It might be the shortest month on the calendar and for many its one of the coldest times of the year, but that don’t matter ’cause we’re keeping warm all month long thanks to the molten riffs and fiery antics of heavy f***ing metal music. Yep, in honor of the impending season 14 return of That Metal Show, the only show on television on all things hard rock and heavy metal, and the premiere of Rock Icons on VH1 Classic on Saturday, February 21st, we’re going hard and heavy with our coverage of the loudest music genre in the known universe. Hell, we’ve even got some surprises planned that are going to blow your mind. And just to show you we’re serious, we’re counting down the 28 greatest album openers in the history of hard rock and heavy metal. Get it, 28? Like, one for each day of the month. Pretty clever, huh? Check back all month long to see what else we’ve got coming your way because it’s Metal F***ing February and it’s gonna rock!
Black Sabbath “Black Sabbath” (Black Sabbath, 1970)
Birmingham’s finest started a movement with one of the heaviest riffs known to man, which opened their self-titled debut. The world would never be the same.
Led Zeppelin “Immigrant Song” (Led Zeppelin III, 1970)
Though somehow always grander than merely being cast as a metal or hard rock band, Jimmy Page and crew could deliver the goods when they had to. Valhalla, I am coming indeed.
Deep Purple “Highway Star” (Machine Head, 1972)
The band who brought velocity to the hard rock game, Purple burned bright and fast on songs such as this quintessential proto-metal slab.
Budgie “Breadfan” (Never Turn Your Back on a Friend, 1973)
Inspired by Zeppelin’s innovations, these Welsh rockers were as hard as it got in the early ‘70s, especially on this song, which was memorably covered by Metallica.
Ted Nugent “Stranglehold” (Ted Nugent, 1975)
Love him or hate him, you can’t deny the greatness of the Motor City Madman’s solo debut, which kicked off with one of his signature tunes.
Rainbow “Man on the Silver Mountain” (Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, 1975)
The song that introduced the great Ronnie James Dio to the world led off the first album by Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s influential second band.
Thin Lizzy “Jailbreak” (Jailbreak, 1976)
Though they had been kicking around since the late ‘60s, these Irish rockers reinvented themselves with their mid-‘70s two guitar lineup, best heard on their landmark Jailbreak album and its title track.
Kiss “Detroit Rock City” (Destroyer, 1976)
Capitalizing on the success of their Alive! album, Kiss started this legendary hard rock album with a tribute to the Mid-Western industrial hub that first embraced the band.
Aerosmith “Back In The Saddle” (Rocks, 1976)
This song, which kicks off arguably the band’s finest album, features guitarist Joe Perry on 6-string bass and has been cited by Slash and Metallica’s James Hetfield as one of their favorite songs.
Judas Priest “Victim Of Changes” (Sad Wings of Destiny, 1976)
One of the first band’s to self-identify as “heavy metal,” Priest tore into their sophomore effort with this almost 8 minute epic, featuring the paint peeling vocals of lead singer Rob Halford.
Van Halen “Runnin’ with the Devil” (Van Halen, 1978)
The L.A. metal scene can effectively trace its roots back to VH’s debut, which starts with this song and its famous intro, which was a slowed down recording of the band members car-horns.
Motörhead “Overkill” (Overkill, 1979)
The title track from the band’s second album had the fury of punk and the power of metal and hinted at the trash to come with its double speed double kick drum beat.
AC/DC “Highway To Hell” (Highway To Hell, 1979)
One of the greatest songs in the hard rock pantheon from the last AC/DC album to feature original vocalist Bob Scott, who would die 7 months after its release.
Iron Maiden “Prowler” (Iron Maiden, 1980)
The New Wave of British Heavy Metal went into full swing following the release of the self-titled debut album of this legendary heavy metal band.
Ozzy Osbourne “I Don’t Know” (Blizzard of Ozz, 1980)
The Prince of F***ing Darkness started the greatest second act in heavy metal history with the kick-off song to his solo debut, which featured the guitar pyrotechnics of the late Randy Rhoads.
Riot “Swords and Tequila” (Fire Down Under, 1981)
Caught between the hard rock and thrash metal eras, these hard charging New Yorkers used one of metal’s most copied riffs to open their awesome 1981 full length.
Mötley Crüe “Live Wire” (Too Fast For Love, 1981)
Before the sex tapes and rehab, these L.A. sleazebags delivered metal riffage with the best of them, as heard on the album opener from their independently-released debut record.
Venom “Black Metal” (Black Metal, 1982)
These Newcastle dirtbags gave name to an entire genre with the awesome title track to their second album, which implored fans to “Lay down your soul to the gods rock n’ roll.” Whatever you say there Cronos.
Accept “Fast as a Shark” (Restless and Wild, 1982)
One of the fastest heavy metal songs up to that point in time, and memorably starting with a phonograph needle being scratched across a German children’s song.
Metallica “Fight Fire with Fire” (Ride The Lightning, 1984)
Though their debut album set fire to the thrash metal inferno, the sound of the genre truly codified on its follow-up, especially this unbelievably-fast lead off track.
Slayer “Angel Of Death” (Reign In Blood, 1986)
This 1986 album by one of music’s most evil bands is thrash metal’s artistic high water mark and their tome to Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele was the perfect, if somewhat distasteful, album opener. Solo Hanneman. Solo King.
Guns N’ Roses “Welcome To The Jungle” (Appetite For Destruction, 1987)
In many ways, the band that truly killed glam, the Gunners began one of rock’s greatest albums with one of their most enduring songs.
Danzig “Twist Of Cain” (Danzig, 1988)
The former Misfit got a hard rock makeover courtesy of producer Rick Rubin on his 1988 debut record, which showed the merging of punk and metal styles that the grunge bands would continue to explore.
Megadeth “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” (Rust In Peace, 1990)
Possibly the last great thrash metal album began with this technical tour de force by Dave Mustaine and crew.
Soundgarden “Rusty Cage” (Batmotorfinger, 1991)
Drawing on classic hard rock and punk influences, and creating what was labelled “grunge” in the process, this Seattle 4-piece seldom got heavier than they did on their 1991’s Batmotorfinger, which starts with this rager and was also covered by country great Johnny Cash.
Pantera “Mouth For War” (Vulgar Display of Power, 1992)
The band that kept metal alive into the ‘90s upped the heaviness factor on their record Vulgar Display of Power, especially on this furious album opener.
Alice In Chains “Them Bones” (Dirt, 1992)
Reversing grunge’s metal to punk ratio, AIC created some of the era’s most haunting hard rock, including this chugging leadoff track from their second album.
Lamb of God “Laid to Rest” (Ashes of the Wake, 2004)
One of the leaders of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal kicked off their major label debut with this memorable narrative of a murder victim haunting his victim from beyond the grave.