Thanksgiving is the perfect time to start a gratitude journal in order to express your appreciation for all the bands that are currently working to make the world a better place: Abbath, Gaahls Wyrd, Darkthrone, Mayhem, Lamb of God, etc. Why not use the upcoming holiday as an opportunity to share your favorite music with your loved ones?
We all know, however, that when families congregate, plans often go awry. The tables can turn figuratively and literally. Sometimes, they are even smashed over someone’s head. That is another reason to come armed with a full metal playlist. In case someone tries to instigate a fight, prepare yourself beforehand with Metallica’s “Wasting My Hate.” This song will definitely help you remain stoic.
Perhaps there is an authority figure in your clan who is a bit of a bully. Treat him or her to the music video for Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” If you are the Alice In Chains-loving “Rotten Apple” of the family, chances are that your parents will love Lindemann’s “Praise Abort.” The 1961 #1 hit “Mother-in-Law,” which was performed by Ernie K-Doe and written by Allen Toussaint, may be an R&B tune. Yet, this humorous classic certainly deserves the “Devil Horns.”
Rammstein says it best: “We are [all] living in America.” Thus, our list features international picks. Bring these 10 songs to the table this Thanksgiving to add some spice to your evening.
1. Mägo de Oz’s “Fiesta Pagana”
Mägo de Oz, which means Wizard of Oz, is a folk metal band from Madrid that was founded in 1988. The group’s third single, “Fiesta Pagana,” or “Pagan Party,” first appeared on the album Finisterra (2000). It remains their biggest hit to date. Therefore, it might not be a coincidence that Moonsorrow released a track called “Pakanajuhla”/“Pagan Feast” on their debut album, Suden Uni, the following year. “Fiesta Pagana” is an upbeat tune with a sing-along chorus that will help you foster a communal spirit this November. Mägo de Oz has spawned multiple versions of this song, such as “Fiesta Pagana 2.0” from Celtic Land (2013). This album boasts various European and American guest artists as well as the frontman of the next band represented on our list. “Pagana Fiesta 2.0” is accompanied by a highly successful music video, which currently has over 180 million views on YouTube. This variant showcases alternating vocalists during the verses. Mägo de Oz has even made an English version of “Pagan Party,” which has its own video.
The overall invocation of “Fiesta Pagana” is to eat, drink, and be merry. “Ponte en pie. Alza el puño y ven a la fiesta pagana. En la hoguera hay de beber.”/“Stand up. Raise your fist and come to the pagan party. There are libations by the bonfire.” Although this may sound like a family-friendly song, the following lines may seem a little unsavory if there are God-fearing souls in attendance: “Si no hay pan para los tuyos y ves muy gordo al abad. Si su virgen viste de oro, desnúdala.”/“If there is no bread for yours and you see that the abbot is very fat. If your Virgin wears gold, denude her.” Nevertheless, this call to blasphemy pales in comparison to the fact that a “Super” phallus in a red cape bops around onstage with Mägo de Oz while they perform “Fiesta Pagana” on the Diabulus in Opera (2017) DVD. Needless to say, the pilgrims would not approve.
2. Korpiklaani’s “Let’s Drink”
“Let’s drink and enjoy.” Korpiklaani, or The Backwoods Clan, may just be the world’s greatest folk metal band. No other band reinterprets authentic ethnic flavor like Korpiklaani. Miraculously, this group, which is responsible for hits like “Rauta”/“Iron,” seems fresh and modern, despite being influenced by humppa, a cheerful form of Finnish dance music that is somewhat reminiscent of polka.“Let’s Drink” is one of Korpiklaani’s most successful drinking songs. It may be a bit tragic, but it exudes love for one’s homeland. “Never gonna give up my rugged life. Never gonna sell my infertile soil.” “Let’s Drink” debuted on Korpiklaani’s fourth studio album, Tervaskanto (2007), which ends with the instrumental “Nordic Feast.” Tervaskanto features instruments like the mandolin, violin, tin whistle, torupill (Estonian bagpipe), jouhikko (two- or three-stringed Finnish and Karelian lyre), etc.
