The Ten Best Heavy Metal Protest Songs Of All Time

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Rock and roll was built on anti-authoritarian ideals. Our music is the sound of rebellion, ever pushing forward for social change and freedom for all.

These are the best metal protest songs

10. Killing Joke – Wardance

No band is more directly responsible for creating intersecting bridges between punk, metal, and electronic music than Killing Joke. Their early singles and self-titled debut LP are extreme music landmarks, and “Wardance” is the paranoid Cold War era anthem for the underground. This is music to march to, indeed.

9. Ministry – N.W.O.

When it came to speaking out about United States foreign policy in the Middle East, Ministry was over a decade ahead of the curve. “N.W.O.,” which stands for “New World Order,” is an explosive condemnation of the first Gulf War. Including samples from then-president George H.W. Bush speeches and Dennis Hopper’s character in Apocalypse Now, this diatribe wound up becoming the biggest song of Ministry’s career.


8. Anthrax – Indians

Although the word “Indian” is thankfully no longer common parlance, Anthrax had their heart in the right place when they wrote this anthem about the plight of indigenous Americans. The second single from their classic Among The Living LP is a catalog of the long-term indignities and injustices faced by Natives at the hands of European colonizers.


7. Napalm Death – You Suffer

The quintessential political band. While their contemporaries were writing songs about satanism and corpse fucking, Napalm Death harnessed the fury of hardcore punk and heavy metal to address institutional abuses of the working class. It is impossible to narrow down a single track as the definitive Napalm Death protest anthem, but “You Suffer” says all that needs saying, and does so in two seconds.


6. System Of A Down – B.Y.O.B.

Even for a group that built their brand on incendiary politics, “B.Y.O.B” (Bring Your Own Bombs) stands as one of the most powerful songs in the anti-war pantheon. System Of a Down is not in the slightest bit afraid to speak truth to power, and this track directly calls out politicians and corporate interests for the nefarious economic reasons behind America’s invasion of Iraq. Although the band is far from alone in their condemnation of US foreign policy in the Middle East, few match the intensity of System Of A Down.

5. Metallica – Disposable Heroes

The horrors of war are a common theme of Metallica’s lyrics, but while songs like “One” speak in abstract terms, the catalog of political nihilism, battlefield atrocities, and existential fear that make up “Disposable Heroes” is all too real. From their critical milestone Master of Puppets, the track drives ever forward with the intensity of a bullet train, while addressing the harrowing reality of battle and the indifferent mindset of those in power who send soldiers off to die. It is a chill-inducing perfect song on a perfect record.

4. Megadeth – Peace Sells

Say what you will about the guy, but Dave Mustaine is a master of lyrical satire and political allegory. Megadeth’s 1986 track “Peace Sells” expertly diffused the popular misconception of the time that headbangers were apathetic slackers and addressed the fact that countercultural scapegoating only served as a fear-mongering tactic for politicians and the media to sell bullshit to the masses. There is a beautiful irony to the fact that the opening bassline was used as the MTV News theme music for many years.


3. Rage Against The Machine – Killing In The Name

A firebrand anthem if there ever was one, Rage Against The Machine’s high-octane denouncement of bigotry and institutional power makes a profound impact from beginning to end. The lyrical content of “Killing In the Name” is centered around three key phrases. The words “Some of those at work forces are the same that burn crosses” and “Those who died are justified, for wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites” make up the verse and chorus, taking direct aim at racism in policing, brought to the forefront of the public consciousness through the acquittal of the four white officers who beat Rodney King within an inch of his life. The buildup and explosion of “fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” is pretty self-explanatory.


2. Sepultura – Refuse/Resist

The Cavalera brothers never forget where they came from. Growing up in a state of economic and political turmoil forever shaped their worldview, the product of which is a catalog that runs deep with protest anthems. Although injustice is a common theme in the music of the Cavaleras, nothing strikes with the same point-blank fury as “Refuse/Resist.” In three minutes of propulsive cacophony, Sepultura set loose demons of social unrest and political violence. It is a song of unbridled vitriol that could only come from those who have intimate experience with the subject at hand.


1. Black Sabbath – War Pigs

One of the first pure heavy metal songs and the ultimate anti-war anthem, Black Sabbath set the bar as high as it could go when they opened their Paranoid album with the harrowing 8-minute screed, “War Pigs.” The song is a master class in tension and release, expertly utilizing blank space to build pressure until the point of a cataclysmic explosion. Released towards the tail end of the Vietnam War, Geezer Butler draws lyrical analogs between Satan and warmongers and leaves no ambiguity about his feelings toward Western involvement in the conflict.

Geezer Butler Shouts Out T-Pain For His Cover of Black Sabath's 'War Pigs'