It’s been just over 40 years since James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich formed Metallica, naming their San Francisco thrash band after the music they loved and would spend an unparalleled career transforming. The mix of speed, power, heaviness, and precision they perfected in the Eighties redefined metal, and when they decided to lay siege to the rock mainstream, they did it completely on their own terms. Over the years, they’ve proved their music could be emotionally and musically nuanced in ways that might not have seem possible when they hit the scene with Kill ‘Em All in 1983. Last year, when a huge group of artists, from St. Vincent to Moses Sumney to J Balvin, came together on The Metallica Blacklist to pay tribute to the band’s 1991 classic, The Black Album, it was just more proof of how vast their influence has been.
In honor of Metallica’s amazing run, here are the band’s 50 greatest songs, chronicling the high points for a band that’s never been afraid to challenge itself while remaining true to a core vision and message.