Korpiklaani is best known for “Vodka,” which fulfills the promise, “And you will feel awesome.” Of course, the benefit of alcohol consumption during holidays is that it often makes annoying relatives seem less malignant. Yet, no one can deny the obvious dangers of getting “Lost, Trashed & Strung Out,” to quote Children of Bodom. That is why we have settled on a more mild pick than “Vodka,”which is capable of triggering Dionysian debauchery. That said, Korpiklaani offers an abundance of songs that will put you in the right state of mind to indulge in an evening of the deadly sin of gluttony: “Beer Beer,” “Pidot”/“Feast,” “Happy Little Boozer,” “Tequila,” “Bring Us Pints of Beer,” “Wooden Pints,” “Karhunkaatolaulu”/“Bear Hunt Song,” “Hunting Song,” “Juomamaa”/“A Drinker’s Land,” “Korvesta Liha”/“Wilderness Meat,” etc. Although it has a sad ending, “Antaja”/“Giver” will remind you that there is more to Thanksgiving than Epicureanism.
Korpiklaani has always been inspired by Sámi influences. The group makes use of the shamanic drum, for example. Occasionally, frontman Jonne Järvelä will even yoik. Yoiking is the traditional form of Sámi song. In case clarification is needed, the Sámis are the indigenous people of Sápmi, or Lapland, which stretches through parts of northern Finland, Sweden, Norway, and even Russia. (Euronymous, Mayhem’s slain co-founder, was a notable Norwegian who allegedly bore Sámi lineage.) The Sámi people were invited to Alaska in 1984 and 1989 to teach reindeer husbandry to the native Americans. (Sheldon Jackson was a driving force behind the importation of a near 1,300 reindeer from Siberia.) Sadly, the Sámis along with other non-Native Americans were cruelly banned from owning reindeer in the United States in 1937. Korpiklaani will help you appreciate this historically oppressed minority that contributed to American culture.
So why does Järvelä, who was born in Vesilahti, include elements of Sámi music in his songs? The reason is that Järvelä has spent time living in Lapland, where he met his first wife, the late Maaren Aikio, who was Sámi. Shamaani Duo, the precursor to Korpiklaani, was founded in 1993. Jonne and Maaren both sang in Shamaani Duo using the Northern Sámi language. (Maaren’s father, Niiles-Jouni Aikio, was a professional yoik singer.) The duo soon became a fixture at a local ski resort. It is a testament to Shamaani Duo’s merit that their sole studio album, Hunka Lunka (1996), was chosen as the official Commemorative Gift of the Helsinki Summit 1997. Therefore, Hunka Lunka wound up in the hands of Russia’s first president, the hilarious Boris Yeltsin, and Bill Clinton. The second incarnation of Jonne’s band was called Shaman. Although Maaren did not sing in Shaman, she released the group’s material through her company, Natural Born Records. In 2003, Shaman morphed into Korpiklaani. The group’s turn towards true folk metal was prompted by Järvelä’s work with the most excellent Finntroll. He loaned his yoiking prowess to Finntroll’s Jaktens Tid (2001) and spent a couple of years touring with the band. Jonne’s love of wildlife, nature photography, and family qualifies him as the kind of person that you want to have at your Thanksgiving festivities in spirit.
