From its very first band, Black Sabbath, metal has come politically charged and proud of it. So now, in our current era of protests and unrest, we challenged you to pick the finest politically charged heavy-music song of them all. We asked, specifically, for "the greatest politically charged metal or hardcore song of all time," and while a few punk and hardcore anthems earned shout-outs — Black Flag's "Rise Above," Refused's "Shape of Punk to Come," Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" — the top vote-getters all fall firmly on the heavy-metal side of the aisle. Metallica's "... And Justice for All," Lamb of God's "Now You've Got Something to Die For," Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," Living Colour's "Cult of Personality" and Ministry's "New World Order" made the honorable mentions list (and special props to the voter to picked the Beastie Boys' "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)"), but below are your top five picks.
Kicking off this list is a band whose inclusion shocks absolutely no one: System of a Down. The selected cut, "Why?" off their eponymous debut studio album, an incendiary anthem that crushes, burns and then, after its breakdown, smolders. The liner notes for the cut read: "We first fought the heathens in the name of religion, then Communism, and now in the name of drugs and terrorism. Our excuses for global domination always change." The band members may not all agree ideologically today, but they sure as hell still speak their minds.
The rip-roaring opener off the Brazilian metal titans' classic Chaos A.D., "Refuse/Resist" bristles and explodes with all the riotous energy of a protest against state brutality. Max Cavalera bellows: "Tanks on the streets/Confronting police/Bleeding the Plebs/Raging crowd/Burning cars/Bloodshed starts/Who'll be alive?!" There's no question why the song has been covered countless times — by everyone from Anthrax to Hatebreed.
Ice-T and his metal band Body Count have faced seemingly insurmountable challenges — from controversy to death — but they have never backed down. Their no-hold-barred 1992 protest song against police brutality, "Cop Killer" is as unfiltered an expression of rage as it gets, and it cut so deeply at the time that even the President and VP of the United States singled out the track, which was eventually pulled. The song still doesn't appear on digital music platforms, but it hardly matters because Ice continues to go strong on the subject of police brutality decades later with biting screeds like "No Lives Matter" and "Point the Finger."
Many songs by the thrash OGs could have made this list, but "Peace Sells" stands above. The "title track" to Megadeth's second studio album (Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?), it's packed with incisive lyrics, all delivered with a punk-rock sneer by bandleader Dave Mustaine. "What do you mean, 'I couldn't be the President of the United States of America'?" he snarls. "Tell me something, it's still 'We the people' right?" Despite its political button-pushing, it became an MTV mainstay as its loping opening bass line was used as the intro to MTV News.
Could it anyone else come in at No. 1 other than Rage Against the Machine? Of course not. Especially not right now. Unapologetically outspoken, Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello and Co. do "politically charged" better than any other band of any genre pretty much ever. We would be lying if we didn't say that we expected "Killing in the Name" to be the top pick here, but your choice is "Bulls on Parade," with its incredibly iconic riff, its insane DJ scratching solo and de la Rocha's immortal cries of "rally round tha family, pockets full of shells." Released in 1996, the anthem — like all too many of RATM's classic songs — still resonates in today.