I had to include one extra song!

Five By Five… By Five

Photo by Parker Coffman on Unsplash

Introduction

Music can be a wonderful tool. It can pick you up when you are down, motivate you to keep pushing forward, or send the tears rolling down your face. There is a lot of great music to be heard in the world, and I thought it would be a good idea to share my favorite song and album from each of my top five favorite bands. Just so you know, I primarily listen to metal and rock music. Therefore, you know what to expect. Let’s not waste any more time, shall we?

5. Pantera

Originally a glam metal band from the 1980s, Pantera decided to switch things up and go for a heavier, groove metal sound in the 1990s. Vocalist Phil Anselmo roared with testosterone and power, while guitarist Dimebag Darrell shredded ripping solos and neck-breaking riffs. Highly respected by the metal community for their uncompromising vision, Pantera cemented themselves as one of the all-time great metal bands.

Favorite Song — “Five Minutes Alone” (1994)

This was a difficult choice to make. I could have easily chosen fellow Far Beyond Driven monster “Becoming” or late-glory track “Revolution is My Name”, but I ultimately decided to choose “Five Minutes Alone”. Featuring one of Dimebag Darrell’s grooviest riffs and a head-banging breakdown, “Five Minutes Alone” never fails to get me going.

The guitar riff never fails to get me going!

Favorite Album — Reinventing the Steel (2000)

Believe it or not, Pantera’s final effort was my number one favorite album of all time for approximately 21 months! We’ll get to that new favorite later, but for now, we’ll discuss Reinventing the Steel. Of the five major label Pantera records, this one is the shortest. At ten tracks and 44 minutes long, Reinventing the Steel manages to offer the groove-driven pace of 1990 classic Cowboys From Hell while simultaneously sounding just as heavy as 1994 release Far Beyond Driven. With top-tier tracks such as “Goddamn Electric” and “I’ll Cast a Shadow”, as well as criminally-overlooked tracks such as “We’ll Grind That Axe For a Long Time” and “Uplift”, Reinventing the Steel takes everything you love about the previous four records and combines it all into one giant beast.

“Revolution is My Name” features inspiring lyricism and a helicopter blade-spinning guitar riff!

4. Iron Maiden

One of the longest-running and most consistent heavy metal bands of all time, Iron Maiden has managed to craft some of metal’s finest works. With the legendary voice of vocalist Bruce Dickinson, magical guitar solos from two (or three) different guitarists, and the galloping basslines of bassist Steve Harris, Iron Maiden knows how to create pieces of art in the form of music.

Favorite Song — “Flight of Icarus” (1983)

Taken from one of the band’s earlier releases, “Flight of Icarus” contains soaring vocals from Bruce Dickinson and stellar guitar work from Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. Inspired by the Greek myth of the similar title, “Flight of Icarus” retells the story of that Greek myth in Iron Maiden’s own unique way. This was not an easy choice to make, as “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” was a tempting option. However, there can only be one. In the end, I chose “Flight of Icarus” as my favorite Iron Maiden tune.

Bruce Dickinson is my favorite metal vocalist of all time.

Favorite Album — Brave New World (2000)

Perhaps the greatest comeback album in the storied history of heavy metal, Brave New World saw vocalist Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith return to Iron Maiden after seven and ten years away, respectively. One of Maiden’s most diverse records, Brave New World gives you short, exciting tracks such as “The Wicker Man”, and long, magical numbers such as “The Thin Line Between Love and Hate”. Featuring some of the best lyrical content I’ve ever come across, this LP has everything I could ever want from music. From the glorious “Blood Brothers” to the wondrous “Dream of Mirrors”, Brave New World stands tall as one of my favorite albums of all time.

“The Wicker Man” is my favorite Maiden tune of the “Reunion” era.

3. Megadeth

Another fairly consistent metal band, Megadeth might be the greatest metal band of all time from an instrumental perspective. Boasting some of the most complex, technically-impressive instrumentation from a long list of talented musicians, Megadeth has earned the right to be called one of my personal favorite bands.

Favorite Song — “Symphony of Destruction” (1992)

An obvious choice, I know, but there is a reason why this song is so popular. That same reason is why I claim it as my favorite. The main guitar riff by rhythm/lead guitarist and vocalist Dave Mustaine, as well as the underlying bassline from bassist David Ellefson, is something that will stick in your mind for the rest of your life once you hear it. I mean that in a good way, too! Drummer Nick Menza strikes the cymbals in a routine, timely manner, while lead guitarist Marty Friedman performs a superb solo. The lyrics discuss political power and how the people are made to blindly follow their leaders.

“Symphony of Destruction” is arguably Megadeth’s most popular tune.

Favorite Album — United Abominations (2007)

Megadeth is known for having many political themes throughout their catalog. Perhaps their most political effort was 2007’s United Abominations. I could dive into the lyrical content found on this release, but instead, I’ll give you the true basis of why this is my favorite Megadeth record. This is my favorite Megadeth album for three primary reasons: production, guitar work, and diversity (of instrumentation). United Abominations possesses a wide variety of sounds heard on previous releases. Opening track “Sleepwalker” would fit right in on magnum opus Rust in Peace, while “Play For Blood” could have been recorded during the Cryptic Writings sessions. The guitar solos on this LP are mind-blowing, particularly the ones performed by Dave Mustaine. Brothers Glenn and Shawn Drover give their best efforts on lead guitar and drums, respectively, while bassist James Lomenzo makes his presence felt through deep basslines. The political lyrics might not be for everyone, but I’ve always listened to Megadeth for their instrumentation, anyway.

“Sleepwalker” is a ferocious opening track with blistering guitar solos.

