People tend not to think of metal as summer music, but that’s probably only because they’re not listening to the right songs. At its most high-energy and hedonistic, metal is not just appropriate listening when the mercury rises, it’s ideal. Of course, this is also highly conditional—listening to the haunted prog-metal of Opeth or the wintry black metal of Agalloch probably isn’t going to cut it. When you’re driving to the beach, throwing a backyard barbecue or just doing nothing in particular when the heat turns up, the right metal song is key.
With the beginning of summer just around the corner, here are 10 guaranteed metal anthems to make your summer metal AF.
Baroness, “March to the Sea” (Yellow & Green, 2012)
Stoner prog-metallers Baroness took a stylistic turn toward more eclectic approaches on their third album Yellow & Green, and this track in particular is a little less metal and more heavy alt-rock. But its bright guitar harmonies and ultra-catchy chorus provide a soaring if somewhat melancholy backdrop for a bittersweet summer evening. After all, it can’t always be a party.
Corrosion of Conformity, “Clean My Wounds” (Deliverance, 1994)
In the course of less than a decade, North Carolina metal icons Corrosion of Conformity evolved from being a punishing hardcore act to employing elements of thrash metal, stoner rock and even some Southern rock boogie. “Clean My Wounds” is the pinnacle of that hybrid, an infectious anthem that became a crossover hit on alternative radio and even landed the band on Beavis and Butthead. Unlikely as a song about sin and salvation (or lack thereof) might be for a summer metal playlist, the riffs are too righteous and the chorus too catchy not to turn it up at the barbeque.
Danzig, “Dirty Black Summer” (Danzig III: How The Gods Kill, 1992)
If you’re gonna make it a goth summer, you couldn’t do much better than “Dirty Black Summer,” Danzig’s particularly horny 1992 anthem. Glenn contends that there’s “nothing like an August night, drenched in your loving,” which is fairly unambiguous as to what this song is really about. As Gene Belcher from Bob’s Burgers might say, it’s not subtle.
Deafheaven, “Sunbather” (Sunbather, 2013)
Black metal typically doesn’t pair well with summer — 66.6 percent of all black metal albums depict snow on the cover — but there are, naturally, exceptions. Deafheaven, for instance, whose sophomore album Sunbather features covert art awash in pink, tend to explore a wider spectrum of palettes and emotions other than the frostbitten. While it doesn’t hurt that the name of the song is actually “Sunbather,” the title track from their second album shimmers gorgeously in all of its melancholy contradictions, an epic black metal song that evokes the hues of a bittersweet sunset.
Deftones, “My Own Summer (Shove It)” (Around the Fur, 1997)
The dense, post-punk and shoegaze-influenced sounds of Deftones’ entire catalog more or less make for perfectly bittersweet summer listening. But early on in their career, the Sacramento band pretty much nailed the perfect metal summer anthem with their mega-hit “My Own Summer (Shove It).” At once hazy and hypercharged, “My Own Summer” is in many ways an anti-summer song, a satisfying cry of rage for those allergic to sunshine. That said, there’s a sweatiness to this track that many metal fans recognize as a necessary part of the year.
Judas Priest, “Living After Midnight” (British Steel, 1980)
In my book, it’s not really summer until I hear some Judas Priest (or spring, or fall, really). No other band encapsulates the debauchery and hedonism of the hottest months of the year as well as the Birmingham heavy metal heroes. And if we’re being honest here, just about any of their anthems will do, but this paean to after-hours awesomeness is a prime soundtrack for getting into trouble on hot summer nights. The song just screams, ‘There’s a bonfire on the beach tonight — you coming?’
Kvelertak, “1985” (Nattesferd, 2016)
In truth, Kvelertak’s “1985” potentially works better without translating the group’s Norwegian lyrics into English, as the themes of longing for a time before dystopia befell the populace seem like sort of a bummer for beach cruising fare. Then again, that’s sort of what summer’s all about, right — nostalgia for the freedom of youth? Depending on the age of the listener, the harmonized leads and major-key freedom-rock riffs in this feelgood (but apparently kinda feel-bad?) anthem might very well mean a nostalgia for a prior generation’s youth; the reference points here go back even farther than 1985. But music with riffs this righteous and hooks this big are timeless.
Motörhead, “Ace of Spades” (Ace of Spades, 1980)
When you clock out of work or finish your last final and get in the car to speed off on a road trip to Who the Hell Cares, what song are you gonna crank up? “Ace of Spades,” that’s what.
Red Fang, “Wires” (Murder the Mountains, 2011)
The fun-loving, beer-crushing hedonism of Red Fang has long set them apart from bands whose aesthetic is more self-seriously grim (watch the video for this song to see their antics in action). Which of course is what makes them a prime candidate for a heavy metal summer. Really any song on Murder the Mountains will do (or any of their other albums for that matter), but “Wires” has such an infectious stoner-rock swing that it practically soundtracks the carefree, school’s-out mischief before it happens.
Torche, “Across the Shields” (Meanderthal, 2008)
No band screams “summer metal” quite like Torche, even if vocalist Steve Brooks doesn’t ever really scream. And that’s part of the appeal — the banshee and goblin shrieks are best left to the winter months, but any metal band that can pull off some sweet vocal harmonies will most certainly help carry you through the hottest months of the year. “Across the Shields” has all the hallmarks of a great summer anthem: soaring melodies, riffs galore, and more than a passing resemblance to Foo Fighters at their heaviest. In the final minute, the band lean into their heaviest riffs, as if to remind us that they’re still a metal band after all, but they can sure pull off a hell of a rock song.
Words by Jeff Terich