The best Metallica songs ranked from 20 years of Rock 2000 countdowns

The best Metallica songs ranked from 20 years of Rock 2000 countdowns

No band has received more Rock 2000 success than the mighty and magnificent Metallica.

Throughout Rock 2000’s fabled history, no band has seen more success than Metallica

James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo (and all the past band members) have won the countdown eight times in the last twenty years, making them an undeniable foundation of the countdown.

Formed in 1981 after drummer Lars Ulrich put an advertisement in a LA newspaper, by 1986 they had released three albums and founded the thrash metal music genre. Now, four decades after they first jammed, they are one of the most well-known bands of all time. 

The following list delves into data from across every single Rock 2000 countdown (including Rock 500, and Rock 1000, 1500 countdowns), to explore Metallica’s 20 most successful songs, as voted by Rock listeners. 


20. Wherever I May Roam (1991)

During the song-making process, ‘Wherever I May Roam’ had the working title of ‘Ramble On’, a not-so-subtle tribute to their rock predecessor Led Zeppelin. 

It’s missed out on just three countdowns and has an average ranking of #340. 

19. Turn The Page (1998)

Released by Metallica in 1998, ‘Turn The Page’ is a cover of American folk and rock musician Bob Seger’s 1973 track. 

The tune has appeared on every single Rock 2000 Countdown and has a median ranking of #240, peaking at #114 in 2011

18. Seek and Destroy (1983)

Despite featuring on their debut album, ‘Kill ‘Em All’ has only made it into nine Rock 2000 Countdowns. However, it reached as high as #105 in 2018, three years after its debut in 2015. 

The song's title and lyrics were inspired by the Vietnam War movie "Apocalypse Now." In the film, soldiers are sent on a mission to "seek and destroy" enemy targets. Metallica adapted this phrase, using it as a rallying cry for their live performances.

17. King Nothing (1996)

From the band’s sixth album ‘Load’, ‘King Nothing’ ends with an ode to another Metallica song. The words “off to never-never land” can be heard at the conclusion of ‘King Nothing’ and are also used in the song ‘Enter Sandman’. 

Appearing in 20 Rock 2000 Countdowns so far, including a peak of #57 in 2014, the tune seems a safe bet to appear again. 

16. The Memory Remains (1997)

‘The Memory Remains’ from Metallica’s seventh album ‘ReLoad’ proved immensely popular in the inaugural countdown, where it peaked at #32. It’s been a staple of the Rock 2000 since, appearing in every single edition after that with a median placing of #268. 

The inspiration for the track came from a piece of artwork that James Hetfield saw at a gallery. The artwork depicted an old boxing poster with a faded image, and the phrase "The Memory Remains" was written at the bottom. This image sparked the idea for the song's theme about memories and how they linger over time.

15. No Leaf Clover (1999)

‘No Leaf Clover’ is instantly recognisable as it was recorded with the San Francisco Symphony orchestra, with conductor and composer Michael Kamen leading both bands in unison during live performances. 

That grand sound has resonated with The Rock audience as the tune has placed in 20 Rock 2000 Countdowns, peaking at #54 in 2011 and running with a median ranking of #204. 

14. Fuel (1997)

Another tune with a peak of #54 (2013), ‘Fuel’ has also appeared in all but one countdown, gaining a median ranking of #186 in that time. 

James Hetfield mentioned in interviews that the song's theme of burning fuel and adrenaline was influenced by the intensity and excitement of NASCAR. The song was also used in promotional material and broadcasts for the motorsport. 

13. Orion (1986)

‘Orion’, from Metallica’s third album ‘Master of Puppets’, is dedicated to the band's late bassist Cliff Burton, who tragically passed away in a tour bus accident in 1986. They often play excerpts of the bass solo during concerts as a tribute to Cliff. 

With a median ranking of #160, ‘Orion’ has consistently placed high in its twelve Rock 2000 Countdown appearances, all coming since 2011 with a peak of #53 in 2018. 

12. And Justice For All (1988)

The title track of Metallica’s fourth album has appeared in the last five editions of the countdown with a median ranking of #133 and a peak of #93 in 2021. 

One of the most notable aspects of the song is the lack of audible bass guitar in the mix. The bass lines, played by bassist Jason Newsted, were significantly reduced during the mixing process, resulting in a sound dominated by guitars and drums and a mixed reception from fans, who believed new member Newsted’s contributions to the tune were diminished. 

11. Whiskey In The Jar (1998)

Another folk song cover, Metallica’s rendition of the centuries-old Irish tune 'Whiskey In The Jar' has placed in 20 Rock 2000 Countdowns, only missing out in the 2002 edition. Since then, it’s placed as high as #34 in 2009 and gained a median ranking of #125. 

