This time out we're picking the Top 20 Unholy Songs list. We've included the metal stuff on here but our aim was diversity and we think we did a decent job. Please keep in mind that the list is not in any particular order. So with that said, here we go!
Slayer: "The Antichrist" (1983)
We probably could have exclusively filled this list with Slayer songs but that would have been too easy. The Los Angeles thrash legends have built their career on a discography packed with anti-religious rants, so it would have been a crime to exclude them here.
With sacrilegious gems like, "Searching for the answer / Christ hasn't come / awaiting the final moment / the birth of Satan's son," featured in this early track, we would have felt wrong leaving off this list.
John Lennon: "Imagine" (1971)
Though "Imagine" has ultimately become an anthem of hope for millions of listeners, its lyrics ask us to imagine a world without a Heaven or religion. Lennon also wants the listener to picture a world with "no hell below us" - so it's not exactly a Possessed song or anything - but his point is clear. He thinks we're all better off without the division religion causes between us all.
XTC: "Dear God" (1986)
This British trio are known for their uncanny blend of psychedelic guitar pop, '60s flavored melodies, and sophisticated lyrics. "Dear God" finds guitarist-vocalist Andy Partridge reading a letter he wrote to the man upstairs, and it's not pretty. Among the many jabs Partridge takes at God, the line where he simply sings, "I can't believe in you," haunts us the most.
Morbid Angel: "Chapel Of Ghouls" (1989)
In which an army of ghouls infest a chapel, turn a crucifix upside down, and ultimately murder a priest. "Chapel Of Ghouls" is like a Clive Barker novel squeezed into a 5 minute death metal song. David Vincent's monstrous vocal performance and Trey Azagthoth's guitar work still dazzles, two decades later. Hating religion has rarely sounded this great.
Dead Prez: "Propaganda" (2000)
Though much of the rap music that gets played on the radio these days is lacking lyrical substance, there was a time when a forward-thinking group like Dead Prez could still get signed to a major record label. On "Propaganda," the Brooklyn based rappers raise all kinds of uncomfortable questions. The one that rings the loudest is, "If God made man / Why the hell would he put us here?" This might as well be a Gorgoroth song with a hip hop backbeat.
Nine Inch Nails: "Heresy" (1994)
In "Closer," the hit single off NIN's epic "The Downward Spiral," Trent Reznor explored the sexually depraved side of his psyche, but he saved the real guns for the album's third track. "Heresy" is, in both lyrics and pulsating melody, a raw, unbridled assault against all that is holy. The chorus is a catchy anthem for every disillusioned misfit who suffered through Sunday School: "God is dead / and no one cares / If there is a hell / I'll see you there" Amen!
Type O Negative: "Christian Woman"
What would it be like to sleep with Jesus Christ? That is the burning question facing "Christian Woman"'s heroine, whose sacrilegious fantasies and primal urge for Corpus Christi are causing her some serious spiritual strife. Of course, it wouldn't be Type O without some campy lines to keep us all in check. "For her lust / she'll burn in hell / her soul done medium well." Okay, guys. Ironically enough, Mr. Peter Steele himself has recently come out as a born again Christian. Guess he has some explaining to do.
Marduk: "Beyond The Grace Of God" (1996)
In this blood-soaked ditty from the mid-'90s, Erik "Legion" Hagstedt steals the show. Marduk's former frontman goes for the jugular. Not only does he claim, "I have drunk the blood of Jesus," in the closing line he goes, "...and far beyond the grace of God I am." Those are some fighting words!
Christian Death: "Spiritual Cramp" (1982)
With a name like Christian Death, you'd better bring it. And with "Spiritual Cramp," the forefathers of American deathrock come at us hard. Although not the most coherent anti-religious statement, the song evokes enough disturbing, creepily clever images to make your grandmother start signing the cross, straight from its opening lines: "Incurable disease on the day of rest / I'm walking on water in a sea of incest / I've got an image of Jesus imbedded on my chest / I can't leave home without my bullet proof vest."
