Since the early '70s, heavy metal has been dominating counterculture, spawning several genres from death metal to stoner metal and inspiring generations of local metal bands. Yet with so many metal offerings, how does a young aspiring North Texas metal god determine which songs to include in his or her own metal arsenal to help unleash fire on stage? To answer this question, the Dallas Observer reached out to local musicians in Dallas and Fort Worth to track down the 10 essential metal songs every metal head should know.
“Sweet Leaf” by Black Sabbath
Master of Reality, 1971
If Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads, Black Sabbath captured the bastard and harnessed his magic to offer what many critics call “ground zero” of heavy metal. Like many aspiring metal guitarists, when guitarist Ty Choat of The Cosmic Trigger first heard it, he "thought it sounded cool." His brother, Dan, showed him how to play it on a Sears & Roebuck P.O.S. acoustic guitar. "I hated that it sounded nothing like the album," he recalls. "After I got it down, he let me play it on his amp with his Strat and a distortion pedal. I was hooked for life."
"Detroit Rock City" by KISS
It's hard to believe that "Detroit Rock City" barely made a blip on critics' radars when it was released in the mid-'70s. Paul Stanley penned the song in honor of a KISS fan who was killed in an accident on his way to attend a KISS concert. More than four decades later, the third single released from KISS' third outing became an anthem for many metal heads, including the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, two sporting teams that used the song to dominate their challengers. Local drummer Todd Pack from Creeper had picked up the single on 45 record. "I realized then I could play my drums along with it fairly easily," Pack says. "I was hooked."
"Eruption" by Van Halen
Van Halen, 1978
An instrumental rock song widely considered to be one of the greatest guitar solos of all time, "Eruption" is the calling card of one Eddie Van Halen. "Dimebag" Darrell Abbot was just a little kid when he first heard it. "I couldn't believe how Eddie just ripped the strings off his guitar," Abbott told Guitar World. "He played with a fierce aggression, and his guitar sound was unbeatable. That dive bomb sound effect at the song's end sounded like the world was coming to an end. Because Eddie was so hardcore about his guitar, he made me look at the instrument in a different way, more as a tool to screw around with than something you must play very carefully."
“Suicide Solution” by Ozzy Osbourne
Blizzard of Oz, 1980
It’s not often that a lead singer can leave a legendary band such as Black Sabbath and enjoy continued success by pushing the bounds of heavy metal to the next level, inspiring a generation of guitarists to sling a V-shaped monstrosity like Osbourne’s lead guitarist Randy Rhoads. Local guitarist Jesse Dominguez of CROMA heard the tune when he visited his best friend, whose brother was an Ozzy fan. "When Randy passed, he was listening to Ozzy non-stop," Dominguez says. "When (Randy Rhoads) Tribute came out, we had heard the whole album several times. The 'Crazy Train' video was cool but listening to that live album, bro... damn!"
“Ace of Spades” by Motörhead
Ace of Spades, 1980
Unlike the polyester-wearing Ozzy Osbourne, who didn’t embrace the attitude of heavy metal until he bit a head off a bat, Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister looked like a heavy metal Johnny Cash. He had a black western shirt, bullets lining his black belt, long hair and black, thick bearded chops. “Ace of Spades” is a relentless song, with Kilmister driving the song with his bass while drummer "Philthy Animal" and guitarist "Fast Eddie" rip and blaze through their instruments. Eric Trent, bassist for Generator, was so inspired that he later named his son "Lemmy."
"Hallowed Be Thy Name” by Iron Maiden
The Number of the Beast, 1982
Inspired by a nightmare, The Number of the Beast quickly became Iron Maiden’s ultimate album of pure heavy metal perfection. Like other metal fans in the early '80s, Bruce Corbitt, lead singer of Rigor Mortis and Warbeast, knew of Iron Maiden. He'd seen them open for Judas Priest a year prior to the album's release. But Paul Di'Anno was the frontman. With the release of The Number of the Beast, Iron Maiden replaced Di'Anno with Bruce Dickinson. "Maybe it was because he had the same first name as I did," Corbitt recalls. "Maybe it was because he had the same color of long hair. I don't know for sure, but Bruce became the type of singer that I envisioned myself to be one day. I just thrashed it up a bit."
“Master of Puppets” by Metallica
Master of Puppets, 1986
Metallica’s catalog of must hear songs for aspiring metal gods is long indeed, from “Seek & Destroy” and "Whiplash" from 1983's Kill 'Em All to “Creeping Death” from 1984's Ride the Lightning. Local shredder Jim Crye of Volume Dealer and Primal Concrete Cowboys was a high school student when he first heard Master of Puppets. "This new kid we nicknamed 'Thrasher' turned us onto Metallica when we were all about Mötley Crüe and (the hair metal) scene," Crye says. "It was the ferocity and precision of James Hetfield's guitar playing and the sound of his guitar that inspired me to become a metalhead."
“Seasons in the Abyss” by Slayer
Seasons in the Abyss, 1990
Composed by one of the hottest thrash metal bands exploding out of California, Seasons in the Abyss continued Slayer's '80s reign of terror onstage with complex guitar riffs and "blinding speed tempos." Or as one Rolling Stone writer called it, "Music to conquer nations by." Jesse Herringer, lead singer of Volume Dealer, was only 8 or 9 years old, hanging out at a buddy's house when he saw the video on the now defunct Headbangers Ball on MTV. Like thousands of other memorized metalheads, Herringer says he "thought the guitar was killer in that song."
“Cowboys From Hell” by Pantera
Cowboys From Hell, 1990
This Texas metal band with a singer raised on New Orleans sludge metal offered a slew of memorable hits when they exploded onto the scene in the late '80s. Like Randy Rhoads, “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott was known as "Diamond Darrell" until he shed his glam-rock image when he discovered thrash metal legends Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth. Like other local musicians, Rico Gutierrez, drummer for Generator, first fell in love with music when KISS' "Detroit Rock City" played on a car radio. Then he heard Pantera's "Cowboys From Hell" for the first time. "(I'm) thinking WTH happened?" he says. "It was a whole different sound/band from their previous album Power Metal (1988). I was in complete awe."
"Domination" by Pantera
Cowboys From Hell, 1990
Considered one of Pantera's best songs, "Domination" offers Dimebag Darrell slaying his guitar with what Rustin Luther of Urizen calls, "The best break down/solo in the world of metal." It was hard for Luther to pick just one Pantera song to include on this list, so he chose his personal favorite. He first discovered it watching a Pantera home video. "Obviously Pantera is the metal band from DFW and Texas," he adds. "Every metalhead should have Cowboys from Hell, Vulgar Display of Power and Far Beyond Driven in their CD collection (or on their iPod)."
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.