Tremble, You Weaklings, Cower in Fear: The Ten Best 80’s Thrash Metal Songs About Nuclear War

While the threat of nuclear war is still a very real thing today, it doesn’t weigh on my mind the way it did when I was just a li’l guy back in the 80’s. The nightly news talked about it a lot, and it used to terrify me, and then Nancy Reagan’s grandpa made Old Man Gorbachev tear down a wall, and it kind of faded out of the public eye, and life was fucking peaches and cream all the time, and no one wanted to hurt us, until Saddam Hussein threatened our freedom, or whatever. These days, not much airtime is given to the topic, save for an occasional report about Iran or North Korea and their uranium enrichment attempts, because terrorism is the new nuclear war. I don’t really know where I’m going with all this, except to remind you that the media should not be trusted, because they only tell you what they want you to know.

Anyway, I’ve been kicking around the idea of a mixtape about nuclear war for a while now, but to be perfectly honest, the topic can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many metal songs about nuclear war and its aftereffects that I just didn’t know where to begin, so I never bothered. Then one day last week, my buddy Sean suggested I put together a mixtape about nuclear war, and I decided to give it some more serious thought. To make it easier on myself, I settled on the requirement that the songs be of the thrash metal variety. What follows is the result, and if you’re a regular reader of this blog, there are likely to be no surprises. Thrash metal is my lifeblood, and I make no apologies about it. Maybe I’ll make another nuke-themed mixtape some other day where being a thrash metal band isn’t a requirement for the list…maybe not.

As with my previous entry about thrash metal ballads, I don’t necessarily believe these are the the ten very best nuclear war-themed thrash metal songs. Rather, they are ten nuclear war-themed thrash metal songs that I love dearly; I just gave it the title and numbered it from 10 to 1 to see how many people read the intro. It is, in fact, chronological.

Onward to mayhem!

10. Voivod – “Nuclear War” (from War and Pain – 1984)

“Storm, the only weather
Start the directives assassins
Warm inside the under shelter
Wait and fell your broiling skin…”

I’ve written about Voivod extensively, and there’s still more to come, eventually. I love them so hard. This is the last song on their debut album, and while it’s technically a part of the Voivod saga, it also perfectly reflects the air of paranoia and unease that permeated everything in the mid 1980’s. The broken English and the plodding, marching feel of the first almost-five minutes of the song work together to add an extra layer of complexity and fear.

9. Exodus – “And Then There Were None” (from Bonded By Blood – 1985)

“Wars coming, start running, eyes blinded by the nuclear blast
Hearts beating, retreating, all around are bodies burned to ash
Children crying and people dying, no salvation from this holocaust
Bodies burning and now they’re learning, in war painful death’s the bloody cost…”

This is one of my favorite Exodus songs. That main riff is the shit. So, full disclosure: I woke up at like 2:30 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got out of bed and started putting this together around 3:30 AM. I wrote the intro, then started filling in track info at the end and worked my way toward the top. It is now almost 7:00 AM. I’ve grown very sleepy.

8. Anthrax – “Aftershock” (from Spreading the Disease – 1985)

“Blinding our eyes as the sun turns to black
A world full of hatred and fear
All are committed, there’s no going back
There’ll be no one left to hear…”

I still have lots of Anthrax-related things to write about. I’ll get around to it some day. I love this song, and this album. Also recommended, “One World”, from 1987’s Among the Living.

7. Dark Angel – “Falling From the Sky” (from We Have Arrived – 1985)

“Watch the sky
Death is near
You are falling
The final day is near…”

The first Dark Angel album is a glorious, cacophonous, thrashy mess, and “Falling From the Sky” is a perfect example of what the rest of the album sounds like. Not recommended for the faint of heart, or the delicate of ears.

6. Nuclear Assault – “Nuclear War” (from Game Over – 1986)

“No one wins
In this game
Both sides have lost
Who has won
When all are dead
Except for the machines…”

If I didn’t already know, I would be willing to bet that Nuclear Assault were born in the long shadow of the Reagan years. Everything about this band is steeped in nuclear paranoia, government corruption, and environmental destruction. Also, it goes without saying, but Dan Lilker fucking rules.