Pet Shop Boys: "It's A Sin" (1987)
Few groups have felt the fury of religious fanatics more than the LGBT community, and openly gay duo Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe know all about it. Released over twenty years ago, dance club classic "It's A Sin" describes singer Tennant's oppressive Catholic upbringing at St Cuthbert's High School in Newcastle upon Tyne, even sampling Latin masses and part of the Confiteor. On the surface the song reads like an apology for the singer's transgressions, but the music tells a different story. Make no mistake - this is a celebration of "sin."
Goatwhore: "Carving Out The Eyes Of God" (2009)
Ben Falgoust has one of the harshest voices in death metal, and on the title track for Goatwhore's "Carving Out The Eyes Of God," he takes it to new levels of brutality. The song features an endless parade of lyrical daggers aimed squarely at the heart of Christianity. Over the rumble of Sammy Duet's discordant guitars, Falgoust delivers his unholy wrath with the fury of a thousand blizzards.
Depeche Mode: "Blasphemous Rumours" (1984)
Religious skepticism never sounded so catchy. On their twelfth UK single, the dark angels of synth pop tell the story of a 16-year-old girl's suicide attempt. Miraculously, the girl survives and renews her belief in Christ, only to be struck by a car at the age of 18 and die shortly after. Gahan seems to suggest that faith is not only meaningless, but a twisted tease: "I think that God's got a sick sense of humour / and when I die / I expect to find him laughing."
Anti-Flag: "A Song For Jesus Christ" (1994)
Look it up folks.
Tori Amos: "God" (1994)
It's a well-known fact that Tori Amos' father is a Methodist preacher, which makes "God" an especially personal affront. "God sometimes you just don't come through / Do you need a woman to take care of you?" To Amos, organized religion is a fairweather friend and a brute - quick to dole out punishments, but unable to nurture or provide true compassion to its followers.
Deicide: "Deicide" (1990)
There are so many cuts we could have picked from Glen Benton's twisted combo, but the song that carries their band name gets the nod here. Fueled by his deep hatred for organized religion, Benton screams and growls his way through a blitzkrieg of guitars and manic drumming. In "Deicide," the guy even takes credit for killing Jesus himself. I guess this is why Stryper have never asked the Florida band to tour with them.
A Perfect Circle: "Judith" (2000)
It's one thing to question faith - it's quite another to question your mother. But in "Judith," Maynard James Keenan does both. Maynard's mother, Judith Marie, was a devout Christian. When a cerebral aneurism left her paralyzed when the singer was just 11, she did not waver but instead reaffirmed her belief in God - a decision that filled Maynard with rage. "Judith" is an open letter to his mom, who is in his eyes a saintly figure betrayed by a false ideology. "Fuck your God, your Lord, your Christ / He did this, took all you had and / Left you this way, still you pray, never stray, never / Taste of the fruit, never thought to question "Why?"
Rush: "Roll The Bones" (1991)
In the second verse to this 1991 song, Neil Peart's lyrics show off a narrator whose spiritual faith is "cold as ice." He goes on to ask, "Who would hold a price over the head of innocent children if there's some immortal power?" Peart has covered a wide range of subjects through his lyrical work in Rush but none of it carries the weight of that one line in "Roll The Bones."
Ministry: "Psalm 69"
Industrial gods Ministry open "Psalm 69" with a glorious orchestral intro fit for the coming of the antichrist. And then all hell really breaks loose. In between samples of evangelical "Hallelujah" chanters, Jourgensen spits out such soul-crushing lines as: "The invisible piss of the Holy Ghost / comes down like acid rain."
Roger Waters: "What God Wants, Pt 1" (1992)
Over a bed of campy instrumentation and requisite cheesy back-up singers, the former Pink Floyd bassist examines the commercialization of religion. "God wants peace / God wants war / God wants famine / God wants chain stories." God has been appropriated by so many different political, religious, and corporate entities to sell their agenda du jour that Waters can no longer keep up.
Bad Religion: "God's Love" (2004)
"God's Love" is about as warm and fuzzy a song as you'd expect from a punk rock anarchist / college professor who wrote his dissertation on evolutionary biology. Always a political lighting rod, Greg Graffin puts it all out there, asking how the pain and suffering caused by religion could possibly be explained as "God's love." If that's not enough for you, try reading his 2006 book, "Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant? A Professor and Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism & Christianity."
Text by Carlos Ramirez Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2009