We’ve endeavored to assemble the most comprehensive, least-fuck-with-able list of metal’s 25 best album openers — a series that kicks off today with numbers 20 to 16.
20. Eyehategod, “Blank”
Eyehategod are masters of the sludge genre. The band’s sophomore album, Take As Needed For Pain is a sludge blueprint, opening with “Blank” which serves as the longest song on the album. While their debut saw more of a cut and paste variety of sludge and punk riffs, this album blended the fast and slow influences to create their trademark sound. “Blank” picks up the pace rather quickly with some fist-swinging grooves before they lay down their bluesy, NOLA sludge riffs that give way to a hazy state that runs through the rest of the song. There is no doubt that this song is aligned with the band’s drug use, beginning with a quick surge before settling into a tempo that defines the rest of the album and choice drug of Mike Williams.
19. Enslaved, “Lifandi Liv Undir Hamri”
One of the most fascinating things about the opener on Enslaved’s debut, Vikingligr Veldi is that guitarist Ivar was a mere 16 years old (possibly 15) when the tune was penned. A lot of you might claim that writing black metal riffs isn’t all that difficult and you might be right in some cases. However, that isn’t what I find most fascinating. Ivar also composed the piano melodies that make “Lifandi Liv Undir Hamri” so damn memorable. While Emperor were also dabbling with keyboards and symphonic black metal in the same year, Enslaved retained their raw sound and only used their symphonic elements on an as-needed basis opposed to the bombastic Emperor. Keyboards have always helped to texture Enslaved’s music, not define, though no discredit to Ihsahn’s masterworks.
18. Flotsam and Jetsam, “Hammerhead”
Jason Newsted’s most overlooked contribution to heavy metal is the speed metal gem Doomsday for the Deceiver. A milestone in the bassist’s songwriting, the track begins with what sounds more like a crash ending to a song than a beginning, but it sets the tone for Newsted’s impressive bass runs as the chords sweep in and get this thing going. The first lines open up at 1:30 with “Hello, how are you? Ready tonight? I’m here to show you.” These lyrics make the listener feel like they’re at the show watching the band rip up the stage. “Hammerhead” is relentless in speed and is suited for peeling out of your driveway with the volume up and windows down.
17. Manilla Road, “Metalstorm”
Manilla Road are one of the best kept secrets in the US traditional metal scene. Mark Shelton is never short on quality and a terribly underrated guitarist. Open the Gates was the followup to the band’s breakout album, Crystal Logic. It is by far the heaviest of Manilla Road catalog and in no small part to the blistering opener “Metalstorm.” A track well-deserving of the title, this neck-wrecker opens with double bass that never ceases after the brief atmospheric beginning. Mark Shelton knows when he was a great riff and chooses to milk the opening riff for nearly 90 seconds before leading the hordes with his classic snarled vocals. The song hardly deviates from this one riff, which is not a problem to these ears at all. In fact, I wish it went on for an additional five minutes.
16. Immortal, “Withstand The Fall Of Time”
Abbath and his crew angered some elitist black metal fans with At The Heart Of Winter, which saw the incorporation of more traditional metal riffing thrown in with the band’s icy black metal prowess. Those fans are silly bitches as this album is one of the Norwegian group’s finest. The band delved into more complex songwriting and really put it all up front in this one track. A band that once prized itself on pure speed expanded their riffing and wrote some catchy melodies. It would have been a shame for Immortal to have never branched out the way they did because they ended up writing some of their best work after doing so. “Withstand The Fall Of Time” is a testament to Abbath’s diversity as a guitarist and songwriter.
Let us know what you think so far! Come back tomorrow and check out #11-15 and see if some of your favorites are climbing their way up the list
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