Motivational Metal

I enjoy music. All kinds of it and in terms of personal taste across the board to each their own. I sincerely mean that as I feel people should freely listen to and enjoy whatever they want. However with that being said the palette of music available to mainstream consciousness is anything but an even playing field. I enjoy any type of music that is authentic, made from the heart and has a bit of an edge to it. When I was in my early teens I discovered heavy metal and all of its sub-genres. It shaped my life and played an enormous role in becoming the person I am today.

However I feel that through a lot of programming and conditioning this music I so dearly adore is dismissed, disrespected and demonized more than any other on Earth. What I would like to do is enrich each and every one of your lives with how powerful and motivational this music really can be. Please leave your pre-conditioned stereotypes behind, ditch the samples and beats (nothing wrong with them, there is just way too much of them in the mainstream) and don’t give me that buillshit excuse of ‘I don’t understand what they’re even saying’ while you check out 30 seconds into the song. I have attached links with lyrics for this exact reason to help you understand what a strong powerful and positive force this music really is. Trading a few minutes to expand your musical palette is not too much to ask….enjoy!! To avoid potential issues from posting others’ content each link in this section will open in a new window on it’s intended Youtube page

Song: Be Still And Know
Artist: Machine Head
Album: Unto The Locust
Year: 2011

I’ve been a fan of Machine Head for a long time. When they dropped what I consider their masterpiece Unto The Locust in the fall of 2011 I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to hear. Musically and lyrically this band pushed themselves to the limit and haven’t been able to reach this pinnacle ever since.

I have a strong emotional connection to nearly every song on this record and it really struck a chord with me as 2011 was a year of internal change for me and was a test for what was to come down the road. I cannot underestimate the importance of the lyrics in this song and musically it’s just a monster. I had several songs lined up for the first edition of this but I think lyrically it’s the most forceful and appropriate for how most of us are feeling at the moment given the climate of our world. If this is your first time listening to MH I hope you stay on board and become a loyal Head Case….you’ll thank yourself….trust me!

Song: Become The Storm
Artist: Dee Snider
Album: For The Love Of Metal
Year: 2018

I remember it clear as day. Thanksgiving weekend of 2017 I’m on the road and Dee appears on an episode The Jasta Show. Jamey Jasta lays down a challenge for Dee to make a raging metal album and he would produce it. Dee accepts the challenge and the results are awesome.

Fast-forward to late July of 2018 and this album is out. I got the pre-order personally autographed by Dee himself!!! Dee had drifted into other genres and projects and while teaming up with Jasta, guest artists and the Bellmore brothers from Toxic Holocaust this album shows that Dee is an ageless wonder. Allegedly he would nail vocals on the first take in his mid 60’s. A lot of upbeat and motivational lyrics on the album. A couple that touch on the theme of anti-bullying, including this classic…it deserved to be the first single.

Song: Powershifter
Artist: Fear Factory
Album: Mechanize
Year: 2010

The legendary and now (sadly) defunct Fear Factory deliver the goods on this one. This band mostly has lyrical themes about the relationship between man and machine. Plus the impending takeover of artificial intelligence and the loss of human liberties. Their 1998 masterpiece Obsolete predicted the future (possibly a blog topic down the road) and they’ve lyrically been on the pulse ever since

However it isn’t all doom and gloom. This is a song about breaking free from the ‘machine’ and taking back your own personal power. Vocalist Burton C. Bell demonstrates his mastery of the screaming/clean singing dual vocal style. Dino crushes with his riffs and the rack is just the right length and a shock to the system.

FUN FACT: FF were accused of using a drum machine for years. However longtime drummer Ray Herrera always brought the goods live and put that argument to bed. Legendary session drummer Gene Hoglan is credited with playing on this album but could not make the recording and would not join until the following tour. So for the first and only time in FF history the drum tracks on this album are all played by machines….who knew!!!

Song: Hunting High And Low
Artist: Stratovarius
Album: Infinite
Year: 2000

Finland’s Stratovarius are an interesting breed. They are incredibly talented musicians who can bring the speed and the shred. However (like most prog. metal bands) they also pile on the fromage a little bit too much at times. Irregardless This band is just over thirty years in the game and are giants in Europe compared to North America.

What I like about this song is that it takes a less-is-more approach. Not overly dependent on the speed and shred (although some of it is in there). It is the perfect length, tempo and gets the point across in a straight forward manner. I put this one in the motivational section because after all we are all hunting high and low to break free from our chains and what really moves us. A tremendous motivational jam for this time of the year!