2. Metallica

The most famous heavy metal band of all time, Metallica has both a controversial history and track record. Many seem to feel that the band fell off the face of the earth after their 1991 mega-hit, The Black Album. I, on the other hand, have loved everything Metallica has ever done, with the exception of St. Anger and Lulu. Metallica’s so-called “sell-out” albums Load and Reload contain some of my favorite songwriting of all time, offering tracks such as “The House Jack Built” and “Low Man’s Lyric”. Additionally, modern-day releases Death Magnetic and Hardwired… to Self-Destruct have brought us more excellence in the form of “All Nightmare Long” and “Atlas, Rise!”, among others. Metallica is known for their world-renowned 1986 LP, Master of Puppets, but frontman James Hetfield may as well be the master of lyricism!

For Metallica, I decided to choose two songs as my favorite. One track is my favorite Metallica tune when examining all essential factors. The other is my favorite Metallica number from a pure lyrical and songwriting perspective.

Favorite Song (Overall) — “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1984)

Not only is this my favorite Metallica song; it’s my favorite song of all time! When I first heard those opening tolls of the bell some twelve years ago, I knew instantly that this was the song for me! The bass intro by late bassist Cliff Burton is thunderous, the drumming by Lars Ulrich is varied, and the vocals of James Hetfield are fierce. A song that tells about war and its inevitable road to death, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is consistently ranked as one of Metallica’s greatest tracks.

“For Whom the Bell Tolls” is my favorite song of all time.

Favorite Song (Lyrically) — “The House Jack Built” (1996)

The lyrics in this track cover the topic of alcoholism. “Jack” refers to Jack Daniels, the whiskey brand. The chorus and title of the tune are metaphorical. “Open door, so I walk inside” pertains to opening a bottle and drinking it. When you drink enough, you eventually “step into the house that Jack built.” This alludes to entering a drunken state of mind. That’s all the reason you need to know as to why this is my favorite lyrical track.

“The House Jack Built” dives into the mind of an alchoholic.

Favorite Album — Ride the Lightning (1984)

I love nine of Metallica’s ten studio albums. They were my favorite band for three years before I discovered my new favorite in 2021. Of the nine records up for contention, sophomore effort Ride the Lightning emerges victorious. You already know about my favorite song of all time, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”; it comes from this LP. Other standout tracks are nuclear opener “Fight Fire With Fire” and the emotional ballad, “Fade to Black”. Containing both top-notch instrumentation and lyrics, Ride the Lightning rides high above all other Metallica releases as my personal favorite.

Metallica still knows how to get the job done over forty years later!

1. Anthrax (John Bush Era)

A highly controversial and unpopular opinion, I prefer the Anthrax era which saw Armored Saint vocalist John Bush take the frontman position from 1992 to 2005. Most Anthrax fans prefer classic and modern era vocalist Joey Belladonna on vocals, and that’s perfectly fine. I am well aware that I am not in the majority with my opinion.

The Bush era saw Anthrax change up their sound from pure thrash metal to all sorts of unique styles. Anthrax experimented with grunge, hard rock, groove metal, and even country in a few cases! The main reason this era of Anthrax is my number one favorite band of all time is due to the songwriting, pure and simple. While Metallica’s lyrics are a little more creative, Anthrax managed to write lyrics that clicked with me. How many songs resonated with me, you ask? Practically all of them! From “Invisible” to “Catharsis”, I understood what every line meant. All of it made sense to me. For that reason, this is my favorite band of all time.

Favorite Song — “Fueled” (1995)

This is my favorite Anthrax song for two reasons. First of all, the songwriting is easy for me to digest and comprehend. Second, the vocals from John Bush. There are two choruses in this track. The first one goes as follows, “I’m on the money! Here I come! Fuel for my engine! And I’m gone!” It’s probably just me, but I literally can’t get enough of it! It is so fun to listen to, as well as sing along with! The song is about drinking and getting drunk (something I’ve never experienced, for your information). Along with Metallica’s “The House Jack Built”, it seems that I just have a thing for drinking songs, eh?

“Fueled” contains some of my all-time favorite lyrical hooks.

Favorite Album — We’ve Come for You All (2003)

You guessed it. This is my favorite album of all time. I discovered it in July 2021 and it has been one of my go-to records ever since. The songwriting is just so… perfect. Tracks such as “Refuse to Be Denied” and “Any Place but Here” motivate me to push harder and further than ever before, while feel-good songs such as “Strap It On” and “Cadillac Rock Box” instantly put me in a positive mood the moment I hear them. To top it all off, the beautiful “Safe Home” reminds me to never forget where I came from.

Although the lyrics are what I love most, we can’t forget about the instrumentation either! “What Doesn’t Die” is an explosive opening track with remarkable double bass drumming by Charlie Benante. “Nobody Knows Anything” is another mind-blowing drum-dominated tune. Finally, “Think About An End” features excellent songwriting, outstanding production quality, and awesome harmonizing guitar solos. The only album that comes close to We’ve Come for You All is the one that came before it: Volume 8: The Threat is Real. Perhaps we’ll discuss that record some other time, huh?

“Refuse to Be Denied” is an effective self-empowering anthem.

Conclusion

There are two sides to music: instrumentation and songwriting. A couple of bands found in my top five favorite list, such as Pantera and Megadeth, excel at creating heavy, yet technical works of art. Other bands, such as Iron Maiden, Metallica, and Anthrax, know how to write lyrics that either motivate and inspire, or force you to think outside of the box. In any case, this is the music that hits home for me — and that is why these songs, albums, and bands are the best of the best in their respective element.

About the Writer

Caden Maher is a student at Southeastern Louisiana majoring in Business Management. He enjoys writing about his interests, hobbies, and passions.

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