Highway to Hel – 10 Rock and Metal Tracks for a Deathly Playlist

Written By Maria Haskins

Maria Haskins is a Swedish-Canadian writer and reviewer of speculative fiction. She lives just outside Vancouver with a husband, two children, several birds, a snake, and a very large black dog. Her work has appeared in several publications, and is also available in her short story collections Wolves & Girls (2023), and Six Dreams About the Train (2021).

The Dead Deads – “Dead Inside”

Dead inside outside of time and space
Dead inside of what I couldn’t face
Come closer I know you’re dead too

The harmonies, oh, the harmonies… You can rest in blissful serenity as you fade away into the perfect harmonies and gentle acoustic guitar of this track by Nashville band The Dead Deads. “Dead Inside” is taken from the band’s 2021 album Tell Your Girls It’s Alright. The song, and the video, is a tribute to rock band Extreme and their iconic 90s hit “More Than Words.” Tribute or not, The Dead Deads achieve their own otherworldly perfection here.

Crucified Barbara – “To Kill a Man”

They’re too young to either vote or marry
It didn’t stop his dirty hands
He destroyed their bodies and minds
They’re beaten down, but he still stands

The perfect track for when a murderous rage swallows you whole, “To Kill a Man” is taken from Crucified Barbara’s outstanding 2014 album In the Red (a tour de force that turned out to be the band’s last release). It’s a furious banshee-cry against sexual violence and rape, and the track was partly inspired by the news that Swedish police chief Göran Lindberg, the force’s top expert on morality and ethics, was charged with and convicted of rape and other heinous sex crimes. This is metal at its sharpest and finest, with rage and anger, pain and death, honed into a jagged edge.

Crown Lands – “End of the Road”

And the rain kept comin’
The cold is drawing near
Oh vengeance runnin’ woah
On this highway of tears

Grief and an overwhelming sense of injustice is the fire inside this track by Canadian band Crown Lands. The track “pays tribute to the Indigenous womxn, girls, and two-spirits who have gone missing or have been murdered on Yellowhead Highway 16 in British Columbia, which is referred to as the Highway of Tears.” At least 40 women, likely more, have gone missing or been murdered along this stretch of road, and often the cases have been ignored or not properly investigated by the authorities. The video features five indigenous dancers performing in the darkness and cold right in the middle of Highway 16, surrounded by bare trees and snow.

Blackwater Holylight – “Silence/Motion”

How does one come to
After they took it all?

Pretty much every track by psychedelic/stoner/prog rockers Blackwater Holylight feels like it could be reverberating from the Ferryman’s playlist while you’re heading across the river Styx. This is the title track from the band’s 2021 release Silence/Motion, a haunting album that resonates with the aftermath of trauma, darkness, and grief, deep as the waters beneath the Ferryman’s keel.

Shepherds Reign – “Nafanua”

A’o ola Nafanua i Pulotu, ua fa’apologaina ona tagata.
Ua femo’ei i le saua o Lilomaiava. Tagi aue. Loto e ua malape.
Ona fa’atonu e Savea lona alo le atua o taua, e alu e fa’aea le pologa.

Polynesian metal band Shepherds Reign are from South Auckland of Aotearoa New Zealand, and their music is irresistibly, bone-shakingly heavy. “Nafanua” is taken from the band’s 2023 release Ala Mai and it’s perfect for any deathly playlist because it’s about Nafanua, a warrior and Samoa’s Goddess of War. She was also the daughter of Pulotu, the God of the Underworld. Like most of Shepherds Reign’s tunes, the lyrics to “Nafanua” are in Samoan.

Alien Weaponry – “Kai Tangata”

He pakanga nunui mo te whakautu – (A mighty battle to avenge us)
Tae mai nga tūpuna mo te whakaāwhina – (Our ancestors gather to assist us)
Kia mau nga Tohunga mo te whakakarakia – (Our priests prepare the incantations)
E mahi nga mahi a Tūmatauenga – (This is the work of Tūmatauenga)

Alien Weaponry is another outstanding metal band from New Zealand, and this lethal track from the band’s 2018 album is heavy enough to bust open the doors to the underworld. The lyrics are inspired by the musket wars in 19th century New Zealand: “In 1820, the great Northern War Chief Hongi Hika departed New Zealand for England. On his return, he brought with him the word of God and hundreds of muskets. Things would never be the same again …” The lyrics, as with most of Alien Weaponry’s songs, are written in New Zealand’s native language Te Reo Maori. The track’s title, Kai Tangata, translates as “eat people.”

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    Electric Mob – “Sun Is Falling Down”

    The sun is falling down
    I breathe the dust coming from the ground
    Nowhere to run
    The flames are gonna burn you down

    Brazilian rockers Electric Mob have been putting out awesome music for several years now. The band is fronted by Renan Zonta who has the kind of powerhouse, rock’n’roll-dream voice I just can’t resist. “Sun Is Falling Down” is taken from the band’s 2023 release 2 Make U Cry & Dance. It’s heavy, blistering track that feels almost apocalyptic, in a Gotterdammerung, Ragnorok kind of way.

    Rival Sons – “Nobody Wants to Die”

    Nobody wants to die.
    But they know,
    they’re gonna have to.
    Silver and gold, people you know,
    Ain’t no one gonna save you.

    Rival Sons have been knocking my proverbial socks off since I first listened to their album Head Down over 10 years ago, and this wild-west flavored, death-defiant track from their 2023 album Darkfighter, is no exception. The lyrics always make me think of The Iliad, and how the reaper will eventually claim every one of us, no matter who we are and what we do.

    Girish and the Chronicles – “Ride to Hell”

    We’re ready and loaded – Big time
    We’re digging it deep, we’re on a
    Ride to hell

    Girish and the Chronicles is a rock band from Sikkim, India, playing a mix of hard rock, melodic rock, and prog rock, often with a real 80s vibe, and this tune, taken from the album Back on Earth, is just bursting at the studded seams with hair rock power. Pretty much every single track by this band is a blast, and seriously, if a ride to hell is this much fun, everyone will want to come along.

    The Lazys – “Rattle Them Bones”

    I’m bleeding thunder, spitting gold
    Coming right back for more
    I’m back from the dead on a one-way jet
    So hold tight and never let go

    Finally, what would death be without a resurrection? Australian rockers The Lazys (who have spent so much time touring and playing in Canada they must be honorary Canadians by now) bring us one hell of a track. It’s the perfect tune for any necromancer to be blasting on their speakers while raising the dead.