Underground metal isn’t radio friendly. It ranges from grandiose and sweeping with songs that exceed the ten-minute mark, to explosive flash-bang moments that pack a wallop in the blink of an eye.
So many good songs in metal are surprisingly short, yet so effective that it’s hard to believe how much is said within 120 seconds. Even when grindcore classics are removed from the equation, there’s an endless treasure trove of short but memorable songs to discover. If you’re in a hurry but need to hear some metal, throw on any of the following tracks and prepare for aural whiplash!
1) Sadus, “And Then You Die”, Chemical Exposure (1:46) – Time was, Sadus was one of the fastest bands out there. Yes, really. Let’s see you try to keep up with them. This track in particular punctuated their penchant for tempo excess while still getting the point across.
2) Deicide, “Day of Darkness”, Deicide (2:05) – Yes, this is a bit of a cheat, but it’s only five seconds over and it inspired this list. Deicide never spent too long on any one idea, but this compact composition said everything it needed to say about its subject and the band as a whole.
3) Hirax, “Bombs of Death”, Raging Violence (1:47) – While “Hate, Fear, and Power” is the shortest of Hirax’s resolutely short songs, it’s “Bombs of Death” that hits on all cylinders with a vintage thrash onslaught like only Katon and company can deliver.
4) Repulsion, “Maggots in your coffin”, Horrified (1:47) – These grindcore pioneers had plenty of tracks that could have made this list, but this song is one of the best. Repulsion played fast and dirty while still writings hooks that would worm into your brain while punching you in the gut.
5) Emperor, “Lord of the Storms”, As the Shadows Rise (1:49) – This one is weird, even by early Emperor standards, but it’s every bit as brilliant as anything else they recorded in this era. It’s two riffs in total that comes to an abrupt end with an maelstrom of goblin-like gibbering from Ihsahn. We can thank Mortiis for this demented little aside.
6) SOD, “United Forces”, Speak English or Die (1:53) – The definitive crossover anthem that everyone loves. This song became SOD’s signature song and paved the way for punkers and metalheads to attend shows under a unified flag. Despite its memorable riffs and timeless message, it’s a brief excursion nonetheless.
7) Morbid Angel, “Day of Suffering”, Blessed are the Sick (1:55) – Basically a vignette with a riff hijacked from the mighty Necrovore, “Day of Suffering” set the table for the burlier side of Morbid Angel, one that was ultimately overplayed and responsible for sucking a lot of the black magic out of the band on later releases. Nevertheless, this song endures.
8) Master, “Pledge of Allegiance”, Unreleased 1985 Album (1:58) – Jimi Hendrix has nothing on Paul Speckmann and his apocalyptic take on our nation’s Pledge of Allegiance, set to a brain-bruising beat with unhinged vocals. One nation, under God? Guess again.
9) Rotting Christ, “The Sign of Evil Existence”, Thy Mighty Contract (1:59) – The opening track of this landmark Greek black metal masterpiece offers us a frantic trip through Hades and beyond. RC keeps the song in their set list to this day, and it sounds as fresh and dangerous as ever.
10) Macabre, “McMassacre”, Gloom (0:40) – This long-running death metal trio used to specialize in quickies (and were better for it), and their blackly irreverent song about mass murderer James Huberty is a sing-along riot right out of the gate.
11) Terrorizer, “Infestation”, World Downfall (1:56) – Like everything on World Downfall, this song is like being kicked in the groin and thrown down a flight of stairs, but in about half the time of many of their other classic cuts.
12) Carcass, “Genital Grinder” Reek of Putrefaction (1:25) – a killer instrumental opener with a nauseatingly good slide riff. No words necessary, it’s pure Carcass the way they should have remained.
13) Slayer, “Necrophobic”, Reign in Blood (1:41) – The shortest in an album full of succinct songs, this track was a contender for the land speed record at the time. It still beats the living hell out of just about anything it comes up against.
14) Profanatica, “Final Hour of Christ”, Tormenting Holy Flesh (1:51) – Paul Ledney liked to scream endlessly about God, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary, but usually in two-minute increments. This track captures the essence of Profanatica in less time than it takes to microwave a burrito.
15) Tormentor, “Transylvania”, Anno Domini (1:50) – It’s funny how so many of the short songs become the band’s signature. The rockabilly opening beat gives little warning to the high-speed assault ahead. Tormentor were battering and brutal at any duration, but this deadly little number remains one of their most memorable.
16) Slaughter, “Death Dealer” Strappado (1:58) – Hi, we’re Slaughter, and we’re here to bash your head in! “Death Dealer” dogpiles on with fuzzed out guitars, before bursting into weapons grade speed. You think you know fast and heavy? You better know Slaughter.
17) Blasphemy, “War Command”, Blood upon the Altar demo (0:41) – Black metal, meet death metal. Death metal, I believe you and grindcore are already acquainted. Now that we’re all together, let’s make a song that will incite people to mangle each other! Forty-one seconds should get us at least a few fatalities…
18) Nuclear Assault, “Hang the Pope”, Game Over (0:46) – It literally took less than a minute to seriously upset a lot of people. This was just a fun little one-off grindcore tribute, but it was a declaration of war to thousands of already defensive Catholics. These days, the message seems comical, but back then they weren’t called Nuclear Assault for nothing.
19) Sarcofago, “Deathrash”, INRI (1:37) – Talk about a mission statement. There are metal kiddies out there who say, “If you are false, don’t entry” without even knowing where it came from. This song is so dense and violent, it feels much longer than its scant ninety-seven seconds.
20) Fallen Christ, “Burn of the Altar”, Abduction Ritual (0:58) – Take Morbid Angel’s Altars of Madness, jack the turntable speed up to 45, add some meth for additional overclocking, and you’ve got Fallen Christ. All their songs are super-short, but this particular track features a standout “chorus” riff that allows you to chant along, provided you’re quick about it.