Fleetwood Mac are in no way a metal band, and they’ve only occasionally dabbled in hard rock. Still, they’ve influenced the course of heavy music in their own subtle way.
“I don’t know [Metallica’s] James Hetﬁeld very well but he lives in Maui, and we were in an old antique store, and we got introduced,” drummer Mick Fleetwood told MOJO in 2014. “It was just the two of us, and I said, ‘Great meeting you,’ the usual thing and he said, ‘No, No, you don’t understand …’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And he said […] ‘Fleetwood Mac is like, it.'” Hetfield then imitated the instrumental intro to 1970’s “The Green Manalishi,” a classic from the band’s early era.
That track is a clear pick for our list of heaviest Fleetwood Mac songs, and a few other Peter Green-era classics made the cut. The rest come from throughout the group’s career — even Stevie Nicks could bring the darkness when the time was right.
10. “I’m So Afraid”
It’s miles removed from hard rock or metal, but this simmering soul-bearer, which closes out 1975’s Fleetwood Mac, couldn’t be more emotionally intense. Lindsey Buckingham sounds like he’s spiraled into the bleakest possible night of the soul, quivering: “Days when the rain and the sun are gone / Black as night / Agony’s torn at my heart too long / So afraid / Slip and I fall and I die.” His electric guitars, arranged into psychedelic harmony, cry out with equal anguish.
9. “Sisters of the Moon”
Like with “I’m So Afraid,” so much of the intensity here comes from the restraint, the slow build, the sense that an explosion is lurking around every corner. Stevie Nicks’ mystical Tusk anthem “Sisters of the Moon” is powered by one of the band’s grittiest post-Peter Green riffs: a simple flurry of chords moving from palm-muted verses to crashing choruses. We reach peak heaviness around 3:42, as Buckingham wails gloriously on his guitar: You can always count on him to let the demons loose.
8. “The City”
Bob Welch, singer-guitarist during the underrated post-Green/pre-Buckingham period, was apparently not a fan of New York City. Over a bluesy groove anchored by mutant wah-wah and John Bonham-like drumming, Welch calls the Big Apple “a prison without walls” with “darkness all around” before warning, “I say time is runnin’ out.” Yikes! At least he got a monster riff out of it.
7. “Miles Away”
Like “The City,” another Welch-penned highlight from 1973’s Mystery to Me, “Miles Away” takes a bit of an agitated tone, railing against “Hare Krishnas [who] turned out to be a joke” and musing about an ever-deepening “swamp.” But there’s also joy in his half-spoken cool-guy delivery, his tumbling post-chorus guitar riffs and John McVie‘s punk-like bass guitar. “I’m not gonna miss it too much,” Welch sings, seemingly leaving the entire culture in his rear-view mirror.
6. “One Sunny Day”
Their third LP, 1969’s Then Play On, was Fleetwood Mac’s first masterpiece, building on their beloved blues with edgier guitar tones, expanded arrangements and elements of folk, art-rock and psychedelia. There was plenty of space to get heavy, and a prime example is “One Sunny Day”: Over Fleetwood’s steadily thudding toms, Green and Danny Kirwan intertwine distorted, descending riffs and high, piercing melodies — even, at times, dipping their collective toe into the proto-metal pool.
“Think of me, sweet darling / Every time you don’t come,” Buckingham sings on this sweltering track from 2003’s Say You Will. “Can you feel the fever?” Uh, yeah! For this track, heavy subject matter spawned a heavy arrangement: While the verses are hushed and minimal, with Buckingham’s almost disembodied voice floating around some trademark fingerpicking, the choruses are uncharacteristically rabid and metallic, full of beefy distorted guitars and snare drums that clang like trash can lids.
4. “Fighting for Madge” / “Searching for Madge”
The original U.K. edition of Then Play On features 14 tracks, so the album didn’t need a two-part instrumental approaching a combined 10 minutes. These jams were obviously less of a priority than the conventional songs (“Fighting for Madge” is somewhat randomly credited to Fleetwood, while “Searching for Madge” goes to McVie). The playing is exuberant throughout, however, peaking with some red-hot guitar soloing during the second half.
3. “Oh Well (Part 1)”
Signaling expanding ambitions, Fleetwood Mac split this 1969 single into halves: the first a juiced-up electric blues, and the second a wispy psych-folk instrumental with some classical influence. (That’s Green on the cello.) They saved all the heaviness for the blues — from Green’s tense, climbing riff to the eventual full-band eruption ushered in by Fleetwood’s delightfully random cowbell.
2. “Rattlesnake Shake”
A haggard blues classic about taking matters — er, members — into your own hands, “Rattlesnake Shake” certainly rivals the quality of any rock song inspired by self-pleasure. You can practically see the grin plastered on Green’s face as he belts about a single friend named Mick who spends his evenings “jerk[ing] away the blues.” The guitars are equally raunchy, each deep rumble and bent-note flourish accentuated with appropriate angst.
1. “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)”
If it’s heavy enough for Judas Priest, right? Fittingly, this paranoid proto-metal anthem sprung from a nightmare, with Green trailed by a money-colored hellhound. It’s perfect subject matter for a song this brutally dark, the guitars crashing like thunder and the toms pounding like the footsteps of a stalker. “Now when the day goes to sleep and the full moon looks / The night is so black that the darkness cooks,” Green sings, as if opening the creepiest ghost story imaginable.
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