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Metal music. Although I love almost every genre of music, metal holds a special place in my heart. While there are hundreds, if not thousands, of metal subgenres, the songs in this article will fall under the broad umbrella term of metal.
When someone thinks of metal, a few key components come to mind, most notably that it sounds heavy. This, unsurprisingly, leads many to believe metal music can only be performed by incorporating alternate, lower-tuning styles.
So this begs the question, can metal only be played in lower tunings, or are there metal songs that utilize standard tuning?
While lower tunings do certainly make music sound heavier, it is not essential that you must tune low to achieve that awesome metal sound. Although many bands today (and in the past) have utilized lower tunings, several bands and iconic metal songs use standard tuning, such as Metallica, Megadeth, and Black Sabbath.
This article will explore twenty-one awesome metal songs that incorporate standard tuning. You can also listen to the entire playlist on Spotify here:
Let’s dive in!
1. Metallica- Master of Puppets
Check out Master of Puppets on Spotify.
Like them or hate them, Metallica is still considered one of the most iconic metal bands of all time, and perhaps their most iconic song is Master of Puppets. Recently, a new generation has been exposed to Metallica and Master of Puppets, mainly due to its use in the hit series Stranger Things.
From their third studio album of the same name, Master of Puppets blasted onto the airways in March of 1986 and is often regarded as one of the most influential metal albums (and songs) of all time.
The lengthy 8:35 Master of Puppets features the aggressive downpicking style of James Hetfield and the blazing fast soling of Kirk Hammett, who are both frequently listed in the top 100 lists of greatest guitarists.
The song is more than just pure speed and palm muting the open E string; however, featuring a subdued, clean-tone breakdown beginning around the 3:33 mark, and time signature changes between 4/4 and 5/8 during the verse (or 21/32 to be more precise). However, the official ultimate guitar tab lists this section as 11/16.
These subtle nuances, combined with the high-speed solo beginning at 5:43 into the song, make Master of Puppets an incredibly iconic and challenging song to master and one of the most fun songs to learn to play.
Follow this link for the tabs to this metal masterpiece.
2. Megadeth- Tornado of Souls
Megadeth, like Metallica, is known for writing many of their songs in standard tuning, and Tornado of Souls is no exception. Featuring tons of hammer-ons and pull-offs throughout the verses and solo, this song ranks as one of the most challenging on this list.
Tornado of Souls is the seventh track on Megadeth’s fourth studio album, Rust in Peace, which hit the shelves in late September of 1990 and is widely regarded as one of the best Megadeth albums of all time. Rust in Peace is the first album to feature guitar legend Marty Friedman, one of the best in the long list of Megadeth guitarists.
Much like its name, Tornado of Souls is a whirlwind of speed from the opening lick to the finish line, with tons of palm muting and shredding potential. This is one of my favorite Marty Friedman solos and something we can all aspire to write one day.
Check out the tabs to this awesome Megadeth song here.
3. Pantera- Cowboys from Hell
Next on our list of awesome standard tuning metal songs is another 1990 release, this time from Pantera, and their fifth studio album, Cowboys from Hell. Largely considered one of the first-ever Groove Metal albums, the title track grabs you by the ears and never lets go.
Darrell Lance Abbott, aka Dimebag Darrell, is well known across the music industry as being one of the best guitar players of all time, and it is on the Cowboys from Hell record that he started to come into his own as a musician.
This song is chock-full of palm-muted open E-string chugging, and apart from the intro riff and solo is a reasonably manageable song to learn and play, even for beginners. Coming in a 4:06, this song packs a punch from start to finish and is a favorite to learn among metal guitarists.
Follow the link to the tabs here.
4. Black Sabbath- Iron Man
Without the Beatles, Rock as we know it would not exist. Without Black Sabbath, Metal as we know it would not exist. Since its inception in 1968, the English foursome has continued to inspire and influence generations of metalheads.
While Black Sabbath has many memorable songs, the intro to Iron Man may be one of the most recognizable song intros of all time. Iron Man is the fourth song on their 1970 record, Paranoid, ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 100 greatest metal albums of all time.
