Those first thirty-seconds-to-a-minute of a song can be vitally important, particularly if it’s the first thing I’ve heard of an artist. If they don’t grab me, it might be that is the last time I bother with an artist.
So let’s celebrate the visceral hit you can get from some songs, with ten great intros, and the usual playlists to go with them.
The Razor’s Edge
If this is a slightly metal-tastic list this week, that’s probably no accident. After all, metal music allows for a rather more dramatic intro, usually, although I don’t think we could call this all that dramatic. It is one of the greatest intro guitar riffs ever, however. Marvellously simple, in theory – just Angus Young’s endlessly repeated riff, Chris Slade’s hi-hat rhythm, and the chant of “thunder”, it builds and builds and eventually explodes into one of the band’s greatest songs post-Back In Black.
Angel of Death
Reign In Blood
I said there was more metal: and here’s the greatest calling card in all of metal. There is nothing wrong with the opening to this – not a note wasted, it grips by the throat from the off, and Tom Araya’s scream as things really get going I’ve heard endlessly copied, usually very badly. We just don’t have the throat, clearly. And, also, this album, in fact, has a pretty good claim to having two brilliant intros that could have made it into this list – Raining Blood‘s ominous thunderstorm is nearly as good.
God Save Us
I never said that the whole song had to be brilliant, but the first minute (exactly, actually) of this is utterly fucking ace. The ominous, rumbling build, the searing, rolling riff and roared vocals. It’s just a shame that when the chorus eventually arrives, it limps in in comparison. Still, that intro still rules, and remains the only good thing the band did, as I recall.
A rather better “latin” metal band, and to open their astonishing breakthrough album, they opened it with Max Cavalera’s at-the-time-unborn son’s heartbeat. And tribal drumming, a storming riff, and Max Cavalera’s bellow. The rest of the song that followed wasn’t bad, either. But let’s go back to that tribal drum fill: so good it closes the song too.
Actually, another song all about the intro. The rest of the song is kinda forgettable, and for all the agreement that many metalheads will happily leap onto the dancefloor and get ready for the moshpit as soon as they hear Dez Fafara’s whispered intro, most will give up again by the first chorus, as it kinda runs out of steam. But oh, that first minute still has an awesome power.
Metal isn’t getting all the entries this week, though. Dance music usually seems to prefer the slow build to the immediate intro, but somehow Pendulum managed both on this staggering early single. However I must be clear here – it’s the 12″ single version (and various live versions) I’m talking about, not the butchered version on the re-release of Hold Your Colour that for reasons that have never been explained, lost the vocal intro that is all-important to the track. Anyway, this intro is all speech, a dramatic synth flourish, heavy heavy bass, cheesy keyboards, and “the sonic recreation of the end of the world”. Sounds like fun to me (and is a surefire dancefloor winner everywhere, too). Oh, and doesn’t this look like the best new years party ever?
Hey Boy Hey Girl
One dance act who long since realised that a big intro goes a long way, many of the biggest Chems tracks rip through the speakers and grab you early. And here’s one that does so in style – the repeated vocal refrain, the gently building rhythm, then after teasing for long enough, it bursts into life and usually takes entire dancefloors with it. Losing yourself in the music never seemed so fun.
Welcome To Earth
By a long way the most immediate intro here, it’s the five pounding beats that are the first two seconds of this track that do an awesome job of grabbing the attention, before the rest of the intro spends thirty seconds building to catch up and flower into one of my favourite electro-industrial dancefloor anthems.
The opening track to one of the most anticipated albums of the late 90s, it could never have possibly lived up to the expectation, but this track gave hope that it might just manage it for four minutes. An impressive exercise in adding layer after layer – I counted eleven seperate additions into the sound in the first minute, and there are more after that – it’s so perfectly paced and constructed that it’s such a shame that the rest of the album never came close to the brilliance of this.
Visual Audio Sensory Theatre
Barely audible for the first twenty seconds, as the string sample fades in it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t your average alternative rock band. And this was the case the first time you heard this – seeing as most people aware of VAST came to the band through this extraordinary track. It’s lengthy intro – the string sample is all the track is for the first minute – is vital to the feel of the album, and as the rest of the song crashes in, it’s a hell of a way to introduce yourself. I’ve stuck with Jon Crosby’s band ever since, too.