5. D.R.I. – “Oblivion” (from Crossover – 1987)

“The day has come, the time is near
For all to end. It’s true, it’s here
It’s all over now, no way to stop
The button’s been pushed, the bomb’s been dropped
The city is melting, the sky burns red
The ocean is boiling, we’ll soon be dead…”

I never got around to writing a review of the D.R.I. show at the 5th Quarter Lounge in Indianapolis back in September, but it was fucking awesome, and so is this song.

4. Sodom – “Nuclear Winter” (from Persecution Mania – 1987)

“Slow death is what we can expect
Strike will have just this one effect
Condemned to capital punishment
By the nuclear sword of Damocles…”

The opening track from the Tuetonic thrash titans’ second full length album is a master course in Thrash Metal Riffery, and like the Voivod song above, Tom Angelripper’s slightly broken English makes the lyrics even more unsettling. Side note: I found this album on cassette in a pawn shop in Bedford, Indiana circa 1989. I bought it, along with Jimmy Page’s Outrider. I didn’t really appreciate either album at the time, but one of them made a notable impact on my impressionable brain – an impact that would manifest itself in a super hardcore fashion 4 or 5 years later. The other one was Jimmy Page’s Outrider.

3. Death Angel – “Final Death” (from The Ultra-Violence – 1987)

“Dogs of war, for your blood they lust
Radiation turns your body to dust
Watching fallout as it fills the sky
Now it’s time for this planet to die.”

From all the way back when some of the members Death Angel were still growing pubes, “Final Death” is a lean, mean bastard. It’s not the best song on the album, but it’s still better than most other songs in existence, and Mark Osegueda’s blood-curdling air raid siren wail at around the 2:35 mark sums up the fear in the lyrics perfectly.

2. Metallica – “Blackened” (from …And Justice for All – 1988)

“Fire
To begin whipping dance of the dead
Blackened is the end
To begin whipping dance of the dead
Color our world blackened…”

I hate …And Justice for All because of the way it sounds – Newsted’s nonexistent bass guitar, Lars’ steel trashcan drums, generally non-good sound quality – but I goddamn love …And Justice for All because of the songs, and because of the place it occupies in my nostalgic heart. Metallica is dead; long live Metallica.

  1. Megadeth – “Rust in Peace…Polaris” (from Rust in Peace – 1990)

“I spread disease like a dog
Discharge my payload a mile high
Rotten egg air of death wrestles your nostrils…”

That chorus hasn’t left my head since the first time I heard it. The final track on what is arguably Megedeth’s finest hour is a masterpiece of nuclear paranoia and terror. Mustaine’s vocals are perfect, and in a fresh twist, the lyrics are from the point of view of the Bomb itself. Rust in Peace is Dave Mustaine’s dragon, and he will probably chase that beautiful motherfucker until his final breath. Megadeth is dead; long live Megadeth.

That’s all I got for now, heavy people. Do you have any favorite nuclear war-themed songs? Let’s discuss it, why not? And don’t forget to stay heavy!

 

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A Few Loose Ends

Clearing my brain a little.  It’s been too full lately.

Decibel magazine, which I (mostly) love, recently put out their annual year-end issue, with top albums and live shows, and what-have-you, and I just cannot understand how Exodus, Coffinworm, Overkill,  Today is the Day, and Rigor Mortis could all be absent from not only their Top 40 Extreme Albums of 2014, but from the “Top 5 Records That Tied For #41” sidebar as well.  And then to add insult to injury, those clowns in Mastodon are on the goddamn cover for the 293rd goddamn time.  Add to this the fact that the final edition of “Grinding it Out”, the monthly column by Kevin Sharp (Brutal Truth (RIP)/Venemous Concept/Primate/etc.) appeared within, and you’ve got the makings of a bummer of an issue.

So. Motherfucking. Good.

Despite all this, I wholeheartedly support Decibel, especially when the only real competition it has here in the colonies is Revovler, which I wouldn’t give Rush Limbaugh to wipe his fat, sweaty butt-crack.