Luckily for us guitar players, even though Tommy Iommi is one of the greatest guitarists ever to live, Iron Man is relatively simple and comes in as the third easiest song on this list to play. Songs do not have to be complicated to sound great, and Iron Man fits that mold perfectly.
Iron Man is 5:51 of pure metal, standard tuning goodness, and a song that will never go out of style. Click the link here to check out the tabs.
5. Trivium- Ignition
Trivium is one of the few relatively new bands to make this list, as many modern metal bands tend to ignore standard tuning. Formed in Florida in 1999, Trivium recently released its tenth studio album and is one of the most popular current metal bands.
Not known for their use of standard tuning, or of six-string guitars for that matter, their third studio album, The Crusade, released in 2006, is an exception. Nearly all of the songs on this record, including Ignition, are performed in standard tuning on six-string guitars.
Ignition’s 3:54 pays homage to Trivium’s heavy thrash metal influences with an abrupt start that immediately dives into fast repeated triplets and a blazingly fast solo that begins at the 2:10 mark. Being a thrash metal-styled song, it is challenging to master, mainly due to its speedy tempo.
If you want to test your speed and stamina, give Ignition a try here.
6. Judas Priest- Breaking the Law
Next on the list is one of the most popular songs from 70’ and 80’s metal icon Judas Priest- Breaking the Law. Formed one year after Black Sabbath in the same town of Birmingham, England, Judas Priest has been rocking the world ever since.
Along the lines of Iron Man in its simplicity, Breaking the Law still packs a punch, and it is incredibly fun to play. Breaking the Law is an excellent song for beginning guitarists who want to cut their teeth in the metal scene or for intermediate to advanced players who just want to rock out.
If you want something fun, rocking, and not too challenging, give Breaking the Law a try here.
7. Anthrax- Madhouse
Number seven on the list is the 1985 hit, Madhouse from Thrash Metal icon, Anthrax. This 4:22 song is thrash at its finest. Anthrax is another 80’s metal band that writes a large portion of their songs in standard tuning.
Guitarist Scott Ian’s no-nonsense approach in his playing style creates a heavy, fast-paced, and entertaining song that is one of the more accessible songs to play on this list despite the fast speed.
This is one of the most straightforward songs on this list, making it great for beginners. A twenty-second short solo begins at the three-minute mark and is fairly challenging, but the song is pretty simple.
Check out the tabs to this iconic Thrash Metal song here.
8. Opeth- Master’s Apprentices
The eighth entry on this list is one of the more obscure, as Opeth does not tend to make its way into mainstream listenership.
Opeth was formed in 1990 in Stockholm, Sweden, and is unique in that none of the founding members are still with the band, although frontman and guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt joined in 1990 and is still the primary songwriter.
Opeth has been a bit of a musical chameleon over the years, originating as a death metal band and since morphing into more of a progressive metal feel. However, what has stayed consistent is the band’s almost exclusive use of standard tuning.
Master’s Apprentices is off the 2002 Deliverance album, and it is a marathon of a song. Coming in at 10:30, it is the second longest song on this list. The song is at a slower pace than many others on this list. It features a lot of open E palm muting, and despite its length, it is one of the easier songs on the list.
You can check out the tabs for Master’s Apprentices here.
9. Sylosis- After Lifeless Years
Another lesser-known group to make the list is Sylosis, and their hard-hitting song, After Lifeless Years. Sylosis is one of the heaviest bands on this list and writes much of its content in standard tuning.
Formed in Reading, Berkshire, England, in 2000, they released their first full-length album in 2008, Conclusion of an Age, which features After Lifeless Years as the second track.
After Lifeless Years has one of the coolest intros on the list, featuring a drum-fill led beginning into palm-muted triplets on the open E-string. The 4:57 song is one of the fastest songs on the list and is a fairly technical song, including multiple solos throughout the song and climaxing with a massive breakdown at the 3:46 mark.
Test out your chops with the tab here.
10. White Zombie- Thunderkiss 65
Rounding out our list of ten metal songs in standard tuning is White Zombie’s 1992 release of Thunderkiss 65. Although the band was relatively short-lived, only producing four albums, Thunderkiss 65 has endured as one of the most popular metal songs of the 1990s.
