Heavy metal has long been a scene of tackling societal issues, and political stances are frequently taken by songwriters in the genre. While it’s undeniable that some have created issues, most notably the black-metal community’s tendency to lean into neo-Nazi ideals, countless musicians are working to confront systemic racism through their songs. Take a look below for 10 metal songs taking on systemic racism.
Brujeria – “Viva Presidente Trump!”
Mexican-American extreme-metal act Brujeria are overt in their politics. With a heavy anti-American stance, no song from their catalog quite touches on the hatred of Donald Trump as well as “Viva Presidente Trump!” The Spanish lyrics seeth with rage, calling out the continuous contempt the current president has spewed against Mexicans. They also give a satirical eye-for-an-eye take on the situation.
Thou – “Smoke Pigs”
Sludge-metal act Thou gave a semi-satirical take on police brutality with “Smoke Pigs.” They put officers on blast for assaulting “Another unarmed kid/Filled from head to toe with 50 government-issued bullets.” The song is an unrelenting takedown on the issue of police believing they’re above the law and is scathing toward police apologists.
Issues – “Blue Wall”
Issues’ “Blue Wall” arrived back in 2016 and was intended to bring focus to black lives and their vulnerability to police brutality, but the song is all too relevant now. With lyrics such as “Empty your clips on the victim/And then you look the other way/Your nation will crumble/And you’ll just look the other way,” it’s a pretty clear message that has become even more pertinent years after its release.
FEVER 333 – “BURN IT”
FEVER 333 vocalist Jason Aalon Butler has always been outspoken about issues in politics relating to race. “BURN IT” is a succinct take on the onslaught of police violence. The song paints a clear picture of the dire need for reform among those who are hired to protect people.
System Of A Down – “P.L.U.C.K.”
Some people have somehow missed the extremely political lyrics System Of A Down have been singing for decades. However, the band have always been outspoken about global politics and, most specifically, the Armenian genocide. “P.L.U.C.K.” from their debut record is overtly against the Turkish government’s actions. It also calls for the U.S. government to officially recognize the 1915 genocide, which was finally accomplished last year, over 100 years after it happened.
Testament – “Native Blood”
Thrash-metal veterans Testament tackled the constant discrimination indigenous people face. Vocalist Chuck Billy unleashes a passionate, scathing set of words built from his own lived experiences. With lyrics such as “This white man’s world won’t tell me what to do,” Billy clearly shows his pride for his background and is unbothered if others aren’t willing to accept him.
Sevendust – “Black”
While not overtly about race, Sevendust’s “Black” touches on the issues vocalist Lajon Witherspoon has experienced. Drummer Morgan Rose stated the song’s intent pretty clearly in an interview, saying, “[Lajon] states it pretty clearly: If people would mind their own business, the world would be a better place. Everyone’s trying to stick their nose in everybody’s business instead of worrying about themselves.”
DISPOSSESSED – “Thronebreaker Zero”
Australian black-metal band DISPOSSESSED use their music as a way to highlight the issues faced by indigenous people in the country and the oppression they still endure. “Thronebreaker Zero” asserts that “Parliament is dotted with graves” and “We will never kneel/At the heel of a white god,” offering a no-holds-barred attack on the issues they encounter.
Sepultura – “Territory”
Sepultura express political messages to the people of Brazil and the world as a whole. Their iconic album Chaos A.D. brings a full record’s worth of anti-colonial messaging and anthems for the oppressed. “Territory” speaks to wars built on propaganda and fighting to steal land. However, if you dive into tracks such as “Refuse / Resist” or “Slave New World,” you’ll find more opposition against oppressive regimes.
Misery Index – “The Choir Invisible”
Misery Index’s latest record, Rituals Of Power, is a hyperpolitical album tackling numerous issues. However, “The Choir Invisible” brought a more human take on the continuing global refugee crisis. The song highlights the horrifying conditions some people are willing to put themselves through to escape a war-torn country while facing rejection from countries well off and able to provide care for them.