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 Destroyer, 1976
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."
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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.