The song is 3:55 in duration and is by far the least challenging song on the list, making it a perfect song for beginners to start their metal guitar-playing journey. The song is slow-paced, and a large majority is simple palm muting on the open E string, making it an easy yet fun song to play.
You can check out the tabs for Thunderkiss 65 here.
11. Avenged Sevenfold- Buried Alive
Avenged Sevenfold doesn’t play many of their songs in standard tuning, but Buried Alive is one of the few exceptions. Buried Alive is the fourth track on the band’s fifth studio album, Nightmare, released in 2010.
Formed in Huntington Beach, California, in 1999, Avenged Sevenfold has been a staple of the modern metal scene since the early 2000s. Known for their melodic solos and hard-hitting riffs, they have gone through many stylistic changes since their inception, much like Opeth.
Buried alive is one of the more subdued songs on this list and gives guitarists a great chance to work on their clean tone. The song does pick up steam at the 4:00 mark with an almost minute-long solo in guitarist Synyster Gates’ familiar style. The song ends with some proper open E-string metal goodness, finishing at 6:46 seconds.
Follow the link here to get started with Buried Alive.
12. Ozzy Osbourne- Bark at the Moon
Ozzy Osbourne has worked with many great guitar players over his career. From Tommy Iommi in Black Sabbath to Randy Rhoads and Zakk Wylde. Jake E. Lee, lead guitarist for the Bark at the Moon record, is no exception.
Bark at the Moon is the title track of Ozzy’s third studio album, which was released in November 1983. Many other Ozzy songs could be on this list, such as Crazy Train; however, Bark at the Moon deserves more recognition than it typically receives.
Bark at the Moon wastes no time with a slow intro, diving straight into the main riff, which features palm muting on the open A-string instead of the E-string, which is unique for this list. Bark at the Moon is a fun song to play, although it can be pretty challenging, especially considering Jake E. Lee’s solo that begins at around the 2:00 mark.
Bark at the Moon has a total run time of 4:16. You can check out the tabs here.
13. Dio- Holy Diver
Ronnie James Dio, from which the band Dio gets its name, is more well known than the band itself in mainstream circles due to his work with Black Sabbath and guest appearance in the Tenacious D movie. However, Dio has made a significant contribution to the metal genre, and the song Holy Diver is one of their most popular songs.
Holy Diver is from the band’s first studio album of the same name, released in 1983, and is 5:54 of iconic 80s metal. The song is not overly complex and has been a favorite song cover of many metal bands, such as Killswitch Engage.
The tempo is not overbearing, and the solo is one of the more accessible on this list for beginner-level guitarists. Follow this link to get started with Holy Diver today!
14. Iron Maiden- 2 Minutes to Midnight
Like many other bands on this list, several of Iron Maiden’s songs could be considered a legendary metal song in standard tuning. I chose 2 Minutes to Midnight because I think it is underrated, and it happens to be my favorite Iron Maiden song.
2 Minutes to Midnight is off Iron Maiden’s fifth studio album, released in 1984, and is 6:04 of iconic Iron Maiden sound. The song begins with one of the coolest riffs on this list, with palm muting on the A-string and intermittent strumming on the D and G-strings, which is the anchoring hook of the entire song.
2 Minutes to Midnight is fast-paced, but apart from the solo that begins at around the 2:50 mark, the song is accessible to most ability levels. The tabs are linked here.
15. Megadeth- Symphony of Destruction
The second Megadeth song on our list is another of the band’s most popular songs. Symphony of Destruction is from the fifth studio album, released in 1992, and again features guitarist Marty Friedman alongside Dave Mustaine.
Symphony of Destruction is a significantly slower and much easier song to play than Tornado of Souls. It is an excellent entry point for beginning guitarists who want to play Megadeth Songs. However, don’t let the relative simplicity fool you, it is still an incredibly fun song to play, and like most Megadeth songs, the solo is still challenging.
Check out the tabs for Symphony of Destruction here.
16. Trivium- If I Could Collapse the Masses
Number 16 is another Trivium tune from the band’s first studio album, Ember to Inferno, which hit the airways in late 2003.
Largely overlooked compared to the rest of Trivium’s discography, Ember to Inferno still features hard-hitting songs such as If I Could Collapse the Masses. Of note, frontman and guitarist Matt Heafy was only seventeen at the time of recording, which is quite impressive.
