Metallica is a heavy band.
The metal legends have been at every corner of heavy metal’s evolution, from the Metallica thrash metal explosion to their current, modern phase.
At most of these points, there have always been Metallica ballads. Though one might not expect to hear Metallica acoustic or at a slower tempo, it’s always been a major point of their discography.
With that in mind, here are the 10 best Metallica slow songs and ballads.
‘Fade to Black’
“Fade to Black” is a nice break amidst the rest of Ride the Lightning’s breakneck speed.
The song never devolves into total softness, instead merging the band’s interests in acoustic passages with their brand of heavy metal. Each time Kirk Hammet’s guitar revs back up on the chorus, the song gets another twist in complications happening.
This song might also feature James Hetfield’s best singing on a Metallica song, the pain and emotion in his voice extremely apparent in each line. It’s no wonder why it’s a Metallica fan favorite, a song that remains popular years after release. Easily one of the best Metallica slow songs, and one of the first that pop into mind for fans.
Metallica’s And Justice For All… is packed with some of their most experimental moments to date.
Metallica’s song “One” may be the band’s crown jewel on the album, a testament to the moods they have the ability to weave between.
it was very clear how much Metallica’s songwriting leveled up in the time between Master of Puppets through And Justice For All. It’s a near 8-minute-long epic that features some of the band’s best build-up and tension.
Starting totally melodic and soft and ending at a fever pitch with some of their best riffing, there’s something on the song for everybody. Possibly the most well-known Metallica slow song.
Metallica’s Load was hated by many fans at the time of the album’s release for totally cementing the band’s interest in rock music.
That said, “Mama Said” stands as an excellent Metallica song, and an instance of everything on Load hitting correctly.
“Mama Said” features some of James Hetfield’s best lyrics, where he gets to a very vulnerable place singing about his own mother dying at a way too young age.
Though it may catch some stray snark as a “Metallica country song” it’s still extremely successful at its attempts and interest in getting emotional. An all-out great of the best Metallica ballads.
‘Hero of the Day’
If anything, Load is James Hetfield’s best outing when it comes to lyrics and vocal performance.
“Hero of the Day” is another standout on Load, while dipping less into the well of Country music there’s still an identity of its own in how the band approaches things.
James Hetfield’s voice is at its best, able to blend together the typical heat he brings to a Metallica song with some genuinely heartfelt lyrics. Maybe Load was always good?
‘My Friend of Misery’
The penultimate track on Metallica’s Black Album, “My Friend of Misery” feels like a hero’s journey.
Opening with a soft acoustic part, the song finds its pace, never getting too “heavy” but finding the perfect in-between point of melody and metal.
It ends with a ripping solo and is a cathartic way to ramp things down on the album. A hell of a Metallica slow song.
‘No Leaf Clover’
While never given an official studio release, Metallica’s “No Leaf Clover” remains a favorite for a reason.
The song is only performed live, and maybe most notably at the band’s two S&M shows with the San Francisco Symphony. Both performances perfectly tie with the symphonic edge given by the orchestral arrangement, adding an undeniable epicness to everything Hetfield sings.
The live shows also add a cacophony of chants to the song, upping the power of the composition big time. Really, an orchestra makes the best Metallica slow songs even better.
It’s hard to make any list of best Metallica songs without naming “The Unforgiven.”
As a Metallica slow song, it’s arguably their best in the category. The lyrics have long made an impact with the band’s fanbase, describing Hetfield’s struggles making sense of religion after the death of his mother.
It’s a song packed with guilt, regret and unknowing, and it’s the vulnerability that keep it a fan-favorite Metallica slow song.
Another Load cut, “Outlaw Torn” stands up nicely with the album’s other excellent, hard rock cuts.
On first listen, it’s easy to hear the song enter “Metallica blues” territory, both James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett wrenching out a very bluesy intro riff that spins out into some interesting directions.
James Hetfield’s voice soars high while the band drives into a really moody bridge. Seriously: Load is a great album filled with the best Metallica ballads and Metallica slow songs.
‘Halo On Fire’
Metallica’s “Halo On Fire” ends their most recent LP Hardwired to Self Destruct’s first disc with an intense, melodic stunner of a track.
Years after James Hetfield’s excellent vocal performances on Load, he delivers one of his best showings here.
Grooves, solos, huge riffs, what more could you want from a Metallica ballad?
‘Day That Never Comes’
Closing out this list is one of Death Magnetic’s best songs, “Day That Never Comes.”
The song opens with some Lynyrd Skynard-esque riffing, painting a vivid picture with the band’s instrumentals. In the video, the band shows a story of soldiers losing essential personal, making the pain James Hetfield expresses very vivid.
Things speed way up at the end, adding a frenetic energy and emotion to the song, ending things perfectly. Another nice entry into the many Metallica ballads.