I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
It looks like COVID-19 aka the Coronavirus has officially hit the fan, folks. Your humble New Jersey-based narrator has been following a "work from home" protocol for almost a full week, and after today, my kids' schools will be closed until (shudder) the end of the month, at least. Sporting events and concerts are being cancelled, people are getting into fistfights over toilet paper and hand sanitizer in supermarket aisles, and if you cough or sneeze when you're out in public, you're likely to cause an instant panic, or catch a beat down.
So what's an aging headbanger to do when he's trapped in his house with nothing but his CD collection and a rapidly dwindling beer supply? Compose a playlist of hard rock and metal songs about disease and viruses, of course, because that's the way my twisted mind works. Given heavy metal's endless fascination with sickness and death, these ten songs are merely a drop in the bucket compared to what's out there (especially if you dig the death metal genre, which I don't), but these tracks should provide a decent start to your outbreak listening. So press "play," crank it up, pour yourself a pint, and wait for this all to blow over.
Author's Note: this article was inspired by a thread at the Heart of Metal forum, of which I am a member. So hey, thanks for the idea, fellas!
Accept - "Pandemic"
This song from Accept's 2010 album Blood of the Nations was the first thing that came to my mind when the U.S. government officially declared that the Coronavirus was a "Pandemic." If you read the lyrics, the band is not talking about an actual sickness, they're comparing obsessive heavy metal fandom to a disease that gets in your blood, but I still can't help humming it to myself whenever I hear a TV news reporter say the word "Pandemic."
Carnivore - "Inner Conflict"
This track from Pete (Type O Negative) Steele's late '80s crossover band concerns a poor soul whose body is at war with itself as it battles an unidentified sickness. Steele had a knack for composing vivid, disturbingly gross lyrics during this period, and "Inner Conflict" contains some of the nastiest, gross-out disease-related lyrics I've ever read ("infected eyes oozing pus...swamps of mucus prevalent, every hole in my body drips blood!"). Whatever this guy's got, I don't want it.
Iron Maiden - "Virus"
On this 1996 single by Iron Maiden featuring the short-tenured vocalist Blaze Bayley, the "Virus" of the title seems to be a metaphorical one, representing the shadowy forces behind the scenes who are bent on bringing about the downfall of civilization. Though it probably wasn't meant to be taken literally when it was written, the lyric "watching the beginnings of social decay" seems eerily appropriate in our current situation.
Slayer - "Epidemic"
Slayer has written about so many different methods of death and mayhem that it was only a matter of time before they did a disease song. Coming off of 1986's high water mark Reign in Blood, "Epidemic" is a two minute and thirty second adrenaline burst that ends on a particularly ominous note when Tom Araya snarls, "Years will pass before it can be cured!" ... let's hope not.
Overkill - "Elimination"
"Fatal? You're shittin' me! A second opinion is what I need!"
The above lyric from the New Jersey thrash squad's 1989 classic seems to sum up everyone's current feelings as the news about the Coronavirus gets worse and worse.
Annihilator - "The Perfect Virus"
This entry from the Canadian speed/thrash band Annihilator (from 2001's Carnival Diablos album) appears to be about a computer virus, rather than a medical one, but I suppose that lyrics like "you will scramble to vaccinate, you will find out that it's too late" can apply to either situation.
Judas Priest - "Pestilence and Plague"
This track from Judas Priest's 2007 rock opera Nostradamus sets a properly doomy tone with lyrics like "storms from the Gods" and "winds spreading to lay waste to our culture." It even features several passages in Italian, which almost seems creepy now when you see how hard that country has been hit by COVID-19...
Dokken - "Disease"
Most of the songs on this list come from the heavier/thrashier end of the metal spectrum, but this 2008 track from '80s hair metal kings Dokken paints a suitably sinister picture of addiction, written from the standpoint of the drug itself, with its chorus of "I'm your disease!"
Nuclear Assault - "The Plague"
With album titles like Game Over, Brain Death, and Survive, you'd assume that these New Yorkers know their way around radiation sickness and other life-threatening nasties. This epic track is no exception. The threat in this song appears to be man-made, as the lyrics speak of "a government that sponsors death" and "a prophecy of doom fulfilled." If that doesn't make it clear enough, the guy in a hazmat suit on the album cover, faced with a toxic green cloud, is obviously in some serious trouble.
Anthrax - "Among the Living"
The title track to Anthrax's 1987 breakthrough album was inspired by Stephen King's epic novel "The Stand" ...which you may remember (if you read the book) begins with the death of 99 percent of the world's population thanks to a man-made plague. Heavy duty stuff, but then again if your band's name is Anthrax, you're not gonna sing songs about sunshine and bunnies, are you?
That's a good start...
I'm sure there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other "disease" songs that could be added to this list, so if I missed mentioning one of your favorites, feel free to name it in the comment section. Till next time, batten down the hatches, make sure you have enough beer and toilet paper, and let's all try to help each other out as we ride out this storm. Keep it metal and remember, this too shall pass!
© 2020 Keith Abt
Emmanuel from Buenos Aires on March 25, 2020:
Hello Keith, great article very creative I must say. I invite you to see my top list metal article on my HubPage. Cheers
Lari on March 17, 2020:
Excellent post. The captions of each song are well done.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 17, 2020:
Hey there DeathMetal420 -- I try to keep a balance between "mainstream" and "underground" metal in these columns, though I gotta be honest, I was never a death metal guy. Thrash like Slayer, Exodus, Sepultura, etc. was about as "extreme" as it got for me back in the day...
DeathMetal420 on March 17, 2020:
Id, love to see you post more about underground 80s dark metal.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 13, 2020:
Hi Seth - I had also thought about that one, but by the time it crossed my mind I had already made my list of ten. Thanks!
Seth Tomko from Macon, GA on March 13, 2020:
I know it's about the Plagues of Egypt, but Metallica's "Creeping Death" would be a pretty good fit with the list.