Regardless of your political affiliation, I think we can all agree on one thing: our current political atmosphere sucks. Corruption and division are the flavors of the day. But is this new or is it just perception? My love of 80’s heavy metal music provides a possible answer.
The political corruption & division we currently see is nothing new. It’s been this way for at least 50 years.
Politics in 80’s Metal
I used to trust the media
To tell me the truth, tell us the truth
But now I’ve seen the payoffs
Everywhere I look
Who do you trust when everyone’s a crook?
~Queensrÿche – Revolution Calling
While the above lyrics might seem like they were written to describe today’s political power centers, the reality is the song debuted 30 years ago in 1988. And Queensrÿche wasn’t the only heavy metal band writing political lyrics at the time.
The late 80’s had Metallica touring the world in support of it’s newly released …And Justice for All album while burgeoning metal powerhouse, Megadeth, was touring in support of its album, So Far So Good… So What! released the same year.
In fact, if I had to list all of the metal albums and songs 30+ years old with a political message, I simply wouldn’t be able to do it. There are far too many to count.
80’s Heavy Metal Songs about Politics – Why?
In the late 70’s and early 80’s, metal was in its infancy. Albums were recorded on minuscule budgets and the musicians themselves garnered little respect.
As a result, heavy metal artists rarely found themselves limited to the whims of record companies when it came to lyrical content. In a time when top 40 artists had to step carefully around controversial topics, the relatively unknown heavy metal scene embraced them.
Halls of justice painted green
Power wolves beset your door
Hear them stalking
Soon you’ll please their appetite
Hammer of justice crushes you
~Metallica: …And Justice for All (1988)
For a time, the political messages regarding war, the environment, & government corruption were the norm in the heavy metal scene.
Perception & Timing
One of the things I’ve learned through my love of 80’s metal is that things have been bad for a long time. In the 80’s, I was too young to understand how politics worked. As I’ve grown older and more aware, political divides and corruption become more apparent – but that’s not to say they haven’t always been there. It just so happens I’m able to see it now.
Heavy metal can teach us about a political dark light that’s been shining on us since before we were old enough to even perceive it.
I used to think many of these writers were ahead of their time. As it turns out, however, they were right where they needed to be.
Even before metal became a musical style, The Beatles were touting political messages in their songs going back to the 60’s.
Everything is Going to be Ok
Sometimes, the political atmosphere we see on the nightly news can be a drag. But looking back at 80’s heavy metal music can help us understand that much of it is nothing new to the world.
We were born into a world of corruption, it’s the way things are. And we’ve survived to this point.
Some of the marquee rock and roll acts coming out of the 80’s didn’t touch politics at all. Bands like Van Halen wrote songs celebrating partying and having a good time.
So there’s no need to despair, especially if things aren’t going your way politically – everything will be okay. Party. Have a good time. Life goes on.
I do not own the rights to the snippets of song lyrics in this article.
Sharif Jameel is a business owner, IT professional, runner, & musician. His professional certifications include CASP, Sec+, Net+, MCSA, & ITIL and others. He's also the guitar player for the Baltimore-based cover band, Liquifaction.