3. Black Label Society’s “America the Beautiful”
This magnificent and wholesome instrumental rendition of “America the Beautiful” is brought to you courtesy of Zakk Wylde. It is the concluding track on Black Label Society’s 1919 Eternal (2002), on which drummer Craig Nunenmacher also participates. This soothing classic provides much-needed relief on an album otherwise colored by guns and mass murder. 1919 Eternal was written for Wylde’s father, Jerome F. Wielandt, who passed away in 2009. Robert Trujillo contributed to two of the album’s tracks, “Demise of Sanity” and “Life, Birth, Blood, Doom.” Like Trujillo, Zakk Wylde gives Americans cause to be proud. As one of the greatest guitarists of all-time, this New Jersey-native is one of this nation’s most gifted sons. In fact, Wylde is such a supernova with a guitar in hand that he often outshines his longtime collaborator Ozzy Osbourne. In addition to being a stellar musician, Zakk is also a dedicated father and husband. You can listen to Black Label Society’s upcoming album, Doom Crew Inc., one day early on Thanksgiving Day. For a ticket to the listening party and Q&A with Zakk, use the link found on Barbaranne Wylde’s Instagram to pre-save or pre-add Doom Crew Inc. through Spotify or Apple Music.
Robert Trujillo appears in another project that you might consider watching this November, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World (2017). This documentary provides insight into how musicians with Native American heritage helped shape the landscape of rock n’ roll. The film features guests like Iggy Pop, Slash, Matt Sorum, and Mike Inez.
4. Amorphis’ “The Pilgrimage”
“Pilgrimage from Darkness” was recorded as a demo in 1991. It was released on the EP Privilege of Evil (1993). This song became “The Pilgrimage,” which is the 8th track on The Karelian Isthmus (1992), Amorphis’ debut studio album. Although the two versions are very similar, we recommend listening to them both. The Karelian Isthmus was released on November 1st. The album, which focuses on battle and religion, portrays a Celtic warrior’s spiritual “Fall,” or rather revolution, wherein “The name of God is lost.” Thus, The Karelian Isthmus is perfect for the existentially tumultuous autumn season. The album concludes with “Vulgar Necrolatry”: I open the Graves, admire the rot… I kneel before a carrion.”
The Karelian Isthmus was recorded and mixed at the famous Sunlight Studio, where Darkthrone recorded their first album, Soulside Journey (1992). (Darkthrone would soon rebel against Sunlight Studio, which the duo felt was responsible for conformity of sound among artists.) At the time of The Karelian Isthmus, Amorphis was more death metal in style than they are today. The band’s sound, though fluid, has always been unique. On The Karelian Isthmus, Tomi Koivusaari acted as the group’s frontman and played rhythm guitar. At that point in time, Amorphis had yet to introduce clean vocals. (Although Tomi has remained with Amorphis as a guitarist and backing vocalist, Pasi Koskinen would eventually take over as the group’s main voice. Amorphis’ current singer, Tomi Joutsen, may just be the best metal singer at transitioning from harsh to clean vocals.)
Pasi Koskinen musters all of his chthonic power to make “The Pilgrimage” a bone-chilling journey: “In his eyes, the evil spirits rise. Turns to the darkness with Satan’s name.” This might not be the type of pilgrimage that you were expecting. Yet, as soon as you have heard this song, you will be craving another round of Amorphis. If you would prefer to take it easy on your family’s eardrums, the metaphorical “Brother and Sister” from Queens of Time (2018) will prove a more palatable choice for those who are virgins to metal. The track still includes some awesome, though turned-down, growls.
5. Black Sabbath’s “Cornucopia”
“Cornucopia” dishes up an unhealthy dose of cynicism. What would a holiday be without some degree of Scrooge-like nay-saying? “Let them have their little game. Delusion helps to keep them sane. Let them have their little toys. Matchbox cars and more kids’ joys. Exciting in their plastic ways. Frozen food in a concrete place. Your gonna go insane. I’m tryin’ to save your brain.” It sounds like someone is more than a little bit “Paranoid.” The remaining lines contain impressive turns of phrase. You have to love Geezer Butler’s lyrics. Although the drug-fueled recording process for the song could have gone more smoothly, it is true Black Sabbath. Thankfully, “Cornucopia,” which is from Vol. 4 (1972), features Ozzy Osbourne as the quartet’s frontman. Because of the pop status that the Prince of Darkness has achieved as a reality TV star, everyone’s nonna, babushka, and Oma knows of him. “Cornucopia” is a great way to enlighten your relatives as to what Ozzy actually sounds like. Most likely, they will be surprised by how tame and bluesy “Cornucopia” seems in comparison to Ozzy’s wild reputation. This song won’t even hurt your grandparents’ ears. Hell, they may even become fans. Bill Ward has confided that “Cornucopia” helped get him through a hospital stay that transpired in November and December of 2013.
