Here are the heaviest songs by 10 of the biggest rock bands of the 1970s!

If there’s one thing rock and metal fans love to discuss, it’s the major and minor differences that separate the two genres. Despite there being clear aspects that pertain to one style but not the other, there can also be a lot of overlap and debate regarding if a song, record, or entire artist fits neatly into one camp or the other.

Such distinctions are especially dicey for 1970s rock acts, as many of them began in the late 1960s and helped pioneer metal. While much of their work is firmly planted on the hospitable [classic] rock side of things, their heaviest material can include startlingly coarse instrumentation, ferocious rhythms, gruff vocals and dark songwriting.

READ MORE: 10 Heaviest Albums of the 1970s (Not Recorded by Black Sabbath)

The 10 tunes on this list (all of which come from the 1970s) are great examples of that!

Some of them represent surprisingly hostile turns for otherwise welcomingly feisty groups, whereas the rest took the group’s trademark aggressiveness to the next level. Either way, these tracks highlighted just how skillfully combative their creators could be.

  • The Heaviest Song by 10 Big '70s Rock Bands

  • Deep Purple, “Fireball”

    Released during Deep Purple’s heyday, 1971’s Fireball is packed with biting gems that demonstrate the intoxicating roughness of Ian Gillan’s singing, Ritchie Blackmore’s six-string domination and the equally husky musicianship of their bandmates. That said, it’s the opening title track that reigns supreme.

    Following drummer Ian Paice’s riotous kickoff, the whole quintet launch into a simultaneous assault of melodic yet radical hooks and jagged textures.

    Even Gillan’s tambourine bangs away continually as he confrontationally reminisces about unrequited romance; meanwhile, Paice’s periodic fills keep the speedy sharpness going as Blackmore and organist Jon Lord pepper the midsection with belligerent flair, cementing “Fireball” as a superb exercise in relentless audacity.

  • Led Zeppelin, “Achilles Last Stand”

    It's not often that an artist saves their second-best (and grittiest) song for the latter part of their career, yet that’s what Led Zeppelin did with “Achilles Last Stand.” Inspired by multiple things, it builds forlorn tension before erupting into a barrage of panicked playing courtesy of drummer John Bonham, guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones.

    As abrasive as those first minutes are, it’s the trio’s subsequent synchronized pounding around Page’s guitarwork that elevates the track by evoking the symphonic fury of Yes, Rush and King Crimson.

    Although his singing is wistful, the desperation within Robert Plant‘s voice and storytelling brings thematic weightiness, enhancing the song’s place as the crushing standout of 1976’s otherwise decent-at-best Presence.

  • Aerosmith, “Nobody’s Fault”

    In a 2010 chat with Music News (via Digital Spy), Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry commented: “People call Aerosmith the American Stones, but we were always the American Zeppelin.” This cut from 1976’s Rocks exemplifies that perfectly. Not only does drummer Joey Kramer nail Bonham’s signature stampeding percussion, but frontman Steve Tyler and guitarist Brad Whitford similarly embody the seductive screeches and repetitiously crunchy chords, respectively, of Plant and Page.

    That’s not to say that they were being too derivative, but rather to compliment how successfully they accomplished their goal of making Rocks as unapologetically harsh and raw as possible. Inclusions such as “Back in the Saddle” and “Get the Lead Out” contributed to that end, yet “Nobody’s Fault” is easily the most forceful of the bunch (with Whitford’s scorching closing guitar solo sealing the deal).

  • King Crimson, “Red”

    True, prog rock godfathers King Crimson had gotten plenty heavy on earlier compositions – just listen to “21st Century Schizoid Man” and “Happy Family” – yet they invented progressive metal with 1974’s Red. So, it’s only natural that their angriest offering comes from that LP. In fact, it’s “Red” itself that takes that cake.

    Why? Well, band leader/guitarist Robert Fripp has never sounded more sinister thanks to both his scratchy main riffs and shrieking lead accompaniments. His parts alone would result in downright hellish dissonance, and luckily, he’s backed by the unrelentingly bleak rhythms of bassist John Wetton and percussionist Bill Bruford.

    The latter’s adventurous syncopation adds to the persistent murkiness, and even though things quiet down halfway in, the foreboding cello sustains the demonic environment until the trio resume their hypnotic rebellion.