Song: Desire
Artist: Ozzy Osbourne
Album: No More Tears

There is no doubt that Ozzy is in his twilight years and due to the years our touring and substance abuse we really don’t know how much longer he is going to be able to do this. He has expressed interest of going out on the road again when the pandemic subsides. This is especially since this tour was originally rescheduled due to physical injury. Very likely when he does make it back on the road it very well be his last jaunt.

But one thing has kept this legend going and that is….desire. With motivation from wife/manager Sharon, Ozzy had the will and the desire to kick drugs and alcohol (even after relapsing on several occasions). But also to remain in good enough shape to perform and deliver for his fans. Many with his ailments would have quit a long time ago. This song is the epitome of that drive and determination.

***Fun Fact***
I had a couple of different versions of a metal radio show over the years. On different campus stations at different times when the calendar year changed or the station changed….I would usually play this song. Not only because it was appropriate for a new beginning but it is a truly underrated gem in the Osbourne catalogue.

Song: Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
Artist: Metallica
Album: Master Of Puppets
Year: 1986

This Canadian Thanksgiving weekend I just had to pull something from this sentimental favourite. Back in 1996 on Thanksgiving weekend this was leant to me by a friend and was the first full-blooded metal album I ever heard. To see my mind was blown was a severe understatement. That weekend was also the last time I saw my grandfather alive as he would perish due to multiple heart attacks about a month later. I always associate this album with the beginning of autumn and nearly 25 years later it’s brilliance still astonishes me.

As for the song itself the lyrics can be taken metaphorically as well as literally. You may not need to escape a sanitarium but maybe that building is symbolic of a major obstacle in your life. This song can be widely interpreted as breaking free from a bad situation and beginning to flourish and living life on your own terms.

This song would be the anthem for the chilling documentary Paradise Lost which is the story of the wrongful convictions in the West Memphis Three murders. Metallica was so dedicated to the cause of the film they donated their songs without charging any licensing fees (which is SUPER rare) and this song was one of them and is talked about at length in the contents of the film.

Song: Children Of The Grave
Artist: White Zombie
Album: N.I.B. Vol. One
Year: 1994

How do you take one of the all time greats from Black Sabbath and the genre of early heavy-metal itself and make it arguably better than the original? Enter White Zombie…

I always say the best cover songs are the ones that miraculously surpass the original or come very close. This one comes ever so painfully close. I just don’t have it in my heart to dethrone the Sabbath original but man….they absolutely NAIL it in their prime. Only criticism is the long and dull outro.

Some may say this is an odd choice for Motivational Metal but lyrically I’ve always found it to be an inspirational rally cry for the youth to not let the powers-that-be take control of their world and run it into the ground. This was written at the heigh of the Cold War and alludes to overcoming the fear of nuclear weapons. These lyrics can easily be interpreted to a lot of the craziness of the modern day. Are they children of tomorrow or children of the grave???

Song: We Will Be Strong
Artist: Thin Lizzy
Album: Chinatown
Year: 1980

Some would debate calling Thin Lizzy a heavy metal band. While there is some merit to this one cannot deny their influence on the genre. Metallica being one of their biggest cheerleaders. Skirting between traditional folk and hard rock this Irish four piece remains criminally underrated to this day.

Not only do I love the twin-guitar lead in this song the soulful vocal and lyrical content of the chorus reflect how we need to move forward and persevere in these chaotic times.

Unfortunately Lizzy (who’s roots connect back to the late 1960’s) would disband by 1985. Mostly brought on by the tragic untimely death by drugs overdose of singer/bass player Phil Lynott. However their legacy still lives on as some of the remaining members formed the fine Black Star Riders in the late 2000’s. Phil was immortalized as a bronze statue in the heart of Dublin, Ireland.

Song: Broken, Beat, Scarred
Artist: Metallica
Album: Death Magnetic
Year: 2008

This song is a microcosm of Metallica had gone through the previous five years at this point. The band nearly imploded but instead they persevered and would produce their best album since the late 1980’s.

While they are known for their innovations of speed Metallica nails it here through a mostly mid tempo and groove. Anyone who has had scars to boast and have experienced healing will understand the drive behind this very tune. Also a great track choice for jogging.

Song: Resurrection
Artist: Rob Halford
Album: Resurrection
Year: 2000

When the ‘metal-god’ himself shockingly left Judas Priest in the early 90’s he had to find and reinvent himself. His first band Fight were respectable doppelgängers to Pantera but would only last a short while. Then he would confound most everyone by doing the NIN/Manson thing with the puzzling industrial project Two.