If you want more Black Sabbath, consider bringing “Rat Salad” to the party. It may be an instrumental, but it is a classic. Chip into the pot collection with “Sweet Leaf.” It will contribute to an atmosphere of peace and love. If that does not suffice, you can turn to the McDonald’s-themed Black Sabbath tribute band, Mac Sabbath, for “Chicken for the Slaves” and “Pair-a-Buns.” Given last year’s putrid turkey issue that affected Whole Foods shoppers and many others, a fast-food Thanksgiving might not be such a bad idea.
6. Cannibal Corpse’s “The Undead Will Feast”
Lead your little cousins’ musical tastes astray by introducing them to Cannibal Corpse during your November reunion. Remember to take chronology into account when educating your loved ones about the greatest band ever to spring from Buffalo, and we do not mean the Goo Goo Dolls. “The Undead Will Feast” appears on Cannibal Corpse’s debut album, Eaten Back to Life (1990), which features Chris Barnes on vocals. (Most headbangers recognize his replacement, George “Corspegrinder” Fisher, as one of the best dads in metal.) A less polished version of this song can be found on the 1989 Cannibal Corpse demo. If your relatives enjoy horror movies, they will love this throwback song. “Undead feast, as they tear upon your weak flesh… Suicide, the only way to avoid being eaten by the undead [zombies].” The highly gory, growled lyrics will ensure that the little ones in your clan will never think of Cookie Monster the same way, since Barnes vaguely sounds like the beloved, blue puppet. Most likely, however, new headbangers will be unable to discern the words. Thus, their impression of the “The Undead Will Feast” will probably seem more benign than yours. Of course, Cannibal Corpse’s catalogue contains a plethora of similar songs to which you can also subject your family. However, a contender for the best song about cannibalism is Rammstein’s “Mein Teil.” This perverse song is especially appropriate because family dinners are an effective way to awaken your “Transilvanian Hunger” for something human.
7. Naglfar’s “Harvest”
Do you really hate your relatives? Do you consider them to the following? “Failed abortions that never should have been born. Liars. Two-faced, spiteful and vile.” Maybe the explanation for your hatred can be found in Naglfar’s chorus: “Deceit for a lifetime has taken its toll. An emotional void. I feel numb and cold. You’re all dead to me now and has been for long. The time has come to reap what you’ve sown. This harvest is heavy and bitter it seems in tainted soil it has grown. These words are its venom and my gift to thee. So choke on them now and leave me be.” “Harvest” is like an EpiPen for those who are allergic to family gatherings. It will give you something to which you can relate. This potent song is the finale to the album, Harvest (2007). “Harvest” is a blend of black metal and death metal. In this particular case, the melodic component adds to the humor to the cantankerous lyrics by means of juxtaposition. The melodic aspect will also make “Harvest” more accessible to those of the slow-witted variety who tend to mistake pure black metal for noise.
Naglfar has been enriching the Swedish nation since 1992. The band’s name refers to the boat in Norse mythology that was made from the fingernails and toenails of the dead. This creepy Scandinavian story is sure to provoke gut reactions from those in your company. Perhaps they will even barf.
8. Therion’s “Asphyxiate with Fear”
This Swedish group was formed in 1987 as Blitzkrieg. The collective then became known as Megatherion before shortening their epithet to Therion. The band takes it name from Celtic Frost’s To Mega Therion (1985). (This album, which contains “Jewel Throne,” also served as the partial inspiration for Darkthrone’s moniker.)
