We Internet Metal Nerds can put as much gloss on it as we’d like but at the end of the day, metal is tied to physicality, aggression and violence. Unlike what society often thinks however, it’s tied to those things in a positive way. Metal is all about channeling and unleashing those destructive energies in a controlled way. Whether through screaming your throat out, headbanging or moshing, metal can tap into those angry places we all have inside us and defuse the knot of emotions that’s found there. Moshing is really the penultimate practice in that regard: nothing vents and provides catharsis like moshing does. There’s just something about the experience of bodily slamming into other people in timed with guttural, soaring or technical music that does the body and mind good.
But not all metal is created equal; some tracks out there spread their blackened claws and cut right through the bullshit, evoking a reaction that’s unmediated and extremely physical. In other, worldly terms, they make us lose our shit. Of course, moshing is also a collective experience and you really need two (preferably more) for this sweaty, violent tango. And so, we’re happy to present you with a list of tracks that make the Heavy Blog staff lose their shit. Meet us in the pit. We’ll be the ones nodding to the rhythm changes and eyeing the mosh with an appraising eye (until “Flying Whales” comes on and then I WILL DESTROY YOU -EK).
Gojira – “Flying Whales”
Mosh comes from the gut. The exact feeling is unquantifiable, a surge that comes bubbling up from below and from the inside, possessing your extremities, blanking your mind and sending your body on a vector it might soon come to regret. Nothing brews this subtly aggressive state of mind better than contrast. When the cymbal hits after an eon of silence, signalling the fury that is about to descend upon you, something in the rear parts of your mind wakes up and answers that resounding call. That exact moment can be found on Gojira’s “Flying Whales”. Following a spooky, ambient intro, the first groovy riff is heavy enough, breaking the silence with the signature Gojira sound. Usually, this gets the mosh pit going, perhaps a good wall of death to get things fired off.
However, it’s when the insanely epic chorus of the song has finished echoing in our ears that the true guttural moment arrives. After the vocals of “but it’s true” die out, one of the most furious onslaughts of Gojira’s career begins. As if the hectic riffs, resplendent in their sweeps and turns, the blastbeats appear to catch any arms and legs not yet engaged in cleansing violence. A small pause as the ambiance returns makes everything that much sweeter, leaving the crowd hanging on the peak of an aural mountain. Naturally, the only way is down. This is achieved with a tumult right into a bottomless pit, a pit of violence and catharsis. The closing riff and vocals are as slow as they are powerful, punctuated by the signature sweep that is Gojira.
Add some backing tracks, massive drumming, a return to the original, groovy riff of the track and you have brewed a mighty potion indeed. Drink it at your own risk, as it digs deep into your veins and unlocks a muscle memory of sweat, flesh, anger and power. This is truly one of the more expertly crafted, mosh-inducing tracks, every moment engineered to coax the flames ever higher.
Harm’s Way – “Breeding Grounds”
I hope you’re ready to throw some fucking haymakers in the pit. One of the heaviest, grooviest, most moshin’-est songs ever put to record, “Breeding Grounds” is the epitome of aggression, and every note of the track demands a total outpouring of fist-related violence on a quasi-nuclear level. As the song starts and the rolling drums come in under the intro to build up into that sweet, sweet chug of the fast-paced verse, before it slows back down into what is as close as this genre gets to a chorus. It’s easy to envision the phases of a building mosh pit as the track progresses. With the intro come the first brave souls who traverse the room, walking and waiting for the inevitable to happen.
Then the explosion of violence comes, and the room erupts into swinging fists and crashing bodies. People ricochet off of one another like some weird, fleshy pinball machine and pent-up stress is released like never before. The entire track just really leads into mosh part after mosh parts, never offering any crowd a chance to catch their breath or slow down. Three minutes of barely-contained ferocity and bubbling, seething rage, nobody knows how to write a thumping pit anthem like Harm’s Way.
Suicide Silence – “No Pity For a Coward”
I loved The Cleansing in 2007. I love The Cleansing in 2016. Fuck the Hot Topic association and the whole “scene” around this band and their direct peers, it’s still heavy and engaging today In terms of its inclusion in the annals of mosh, the record has more than a few heavy hitters. The band’s entire setlist back then would have crowds whirring and whipping their hair back and forth; that is a reference, deal with it.
My pick for this list was always going to be “No Pity For A Coward”. The track has the quintessential pull out quote – “pull the trigger bitch”, raising the bar for back print text shirts forevermore – and one of the most pleasing, straightforward breakdowns in heavy music. Say what you will about Lucker, his delivery was always dynamite and even with all the production on his vocals, his phrasing and lyrics were always spot on. Calling out the pit was his forté and this was the track that blew everyone off their feet. It still holds up with Eddie on vocals, 100%, because it is simply a song to get a bit violent to. Super satisfying and a genre classic. Fight me IRL if you disagree. You’ll coward.
Slipknot – “Sic”
Having grown up hating any music with harsh vocals in it, “Sic” marked a turning point in my life, for it was the first time that I fell in love with a genuinely heavy track. To this day there is still nothing else that compares, nothing else that makes me want to break things as much as this does. A lot of vocalists regularly deploy screams and growls into their music, and for the most part it seems that this is done because it sounds good, or because it seems to fit well with the music their bandmates have brought to the table. In the case of Slipknot’s self-titled debut, Corey Taylor’s vocals can easily be described as raw, furious, incensed, chaotic and frenzied. What is crystal clear though is that he wasn’t doing it because it sounded good. He was screaming his lungs off because he was genuinely fucking livid, and there was simply no other way to get those emotions out of his system.
