For a lot of people, the idea of military service is a bad thing. These folks see signing up for the Army or Navy as pledging allegiance to Uncle Sam and announcing your love of war and battle. But the truth is that for plenty of young people, military service is a great way to find a trade, afford college, and get out of bad home situations. That’s the case with plenty of hard rock and heavy metal musicians, who joined the service in an attempt to bring some order to their lives.
In honor of Veterans Day, here are 10 hard rock and metal musicians who’ve served their countries…
Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit)
One might not hear Limp Bizkit’s music and imagine their frontman striding across the deck of a submarine. But Fred Durst served two years in the Navy before leaving at 20 years old to pursue his tattooing career. Forget chocolate starfish — the dude could’ve been Rear Admiral!
David Gregor (Morta Skuld)
Milwaukee’s Morta Skuld make some nasty barbarian death metal, and a lot of their heaviness is due to guitarist and vocalist David Gregor’s delivery. But Gregor isn’t just a brutal metal frontman, he’s also a veteran, having served in the Marines. When we reached out to David, he even sent us his military photo (see below). Proof that dudes who create sonic chaos can have backgrounds in the most regimented and efficient organizations around.
Phil Labonte (All That Remains)
No surprise here — All That Remains frontman Phil Labonte is an adamant supporter of the military and of the Second Amendment, so finding out he joined the Marines in 1993 tracks with him. That said, an ankle injury led to an honorable discharge from the service. Guess healing a serious joint injury is a war you cannot win (please clap).
Matt Widener (Cretin, ex-Exhumed)
As bassist for Cretin, Matt Widener helps make some of the gnarliest metal in the world. But in 1996, Cretin went on hiatus in part because Matt joined the Marines, and according to an interview with Pitchfork was part of an anti-terrorist division stationed in Iceland. He later left upon realizing “what a stupid position I’d put myself in, all in the name of misplaced machismo.” We all gotta grow up somehow.
Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden)
Given how many military-related tracks there are in Iron Maiden‘s catalog, it’s not a huge shock that Bruce Dickinson was in the service. After boarding school, the soaring vocalist joined the Territorial Army, which basically serves as a back-up for the regulars. Despite his parents wanting him to go full-time military, Bruce left the service to pursue music. Thank fuck for that.
Maynard James Keenan (Tool)
It’s widely known that Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan served in the Army. Of course, the reason why is classic: he wanted to go to art school, and figured this was a good way to get that taken care of. Hey, whatever gets you onstage in front of thousands dressed like an electric fetus!
Doug Williams (Eliminate, ex-Origin, ex-Cephalic Carnage)
Bassist Doug Williams has played in some of death metal’s most brutal bands, including Origin, Cephalic Carnage, and a live stint with Polish death metallers Vader. But Doug also served in the 3rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, and reportedly got sniped in the shoulder during the initial post-9/11 invasion. Brutal to say the least.
Ice-T (Body Count)
No one’s surprised Ice-T could kick your ass, though it might surprise some to learn that he learned some of his skills from the state. The Body Count frontman was part of the 25th Infantry Division and was stationed in Hawaii, where, according to his Wikipedia, he learned rapping, DJing…and pimping? Damn, this dude’s life is as dense as a neutron star.
Ian Astbury (The Cult)
In a way, it makes a lot of sense that Ian Astbury, frontman for highway goth rockers The Cult, as in the military. According to Q105.7, Astbury had lived as a homeless nomad for many years, so being in the military might have suited him. That said, if you know the Cult’s music, it’s also unsurprising that Ian only last 29 days in the service. War ain’t cut out for everybody.
For Hendrix, the decision to join the Army was simple — it was that or go to jail. The legendary guitarist didn’t last long, either, getting an honorable discharge one year into his three-year term. Wow, who could’ve possible predicted that Jimi fucking Hendrix wasn’t the most obedient of soldiers?
Words by Chris Krovatin