Riffing for a Cause: The Heaviest Odes to Mother Nature
Environmental activism is no stranger to popular music. From the unforgettable vocal hook underpinning the paving of paradise to parking lots on Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”, to the sparse, haunting strains of pipe organs carrying the message of Mother Earth being on the run on Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush”, music has always had a place for socio-political commentary on environmental concerns.
However, the body of work created by hard rock and metal has just as much power in terms of lyrical content, and more so the immediacy of the message. For instance, the acoustic balladry of Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Sea” descends into a crescendo of doom-laden exclamations by the late Ronnie James Dio paired with the by the ominous tones emanating from Tony Iommi. Metallica’s “Blackened” highlighted the fear of nuclear holocaust during the Cold War signaling the death of the earth as mother to all humanity set to the frantic, complex structures of progressive rock blending with the band’s signature thrash.
It’s about to get heavier with three of the heaviest environmentally-conscious songs in hard rock and metal.
So get ready to turn up those speakers to 11, whether you have a classic hi-fi such as the NAD 3020 running PSB Alpha B speakers, or a Bluetooth-enabled hi-fi such as the Naim Mu-So, or still looking for the best reviews on loudspeakers and amplifiers, here we go.
Iron Butterfly, “Slower than Guns”
“Miles and miles of gasoline fumes
In the air like transparent tombs
Feel secure there all around you
DDT making bugs relax
There in your food like poison tacks
How about that
Eat well, they’re all within you”
Arguably the first heavy metal band, Iron Butterfly released this gem in 1970 on their Metamorphosis LP. The band warns of all the pollution that has and is still going on; the scariest part of it is that even if its music sounds very dated, the message of the song endures. To this day, large-scale environmental degradation, deforestation, and radiation continues, and the warnings of the song made 46 years ago seeing the doom it foresaw come to pass – a death slower than guns.
Megadeth, “Countdown to Extinction”
“Endangered species, caged in fright
Shot in cold blood, no chance to fight
The stage in set, now pay the price
An ego boost don’t think twice
Technology, the battle’s unfair
You pull the hammer without a care
Squeeze the trigger that makes you Man
Pseudo-start, the hunt is canned …
The hunt is canned”
The eponymous song from Megadeth’s 1992 album is an indictment to the superiority complex of hunters who kill rare or otherwise endangered animals who are defenseless without no regard as to the consequences of their possible extinction. Frontman Dave Mustaine can be talking about South Africa’s controversial trophy hunting lodges, where inexperienced hunters can have a safer experience of hunting with odds overwhelmingly in their favor.
Pearl Jam, “Do the Evolution”
“I’m at piece, I’m the man
Buying stocks on the day of the crash
On the loose, I’m a truck
All the rolling hills, I’ll flatten ’em out, yeah
It’s herd behavior, uh huh
It’s evolution, baby
Admire me, admire my home
Admire my son, he’s my clone
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
This land is mine, this land is free
I’ll do what I want but irresponsibly
It’s evolution, baby”
Pearl Jam is no stranger to activism; frontman Eddie Vedder is known for his statements on environmental and socio-political causes. This song, off their 1998 album Yield, is a pointed, sneering critique of how man has continued his supposed rise towards human advancement, bathed in superiority complex…straight towards environmental destruction, and towards total annihilation of the human species, despite its being “a rational creature”.
There will always be voices that will sing about the apocalyptic descent of the environment to destruction and human society in general for as long as music remains a medium of expression, genre notwithstanding; they should give us an opportunity to sober up for just a bit and think of the planet we will be leaving to our children.