  • The Who, “The Real Me”

    The Who were among the noisiest rock bands of the 1960s, and they only got louder as they entered the next decade. In particular, their 1973 masterpiece – Quadrophenia – paired their characteristic wildness with a narrative centered around teenage revolt, angst, disillusionment and identity crisis.

    It’s no shock, then, its introductory declaration of defiance (“The Real Me”) holds nothing back. Supported by a nonstop medley of razor-sharp guitar licks, boisterous horns, manic percussion and busy basslines, Roger Daltrey’s is at his most emotionally rugged from start to finish.

    Throw in the relatability of his outcries (about being misunderstood and dismissed by adults and peers) and it’s clear that “The Real Me” is incredibly intense for multiple reasons.

  • AC/DC, “Rocker”

    Obviously, AC/DC’s whole catalog is rambunctious, with 1970s classics such as “Little Lover,” "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," “Riff Raff” and “T.N.T.” vying for the crown of ultimate combustibility. Even so, we’re going with an early tune – “Rocker” – as the Australian troupe’s superlative slice of hurried hostility.

    Originally released on 1975’s T.N.T., its ceaseless punk/blues/rock ‘n’ roll tempo and attitude are immediately infectious, especially with Angus Young’s rowdy guitar fills augmenting the already hectic foundation.

    Of course, Bon Scott sounds like he’s tearing his throat apart with each and every battle cry, and the lack of any breather during the nearly three-minute runtime allows “Rocker” to symbolize AC/DC at their primal best.

  • The Rolling Stones, “Rip This Joint”

    By 1972’s Exile on Main St., The Rolling Stones had been creating and performing for a full decade, and although they’d had a fair share of disorderly tracks by then, the sheer animalistic aggression of “Rip This Joint” was something else entirely.

    An overt throwback to the sexually-charged energy of the 1950s rockabilly staples that influenced them, “Rip This Joint” is a two-and-a-half-minute celebration of loose inhibitions and unbridled shenanigans.

    Frontman Mick Jagger hollers with the free-spirited passion of a drunken renegade as the rest of the Stones keep pace with measured yet edgy approaches. Once backing vocals, go-getting piano and uproarious saxophone are stacked on top, it’s an all-out party that demands to be blasted from a top-tier stereo.

  • Alice Cooper, “Return of the Spiders”

    Alice Cooper (the band) gradually incorporated several styles and became more sophisticated as time went on.

    Thus, the guttural hyperactivity of “Return of the Spiders” – from 1970’s Easy Action – stands in stark contrast to the multifaceted artsy depths of, say, “Ballad of Dwight Fry” and “Luney Tune.” That’s certainly not a problem, though, as this brash psychedelic rocker makes for a great Side Two starter.

    Cooper himself has rarely, if ever, sung with such antagonistic filthiness; it truly seems like he’s shredding his voice with every menacing remark. All the while, rapid surf music percussion and overlapping guitar wails increase the ostensibly unstable dissonance. Naturally, the rushed breakdown in the middle is like the chaotic cherry on top.

  • KISS, “God of Thunder”

    Most fans agree that KISS’ fourth studio album – 1976’s Destroyer – is among their greatest collections, and no other track from it lives up to the promise of its title like “God of Thunder.” Led by Gene Simmons’ throaty lead vocal (despite Paul Stanley’s desire to sing it himself), it’s an absolutely grimy affair bolstered by simple yet scandalous guitar licks and drumming.

    Interestingly, Simmons’ limited range/barbaric timbre is a major reason why “God of Thunder” feels so steamy and oppressive (so it wouldn’t have the same impact if Stanley got his way).

    Plus, the production around KISS – complete with screaming children, reversed sounds and other ominous textures – means that there’s no escape from their sludgy hellscape.

  • The Allman Brothers Band, “Les Brers In A Minor”

    Had The Allman Brothers Band’s self-titled debut LP not arrived two months before the 1970s began, “Whipping Post” would probably be here instead of this lengthy jam from 1972’s Eat a Peach. Nevertheless, "Les Brers in A Minor" earns its place because of how often it gives into its unruly urges.

    Penned by Dickey Betts, its initial build-up of feedback and discordant instrumentation eventually transforms into cool collage of sleek riffs and rhythms.

    There’s a hefty dose of sudden jolts, too, particularly during Gregg Allman’s Hammond organ solo and the ensuring guitar solo(s). By the end, “Les Brers in A Minor” rattles every inch of your body (just as all great rock songs should).