We’ve endeavored to assemble the most comprehensive, least-fuck-with-able list of metal’s 25 best album openers — a series that runs all week, and continues today with numbers 15 to 11.
15. Pantera, “Cowboys From Hell”
Pantera’s theoretical second debut album, Cowboys From Hell, starts off with the title track. What’s heard here is a major departure from the band’s traditional metal endeavors of the past — Power Metal being Anselmo’s rookie Pantera album and my personal favorite from the group. Anslemo’s voice takes on a grittier tone heard in parts on the previous album, with some hints at his wailing clean voice that dominated two years earlier. Cowboys From Hell is a rebirth of the band. Diamond Darrell became Dimebag Darrell, launching his guitar god career from the first riff of this song. The song itself instantly washes away their reputation as poofy-haired sleazehounds and morphs them into these badass outlaw boys that were here to conquer and redefine metal in the ‘90’s.
14. Dio, “Stand Up and Shout”
Many of you probably aren’t aware that Ronnie James Dio was 40 when he released Holy Diver. After successful stints as the frontman for Rainbow and Black Sabbath, our favorite singer was really just getting started. Much like Ozzy, Ronnie’s post-Sabbath solo career took him down the path of straightforward, riff-oriented heavy metal. Always insightful, sometimes cheesy, Dio manages to convey words of wisdom and advice. His imagery and lyrics take hold here as “Stand Up And Shout” is an in-your-face opener that empowers the listener and really evokes the words of the title. After fronting two largely influential bands, it was hard to believe Dio could do it a third time, but he proved it right from the start.
13. Dismember, “Override Of The Overture”
Like An Everflowing Stream is the greatest Swedish death metal debut album there is. “Override Of The Overture” starts with the sounds of some rushing water and imitation thunder before the tremelo-picked harmonies strike from the clouds with the classic Sunlight Studios guitar tone. Somehow these teenagers were able to weave subtle complexity into their songs, while maintaining the delicate balance between riffs and melodies — the chug/cymbal catches going into the harmonies being one of my favorite moments of the song. As much as I love bands like Entombed and Grave, their songwriting chops were never able to match these guys.
12. At The Gates, “Blinded By Fear”
Ahh, the love it or hate it album, Slaughter of the Soul by Swedish melodic death metal pioneers At The Gates. The band reshaped their sound for their final album, which came to be widely influential to a lot of bands that were never able to come close to the intensity it created. Terminal Spirit Disease hinted at this change in style, but nobody expected an album like this. Melodic alternate picking reigns king, “Blinded By Fear” being the introduction to your new masters. The song is undeniably catchy as Tomas Lindberg spits forth his most vicious vocal performance to date. His lyrics are intelligible, making it difficult to resist screaming along with this devastating tune.
11. Motörhead, “Ace Of Spades”
No list like this would be complete without the seminal Motörhead jam. Motörhead is a group that seems to write a variation of the same four songs over and over, all to a most pleasing result. While I definitely have my own favorites, “Ace Of Spades” managed to break the mold and become the standout Motörhead song. Perhaps it is the fun-natured vibe of gambling that most can relate to, or just the isolated overdriven bass tone that kicks this thing off. Lemmy injects some of his personality here, as he lives in Las Vegas and is not shy to casinos. My mom actually saw him in Vegas walking around a casino with Gilby Clarke. Oh, and Lemmy was wearing a Motörhead shirt.
Still don’t see some of your favorites? Well, tomorrow begins our trek into the Top 10 Album Openers. Tell us what you think of these, #16-20, #21-25, and what songs you think should be in the Top 10.
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