Alongside the trademark vocals, The Nine threw in aggressive, in-your-face riffs and thunderously violent percussion to create a monstrous track worthy of any extreme metal record. Love them or hate them, nobody can deny that Slipknot put on an incredible live show and so it’s only fitting that we bring this track to you in its live form, where its violent beauty can be best appreciated. The track hits you like a sledgehammer right from the start and doesn’t let up for a single moment. If the beginning isn’t enough to get you launching yourself into the nearest pit, then the gang vocals near the end will certainly get you there as this crowd favourite is guaranteed to find a way to punish all in attendance. Happy moshing.
Noisem – “1132”
I remember very clearly when my friend, who had just finished chemotherapy, had told me he was coming up to visit me and had one simple request: to mosh again. Now this particular fan, while completely enthusiastic about moshing, was not entirely enthusiastic about the worlds of hardcore or heavy metal, and more found himself at home in the genres of ska and skate punk. Regardless, that weekend I took him and one other friend (who frequents emo shows) to Choosing Death Fest in Philadelphia and insisted, even if I was late due to an interview I was conducting backstage, to make sure they were inside the main room of Union Transfer to see Baltimore thrash sweet hearts Noisem absolutely destroy the stage. They did stay, parking themselves right in front of the stage, and when I finally walked out and saw them they had a look of total bewilderment on their faces.
Now here is where this story gets truly interesting, as I eagerly leapt into the circle pit, which I clearly remember at the time was for “1132”, but so did my friend who had just finished chemotherapy, despite having a broken arm not mentioned when he stated he wanted to mosh. However, regardless, here was a kid who was so moved by the raw mosh power of Noisem’s music that the urge to join the rest of the crowd, and risk potentially harming himself again, was ignored so that he could experience the raw adrenaline Noisem was pumping into the crowd. The best part, however, was simply watching his beanie clad, bald head bounce up and down along with those monster riffs, proving that you don’t truly need hair to headbang (or a fully returned sense of balance post chemo).
Noisem may not be the easiest to two step to, and the opportunities to throw down during breakdowns certainly are scarce, but the raw thrash fury of this young Baltimore band makes it extremely easy to spastically flail your limbs, pump your fist, and just jump around in general, be it in a live setting or sitting alone in your room (I’ve had my fair share of awkward classroom experiences while listening to Noisem). If you want moshing in its purest, most light hearted form, yearn for the days of the circle and push pit, then look no further than Noisem. The mosh is alive and well in their records, and I personally can’t wait to see them again so that I can once again experience their exhilarating and chaotic live show.
Nails – “Scum Will Rise”
It should be no surprise that Nails is on this list. After all, they absolutely destroy This Is Hardcore every time they play it, and the entire floor basically just become one giant mosh pit. However, while most people refer to their newest album for great songs to mosh to, I chose to go with an oldie, a classic. The second track off of Unsilent Death, “Scum Will Rise” begins with walls of guitar feedback over a gnarly bassline, and then gives way to frenetic, fast paced riffage. It’s only a minute long, but the song is a fantastic piece to mosh to. It’s high energy, and essentially commands whatever room is being played so that people know to mosh to it. Even towards the end of the song when the groove kicks in and the tempo gets cut down, it’s still great to mosh to.
“Scum Will Rise” is, in my opinion, the quintessential Nails song to mosh to. It highlights all of their strong attributes with the killer riffs, the fast-paced chaos, the super heavy vocals that reek of anger and rage, and the killer groove at the tail end of the song that has become a trademark for the band in songs such as “Unsilent Death” and “Abandon All Life”. Songs like this are not a dime a dozen, except for maybe Nails themselves, who regularly pump out this kind of chaotic mosh-worthy music that thousands of fans love. On my bucket list is “Mosh during a Nails set”, and if they play this song, then you better believe I will see you in the pit.
The Dillinger Escape Plan – “Prancer”
There are some songs that slow-cook into a frothy, moshy frenzy, and then there are some that grab the listener by the earballs with no sense of remorse.
“Prancer” is of the latter; not only does it open what remains yet another amazing Dillinger Escape Plan album (One of Us is the Killer), it’s also a fucking great song, one that hopefully remain a fan favorite, even when the current version Dillinger has ended.
But this isn’t about the end. The end says that there’s no energy left for a particular action. This is the Best of Mosh, dedicated to roughness and giving your body completely to a moment of pure energy. Although almost any Dillinger song could meet these parameters, Prancer” fits the bill perfectly, in my opinion. It starts out ripping. It’s chaotic, but not so chaotic that there’s no hope of starting a mosh. Greg Puciato is relentless in his vocal delivery (“How could it all BEEEE!!!!” ), and the band just grooves in a little galaxy of chaos that only the de facto Lords of the Mosh, The Dillinger Escape Plan, could make.
Exodus- “The Toxic Waltz”
There were dozens of other worthy choices for this particular list, but it would be completely and utterly irresponsible of this blog to not include the single defining mosh anthem of the thrash metal scene, Exodus’ hyper-catchy and hella-violent classic, “The Toxic Waltz.” This single song and its incredible performance video perfectly encapsulate what it means to truly slam in the pit. Plus, without songs like these, we probably wouldn’t be seeing revival thrash bands like Municipal Waste and Ghoul kicking out their tongue-in-cheek style with quite the same level of confidence of it wasn’t for trailblazing material such as this.
Yes, it’s completely silly. But when you really think about it, mosh pits are pretty damn silly too. And bless Exodus for recognizing that, kicking out some of the meanest mid-tempo stomp riffs of the time, and reminding us that heavy music can still put a shit-eating grin on your face. Don’t look so obsolete, and thrash like an athlete.