You really gotta give it up for cocaine.
Truly the fuel of many great songs and careers throughout heavy metal’s history. Be it bands flying high and writing some of the best material of their career, or choosing coke to be a muse.
Of course, we’re not that dense and would never condone cocaine usage. There are just as many songs about the horrors and drawbacks of addictions, specifically how cocaine has ruined numerous lives in irreparable ways.
Still, it’s remained a constant for music, and probably will until this planet blows up. With that in mind, here are the ten greatest heavy metal and hard rock songs about, well, rock, in all of its white glory.
Pat Travers – “Snortin Whiskey”
Hard rock guitarist and singer Pat Travers doesn’t get his flowers for being one of the gnarliest guitarists in his class of the 70s. “Snortin Whiskey” is a testament to just how much he rocks, writing an instantly-iconic riff that could crush anything Ted Nugent was putting out at the same time. There’s no sign of any regret or giving a damn on Travers’ side here, proclaiming “I got so much cocaine ain’t never comin down.”
Black Sabbath – “Snowblind”
It’s no secret that Black Sabbath was partying hard in the 70s. A testament to all the substances they were ingesting, Vol. 4 is a record born from being totally zonked and allowing all of your faculties to just follow the music. So of course, when you’re getting literal speaker boxes delivered to the studio filled with cocaine, you’re probably going to write a song or two about the stuff. “Snowblind” wound up being one of the band’s standouts on the album, with Ozzy Osbourne singing out the very pained lyrics “feeling happy in my pain, icicles within my brain (cocaine).” It’s the mix of metaphor and reality that made so many fall for Black Sabbath’s work, and its beauty born from actual pain.
Death – “Living Monstrosity”
Few musicians could point out everyday horror in reality quite like Death‘s Chuck Schuldiner could. In “Living Monstrosity,” he sets his sights squarely on the horrors of addiction, and how cocaine use will fuck up any future children had by parents that were using. The band’s heavy assault underlines this feeling quite well, as Chuck delivers some of his hardest and strangest soloing throughout the song.
System of a Down – “Sugar”
System of a Down have written a couple of songs in reference to coke, including the two-minute jolt “This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I’m On This Song.” One of our favorites of theirs on this subject matter though is “Sugar.” At least, that’s what we assume the song is about due to its frankly pretty loose and interpretive song matter. Vibe wise though, it definitely hits the mark of being out of your mind, not totally in control of your faculties. A feeling many SOAD tracks illicit.
Dopethrone – “Snort Dagger”
Trading in green for white, Dopethrone go for the ultra-heavy on “Snort Dagger.” The song’s video goes for a pretty on-the-nose (or in) video metaphor where the camera is panning across a snow-covered landscape. Dopethrone really slows down the tempo of the song, allowing for the riffs to take center stage and the lyrics to take the backseat. “Fish scales, white flakes, that diesel taste” gets to the point enough.
Motörhead – “White Line Fever”
Few partied quite like Lemmy did in his prime. “White Line Fever” is classic Motorhead through and through, delivering a simply massive riff for the gang to cruise through as Lemmy sings “White line fever made me a believer now.” It’s the first song Lemmy ever wrote for Motorhead, telling Rolling Stone magazine “It’s not about cocaine specifically; it’s about boy-girl relationships: a boy jumps in the shit. It’s about being wrecked, trashed, fucked up. I’ve never written music any other way.”
Still, it set a hell of a tone for the band’s future tunes, and that exact feeling of being wrecked, trashed and fucked up.