The 16 Best Metal Bass Songs Ever (With Sound)

metal bass player playing song live on stage

Metal is a genre filled with talented and technically proficient musicians. When it comes to metal bassists, some like to double the rhythm guitar, while others prefer playing melodic and unique basslines.

While the bass can be hard to hear in metal, these bass players cut through the mix and elevate the sound of their bands.

Because these legends often don`t get the credit they deserve, I decided to make this list. We will take a look at the 16 best metal basslines of all time, at least according to my humble opinion.

After playing metal bass for 15 years now, I believe I can showcase what makes these bass tracks great. I`ve also tried to keep the list diverse and showcase the best basslines from various sub-genres.

Thus, I`m not just going to list the 16 most well-known metal basslines or the 16 hardest ones. Rather, they will be everything from complex to beautiful, and from iconic to unique. In no particular order, here they are:

Death – Spirit Crusher

  • Tuning: D Standard
  • Genre: Death Metal
  • Bassist: Scott Clendenin
  • Album: The Sound Of Presserverence (1998)

“Spirit Crusher” has one of the most iconic metal bass intros of all time. It is so creatively accented that it will make you question whether it truly is played in 4/4 (it is).

After the intro, the bassline switches it up between heavy grooves and beautiful melodies throughout the song. The time signature also switches between 11/8, 6/8, 5/4, and 4/4, all while sounding completely cohesive. “Spirit Crusher” is thus a great display of melodic bass playing and how to tie different elements of a song together as a bass player.

Other notable songs: The Flesh And The Power It Holds, Scavenger Of Human Sorrow

Iron Maiden – To Tame A Land

  • Tuning: E Standard
  • Genre: Heavy Metal
  • Bassist: Steve Harris
  • Album: Piece Of Mind (1983)

Honestly, if you choose an Iron Maiden song at random it will in all likelihood have a legendary bass line. By using a P bass to play metal, and turning galloping rhythms into a staple technique, Steve Harris has created a style of playing that is like no other.

While he likes to play both heavy and melodic, “To Tame A Land” is on the more melodic side. The 7 and a half minute song can at times feel like a bass solo that Iron Maiden crafted song around. Still, it sounds completely cohesive and is a great display of Harris` technical skill and songwriting ability.

Other notable songs: Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Genghis Khan

Mudvayne – Dig

  • Tuning: Drop B
  • Genre: Alternative Metal
  • Bassist: Ryan Martine
  • Album: L.D. 50 (2000)

From the iconic intro to the groovy chorus riff to Ryan Martine’s crazy slapping during the verse, “Dig” has a bassline that delivers throughout the whole song.

His technique effortlessly combines slapping and fingerstyle to tie the whole song together. What`s more impressive is that he consistently manages to do this throughout Mudvayne`s entire discography.

Other notable songs: Pulling The String, Death Blooms

Testament – Souls Of Black

  • Tuning: E Standard
  • Genre: Thrash Metal
  • Bassist: Greg Christian
  • Album: Souls Of Black (1990)

Souls Of Black is a great example of how rhythmically complex metal basslines can be.

It starts off with a great triplet-based bass intro before leading into the main riff. This riff incorporates sextuples on top of triplet rhythms while throwing 8th notes into the mix.

The result is a bassline that is both harmonically and rhythmically interesting, all while driving the song forward and sounding heavy.

Other notable songs: Brotherhood Of The Snake, Practice What You Preach

Dream Theater – Panic Attack

  • Tuning: A Standard (6-string)
  • Genre: Progressive Metal
  • Bassist: John Myung
  • Album: Octavarium (2005)

It`s not easy to get a clear tone when finger-picking at 252 BPM. Yet, the intro of Panic Attack is just one of many examples of John Myung doing just this.

What`s more impressive is that he manages to keep it up for the 8-minute duration of this song. Throughout it, he plays variations of the main riff, as well as other fast grooves in various time signatures. The result is a varied and interesting bassline that never stops driving the song forward.