After getting through a rough patch in the late 90’s metal itself was on a resurgence in the year 2000. Bruce Dickinson’s solo career crushed the late 90’s teaming up with producer Roy Z. A move that would eventually lead him back to crushing it with Iron Maiden. Halford took off his experimental musical hats and went back to what brought him to the dance and had Roy Z. to write, play and produce.

The result is a spectacular return to form and like Bruce before him would come back to Judas Priest about four years later. Rob had to rebuild himself in order to come back to his home in Priest. This lead to the famous photo shoot on BW&BK magazine with Halford on a throne reclaiming it for all of metal!

This album is a perfect example of just that and is a reminder of his massive legacy in the genre. The title track is a classic tale about rebirth and kicking off the dust. It can apply to any situation in anyone’s life (especially Rob’s at that point in time). It is also an extraordinary showcase of the Metal-God’s vocal power which has never waned over the years. Two fun facts (and I’m not talking about the band…)

1) Phantom Phil and the Metal God share the same birthday

2) It was reported years back on The Jasta Show that Halford doesn’t do ANY vocal warmups before a concert…that in and of itself is astounding!

Song: Alive
Artist: P.O.D.
Album: Satellite
Year: 2001

San Diego’s P.O.D. (standing for Payable On Death) started out as this hardcore punk, nu-metal, hip hop hybrid that the metal purists didn’t know what to think of. In fact they found Sonny’s rapping to be somewhat of a joke. The jokes would pile on ever further when it was revealed that they were in fact a ‘Christian’ band that wrote a lot of lyrics about the battles of good and evil. Joke was on them apparently because this anthem would put the band into the stratosphere and give them a hit single that stands the test of time.

The timing of this post is appropriate as this was released as a single in late summer 2001. It wasn’t until after 9/11 that the song exploded. In the chaotic aftermath of that incident certain songs exploded onto rock radio. This was one of them and it was just the jam many needed to hear to move forward with their lives. The official video on YT now has over 15 million views and the band is still putting out a steady stream of music. While it was their biggest hit during a very tumultuous time they are by no means a one-hit-wonder.

Song: I Can
Artist: Helloween
Album: Better Than Raw
Year: 1998

Germany’s answer to Iron Maiden are the immortal Helloween. Much bigger in Europe than North America this band has been through a lot and still soldiers on. One example is the Pumpkins United tour and lineup which brought vocalists and other members from the past and present on stage together and bring the most die-hard fans to excitement.

Current vocalist Andy Deris appeared on his third album with the band on this one. The lyrics are pretty straightforward…proving the doubters wrong, which the band did on this most recent tour by staying united throughout the entire run….possibly setup to record a studio offering in the future.

Helloween writes lyrics in broken English from their native German tongue. In translation some very cheesy lyrics appeared over the years alongside some classic ones. Put this one on the latter and their video got decent airplay on Much and MTV’s metal shows….great riff and hook to accompany the uplifting lyrics. Pumpkins ’till the end!!

Song: Stand
Artist: Motorhead
Album: March Or Die
Year: 1992

This album is not exactly one of Motorhead’s elite. They were struggling to get proper respect and distribution on a major label and were almost on their way out. Despite the lack of focus and distractions this album cranked out some unsung heroes. The leadoff track is not talked about often but in my opinion is one of the album’s standouts.

I find it amazing how Lemmy was able to take one simple word and tell an entire lyrical story around it. While Motorhead were known about writing tales of sex, drugs, rock n’roll and more drugs and sex…they could really write some uplifting lyrics about standing up for one’s self. Some of this was due to Lemmy growing up under a very strict pastor of a father whom he despised. This song came across my radar at a period of my life when I needed to really hear these lyrics. They worked…and that is why I shared them in this section.

Song: This Fire
Artist: Killswitch Engage
Album: WWE Wreckless Intent
Year: 2006

Killswitch never released this song on a main album and it was a b-side picked up and licensed by WWE. It would end up being of my personal favourites of theirs. The lyrics reflect the most recent Pillar on fitness quite nicely.

This would also be CM Punk’s longtime entrance theme and at the time of this posting it will be the nine year anniversary of the last time he came to the ring with it in his hometown of Chicago. This song was first offered to Randy Orton but it just didn’t work for him.

As much as I love Killswitch frontman Jesse L. their former singer (on this track) Howard Jones will always be my favourite. Very few mix the screams and soulful clean vocals the way that he can. This same year I would meet the band and conduct a radio interview with their bass player on their bus. This band and their crew treated me like royalty and that gave me extra incentive to remain a fan.