If I could Collapse the Masses has a very Metallica-inspired feel and is a fun song to play. It is a much simpler song than Ignition and is performed at a much slower tempo. The song is a great introduction to the world of Trivium, and you can find the tabs here.
17. Opeth- The Drapery Falls
The second Opeth song to make the list, The Drapery Falls, comes in at 10:52, making it the longest song on our list. The Drapery Falls is off of Opeth’s fifth studio album, Blackwater Park, which is often regarded as the band’s best album.
The Drapery Falls takes you on a stylistic journey, featuring long, subdued clean segments, followed by very heavy guitar and vocal performances. The Drapery Falls is a great song to work on transitioning between clean and heavy tones and is by far one of the most unique songs on this list.
You can visit the tabs here.
18. Black Sabbath- War Pigs
War Pigs, much like Iron Man, has one of the most iconic introductions in metal music history. The song begins with a languid, drawn-out guitar accompanied by drums and an awesome bass riff. At about the fifty-second mark, the tempo increases, and shortly after that, Ozzy’s amazing vocals come in, and the rest is history.
War Pigs is the opening track off Black Sabbath’s second studio album, Paranoid, which is the same album as Iron Man. The 7:57 song is a powerful piece, but like Iron Man, it is one of the more straightforward songs to master on this list.
If Iron Man wasn’t enough for you, check out the tabs to War Pigs here.
19. Sylosis- Teras
Sylosis has so many great standard-tuned songs; it is hard to pick just two to put on this list. Teras is again off of the band’s first album.
Teras starts as hard-hitting as After Lifeless Years and features a ton of open E-string palm-muting goodness. Teras is one of the most complicated songs on this list and is an excellent choice to work on your speed and a variety of picking techniques.
Here is a video of Sylosis guitarist, Josh Middleton, demonstrating how to play Teras:
If you are ready for a challenge, check out the tabs to Teras here.
20. Iron Butterfly- In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
I could have gone with another Anthrax, Iron Maiden, or Megadeth song for number twenty, and you may be thinking that Iron Butterfly isn’t a metal band. While this may be true, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is a very metal song.
The song is from the band’s second studio album of the same name, released in 1968, and remains the band’s most popular and influential piece. The original song comes in at a whopping 17:04, but the radio-friendly version is just under three minutes long.
This iconic song begins with a cool ascending organ, followed by a great bass line. The guitar joins at the fourteen-second mark, and the result is one of the catchiest intros to metal history. The song uses a lot of chromatic movement and is overall one of the least complex songs on this list to play.
Enjoy learning In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida here.
21. Metallica- Seek and Destroy
To round out our list of twenty-one legendary metal songs in standard tuning, we finish where we began with Metal legend Metallica.
Seek and Destroy is from the band’s debut album, Kill ‘Em All, which is widely regarding as one of the most important metal albums of all time. The album is full of some of the best thrash metal songs ever created, including Seek and Destroy.
The song is one easier Metallica songs to attempt to play, especially the intro and verses, making it a perfect song to begin the journey into Metallica’s immense discography.
Check out the tabs to Seek and Destroy here.
Metal doesn’t have to leave standard tuning to sound heavy; these songs are a testament to that idea. These songs are a small sample size of the many excellent standard tuning songs found throughout the metal genre. While most examples are from pre-2000 bands, there are still many examples of newer metal bands that utilize standard tuning.
I hope you have enjoyed this list and have fun learning these awesome songs! If you want to hang onto to this list, you can also save the YouTube playlist we put together here. And if you want to continue your journey into standard tuning jams, check out our list of classic Led Zeppelin songs also in standard tuning or check out the classic side of things here.
We’ll share 21 legendary but extremely playable metal songs that are all in standard tuning. From Ozzy and Anthrax to White Zombie and Sylosis it’s all here.
Hi everyone! I have been involved with music most of my life, beginning in grade school with the trumpet. I am a largely self-taught multi-instrumentalist (drums, guitar, bass, and starting the piano and violin). I currently play drums in two rock/folk cover bands and write and produce many genres of music in my home recording studio. I am also an avid guitar and drum collector.