If you are intent on ruining everyone’s appetite, “Asphyxiate with Fear” is the song for you. This critique of the food industry commences: “The amazon is attacked. Jungles killed. Support no air. Coca-Cola burns the woods. And plants fruit trees to serve you drinks.” This song proceeds to berate McDonald’s. “Asphyxiate with Fear” hails from the four-song death metal effort Time Shall Tell (1990), which was recorded at Sunlight Studio like The Karelian Isthmus, which we mentioned in connection to #4 on our list. Time Shall Tell was originally limited to 1,000 copies. After selling out, it was soon bootlegged.
Mayhem’s Euronymous, who happened to be a communist, detested the the type of socially conscious lyrics that can be heard on “Asphyxiate with Fear.” He bombastically proclaimed during a 1992 interview: “And the matter of THERION, who is the worst of all Swedish bands, we have a special message to them. If they dare to came to Norway and play LIFE METAL, we are going to kill them.” In 1992, Suvi Marjatta Puurunen (a deranged young woman, whose name has been subject to different spellings) tried to set fire to the home of lyricist Christofer Johnsson because she disliked what Therion represented. (Christofer remains with Therion as a guitarist, but he also acted as the band’s vocalist at the time of the incident. He has had many other responsibilities as well.) Suvi left behind a signed copy of a Burzum album, which she secured to Johnson’s door with a knife and a note claiming to be from Varg Vikernes. Vikernes denies knowing of Suvi’s true intention at the time, though he was amused. Christofer Johnsson had the last laugh, however, because he remained a free man, whereas Varg served 15 years of a 21-year-sentence for killing his band mate Euronymous. This sentence was determined the day before Norwegian Constitution Day in 1994. In the meantime, Johnsson decided to start practicing what he preached when he became a vegetarian in 1999. In retrospect, all of the controversy about “life metal” is quite comical, considering that Mayhem’s Hungarian-born frontman Attila Csihar is a live member of the American band responsible for the drone metal album Life Metal (2019), Sunn O))). He has also written, composed, and recorded vocals for Sunn O))) — his first being for a track on White2 (2004). (For reference, Attila first stepped in as Mayhem’s vocalist from 1992-1993 after Dead’s 1991 suicide to record De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994) and returned in 2004 after Maniac left the band for the second time.) Attila is actually yet another vegetarian. Nevertheless, he has gone all-out for Mayhem insofar as he has been willing to get down and dirty with dead animal parts. He has even donned a pig’s face as a mask. The next time see you see Mayhem perform in your city, you might be disappointed by a lack of gore these days. But then again, you never know what surprises might catch you off guard, so stay alert. Do not be like the Bergen concertgoer whose skull was fractured by a flying sheep’s head back in 2003, which was during Maniac’s reign, because he was flirting instead of paying attention. Contrary to what one might expect, all of Mayhem’s members seem like lovely, life-affirming people. Attila, Necrobutcher, and Hellhammer are fathers; Teloch enjoys playing bingo with his family; and the British-born Ghul, who has played with many great groups, is also cool.
9. Morbid’s “Disgusting Semla”
“Disgusting Semla” should be on every family’s dessert menu for Thankgiving. This Scandinavian treat was originally associated with fettisdag, Shrove Tuesday. However, semlor are now often consumed long before this mid-February celebration as well as during Lent. The traditional Swedish version of a semla is a cardamom-flavored wheat bun, which is cut and filled with almond paste and whipped cream. The final product is dusted with powdered sugar. Semlor are sometimes served in a bowl with warm milk with cinnamon.