Despite ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ having origins tracing back to the 17th century, Metallica’s cover of the song plays homage to Irish band Thin Lizzy’s 1972 rendition (which has also placed in The Rock 2000 Countdown). 

10. The Unforgiven II (1997)

‘The Unforgiven II’ is the second part of Metallica’s three-song ‘Unforgiven’ trilogy (all three have appeared in The Rock 2000 Countdown). 

It’s appeared in every single Rock 2000 Countdown. In 2011 it saw its highest ranking ever at #45 and throughout the years its median ranking is #112. 

9. Welcome Home (Sanitarium) (1986)

‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ has been in every single Rock 2000 Countdown ever, peaking at #52 in 2018 and holding a median ranking of #102. 

The song is believed to be loosely inspired by the novel (and film) ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ - both the novel and the song revolve around a mental institution and themes of insanity. 

8. Sad But True (1991)

‘Sad But True’ also peaked at #52 (2014) and has never dipped lower than #310 throughout its history of appearing in the countdown every year. 

Lars Ulrich's drum sound in the track was achieved by recording the drum parts in a parking garage located near the studio, as suggested by producer Bob Rock. 

7. For Whom The Bell Tolls (1984)

Reaching as high as the #11 spot (2020), ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ has always been a part of the Rock 2000 Countdown, and a big part at that, holding a median ranking of #90. 

The song's title and lyrics were inspired by Ernest Hemingway's novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls." The book's themes of war, sacrifice, and mortality resonated with Metallica's lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, James Hetfield, who crafted the lyrics based on the book's concepts.

6. Fade To Black (1984)

Despite being one of the band’s most popular songs, ‘Fade to Black’ was quite the contentious one during its creation.

James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich felt that Kirk Hammett's guitar solos were too excessive and not in line with the song's emotional tone. On top of that, the band had to convince producer Flemming Rasmussen to include it on ‘Ride the Lightning’. Rasmussen believed the song was too slow and didn’t fit with the rest of the album. 

Rock listeners are happy it was included, as the song has appeared in every Rock 2000 Countdown, holding a median ranking of #32 and peaking at #16 in 2021 and 2014. 

5. The Unforgiven (1991)

The first song of the aforementioned ‘Unforgiven’ trilogy has performed even better than the second, never dipping below #126 throughout the Rock 2000 Countdown’s history, including a peak of #11 in 2002. 

The lyrics of "The Unforgiven" were inspired by the Western film genre, particularly the idea of a lone gunslinger seeking redemption and freedom. James Hetfield drew parallels between the themes of the film genre and personal struggles.

4. Nothing Else Matters (1991)

James Hatfield wrote ‘Nothing Else Matters’ about being on the road while his girlfriend Francesca Tomasi (later wife and now ex-wife) was back home in the United States. Now, it’s a popular song at the weddings of Metallica fans. 

It’s been a huge player in the Rock 2000, never dropping out of the countdown and peaking at #8 in 2009, holding an impressive median ranking of #29. 

3. Master Of Puppets (1986)

‘Master of Puppets’ has long been a mainstay in the top end of the Rock 2000 Countdown, appearing in 20 editions and even winning the thing in 2016.

It’s made the top ten six times, including coming second in last year’s countdown - most likely due to the smash Netflix show ‘Stranger Things’ featuring the song in a critical scene and reminding music fans just how epic the track is. 

2. Enter Sandman (1991)

‘Enter Sandman’ is undeniably a foundation of the Rock 2000 Countdown. It’s landed at the coveted #1 spot three times (2004, 2005, 2008), placed in the top ten 14 times and has always featured in the countdown, holding an unreal median ranking of #5. 

The song’s classic intro wasn’t even meant to be part of the song. Kirk Hammett came up with the guitar melody while warming up. The rest of the band frothed it so much that they decided to include it. 

1. One (1988)

Fittingly, ‘One’ is Metallica’s best song when it comes to the history of the Rock 2000. Rock listeners have voted it to the #1 spot four times (2002, 2009, 2011, 2012), it’s appeared in every single countdown, never ranking lower than #21 and has been in the top ten 18 times. 

Its average ranking of 5.5 is the highest of any song that’s ever played in the countdown. It really cannot be the Rock 2000 Countdown without ‘One’ blasting through your speakers.

With all the evidence laid out here - coming from the massive, f*ck off spreadsheet of data - the case could be made that Metallica are the most successful band in the history of the Rock 2000 Countdown.

If you agree or disagree, make sure to vote while you still can.