I’ve never been a fan of heavy metal. Most of the songs I associated the genre with were too loud and lacked a discernible melody I could hum. They made my brain stop working.
A few days ago, a very close friend told me she not only enjoys this music but does her best work while listening to it. At high volume. In her headphones! Her job is not painting dead bodies in a post apocalyptic world so I knew there had to be more to these songs than violent noise.
In my research I discovered songs that not only sounded good but had amazing meaningful messages to pass on, in tune with my way of thinking, the very way that allowed me to take life into my own hands and achieve success at an early age, both in my private and my professional life.
1. As Long As I Fall – Helloween
This song, written by Andreas “Andi” Derris, the band’s lead vocalist, was the first song Helloween ever released as download-only, back in 2007. Japan was the only country where they also sold it on a CD.
The song is about realizing that there’s plenty of time to fix things between now and the time your worst fear will become reality. The very thought of that moment is crippling and you might fail to act, not because you don’t have solutions, but because you spend your time as if that bad thing already happened. You project your fear of the future into the present and unwittingly blow your chances of avoiding it.
As long as you haven’t hit the ground, you’ve still got time to learn how to fly so don’t look down and start flapping your arms!
Lyrics to remember: As long as I fall, I don’t hit the ground / As long as I fall, I’m safe and sound / As long as I fly, I sure cannot die / I don’t need to hear the call as long as I fall.
2. Heart of steel – Manowar
Rumor has it the band was supposed to play this song in Norwegian, as homage to the vikings, but Eric Adams, the singer, couldn’t learn the words so they ended up releasing a German version in stead (Hertz aus Stahl).
The song is about staying true to yourself and not giving up, no matter the hardships you face. It talks about the loneliness of walking against the current, but also the glory of victory. This very powerful call for courage, determination and desire to succeed is guaranteed to push you so that you give your dreams everything you’ve got.
Lyrics to remember: Stand and fight / Live by your heart / Always one more try / I’m not afraid to die / Stand and fight / Say what you feel / Born with a heart of steel
3. The Unforgiven III – Metallica
This song is actually the best (and last) part of the “Unforgiven” trilogy, the first one being about a young boy who is born into this unjust world that demands conformity and punishes individuality. That young boy grows up a bitter man, convinced that he was never free and society is to blame yet in “The Unforgiven III” he understands something I believe to be one of the most important thing you can ever learn.
He realizes it’s not the world that is to blame, but himself, because whatever barriers society seemed to impose on his freedom, it was him who accepted them and allowed them rule his life. Society didn’t prevent him from doing anything, it just made him afraid of the consequences, so for his inability to act, for his failure to fulfill his dreams, he has to hold himself accountable.
That’s exactly what I see people doing time and time again: taking the world as is, thinking everything that exists was somehow predetermined and they’re supposed to accept it just because it has been there since before they took notice. That’s as far from the truth as possible. Everything, and I mean everything, from religion to business, from the meaning of literature to the rules of physics, from your inner thoughts to the collective conscience of humanity, is subject to change, change that you yourself can foster. You can listen to Steve Jobs talk about it or just play the heavy metal version below.
Lyrics to remember: Was he the one causing pain / With his careless dreaming / Been afraid, always afraid / Of the things he’s feeling / He could just be gone / He would just sail on!
4. Heaven and Hell – Black Sabbath
The title track to Black Sabbath’s first post-Ozzy Osbourne album, this song was ranked 81st on VH1′s best hard rock songs of all time and Martin Popoff, heavy metal’s most widely recognized journalist, placed it on position 11 in his book, “The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs of All Time”.
The song, as Ronnie James Dio, the lyrics’ author, claims, is about good and evil both being equal parts of human nature. Our own choice between the two is what defines who we are. If you agree with this, you really should check out the controversial Stanford Prison Experiment - conducted almost 10 years before the song came out – that sought to prove even the best of us can do unspeakable things under certain circumstances.
I believe the song goes even further, observing the blurred line between what is considered right and what is thought of as wrong. The confusion that arises has no solution since the interpretation of any action is different from one person to another. Even trying to be good might prove useless since the very definition of good is something people can never agree on.
Listen to the song and remember: as far as you’re concerned, there is no such thing as right and wrong except for what you decide is one or the other. That’s a big part of what makes success possible.
Lyrics to remember: They say that life’s a carousel / Spinning fast, you’ve got to ride it well / The world is full of Kings and Queens / Who blind your eyes then steal your dreams… / it’s Heaven and Hell, oh well
5. Hallowed be Thy Name – Iron Maiden
For almost 20 years, this song has never been absent from Iron Maiden set-lists. It’s their most-covered song and it’s ranked 7th in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of greatest heavy metal songs.
Regardless of what Steve Harris intended the song to be about, to me, the lyrics speak about change. Sometimes, in our never ending quest for happiness, things don’t work out the way we planned and we have to face a big transformation in our lives. Change is hard, though, because most of us are naturally drawn to the familiar, even though what’s familiar is not that great anymore. It’s tough to admit failure and then change your ways to take on a new challenge on uncharted ground, yet it’s the only way of moving forward.
That’s what “Hallowed be Thy Name” can teach you. Don’t think of change as an end to what was, but as a new, better, more fulfilling beginning. Lose the fear and embrace whatever comes next, without regret. In start-up world, we call this process a pivot
Lyrics to remember: Mark my words please believe my soul lives on / Please don’t worry now that I have gone / I’ve gone beyond to see the truth
The bottom line? Heavy metal, just like any other music genre, is full of amazing songs written by people that have been through incredible life experiences. Though it might not be easy to pick up as a daily playlist, there’s a big chance listening to this powerful, loud way of transmitting important life lessons will get the message through better than a pop song covering the same topic. Give it a shot!
I’m going to be posting more message-heavy metal songs on my Facebook page all day tomorrow, so be sure to check it out (some content may only be visible to page fans).
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