According to various interpretations of the Mayan calendar, the world as we know it is set to comes to a cataclysmic end on December 21, 2012, Hey, that’s this Friday!
Since we only have a scant few moments left to enjoy planet Earth before apocalypse is literally now (allegedly, of course), it’s time to get priorities straight. Primarily, what the hell are you going to listen to leading up to the moment everything explodes in a dazzling blaze of destruction?
While Simon Le Bon of ‘80s new wave icons Duran Duran once famously proclaimed, “we want to be the band to dance to when the bomb drops,” we’ve taken a more updated look at this end of the world playlist, featuring just a few of the ways modern rock addresses the last days on Earth.
You’ll also notice that a certain song by R.E.M. didn’t make the cut, either. With only a few days left of existence, we thought better of being so right on the nose. Besides, what’s more fun than spending the end of days trawling through your music collection finding the perfect tunes to crank up on the road to oblivion? This is fun, people!
And if we’re still having this conversation on December 22, we can all have a laugh and toast to the greatest holiday gift of them all: life! Here’s hoping…
Time Zone (Afrika Bambaataa feat. John Lydon), “World Destruction – While there are various ways to interpret the Mayan calendar, Sex Pistols/Public Image Ltd frontman John Lydon and hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa made no bones about the prophetic signs that the end was indeed nigh with this 1984 collaboration: “Mother Nature is gonna work against you/Nothing in your power that you can do/Yes, the world is headed for destruction/You and I know it, the Bible tells you.” Referencing 16th Century prophet Nostradamus and boasting the refrain, “This is a world destruction/your life ain’t nothing,” this tense, chaotic tune is the perfect theme for global annihilation.
Bad Religion, “F**k Armageddon… This is Hell!” – for L.A. punk legends Bad Religion, the world situation in 1982 led the band to record their first full-length album, cryptically entitled How Could Hell Be Any Worse? Among the hard-charging hardcore anthems is this caustic song, which welcomes the end of the world as an antidote to society’s ills: “In the end the good will go to heaven up above/The bad will perish in the depths of hell/How can hell be any worse when life alone is such a curse?/Fuck Armageddon, this is hell.”
Rise Against, “Endgame” – Politically-minded Chicago punk band Rise Against’s entire 2011 release Endgame looks at a world “living under this black cloud of doom – everything’s spiraling out of control,” according to frontman Tim McIlrath. “What if this grotesque world we created doesn’t deserve to go on?” That sentiment permeates songs like the title track, which details a world hurtling towards the end of everything: “She watched the world/Crumble away/’Is this the end of yesterday?’/’Lord, I hope so’, is all he said/All gone are the old guards/Gone are the cold, cold wars/Weightless we go forth.On wings of amnesty.”
My Chemical Romance, “S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W” – Taken from MCR’s 2010 concept album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, this big emo-rock ballad boasts a paranoid but rousing and melodic chorus that makes running for your life sound more inspiring than terrifying: “Move your body when the sunlight dies/Everybody hide your body from the scarecrow/Everybody hide/Move your body when the sunlight dies/Everybody hide your body from the scarecrow/Everybody hide.”
Muse, “Apocalypse Please”– These British prog-rock mega-stars have long made music about end-of-the-world conspiracy theories and governmental mind control on albums like Absolution, Black Holes and Revelations, and the band’s most recent full-length, The 2nd Law. On this song from Absolution, Muse goes right in on the gloom and doom over dramatic and orchestral flourishes: “Declare this an emergency/Come on and spread a sense of urgency/And pull us through/And pull us through/And this is the end/This is the end of the world.”
P.O.D., “End of the World” – This openly Christian SoCal nu-metal band made their feelings about the state of the world on this unambiguous track from their 2008 release, When Angels & Serpents Dance, painting a rather bleak picture of the end: “Famine in the land of your fathers Feel the earth giving birth to the dead In these tribulations, preach his kingdom And this is how you know that it’s the end.” They even ask the brooding question, “And are we getting what we deserve?” over the song’s churning guitar riffs.
Metallica, “Blackened” – These Bay Area heavy metal legends have a slew of songs about death and destruction, including this opening track from their 1988 classic LP, …And Justice For All. As the band churns out one of their patently brutal rapid-fire riffs, singer James Hetfield shouts the apocalyptic lyrics: “Death of mother Earth/Never a rebirth /Evolution’s end /Never will it mend,” and the equally bleak verse, “Callous frigid chill /Nothing left to kill /Never seen before /Breathing nevermore.” Death has rarely sounded so majestically heavy.
Smashing Pumpkins, “The End Is The Beginning Is The End”– Written by SP band leader Billy Corgan specifically for the 1997 big-screen flop Batman & Robin, this incendiary guitar-driven tune was his band’s first single after their multi-platinum 1995 double-LP, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The song that would go on to win the GRAMMY for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1998 finds Corgan looking at a bleak landscape where the movie’s titular hero “can watch the world devoured in it’s pain.” An alternate, more orchestral version of the song was used in the trailer for 2009 super hero flick, Watchmen.
Nine Inch Nails, “The Day The World Went Away” – The first single from Nine Inch Nails’ 1999 double album opus, The Fragile, is an apocalyptic dirge that sounds as bleak as an episode of The Walking Dead. Shifting between crushing guitar noise to foreboding ambience with Trent Reznor’s mournful vocals drifting through the claustrophobic mix: “It eats the fear it eats the pain/The sweetest price he’ll have to pay/The day the whole world went away.”
Coheed and Cambria, “No World For Tomorrow” – These progressive metal-heads are known for science fiction and fantasy themes, including their own comic book series, The Amory Wars. Part of the comic book’s story can be heard on the band’s 2007 full-length, Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow, including this cryptic tale of a cursed world facing imminent destruction over circular guitar riffs: Wait! There’s never been a mess like this/Oh, no more hands to hold/When the page turns tomorrow with the hurt to give up/Curse us as God has.”
Fishbone, “Party at Ground Zero” – One of the few bands who can boast influencing the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction, L.A. ska-punks Fishbone were teenage prodigies light years ahead of their time when they released the band’s debut EP in 1985. They make the end of the world sound like the best party ever over blasting horns and skittering guitars: “Party at ground zero/Every movie starring you/And the world will turn to flowing/Pink vapor stew.”
Tool, “Ænema” – These purveyors of twisted metal went all in on their second album, Ænema, including this profanity-packed title track that references the late beloved comic Bill Hicks and welcomes the end of it all as something to look forward to: “Some say the end is near/Some say we’ll see Armageddon soon/I certainly hope we will/I sure could use a vacation from this.”
Nero, “Doomsday” – It’s not just the guitar slingers screaming about the alleged impending apocalypse. UK EDM duo Nero crank up the BPMs on this dubstep dance floor detonator with a massive drop found on their 2011 debut album, Welcome Reality. Being so futuristic, they have a slightly more hopeful approach, with an impending voice of doom intoning that that “Doomsday” won’t happen until the very distant year of 2808.
-Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local