Whether you believe that our current global crisis is overblown or if you think that the end is indeed nigh, there's no question that we live in particularly turbulent times. People's lives have been turned upside-down and it's hard not to feel grim about the prospects of a rapid recovery. #coronapocalypse has been a trending hashtag across social media, which inspired us to ask you in our latest fan poll to pick the single greatest song about the end times. The apocalypse is a popular topic in heavy music and always has been, so there was much to choose from. Below are the top five vote-getters.
You really could have picked any cut off the Swedish occult rockers' fourth LP Prequelle — after all, it's basically a concept album about a plague destroying humanity. But its "Rats," the record's fittingly infectious lead single about "filthy rodents," with its bloody, Thriller-esque music video, that lands in fifth place here. As Cardinal Copia strides in on his horse and then dances over a batch of dead bodies, he encourages us all to grab our tap-dancing shoes — because if we're going out, we might as well go out in style.
Visions don't get much more metal: a quartet of stark, martial figures riding, respectively, a white horse of conquest, a red horse of war, a black horse of famine and a pale horse of plague — welcome The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. On this classic off Metallica's '83 debut, Kill 'Em All — an album as hard-hitting as its cover art — the thrash OGs conjure these doom-bringing riders with galloping furor. The song and the horsemen have become symbolic of Metallica themselves — so much so we asked Baroness' John Dyer Baizley to illustrate the mythic figures for a Revolver cover, artwork that has since become one of the band's most sought-after shirt designs.
If one were to objectively imagine what the end of the world would sound like, it would have to be death metal, right? Earth-quaking blast beats, fiery guitar pyrotechnics, demonic growls. While these California's animal-loving, human-hating extremists have been preaching doomsday since '96, this cut — a chainsaw of a single off Cattle Decapitation's most recent LP Death Atlas — shows vocalist Travis Ryan in full guttural glory, urging on a pandemic to "delete those that threaten a new world."
Stomping, majestic and fun as hell, the title track off Avatar's breakthrough album is as catchy as, well, the plague. It's also brutally blunt: You cannot misinterpret the title nor lyrics for one, and the song's theme is only amplified by its eerie, old-timey black-and-white music video's message of "laugh now, but watch what's coming next." Look out for the not-so-subtle placement of four horses on the dining table.
Look, if anyone will outlive doomsday, it's Maynard James Keenan. Dude's prepped, self-reliant and steely of heart. (Check out our four-part "Art of Work" video series with the singer if you want to see how.) It's no surprise that several Tool and A Perfect Circle cuts came in as runner-ups in this fan poll, but, really, no other song could come out on top here. On this Ænima standout, Keenan asks us, as he often does, to look in the mirror — in one way of another, we're all patient zero and we're only reaping what we sowed. He, meanwhile, is ready for the thinning of the herd: "I'm praying for rain/And I'm praying for tidal waves/I wanna see the ground give way/I wanna watch it all go down/Mom, please flush it all away."