Other notable songs: Surrender To Reason, Take the Time

Racer X – Scarified

  • Tuning: E Standard
  • Genre: Speed Metal
  • Bassist: Juan Alderete
  • Album: Second Heat (1987)

When I first heard the intro riff to “Scarified”, I couldn`t tell what was going on. However, I could tell that I was blown away.

The main riff incorporates triplets into an already fast bass line, creating a sense of speed in a way I have not heard anywhere else. Juan Alderete also mixes in some 8th note bass fills at 274 BPM, where he manages to effortlessly incorporate quintuplets. Yup.

Other notable songs: Street Lethal, Y.R.O.

Megadeth – Peace Sells

  • Tuning: E Standard
  • Genre: Thrash Metal
  • Bassist: David Ellefson
  • Album: Peace Sells…But Who`s Buying? (1986)

Peace Sells has one of the most recognizable bass intros in all of metal.

Despite holding a relatively simple groove through most of the song, the bassline really takes off during the later parts of it. The groove that follows the guitar solo, the iconic intro, and the speed up towards the end of the song easily earns it a spot on this list.

Other notable: Holy Wars… The Punishment Due, Take No Prisoners

Cannibal Corpse – Hammer Smashed Face

  • Tuning: D# Standard
  • Genre: Death Metal
  • Bassist: Alex Webster
  • Album: Tomb Of The Mutilated (1992)

A big reason “Hammer Smashed Face” is one the most popular death metal songs of all time, is Alex Webster’s bassline on it.

From the bass interlude after the intro to the iconic riff at 0:47, the bassline in “Hammer Smashed Face” just keeps on giving. Webster also proves that you don`t have to tune lower than D# to sound heavier than the vast majority of bands out there.

Other notable songs: Strangulation Chair, Frantic Disembowelment

Brocas Helm – Cry Of The Banshee

  • Tuning: E Standard
  • Genre: Power Metal
  • Bassist: Jim Schumacher
  • Album: Defender Of The Crown (2004)

For the intro of “Cry Of The Banshee”, Jim Schumacher casually taps a bassline at 320 BPM. What`s arguably more impressive is how beautiful it sounds, and how well it ties in with the rest of the song. He even ends the song with a slowed-down variation of the intro to tie it all together.

This song is a great demonstration of how a melodic bassline can completely make a song.

The bass riff never feels out of place and Schumacher switches to a deeper groove when needed. It`s also a great example of how to fill the role of a traditional bassist and how to show off your technical skills within the same song.

Other notable songs: Defender Of The Crown, Time Of The Dark

Obscura – The Anticosmic Overload

  • Tuning: A Standard (6-string)
  • Genre: Technical Death Metal
  • Bassist: Jeroen Paul Thesseling 
  • Album: Cosmogenesis (2009)

If you are looking for technically impressive basslines, there is no better genre to look in than tech-death.

An insanely quick bass intro sets the tone for what to expect from “The Anticosmic Overload”. While the sliding chords are a highlight of their own, the bassline also incorporates triplets and 16th notes in odd time signatures at 224 BPM.

Thus, If you are looking for an underrated bassline that makes you ask “How is that even possible?”, listen to this song.

Other notable songs: When it comes to basslines; all of Obscura`s discography

Dark Tranquility – Lethe

  • Tuning: D# Standard
  • Genre: Melodic Death Metal
  • Bassist: Martin Henriksson
  • Album: The Gallery (1995)

If you prefer beautiful over technical, Dark Tranquility`s “Lethe” has one of the most melancholy bass lines I`ve ever heard. The first 1:20 of the song consists of a beautiful and tear-inducing bass solo that sets the tone for the lyrical content of the song.

The bassline doesn`t stop impressing after the intro though. While providing a deep groove where needed, it seamlessly takes on a melodic role without ever clashing with the guitars.

Thus, this song is a great example of how proficient songwriting can allow metal bassists to do a lot more than just hold down a deep groove.

Other notable songs: No One, Blind At Heart

Metallica – (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth

  • Tuning: E Standard
  • Genre: Thrash Metal
  • Bassist: Cliff Burton
  • Album: Kill `Em All (1983)

If you ask who the best metal bassist of all time is, many will answer Cliff Burton. From 1982 till 1986 he revolutionized the metal bass and he was part of writing some of the most iconic metal songs of all time with Metallica.

