According to the World Health Organization, “Approximately 280 million people in the world have depression.” Among those affected by this mental illness are some of the rockers that we look up to.
Over the years, and while there’s still much work to be done, we as a society have come a long way when it comes to talking about mental health. Nowadays, it’s more common to hear an artist be open about their mental health, with folks like Corey Taylor and Jonathan Davis having talked about their own respective struggles.
But even before these times of much more relative openness, musicians have been writing about depression and mental illness for years. Through these songs, artists provide deeply emotional narratives that explore the loneliness and heartache that comes with battling depression. And for some folks, the existence of these songs may provide them a sort of hope – a sense of validation that they are not alone in their pain.
With that in mind, here are 10 of the most powerful metal and rock songs about depression. Please note that the following feature comes with a content warning in regard to topics of self-harm and suicide.
“In My Darkest Hour” – Megadeth
The narrative of this moody thrash banger revolves around an individual who finds themselves being submerged in darkness and feeling they’ve been left behind by someone they care about. Among Megadeth’s many songs, “In My Darkest Hour” makes for one of their most emotional cuts to date.
“Through the darkest hour / Your grace did not shine on me / Feels so cold / Very cold, no one cares for me”
“Hurt” – Nine Inch Nails
While Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” gets a lot of love and attention, Trent Reznor‘s original version of the song is equally as emotionally devastating. “Hurt” is about an individual who is experiencing horrific pain and who is struggling to find peace.
“I hurt myself today / To see if I still feel, I / Focus on the pain / The only thing that’s real”
“Black Hole Sun” – Soundgarden
Through Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” the late Chris Cornell and the band exude a profoundly rich and impactful air of melancholy. “Black Hole Sun” captures the side of depression where someone is really striving to be upbeat, but underneath, they are gripped by heartache.
“In my eyes, indisposed / In disguises no one knows / Hides the face, lies the snake / In the sun in my disgrace / Boiling heat, summer stench / ‘Neath the black, the sky looks dead / Call my name through the cream”
“Nothing Left to Love” – Counterparts
The narrative of “Nothing Left to Love” involves someone who is contemplating suicide and struggling with profound agony. The lyrics to this Counterparts track provide a visceral presentation that is drenched in sorrow.
“I long to run hand in hand with angels / To feel the grace of shattered glass against my wrist/ Did the mother of God cry for her son? / Will mine suffer the same before I’m gone? / The last thing I will see is my own face / As I float between two worlds”
“Lonely Day” – System of a Down
Through its instrumentation, lyrics, and Daron Malakian‘s vocal performance, “Lonely Day” provides an atmospheric quality that’s eerily minimal, playing into a sense of loneliness many experience while trying to find solace in life.
“Such a lonely day shouldn’t exist / It’s a day that I’ll never miss / Such a lonely day and it’s mine / The most loneliest day of my life”
“Knife Party” – Deftones
Deftones’ “Knife Party” is another track that exudes a haunting sense of isolation, while also providing an air of desperation to be wanted.
My knife, it’s sharp and chrome / Come see inside my bones / All of the fiends are on the block”
“Crawling” – Linkin Park
Several Linkin Park songs could have made this list, but among some of their tunes that explore the topic of depression, “Crawling” is by far one of their most hard-hitting. Through the late Chester Bennington‘s lyrics, he talks about mental illness as a haunting presence that can make one’s life feel isolating.
“There’s something inside me that pulls beneath the surface / Consuming, confusing / This lack of self-control I fear is never-ending / Controlling, I can’t seem”
“Chemical” – The Devil Wears Prada
Similar to the previous song, The Devil Wears Prada’s “Chemical” lyrically explores someone confronting the consuming impact their mental illness has on them. The individual understands that what they are going through is chemical, and yet, this understanding doesn’t take the pain away.
“Waking up to no meaning, I stare at the ceiling / Count the imperfections that surround my being / Can tell how I’m feeling / And it hurts more when you ask”
“Fade to Black” – Metallica
In the remarkable Metallica ballad “Fade to Black,” frontman James Hetfield speaks of chilling hopelessness and an existential crisis in struggling to find hope. Between the astounding instrumental performance and Hetfield’s lyrics, “Fade to Black” is a tremendous tearjerker.
“Life, it seems, will fade away / Drifting further every day /Getting lost within myself / Nothing matters, no one else”
“Suicide Note Pt. 1” – Pantera
This Pantera song makes for a heartbreaking experience that, lyrically, explores someone in anguish and who is trying “to live through the night.”
“Forever fooling, free and using / Sliding down the slide that breaks a will (Breaks a will) / Mother’s angel, getting smarter / How smart are you to regress unfulfilled? / (How smart are you to regress unfulfilled?) / It’s a damn shame”