10 Essential Environmental Songs for the Metalhead in All of Us
by Julian Moss
May 7, 2018
Using music as a catalyst for change is nothing new. Religion has gospel, Republicans have country, and social justice has long been associated with hip-hop. Is heavy metal the new sound of the environmental movement?
Oh, so you think all of us greens listen to Phish nonstop and foam over the Grateful Dead? Well yes, we kind of do. But some of us also love to rock out to uncompromising blast beats and pummeling snares! Just because you can’t understand the lyrics doesn’t mean they do not hold a profound message for change, a critique of the status quo, or a call to action.
The following list is a snapshot into enviro-metal — from the more funk and jazz inspired, to beautifully cacophonous grindcore, you’ll want to add this to your playlist. Or at least share it with the metal head in your life.
10. WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM — The Old Ones Are With Us (2017)
We start off with some black metal as lush as the Pacific Northwest scenery the band hails from. Introspective and dark, this is an ode to the beauty of cyclical nature as mystical as it is poetic.
Standout line: “Winter is dying
The sun is returning
The ice is receding
Rivers are flowing.”
9. FAITH NO MORE — We Care A Lot (1985)
Here’s a hook that’ll get stuck in your head. The oldest entry on the list, San Francisco’s funk-rap-metal-alternative ensemble manages to mesmerize with the first song on their debut album, the eponymous “We Care A Lot”. The band immediately sets the tone and tells us that they are indeed part of the solution!
Standout line: “We care a lot about you people ’cause we’re out to save the world, yeah!”
8. VEKTOR — Dying World (2011)
Shrieking thrash metal has never been so urgent. Arizona’s Vektor will blow your head off while denouncing pollution caused by greedy fossil fuel companies.
Standout line: “Slashing and burning, crushing and drilling, extinction is coming, the oil keeps spilling. Business as usual while toxins are killing. Destroying the land that our waste keeps on filling.”
7. DEVIN TOWNSEND — Canada (2001)
From his earth-themed album, Terria, Devin Townsend delivers a beautiful and “introspective” ode to his homeland with this subdued prog masterpiece.
Standout line: “It’s oil, it’s wheat, it’s soil, it’s meat, it’s beef!”
6. TESTAMENT — Greenhouse Effect (1989)
Released as the second single from their third album, prolific California thrash legends Testament make no qualms in their call to stop the devastation of South America’s rainforests.
Standout line: “And they don’t even care if they…
Seal the planet’s fate
Crimes they perpetrate
Wasting precious land
It’s time to take a stand.”
5. ATHIEST — Mother Man (1991)
A layered and complex jazz-influenced piece that would make Alice and John Coltrane proud, “Mother Man” starts off the sophomore album of Florida’s elusive virtuosos Atheist. If you manage not to let the angular guitars and disproportionate time signature changes overwhelm you, you’ll surely come back for more.
Standout line: “And a bird flies weak
Against polluted skies
Before it dies
And nature becomes illegal
According to rules
Made by fools”
4. NAPALM DEATH — On the brink of Extinction (2009)
We’re getting into really heavy territory now. Birmingham, England’s grindcore veterans Napalm Death renowned history of ecological, progressive, and anti-capitalist views are reinforced on the furious “On the Brink of Extinction”. Released on their thirteenth studio album, the track explores the possibility of an impending sixth mass extinction.
Standout line: “Will we avoid a natural selection?
Do we have the right to survive the failures?
Nature, it’s force – the scales unbalanced
What’s the next step? How do we evolve?”
3. GOJIRA — Toxic Garbage Island (2008)
The epitome of the environmental metal band, France’s Gojira has carved its place among the scene’s elite spokespeople with songs that speak for themselves such as “Global Warming” and “Ocean Planet”. “Toxic Garbage Island” takes the cake thanks to its ever-pressing message of ocean plastic pollution.
Standout line: “Plastic bag in the sea!”
2. CATTLE DECAPITATION — Manufactured Extinction (2015)
San Diego’s premier animal rights vegetarians have been bulldozing their way into our hearts with their frenzied mixture of technical death metal and grindcore since their studio debut “Homovore” in 2000. “Manufactured Extinction” tackles loss of biodiversity, runaway climate change, and even channels Fukuyama’s ideal of the end of human sociopolitical evolution discussed in his influential book “End of History and the Last Man”. The overarching pessimism is delightfully juxtaposed when the chorus reminds the listener that they can be the change they want to see.
Standout line: “The powers that be are you and me.”
1. KRAFTWERK — Radioactivity (1991, re-release)
Not metal you say? The fathers of electronic music may not write rock’n’roll, but I can’t think of a more deserved spot for number one song. Originally released in 1975, the re-release includes in its lyrics more recent disasters that serve as a prime example for an updated call to denuclearization. In some sort of meta sense, this electro-pop song is the most metal thing you’ll ever hear.
Standout line: “Sellafield, Hiroshima, Chernobyl, Harrisburg.”