Saturday, May 21, 2011

10 Songs For the End of the World

So, we've all heard that the crazy people are claiming that today, may 21, 2011 is the "Rapture" predicted in the Book of Revelations in the Bible.

Not surprisingly, we all woke up this morning feeling more or less alive and normal. The world hasn't quite been ravaged by the armies of the antichrist, and the sky hasn't opened up so God can reach down and kill off everyone except those deemed worthy of an eternal afterlife.

It just didn't happen. Maybe it will later today, we still have a few hours. With that in mind, here is a playlist of ten songs from a few different genres that you can use to celebrate the supposed end that's coming sometime between now and midnight tonight...

1) It's the End of the World as we Know it (and I feel fine) - REM (1987)

This one is practically obligatory. The song title sardonically lampoons today's events- It's the end of the world, but nothing's really changed. The song is more of a criticism of modern politics and society, but one line fits today very well- /Dummy with the rapture and the reverent in the right - right/.

Perhaps lyricist and lead singer Michael Stipe knew that something silly like today would happen. Maybe enough people are so willing to put blind faith in things just because an authority figure tells them to. This, I think, is the essence of what R.E.M. is trying to say with this song- to think for yourself rather than blindly follow someone's unfounded belief just because they talk a good game.

2) 2 Minutes to Midnight - Iron Maiden (1984)

The song title here is a reference to the so-called doomsday clock, which was used during the cold war period to visually represent how close the world was to all-out nuclear war. Since 1953, the clock was set to 11:58 - two minutes to midnight- so the term has come to represent imminent danger of destruction.

The song lyrics talk about the perils of all-out war, and depicts an attitude of callous indifference the causes of said war- depicting a war machine that exists and consumes lives for it's own satisfaction rather than to solve whatever dispute there was to begin with. References to unborn children seem to be trying to draw parallels between warfare and abortion.

3) In the End - Rush (1975)

This is one of the lesser known tracks from Rush's second album "Fly by Night" - the song really has nothing to do with the End of the World other than the title. It actually has a very pleasant, ballad-like acoustic intro that morphs into a hard rock song at the beginning of the second verse.

The song actually has a very positive vibe- it talks about how people sometimes take a while to understand another person's point of view. It takes an optimistic view that there will be happiness if everyone is patient enough- /You can take me for a little while/You can take me you can make me smile in the end/. I'd like to think that if the World really were to end today, that we'd be able to resolve enough of our unfinished business that we could be happy with things- which is why this song makes this list.

4) Surprise! You're Dead! - Faith No More (1989)

Faith No More brought together influences from a wide variety of musical styles- from funk to hip-hop to progressive rock, and packaged them all together with a Heavy Metal sound and attitude. They were one of the leaders of the so-called "experimental metal" sub-genre in the late 1980s. "Surprise! You're Dead!" was actually written by guitarist Jim Martin back in the 1970s when he played with the group "Agents of Misfortune" (which also featured future Metallica bassist Cliff Burton). The song was recorded in 1988 shortly before vocalist Mike Patton was hired- he added the lyrics later.

The song lyrics talk about someone gloating about a surprise killing- it does contain one oblique reference to the end of the world- /Now you are mine/I'll keep killing you until the end of time/. Clearly, it's a very angry song.

5) Say Hello 2 Heaven - Temple of the Dog (1991)

Temple of the Dog was formed by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden as a tribute to his friend Andrew Wood who died from a heroin overdose in 1990. After writing a few songs as a tribute, he gathered together some of Andrew's former bandmates from Mother Love Bone (Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament - who were in the process of putting together their new band Pearl Jam) to record a tribute album under the name "Temple of the Dog" The album also featured Mike McCready and Eddie Vedder who had both recently joined Pearl Jam.

The song is a slow, moody ballad. It basically reads like Chris Cornell's goodbye note to his friend, and talks about a sudden, unexpected ending- /Now it seems like too much love/Is never enough, you better seek out/Another road 'cause this one has/Ended abrupt, say hello to heaven/.

6) In the End - Linkin Park (2000)

This song was one of the first big hits for the nu-metal/rap-metal band Linkin Park. It combines the rough-edged vocals and polished heavy guitar sounds of nu-metal with hip-hop elements such as rap and keyboard/drum loops. The concept had been tried many times, but Linkin Park seemed to have come up with a winning combination of those elements that just worked well.

The song features rap/hip-hop style vocals in the verses, and harder edged nu-metal style vocals for the choruses and the bridge. The lyrics talk about failure and disappointment - with an almost grunge-like angst. The main theme being that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, your efforts are meaningless in the end, and about time wasted on folly. /Time is a valuable thing/Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings/Watch it count down to the end of the day/The clock ticks life away/It’s so unreal/.

7) End of Time - Danzig (1988)

Anyone familiar with Glenn Danzig's love of the occult should find it no surprise that one of his songs ends up on a list like this. An occultist's outlook, and booming, Jim Morrison-like vocals, and a stripped down heavy metal sound make Danzig a natural candidate to write a song about the apocalypse.

Danzig presents the end of all things as an almost welcome event - /A hum in the ear, numbness comes/Feeling like you're almost home/The open arms, tempting embrace/It's always been waiting/.

8) Fade to Black - Metallica (1984)

"Fade to Black" was the first power ballad from thrash metal giant Metallica. The basic structure of the song - an acoustic intro and verse, with a heavy chorus and outro- was reused on their next album for the song Welcome Home (Sanitarium) as well. Kirk Hammett's guitar solo on "Fade to Black" has been recognized as number 24 on Guitar World's 1998 "Reader's Choice 100 Best Solos Ever" poll.

The song talks about a person contemplating, and eventually committing suicide. /I have lost the will to live/Simply nothing more to give/There is nothing more for me/Need the end to set me free/. The lyrics talk about welcoming the end, as a release from pain and suffering.

9) The End - The Doors (1967)

The End is a classic rock masterpiece from The Doors that became a centerpiece of their live shows, and has made many appearances in film. Jim Morrison originally wrote the song about his breakup with girlfriend ary Werbelow. Morrison himself admitted that the song took on more and more expansive meaning for him as time went on. It includes an infamous spoken word section where Morrison talks about wanting to kill his father and have sex with his mother. The song seems to have implied apocalyptic meaning- and may be allegory for Jim Morrison's well known self-destructive behavior.

Musically, the song breaks into a chant-like jam towards the end using elements borrowed from Indian music while not sounding overtly Indian in character. The lyrics are a psychedelic head-trip chronicling an internal head trip about the process of accepting that something important has ended. /No safety or surprise, the end/I'll never look into your eyes...again/. The song is also associated with an ending through it's use in the film "Apocalypse Now" during the scene where Martin Sheen finally kills Colonel Kurtz.

10) Falling off the Edge of the World - Black Sabbath (1981)

This song, from heavy metal masters Black Sabbath, features the lyrics of Ronnie James Dio. Dio and Tony Iommi originally conceived the song as a testimony to all the bad things that were going on in the world at the time. During the 2007 tour with Heaven and Hell, Dio introduces the song this way, and goes on to say that things were still just as bad on some level.

The song opens with a somber intro where Dio sings about unfulfilled desires - /I should be at the table round/A servant of the crown/. The tempo picks up into a main riff featuring notes that run up and down the scale evoking the mood of a rollercoaster running out of control. The lyrics describe a futile struggle to avoid, then prepare for an inevitable fall over the brink- /I've got to be strong, oh, oh,/I'm falling off the edge of the world/Think you're safe, but you're wrong/We are falling off the edge of the world/.

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