This is what you get when you perform a Google Image search for the words "rush limbaugh butt crack".  I go the extra mile to bring the truth to you.  Source: http://www.iudexonline.com/rush-limbaugh-cartoon.html

This is what you get when you perform a Google Image search for the words “rush limbaugh butt crack”. Now you don’t have to Google it yourself. Source: http://www.iudexonline.com/rush-limbaugh-cartoon.html

I’m in the process of losing weight and getting in better shape, because I want to be able to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded, and I’d like to live a while longer, thanks.  I still don’t know what to make of how dedicated I am to it.  I definitely need to get a better handle on my diet, but the exercise is usually enjoyable, and I’ve lost 15 pounds since I started going to Planet Fitness in mid-October.  The place gets some flack on the internet from people who are offended that they don’t allow you to work out there if you’re the kind of person who screams in the mirror and fantasizes about fucking yourself while you stare at your own muscles, but that’s one of the things I like about it.

brock-lesnar-scream-o

There are some real chowderheads there, for sure, but I’m way more comfortable there than I would be at, like, Cardinal Fitness or whatever.  I’m working with a trainer (free to all members of PF) and doing all my exercises in accord with her plan, and I feel better, both mentally and physically, than I have in a long while.  I never used to understand people who enjoyed exercising, but I get it now.

“Joel, what the fuck has this got to do with heavy?”

Sorry, I was just getting to it.  Owning an old iPod (thanks to the incomparable Amy Miller) has made my time at PF tolerable as far as the music is concerned; when I go after work, the music they play is absurdly dumb.  Taylor Swift is the best it gets between the hours of noon-ish and sometime after 4:30, and that just will not do.  I’ve been earlier in the day a couple of times, and it’s mostly good (“Pump it Up” by Elvis Costello & the Attractions, “Right Here, Right Now” by Jesus Jones, heard a Pixies song once, though I forget which one), but I’d still rather listen to something of my own choosing.  I have intentions of putting together a workout playlist at some point, because lists get more views on this blog than anything else, and because I like making lists, but for now I’ll just mention that Agnostic Front’s legendary 1984 hardcore debut, Victim in Pain, followed by Agnostic Front’s oft-maligned crossover classic Liberty and Justice For…(1987) makes a pretty great stationary bike soundtrack, and Rollins Band’s Weight (1994) is a fine background for weight machines (see endnote *).

The lyrics are pretty damned inspirational.

Been listening to some stuff I still intend to write about eventually, not least of which is Gama Bomb’s Tales From the Grave in Space (2009), which I enjoy more than I’ve enjoyed any other release that I’ve heard from any other band from the New Wave of Thrash Metal, though I have admittedly heard very little of the stuff.  I like Municipal Waste well enough, but they invariably make me wanna listen to Nuclear Assault instead, and Toxic Holocaust does the same with Sodom.  Gama Bomb sounds different, and, for lack of a better word, “fresher”, and it doesn’t make me feel like reaching for another, more classic band.  Tales From the Grave in Space is the band’s third album, and is available for free download at earache.com/misc/downloads/gamabomb/.

It’s pretty tight.

Oh, and because I just happened upon them a little while ago, here are some pictures of the super-badass Exodus t-shirt I scored earlier this year:

This was somehow the least blasphemous t-shirt available at the Exodus merch booth that day.

This was somehow the least blasphemous t-shirt available at the Exodus merch booth that day.

That’s all for now, I think.  I’m gonna watch a movie.  You stay heavy, internet.

endnote *: I don’t get nearly so excited about Henry Rollins these days, but the man and his work still exist as in important layer in the foundation of the house of Joel, and I still think WeightCome in and Burn (1997), and The End of Silence (1992) are great (I don’t enjoy the stuff before and after as much, with a few exceptions).  Some other time, I’ll tell you about the two different times I met Henry Rollins.  The first time was very awkward, which is my way, and is much funnier in retrospect than the second time, which while it was happening seemed much less awkward than the first time, but is in fact much more awkward in retrospect .