Metal vocals are celebrated for their skyscraping highs and sepulchral lows, their pig squeals and death grunts, their blackened shrieks and bluesy bellows. But many of the genre's standout songs feature another form of vocalization altogether: laughing.
From evil cackles to maniacal chuckles, sarcastic snickers to unhinged guffaws, a good laugh punctuates a great headbanging anthem like few other sounds can — something that scene leaders like Ozzy, Metallica and Slipknot have understood over the years. Many more metal songs feature laughing than we could ever list here (there are multiple YouTube supercut videos devoted to collecting them), but here are 10 of our favorites.
You know exactly what you're in for when the maniacal cackling kicks in the riffs on Anthrax's thrashing heyday classic "Madhouse." The madman's laughter sets off a lyrical journey down the spiral of insanity in which the protagonist is left questioning his own reality as padded walls and "white coats" become his whole world. This biting commentary on the legitimacy of asylums will leave you asking, "Is it our society that's insane?"
Avenged Sevenfold also use the tool of laughter – albeit more subtly and later in mid-aughts ripper "Almost Easy" – to grapple with the concept of sanity or the lack thereof. The storyteller relays their struggle to deal with the mistakes they've made in a failed relationship, begging the person who left to see beyond the surface and realize their intentions were never cruel. It would almost sound believable, but the injection of the simple "ha ha ha ha" in the penultimate bridge lays out the truth with Shakespearean clarity: The dude doth protest too much, wethinks.
Faith No More's Angel Dust recently turned 30, prompting many a revisit to the polarizing and, at the time, near-offensive departure from their previous hit material. "Land of Sunshine" acts as the brash introduction to the masterful album, but the laughter used throughout like backing vocals seems to face this absurdity head-on in a way that almost mocks the listener, perhaps asking: "Did you think you were going to get an album of 'Epic' retreads? Think again."
Nobody's hyena-worthy cackle is more recognizable in metal than that of the King himself – that's King Diamond, not that Elvis dude. As perhaps King D's most celebrated song, "Abigail" uses laughter to terrify and chill poor Jonathan whose wife, Miriam, has been inhabited by the evil spirit of Abigail herself. As Jonathan fumbles for answers and threatens ol' Abby with a priest, the wretched spirit cackles in defiance, sure that she will prevail in the battle for Miriam's life.
It's no secret that, in 1996, Jonathan Davis was still working through some serious childhood shit on Life Is Peachy. "No Place to Hide" confronts his abuse head-on by naming it directly ("You come and rape me, inside") and acknowledging his abject vulnerability. The laughter of the intro serves as a huge fuck-you to his abuser, a radical act of defiance that lets us, and the monster that tormented him, know that he's still here, he's still standing, and he's spitting in the face of his dark past.
Dave Mustaine spills his guts as he wails, howls, and mockingly laughs through the virulent damnation of "In My Darkest Hour." Different stories suggest different inspirations for the song: Musically speaking, the riffs poured out of Mustaine upon learning of Cliff Burton's death. Lyrically, two major rumors hold firm: that the bandleader wanted to shred Metallica for firing him, or that his then-fiancé Diana betrayed and left him — the line "ha ha, you bitch!" suggests this is likely. Regardless of the true origin story, the bitter laughter sprinkled throughout speak volumes.
"Master of Puppets" might be the go-to thrash epic for distracting Demobats, but it's also a warning to those prone to the seduction of illicit substances. The pulling of strings, crawling back to your master, and the mention of life burning out quickly is all vivid imagery used to scare the listener from leaning into the lifestyles of the stoned and fucked-up, but the ultimate terror hits during the song's closure when looming, hellish laughter comes barreling through like the harbinger of suffering to come.
Ozzy Osbourne has always been heavy metal's penultimate wild man, what with the bat head-chomping, Alamo-pissing, word-slurring, and cockroach-level ability to withstand injury and illness even in his advancing age. It only stands to reason he'd be the conductor on a literal "Crazy Train" of life and crow with gleeful laughter while inviting his fellow passengers to hop on and strap in for the bumpy ride.
Outside of having one of the hardest breakdowns of all time, "Domination" is Pantera at their authority-hating best with lyrics like "Domination consumes you then calls you a friend" and "It's domination! Pushed into living hell." There's a sense of rebellion throughout the Cowboys From Hell standout, like a wake-up call to escape before it's too late. The mocking laughter rolls in right as the lyrics end, letting the mystery of who wins this battle fall squarely on the imagination of the listener: Who do you think is laughing now?
Corey Taylor has spoken on the inspiration for "Left Behind" in detail, relaying stories of his own homelessness and the people he's lost contact with as he moved through different stages of life, saying the song's ultimately about "leaving behind the lives that make up your past." Experiences like this can make anyone feel like they're teetering on the edge of sanity and madness, exemplified in a key moment of the Iowa single where Taylor seems to laugh in response to his own conflicting emotions, a common response when logic and hope are fruitless endeavors.