Ask people their opinion of metal and you are likely to hear from at least one person that it's the preferred music of the angry and emotionally disturbed. Although inaccurate, the stereotype has been increasingly prevalent lately, with metal heads routinely poo-poohed as depressive loners by scaredy-cat journalists and flaccid career academics.
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We suggest treating these voices with skepticism. For decades, there has been a cottage industry of fuck-ups who leech off the music industry by inflaming the paranoia of mothers and guidance counselors. The same yokels who said Marilyn Manson spawned the school shootings of the 1990s have been reborn as the 21st century scolds who want you to know how "problematic" it is that imperfect people enjoy aggressive music.
We doubt that metal causes depression or that an appreciation of it indicates psychiatric illness of any kind. To prove our point, we sought out some examples of uplifting metal that will blast your serotonin levels of out of the basement and into the stars. Here's our list of the 10 Most Inspiring Metal Songs.
10. Suicidal Tendencies, "You Can't Bring Me Down"
The opening guitar solo is a touch glam but once you get past the Winger moment, "You Can't Bring Me Down" is a relentless, no-bullshit example of SoCal metal from the olden days, with vocalist Mike Muir simultaneously trashing his critics and urging fans to shove through indignities large and small.
9. Metallica, "Master of Puppets"
Since the release of Load 20 years ago, goofing on Metallica has become a pastime as All-American as barbecuing on July 4th or shoplifting Sudafed and razors for resale on Ebay. Like these other traditions, bashing Metallica has grown stale and unrewarding, now that even your grandmother is in on the joke. We cannot say what the future holds for the band, but we likewise cannot dismiss the power of their older recordings. "Master of Puppets," almost 30 years after its release, remains a trusted global catalyst for episodes of hair-swinging, beer bonging, and doing 90 in a school zone, speed traps be damned.
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8. Hatebreed, "Proven"
If some slick phony bastards at an advertising agency ever wanted to market a youth product called Defiance, they would find no better encapsulation of the sentiment than "Proven." Thankfully, the guys in Hatebreed are averse to slick phony bastards, so you can enjoy this pulverizing tune and its themes of persistence and courage with little fear of it popping up in an ad for energy drinks.
7. Amon Amarth, "Live Without Regrets"
What are you afraid of? Old age? Disease? Natural disaster? If you believe their lyrics, the modern Vikings of Amon Amarth have overcome all of that and more, and will gladly teach you how to do the same. What's unknown here is whether the lyric "raise your horns" refers to making the devil sign with your fingers or raising a literal pair of mead-filled horns and chugging a victory mouthful. We trust it's the latter.
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6. Machine Head, "Darkness Within"
Just how inspirational is "Darkness Within?" It has its own Wikipedia page. We'd love to be good music students and analyze the mechanics of Robb Flynn and his colleague's song, but we think made a case for its power with this: It has its own Wikipedia page.
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5. Kreator, "Destroy What Destroys You"
These German thrash veterans boned up on Nietzsche and Tony Robbins alike to create this sonic middle finger to self-doubt and confining social expectations. Psychiatrists should consider prescribing "Destroy What Destroys You" along with their usual remedies of Prozac and a vigorous 30 minutes of exercise per day. The song also officially absolves Kreator for their "Hordes of Chaos" video, which features inexcusable lingering shots of a sweaty and shirtless barbarian guy.
4. Slayer, "War Ensemble"
The lyrics allude to Vietnam and the futility of nation building but we detect in this song a call to wage metaphorical napalm raids on all that ails you. We recommend cranking this one before you duke it out with a bully behind the high school or perform a midnight toilet papering of your boss' McMansion. "War Ensemble" is so primal it remains affecting even when performed by 10 year-old girls and dorks with ukuleles.
3. Pelican, "Red Ran Amber"
The Chicago instrumental quartet has been called "hipster metal" and "post rock" by so many boorish critics they now simply call their music "post everything." Pelican may skirt description, but this song is metal, and a standout example of it. The finale of "Red Ran Amber" is so thrilling it can conjure stock imagery of triumph in the blind. We know a long-distance runner who regularly cues this song up for his last few miles, relying on it as much as his energy gels and Gatorade to cross the finish line. Listen to the song now and you can experience the same rush, but without the chapped nipples and damaged knees.
2. Black Sabbath, "The Thrill of it All"
While this overlooked classic from 1975's "Sabotage" features Sabbath's usual catchy riffs and colorful guitar leads, it's the chorus that makes it a surprising motivational tool. Propped up by a spirited synth line, Ozzy's relentless crooning of "Oh Yeah" is as mindlessly fun and addicting as any of his forays into reality television.
1. Danzig, "Left Hand Black"
Depending on how you interpret the lyrics, Glenn Danzig is either offering to instruct you in the ways of the occult and bestow limitless power upon you, or he is promising to drag a nameless god down from the sky and throw it at your feet. Some bands draw on deities for inspiration and others on demons, but Danzig discards the entire concept of supernatural duality here and makes this compact fist-pumper all about you and your potential (and how he will help you violently realize it). Thanks, Glenn Danzig! As for the music, the fine bluesy metal riffs and Glenn's Godzilla roar make "Left Hand Black" the perfect pump-up tune for your next job interview or nervous phone call to a date who left you feeling itchy and jaundiced.