“(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth” is a bass solo where the drums join in about 60% into the song. The song features beautiful melodies, technical solos, odd time signatures, as well as harmonics, bends, and hard-hitting thrash riffs, all in Cliff’s signature distorted tone.

I highly recommend every aspiring metal bassist to listen to this song. It`s a classic in the truest definition of the word.

Other notable songs: Orion, The Call Of Ktulu

Tool – Schism

  • Tuning: Drop D
  • Genre: Alternative Metal, Progressive Metal
  • Bassist: Justin Chancellor
  • Album: Lateralus (2001)

Tool is a unique band that pushes the envelope on lyrical content, songwriting, and genre labels. The same can be said of Justin Chancellor`s bass lines, as he always manages to write groovy and fitting lines to fit their unique songs.

While their whole catalog is full of great basslines, “Schism” is the song that encapsulates this the best. It sets the tone with a short chord progression before bringing out a riff that manages to be catchy while switching between a 7/8 and 5/8 time signature.

Other notable songs: 46&2, The Pot

Black Sabbath – N.I.B

  • Tuning: E Standard
  • Genre: Heavy Metal, Doom Metal
  • Bassist: Geezer Butler
  • Album: Black Sabbath (1970)

Black Sabbath was formed in 1968 and is one of the most influential metal bands of all time. While Ozzy and Tony Iommi are metal legends in their own right, Geezer Butler is by many considered to be the main driving force behind the band.

“N.I.B” is a great example of why one might feel this way. It starts off with one of the best bass solos of all time which has a jammy, freestyle vibe to it.. In the following chorus and verse, Geezer continues to incorporate melodic elements, while managing to keep things heavy.

Other notable songs: War Pigs, Heaven And Hell

Korn – Got The Life

  • Tuning: A Standard
  • Genre: Alternative Metal
  • Bassist: Fieldy
  • Album: Follow The Leader (1998)

While bassists tend to either love or hate Fieldy`s playstyle, there is no denying that it is both unique and technically proficient.

“Got The Life” is a great demonstration of this. After the intro, he plays a short bass interlude and keeps it up for the verse to create an insane sense of drive and aggression. Not only is the bassline technical, but it also showcases how the bass can play more of a percussive role in a band.

Other notable Korn songs: Dead Bodies Everywhere, B.B.K

Beyond Creation – Omnipresent Perception

  • Tuning: A Standard (6-string)
  • Genre: Technical Death Metal
  • Bassist: Dominic Lapointe
  • Album: The Aura (2011)

I`m still not sure whether I can fully wrap my head around the rhythms on “Omnipresent Perception”.

This is because the bassline is incredibly fast, and yet has small rhythmic changes from 16th notes to triplets to sextuplets in it. These small rhythmic changes require an insane amount of control, and I will never stop being amazed at metal bassists who are able to pull off stuff like this.

Other songs with notable basslines: Earthbound Evolution, Chromatic Horizon

Closing Words

I`ve heard many people claim that metal bassists are limited in what they can do and don`t have a lot of room to be creative. Needless to say, I believe the songs listed above disprove this.

It`s also worth noting that there are many great metal bassists that could have just as well been listed. Lemmy of Motorhead and Peter Steele of Type O Negative are just some of the names that could have equally well been on it. This is just a result of keeping the list diverse, and a matter of personal taste.

If the list inspired you to write some great metal basslines, I have written a guide on how to make your basslines more melodic. Taking a melodic approach is a great way to make your bass playing stand out, and avoid the cliche of always doubling the rhythm guitar.

If you are just getting started as a metal bassist, I recommend learning some easier songs at first. In that case, I`ve written a list of easy metal songs to play on the bass that you can use to get started.

Ian Partanen

BassOx Founder. Passionate bassist for 15+ years across a vast selection of genres, currently into indie-rock and hip-hop. Bachelor's degree in Musicology from the University of Oslo.

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