of this track’s way.
6. “Dazed and Confused” (Led Zeppelin, 1969)
Damn, man, the seeds of doom metal are fertile in “Dazed and Confused.” Not only do the track’s drug-drenched lyrics speak to metal’s stoniest genre, but its pendulous, desert-born rhythms evoke that timeless one-two of black magic and White Widow on which doom rests its weary head. The result is a song which feels equally psychedelic and nihilistic, strung out as it still rallies itself to boogie. Even if they don’t consider Zeppelin metal, headbangers can relate to this one.
5. “The Ocean” (Houses of the Holy, 1973)
If you want, we can talk about stuff besides the main riffs of “The Ocean.” We can talk about Robert Plant’s witchy vocals, or John Paul Jones’ funk-on-speed basslines, or John Bonham’s steady, shuffling beat. But look, we all know why this one’s on the list. It’s that Sabbath, Priest, and Motörhead all sat around dreaming they could write licks that boot listeners in the ass as much as these ones. Try sitting still when this song kicks off.
4. “Communication Breakdown” (Led Zeppelin, 1969)
Man, even on their self-titled debut, Zeppelin went fucking hard. As much a punk-leaning track as a metal-oriented one, “Communication Breakdown” brings all the speed, weight, and gang vocals any metalhead could ever ask for. One can almost see Jimmy Page’s gritted teeth and arched back as he crushes his way through this track. Proof that Zeppelin were never Sabbath, because, well, they didn’t need to be.
3. “Kashmir” (Physical Graffiti, 1975)
If we’re being honest, “Kashmir” isn’t especially punishing or speedy, and its atmosphere has a distinct velvet lining to it. That said, the song is metal as hell simply due to the headbangability of that central riff. The track’s steady plod makes it fundamentally perfect for bobbing one’s skull up and down, which explains how it found its way onto our list of the 50 most headbangable songs of all time. There’s nothing more metal than wrecking a neck.
2. “Rock and Roll” (Led Zeppelin IV, 1971)
It’s no mystery why “Rock and Roll” ranks so high on this list: because it kicks a metric fuckton of ass! The track is fast, loose, and about the most metal subject of all: rocking out. It has a serrated central riff and some supercharged piano to back it up. It’s the kind of song to which one kicks over tables at a dive bar. This track rules, and can sit alongside Iron Maiden on any playlist at any gin joint in town.
1. “Immigrant Song” (Led Zeppelin III, 1970)
Without question the #1 song on this list. Even if the lyrics of “Immigrant Song” were about raising a puppy in a field of flowers, the song’s galloping guitars and Robert Plant’s battle-cry howls would make it metal as the Dickens. But no, instead the lyrics are about Vikings raiding new lands and telling ancient stories of their thunder god, thus making it metal beyond words. Put on this track and you’ll undoubtedly feel like a wolf cloak-clad warrior from the land of the ice and snow — and what metal fan doesn’t want that? Valhalla, I am coming!
Make sure to follow Led Zeppelin on their new TikTok channel today.
Words by Chris Krovatin