10 Greatest Anti-War Metal Songs

Why do they always send the poor?

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10 Greatest Anti-War Metal Songs

Not only Bob Dylan and The Beatles wanted the humanity to give peace a chance.

This Memorial Day, we remember the most powerful anti-war metal songs, both musically and lyrically.

10. Two Minutes to Midnight by Iron Maiden

The title of this song is a reference to the Doomsday Clock, which was created in 1947 by the magazine Bulletin Of Atomic Sciences. It was set at 7 minutes to midnight, indicating that due to the threat of nuclear war, the world was running out of time. As tensions escalated over the years, the clock was moved forward but has been set back several times as treaties are signed and the threat decreases. In 1958, the United States and the Soviet Union were both testing hydrogen bombs, and the clock was moved up to 11:58 - the closest it ever got to midnight.
2 minutes to midnight
The hands that threaten doom
2 minutes to midnight
To kill the unborn in the womb
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9. Refuse / Resist by Sepultura

Brazilian thrash masters Sepultura came of age dealing with Latin America’s often shockingly violent political tumult. That awareness informs the band’s identity as much as their music, which ranks among the most powerful metal of the ’80s and ’90s—or ever.

“Refuse/Resist,” from 1993’s masterful Chaos A.D., represents Sepultura’s full forward charge against the powers of oppression and exploitation. The song’s lyrics describe the insanity of streets run rampant with riots, while the music rages out in a call to keep standing, keep going, keep refusing, keep resisting.

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8. Some Heads Are Gonna Roll by Judas Priest

Another example of metal’s examination of the torments of combat and anger at irresponsible warmakers, this Judas Priest single showcases the band’s two lead guitarists, who trade off solos, and its singer’s trademark operatic falsetto.

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7. B.Y.O.B. by System of A Down

Why do they always send the poor?

This song is about the business behind war, and how privileged politicians start them, but expect the poor to fight them. And System delivers their message as good as always.

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6. Wind of Change by Scorpions

The band wrote this during a visit to Moscow in 1989. They became the first hard-rock band to play in Russia. At this show, they were inspired by the sight of thousands of Russians cheering them on even though they were a German band. Guitarist Rudolf Schenker called this song, "a kind of message soundtrack to the world's most peaceful revolution on earth."

"Everyone was there: the Red Army, journalists, musicians from Germany, from America, from Russia-the whole world on one boat. It was like a vision; everyone was talking the same language. It was a very positive vibe. That night was the basic inspiration for Wind Of Change."
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5. One by Metallica

"One" is an anti-war song that portrays a World War I soldier who is severely wounded—Arms and legs blown off by a landmine, blind and unable to speak or move—begging God to take his life as he feels constant pain. His only hope is to devise a way to communicate with the hospital staff. In the music video, he jolts in the hospital bed, spelling "Kill me" in Morse code.

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4. Killing in The Name by Rage Against the Machine

While being a song with a political message, Killing In The Name Of also delivers a strong anti-war message against "the military–industrial complex, justifying killing for the benefit of, as the song puts it, the chosen whites." It is without a doubt, their most famous and explosive song.

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3. Holy Wars... The Punishment Due by Megadeth

When such crazy shit happens around the world, Holy Wars is now more relevant than ever.

The song tells you that Holy Wars can happen anywhere. People are dying for a cause. Mustaine believes that religion should not play a role in the division of people if its purpose is to unite and as major religions are supposed to be religions of peace. But many answers of the question of religion as a justification are definitely influenced by perspective. Since its beginnings, religion was used as a driving force for conquering, fighting, and conversion. Holy Wars are not new nor are they confined only to the Middle East or Israel, and Mustaine realizes this as he says that “it might be in your homelands”.

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2. War Pigs by Black Sabbath

This famous song by Black Sabbath Bass speaks out against the horrors of war and the lives it ruins. Totally against the Vietnam War, about how these rich politicians and rich people start all the wars for their benefit and get all the poor people to die for them. The band wanted to use this song as the title of the album, but the record company thought it was too controversial and made them use "Paranoid," another song on the album, instead.

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1. Peace Sells by Megadeth

One of Megadeth's most popular songs deals with disillusion, Cold War politics, and military combat - all recurring themes in Megadeth songs. Well, it just can't go the other way when the band’s name itself refers to megadeath, a term used by nuclear strategists to stand for 1 million deaths. 

The first part of Peace Sells tells about the negative stereotypes of metalheads in the 80s. The second part goes a lot deeper talking about the idea that everybody wants peace, but no one is willing to sacrifice anything to get it.

Sorry Metallica fans, but this is a battle that Dave Mustaine and the crew wins by a mile.

