Ballad of Armageddon – Music of the End of the World

Posted: March 1, 2014 in Just a Thought, Post-Apocalypse, Science Fiction
Tags: , , , ,

(Originally posted 5 AUGUST 2009)

Really. There are songs about the end of the world. I’ll tell you about a couple, and you can explore the rest on your own.

Most folks are going to think of hardcore, death metal, or otherwise barely coherent lyrics that may or may not be about apocalyptic forebodings, and the bands themselves acquired the look from The Road Warrior. OrBallad of Armageddon – Music of the End of the World
Really. There are songs about the end of the world. I’ll tell you about a couple.

Most folks are going to think of hardcore, death metal, or otherwise barely coherent lyrics that may or may not be about apocalyptic forebodings, and the bands themselves acquired the look from The Road Warrior. There were bands like Nuclear Assault, whose name said it all. Not all of the great tunes about the end of the world as we know it (not R.E.M.’s end of the world, thanks) come from that corner of the thunderdome.

When I served in the Navy years ago, I had the privilege of meeting all kinds of people from across the entire country I otherwise might not have met. Before the internet and all the social media allowed us to connect with people several thousand miles away at any given moment, this was a huge deal, as they brought with them a lot of influences I might have otherwise missed.

One of these gents with whom I served introduced me to Kate Bush, and I’ve been grateful ever since. Only recently did I find out how her early career intertwined with Pink Floyd, and the album The Wall served as a soundtrack staple for games that didn’t have one, like Wasteland. While I loved her music, I hadn’t really discovered the depth of her subject matter until I found her album, The Whole Story, a collection of songs from previous albums. “Breathing” is the single that addresses the effects of fallout after the bomb.

We’ve lost our chance
We’re the first and last
after the blast.
Chips of plutonium
are twinkling in every lung.

While not technically correct, the song is brilliant and so radical from the rest of the “he loves me, he loves me not” pop crap everyone else out there sang at the time. Her song “Experiment IV” is also worth a note too, not as post-nuclear but as a song about an unusual weapon of mass destruction. (A very young Hugh Laurie happens to be in the video as well.)

Several years ago, a co-worker got me interested in Steve Wilson and his band, Porcupine Tree. The first album he allowed me to borrow, Stupid Dream, featured a song called “A Smart Kid.”

Winter lasted five long years
No sun will come again I fear
Chemical harvest was sown

The reference is to the purported nuclear winter* which would happen in the even of such a conflict, but there is also the reference of chemical warfare. The “kid” later tells aliens who came to visit that he doesn’t know what happened to the people but that there was a war and he “must have won.”

In another vein, my favorite RPG growing up was Wasteland (and they’re finally making a 2!) but it didn’t have a soundtrack so I ended up supplying my own. The Wall from Pink Floyd, Alice in Chains’ Facelift and Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine served and served well.

So, apocalyptic visions exist everywhere one may care to look for them, even in popular music.

*This was researched in depth by the TTAPS team, including Carl Sagan, but criticized and refuted by later studies post the conflicts in Kuwait. there are always bands like Nuclear Assault, whose name says it all. Not all of the great tunes about the end of the world as we know it (not R.E.M.’s end of the world, thanks) come from that corner of the thunderdome.

When I served in the Navy years ago, I had the privilege of meeting all kinds of people from across the entire country I otherwise might not have met. Before the internet and all the social media, when we can connect with people across the country at any given moment, this was a huge deal, as they brought with them a lot of influences I might have otherwise missed.

One of these gents introduced me to Kate Bush, and I’ve been grateful ever since. Only recently did I find out how her early career intertwined with Pink Floyd, and the album The Wall served as a soundtrack staple for games that didn’t have one, like Wasteland. While I loved her music, I hadn’t really discovered the depth of her subject matter until I found her album, The Whole Story, a collection of songs from previous albums. “Breathing” is the single that addresses the effects of fallout after the bomb.

We’ve lost our chance
We’re the first and last
after the blast.
Chips of plutonium
are twinkling in every lung.

While not technically correct, the song is brilliant and so radical from the rest of the “he loves me, he loves me not” pop crap everyone else out there sang at the time. Her song Experiment IV is also worth a note too, not as post-nuclear but as a song about a weapon of mass destruction. A very young Hugh Laurie happens to be in the video as well.

Several years ago, a co-worker got me interested in Steve Wilson and his band, Porcupine Tree. The first album he allowed me to borrow, Stupid Dream, featured a song called “A Smart Kid.”

Winter lasted five long years
No sun will come again I fear
Chemical harvest was sown

The reference is to the purported nuclear winter* which would happen in the even of such a conflict, but there is also the reference of chemical warfare. The “kid” later tells aliens who came to visit that he doesn’t know what happened to the people but that there was a war and he “must have won.”

*This was researched in depth by the TTAPS team, including Carl Sagan, but criticized and refuted by later studies post the conflicts in Kuwait.

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