The late “Dead,” Per Yngve Ohlin, or “Pelle,” was one of black metal’s most influential figures. He was inspired to write the famous song “Disgusting Semla” after a friend shared his pastry. Obtuse fools have accused the Swede of being humorless. (It is true that Pelle did not like to joke around in front of people whom he did not know.) However, Pelle was in fact very funny as “Disgusting Semla” proves. “What the fuck is? Bun with cream and paste. Are you all disgusted?! Disgusted! (x4)” In this song, Pelle’s compelling voice is oddly endearing. He catches the listener by surprise as he sings: “La-la-la-la-la-la.” During live shows, Morbid’s bass player, Jens “Dr. Schitz” Näsström, threw semlor into the audience. Dr. Schitz has since become a real doctor. He is a psychologist, independent researcher, and lecturer. If you are wondering why the musicianship on “Disgusting Semla” seems so awesome, this is because the song features future Entombed members Uffe Cederlund, known then as “Napoleon Pukes,” on guitar and the late L-G Petrov, “Drutten,” on drums. Pelle formed Morbid because joining a pre-existing band, which eventually took the name Scapegoat, had not worked out.
Because semlor are often served with coffee, we recommend chasing yours down with Metalocalypse’s “Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle.” Earlier in your meal, you should consider spraying your turkey with mace like Toki Wartooth, one of the show’s main characters. Both Toki and Skwisgaar agree that the result is tongue-numbing yet tasty. Toki also loves lingonberries. For a taste of Scandinavia, substitute lingonberry sauce for cranberry sauce. Pelle, however, might have preferred to refrain from Thanksgiving dinner. The vocalist limited his food intake for aesthetic reasons. He strove to develop starvation-related wounds. In his Mayhem days, Pelle battled poverty. Although his father initially gave him money for groceries, Pelle misappropriated these funds for the sake of furthering his band. Nevertheless, if choosing to eat, Pelle would definitely opt for a real turkey, as opposed to a tofurky. Pelle, whose ritualistic antics included throwing pig’s heads and sniffing a dead crow, would have been yet another opponent of the last song on our list. He told the fanzine Slayer Mag: “If someone doesn’t like blood and rotten flesh thrown in their face they can fuck off…” The pioneer believed in liberating music from political inclinations and all that is not brutal. He has specifically criticized “vegetarian” musicians.
Thus, if you are suffering from feelings of inferiority because you feel that you cannot possibly attain the high ethical standards of vegetarians like Christofer Johnsson, Dead is a great reminder of the fact that you do not need to be a vegetarian to be cool. Gaahl has recently clarified on the Into the Necrosphere podcast that he is an on again, off-again vegetarian. However, he believes that metal is about being the archetypal goat instead of the sheep, or owning up to one’s status as the wolf instead of the dog, if the former is one’s true nature. Gaahl focuses on finding God within himself, as opposed to obeying the dictates of society.
10. The Agonist’s “Thank You, Pain”
You have to be grateful for something, right?! It has been 12 years since “Thank You, Pain” premiered on The Agonist’s second studio album, Lullabies for the Dormant Mind (2009). The Canadian-born vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, whom you will see in this video, has become one of metal’s most popular figures as a result of her work with Arch Enemy. “Thank You, Pain” is an opportunity to appreciate Alissa’s clean vocals. Anyone who is even vaguely aware of who Alissa is will know that she is a vegan. Challenge of the day: Try to find an interview with Alissa wherein she does not mention veganism. If you would like to subscribe to this lifestyle, Brian Manowitz, the Vegan Black Metal Chef, is there to help you prepare cruelty-free, albeit carb-packed, dishes to share. There are, however, more selfish reasons for going vegan than a concern animal rights. Do you hate your sister-in-law’s cooking? Are you afraid of buttery pie crusts, creamy vegetables, and non-lean proteins? If so, Thanksgiving is a perfect time to consider going vegan as a convenient excuse to abstain from unwanted calories without seeming like a total jerk.
Ingratitude aside, if you wish to express genuine thanks and are not averse to a bit of sappiness, you might want to play “Complete” from the dark rock band Blutengel. In addition to the standard version, you can listen to the acoustic version and the “Massive Ego Remix.” The 2016 single may be gloomy, but it communicates its point effectively: “I wanna thank you for the time. I wanna thank you for your love.” Alternatively, Stone Temple Pilots’ “Wonderful” from Shangri-La Dee Da (2001) will encourage you to count your blessings before it’s too late.