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90 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Disposable Heroes?
    And One. Sure it's not about the actual firing of the gun, but about it's effects.
    Also worth noting about One is that it's story was inspired by 'Johnny Got His Gun', an anti-war novel from the 30s. The music-video uses footage from the movie adaptation.
    I'd make a great war song - seeing as I look like a red battle axe...  I'd blast *Dream Weaver* (LOUD) as I screeched, "Charrrrrge, here comes ole Kath on the war path." (Or should I say Katie or Rocker911 or one of my other hundreds of user tags?)
    Yup. If you can only have one per band, this should've pipped One.
    I think that Disposable Heroes is more of a battlefield description rather than an "anti-war" song. Just my opinion.
    "Soldier boy, made of clay, now an empty shell 21, only son, body's served us well" "left to die with only friend, alone I clench my gun" "You will die, when I say" You serious? The song is very sad and extremely anti-war. 
    Second Rate
    "1916" by Motorhead "Agent Orange" by Sodom "Surf Nicaragua" by Sacred Reich "Mandatory Suicide" by Slayer There are many others too, no need to get lazy and shoehorn Rage Against the Machine and SOAD into this.... or to have two Megadeth songs. 
    Yabba Who
    Motorhead's 1916 is a work of art. Just an amazing piece. Me & my mates listen to it every year on November 11th and raise a glass.
    It's a fine song, but the Cranberries should never be mentioned in the same breath as Metal
    Yeah, personally "Zombie" is one of my favorite anti-war songs (or more specifically anti-terrorism songs), but there's no way in hell that the Cranberries could be considered metal. Also, just throwing this out there, War Pigs should've been no. 1
    Peace Sells is actually a song about being stereotypized as a metalhead
    And Holy Wars is about the IRA not the middle east.
    As far as I know, the general idea of the songs comes when in one of the gigs in Ireland begun a fight between Catholics and Protestants. Don't remember exactly why. Maybe it's the IRA, but I'm sure the Middle East came to his mind when he did the song. Come on, the final strophe says "don't look back to Israel"
    Yeah, I was confused about that as well. I mean the actual Peace Sells part can be anti-war, but everything else is about the narrator complaining that nobody treats him like a valid member of society, even though he goes to court when he has to, is broke from paying his bills, always gets to work on time, talks to god every day, can be President of the United States of America, is kind but not other people's kind, and is aware of how the Preamble to the United States Constitution goes.
    It uses metal fans as a metaphor for the general population in the world of haves and have nots. Pay taxes, go to work it don't matter you can't be president.
    No Clenching the Fists of Dissent by Machine Head? So how do they sleep? When our mothers weep? They're selling our souls And our blood for oil 
    No Sabaton on the list....Disgraceful. Sabaton gives history lessons in their songs.
      Honorable Mentions (Some not metal, just rock): Mudvayne - Have It Your Way Mudvayne - Choices Hurt - Wars COG - Problem Reaction Solution Silverchair - Pure Massacre Smashing Pumpkins - Doomsday Clock Guns N Roses - Civil War My Chemical Romance - Ghost of You Tool - Right in Two Caroline's Spine - Sullivan Jimi Hendrix - Machine Gun U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday Neil Young - Ohio REM - Orange Crush Cranberries - Zombie A Perfect Circle - Pet A Perfect Circle - Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drum Serj Tankian - Empty Walls Tool - Vicarious Live - White Discussion Genesis - Land of Confusion U2 - New Year's Day John Lennon - Imagine Rush - Red Sector A Rush - Manhattan Project Mark Twain - The Battle Hymn of the Republic War Is A Racket (The Profit Motives For War): By America's Most Decorated Soldier by Major General Smedley Butler Major General Smedley Butler has been erased from history in the USA and the Western world much like the memory hole in the book 1984 by George Orwell.  
    As someone who grew up during the crazyness of the Viet Nam war, War Pigs was the greatest metal anti-war song of all and should be ranked #1   
    1. War Pigs is better than Peace Sells...if only for the lack of snarky parenthetical subtitle 2. Yeaaaaahhhh, Cranberries are metal AF!!!!!
    War Pigs is not better. Peace Sells is a better overall production.
    Well I disagree. I don't even like Peace Sells, but I wanted to be as respectful as possible. War Pigs is one of my favorite songs.
    I think the author must have pulled up a list of Anti-War songs, pulling out the metal ones. They saw the word Zombie, and the spooky video or whatever, and just guessed. Probably took the Rooster's spot.
    I don't like a lot of lyrics in Metal because they are usually, at least 85% of metal lyrics are either cheesy/corny, about war, or both. That said happy memorial day and thank you all for your services to a country that doesnt care about you. That is selflessness in a bottle.
    Bolt Thrower does have a couple of albums dedicated to war. And I consider them mostly anti-war. 
    Decent list, except Judas. They are great and all, but never really been good lyricists. Should've picked Disposable Heroes instead. and some others off the top of my head: Afraid to Shoot Strangers (not very anti-war, but still anti-war ish) Take No Prisoners Rust in Peace Polaris etc
    Dr Zaius
    Megadeth deservedly receive two spots on this list. No better band for metal with a message.
    Rise against, hero of war. If you're gonna include hair metal and eurotrash, just include all anti war songs.
     "Why do they always send the poor?" Often misheard as: "Why do they always smell the fart?"
    One is the best of this list as anti-war song, with Killing in the name close second, IMO While most of these songs are great _as songs_, One takes things to another level. You just feel that shit gets serious. It goes far beyond "hey look I'me in a angry metal band and we sing about murder" attitude. Like, if you wanted to persuade someone NOT to join the military and could chose one song to support your words, One would be the best option, the story is really fucked up.
    That first riff that put Megadeth on the map, best thrash album ever IMO.
    Even though its not original, but I would suggest Sepultura's cover of Bullet The Blue Sky.
    Sepultura's dosent belong here. State opression to modern forms of protest is a previous step to engage war today.  I do like myself the idea of social war, but theres no limits stablished, so you could fit alot stuff that aint exactly the classic concept of war by allowing refuse/resist here (F'ing great song).
    Lamb of God - Now You've Got Something To Die For. Lamb of God - Hourglass. Machine Head - Clenching the Fists of Dissent. Just a few other good ones that fit the criteria.  
    So nothing by motörhead then? 1916 Civil War Dogs of War Eat the Gun There's plenty more. I'm not going to list them all.