Song: Another Level
Artist: Body Count
Album: Carnivore
Year: 2020

A neat addition here as I literally just heard this song a couple of days before posting. It is a perfect fit as Ice-T let’s Hatebreed front man Jamey Jasta donate his guest vocals for this track. Ice-T has been a multiple time guest on The Jasta Show (and even voices part of the intro) and the two go way back.

The lyrics reflect the mindsets of both men and anybody who has risen above their current circumstances with hustle and drive. This one will surely leave your critics and naysayers in the dust with its raw power. It brings me back to a previous Ice-T appearance on Jasta’s podcast where he was talking about his own work-ethic and drive. I’m paraphrasing here but he eloquently stated ‘are you gonna work hard and be a winner? Or are you just gonna sit around and be a f**king loser?’…couldn’t have said it better myself and this theme is reflected in this song. Keep your hustle alive!

Song: Slave To The Grind
Artist: Skid Row
Album: Slave To The Grind
Year: 1991

I recently listen to Skid Row’s songsmith Rachel Bolan on a podcast teeing up next year’s 30th anniversary of this blistering record. Obviously, I had to go back and check out this classic.

Skid Row may be best known for their ballads and being horribly miscast in the ‘hair-metal’ genre. But may I remind you that most of their material was quite heavy. This song being on of the best examples. While touring for this record they opened for Pantera and even won over their crowd.

Lyrically this one goes out to anyone who has had enough with ‘the grind’ and nobody spits out the venomous verbiage like Sebastien Bach. Despite being the energetic and magnetic talent he was its too bad they never reached the same heights after his falling out with the band. Make no mistake that was the best incarnation of the band but the core nucleus of songwriters have stuck together with different vocalists and still put out respectable material. Miscast because of their hit ballads make no mistake that Skid Row bring the heat…even in modern times!

Song: Imperium
Artist: Machine Head
Album: Through Ashes Of Empires
Year: 2003

Not too much to say about this one as the attached lyric video make it quite obvious as to what this song is about. Rob Flynn in the liner notes refers to this a ‘your personal national anthem’. Truer words have never been spoken. This song is about making it through the other side after a long series of disappointments and frustrations.

Speaking of which the band at this point in time was just starting to return to form after a couple of weird side-step albums that geared the band towards Nu-Metal and radio-play. Neither one was a good fit for them and this was the beginning of their next chapter where the songs got more and more progressive as well as epic while returning to their thrash roots.

As usual I have an interesting story with this song. I saw the band play a two-hour and forty-five minute set in February 2015 in Toronto. It was awesome and like most other shows this was the opener. During the intro I was standing next to an old man who must have been at least 60. He was getting into it but then when the mosh-pit started after the intro he had a look of horror on his face as he really didn’t know what he had gotten himself into. I never saw him again and I sincerely hope he’s ok.

Song: Break The Chain
Artist: Raven
Album: All For One
Year: 1983

After just (surprisingly) releasing a new album this past September I had to show some love to those almost-forgotten British metal legends. I say that because in the early 1980’s they came to America and started kicking some serious ass. In fact playing clubs in the northeast another band who released their debut album that year called Metallica would open for THEM. Needless to say the two would end up on opposite paths of fortune.

Needless to say whatever went wrong with Raven like countless other bands in the early 1980’s metal groundswell they put out some fun records. This ons is likely their most respected and ‘Break The Chain’ is just about breaking free. An inspired vocal performance from John Gallagher and one of the coolest and weirdest guitar riffs I’ve ever heard. The nuts and bolts of this song shouldn’t fit but yet it all comes together. Long live the pioneers of ‘athletic rock’ (whatever that even means…just roll with it)

While Metallica’s debut Kill ‘Em All would gain more success and notoriety I would like to point out that both records have songs called Seek And Destroy (Metallica uses the ‘&’ instead). Raven’s does not measure up to the iconic Metallica anthem but it is still pretty damn good and worth checking out.

Song: Over The Wall
Artist: Testament
Album: First Strike Still Deadly
Year: 2001

***Album Note***
This was supposed to be a remix album of songs from their first two records The Legacy and The New Order. Due to copyright restrictions they had to re-record them entirely….and this song is from The Legacy and in my opinion blows away the original version in sonic quality and overall intensity.

The song is about a prison-break but could be interpreted anyway you want. Chuck Billy spitting bullets with these lyrics is so believable and gets the adrenaline flowing. Any time you feel stuck in life you can plan to go over the wall…even if it takes a while and doesn’t work the first time. The band’s definitive vocalist Chuck Billy was stricken with leukaemia that deemed fatal but managed to recover and lead Testament to a bigger following than ever before. This song is apropos on another of levels and it rips.

Suggestions for Motivational Metal

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