Five Great Songs About Suicide: The Metal Years


Song: Who’s to Blame

Artist: Sacred Reich

Year: 1990

Key Lyric: “Oh my God it’s Jonny…Hanging by his neck…All those metal albums…Have led him to his death.”

The Bottom Line: A typical tale of alienated youth and generational miscommunication, Jonny can’t talk to mom, dad is likely abusive, and everywhere he turns, he’s tormented to get a haircut. He listens to Ozzy and Judas Priest, which means that when he’s found swinging from the ceiling fan, the parental units can’t help but put his entire music collection on trial. Perhaps there’s a lawsuit. Perhaps ma and pa focus more intently on young Jimmy, who so idolized his bro that he’s one step from the noose himself. He is pretty gloomy, after all. Far from kicking the chair out from under Jonny and his ilk, Sacred Reich sets up the poor lad as a martyr; a victim of parents who don’t listen, care only for their jobs and social standing, and have the audacity to expect sonny boy to wake up before noon on the weekends to do his homework. Though not exactly pro-suicide, the song does seem to excuse it, so long as the trigger is authoritarian rule, rather than harmless headbanging.


Song: Kill Yourself

Artist: S.O.D.

Year: 1985

Key Lyric: “Dig yourself a hole in the ground…Push up daisies six feet down…Take a dirt nap, buy the farm…Inject a bubble in your arm.”

The Bottom Line: Without a trace of irony, S.O.D. provides the era’s how-to manual for self-slaughter, all but demanding that kids take the easy way out. And maybe they should. Though employing such tired cliches as “kick the bucket” and “you’re a loser,” Billy Milano and company have had it up to here with whiny, disaffected young people who seem to look up to the very bands who ask them to go the fuck away. Never one for record sales or popularity, S.O.D. risks all by instituting a call to arms for fans everywhere: we’re glad you came to the show, now fuck off and die. Not only do they push the insecure over that final hump, they all but load the weapon themselves. Teenagers just want to be understood, but this song peeks under the covers and reveals the unexpected truth: they really don’t have anything to say anyhow. It’s all parents can do to keep a straight face during the umpteenth tale of the hot girl who won’t pay you any attention, even though you haven’t changed your shirt in weeks. “Hey, kiddo, I hate to break it to you, but prom is not being held in your room this year. Or any year, for that matter.”


Song: If I Don’t Wake Up

Suicidal Tendencies

Year: 1988

Key Lyric: “Why do I wake up in the morning – nothing’s changed since the day of my birth…Why do I wake up in the morning – I make no difference on this earth.”

The Bottom Line: Though tempered by a last-minute blast of defiance (some poppycock about “blazing a trail” and “I will not fail”), the song takes on the eyes and ears of a typical kid who wants to die solely so he can look down from heaven and see relatives weeping at his funeral. As always, suicide among young people is seen is decidedly temporary, where one can “get back” at those who have wronged him, only to spring from the grave and lecture parents and popular kids alike about not taking him for granted ever again. Yeah, the song is right in that most kids – most people – could leave life and no one would be the wiser, but it seems to be the sole property of the young to make so much noise about it. Who but a kid would screech like a banshee, fill up volumes of painfully self-aware diaries, and strike out with high-caliber weaponry, all in the name of being left alone? Still, S.T. captured the flavor of high school just about every time out, and amidst the expected protest songs against the usual suspects, they never failed to say it just wasn’t worth it anymore. The subject of this ditty is a self-described dimwit, which is wholly acceptable to S.T., for among the rebellious, there’s no greater sin than being better than someone else. And proving it.


Song: Reason to Live

Artist: Kiss

Year: 1987

Key Lyric: “Everybody’s got a reason to live, baby…Everybody’s got a dream and a hunger inside.”

The Bottom Line: Don’t do it, man! You have too much to live for. At least that’s what Paul and Gene would have you believe, though I’m inclined to think that they want you alive simply so you can buy their next CD. And if you’re going to end it all, the least you can do is pre-pay for a Kiss coffin. Though pro-life, the song mistakenly suggests that kids should always act on their desires, even at the expense of social order. Still, Kiss being Kiss, the song reveals its true agenda in the second half as the real reason for carrying on is to fuck another day. Maybe impotence, then, is the only exception to the song’s push for taking life by the horns. To put everything in the proper context, it’s important to see the accompanying video, which posits that being within earshot of a hot blond in a towel is a (perhaps the) reason to live, which pretty much excludes all but three members of the worldwide Kiss Army. Ace Frehley included.


Song: Mandatory Suicide

Artist: Slayer

Year: 1988

Key Lyric: “Ambushed by the spray of lead, count the bullet holes in your head…Offspring sent out to cry, living mandatory suicide.”

The Bottom Line: Though more a portrait of war through the eyes of a conscripted soldier of fortune, the graphic account could just as easily be an ode to the suicide bomber, which proves even Slayer knew what was coming on 9/11. From being “raked by machine gun fire” to being in a place where the “bullets drip like rain,” the song is both apocalyptic and sentimental in turn, giving us streets littered with dead bodies, only to allude to the tears of survivors with the next riff. Is it a call to die for a cause, or simply an objective view of a typical bloodbath? Slayer revered death, but how often did they tackle topical issues? More than you’d think, but here, I’d gather it’s the band’s way of wallowing in horror, but not so much that you don’t find it all a wee bit alluring. Unlike the sad figure of solitary suicide in S.O.D.’s world, this is about taking a good chunk of your neighborhood with you, especially if it can be done in the name of glory and infamy. Oddly, the same album would feature a song that could accompany Operation Rescue on its bombing missions, the fetus-friendly “Silent Scream” (though Randall Terry might object to the nugget, “Death is fucking you insane”).