Whether we like it or not, we’re living within the midst of one of the most historically significant periods in our society’s history.
Some looming, ominous feeling walks hand-in-hand with the COVID-19 pandemic: one reminiscent of the apocalypse. People are engaging in it, too. Movies like Pandemic and Outbreak were some of the most streamed movies of the last few months.
It’s a bit ironic, but there seems to be some sort of collective desire within the human race to actually indulge in more doomed, apocalyptic narratives. Especially in a generation raised on literature like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner.
So I’ve compiled a few different albums that express some notion of an apocalypse or societal collapse, if you’re into that. Each project seemingly represents a different aspect of the overbearing feeling that reality is doomed. A Soundtrack to the Apocalypse, if you will.
F♯ A♯ ∞ – Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Pronounced “F-Sharp, A-Sharp, Infinity”, this album portrays the aftermath of some catastrophic event. Bits of spoken word take the listener through the story of a world rendered to destruction. Each song is long and droning, painted with violin and solemn guitar; the 30-minute closing track emphasizes the slow, crawling march of time. In 2002, the opening track, “East Hasting Blues” was used in the post-apocalypse zombie movie 28 Days Later. And, the apocalypse in this movie was the result of a virus. A bit eerie, now.
Interspersed spoken word describes the world in which this album takes place:
“The sun has fallen down And the billboards are leering And the flags are all dead at the top of their poles."
Other lyrics allude to disasters of biblical proportions, like the “valley of death”, a place described within the book of Psalms in the Christian Bible.
This album is one that fully encapsulates some feeling of dreary hopelessness within the midst of COVID-19.
The Positive: Coronavirus isn’t creating zombies. Not yet, at least.
Infest The Rat’s Nest – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Last year, one of Australia’s favorite bands ventured into a genre they had never attempted before: thrash metal. This loud, grainy album follows the storyline of Earth’s inhabitants depleting their home of natural resources beyond the point of no return. The project focuses heavily on a post-apocalyptic theme, but with a different approach than Godspeed’s.
Infest The Rat’s Nest is as every bit angry, loud, and aggressive as F♯ A♯ ∞ is quiet, desolate, and dreary. If you’re more irritated than you are saddened within the midst of mandated quarantine and COVID-19, give this album a listen.
The track “Superbug” follows the exponential growth of an extreme virus as it wipes out a majority of Earth’s population. How unsettlingly relevant.
The Positive: We’ll never reach a point in which we need to desert our own planet. Rich people aren’t actually moving to Mars. In a few months, the pandemic will have subsided and Earth will still be our home. Remember, there is no Planet B.
Plastic Surgery Disasters – Dead Kennedys
Sort of a pre-apocalypse album, Plastic Surgery Disasters is a project compiled of fast, heavy-hitting punk tracks primarily focused on societal issues and flaws. Bloated with anti-government sentiments, this album makes our current society seem like an apocalypse of its own. It exposes the flaws of government healthcare and issues with political dominance.
Within the hectic era of a medical crisis, a multitude of problems (rooted in American healthcare and crisis response) have been blatantly exposed. This makes Plastic Surgery Disasters all-the-more relevant, as a project. This album seems to be an anthem for change as COVID-19 seriously exposes some major issues.
I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but the track “Government Flu” is too relevant to ignore. It’s apparent that COVID-19 was far from man-made, but the idea is still entertaining – especially right now.
The Positive: As this album exposes hypocrisy and other issues in America’s medical system, the Coronavirus is doing the same; crisis response and healthcare will likely be restructured in different ways to accommodate for extreme health threats. While the pandemic undoubtedly overwhelms our healthcare system, it provides an opportunity to observe faulty infrastructure and weak management. Following the current pandemic, Americans will likely see improvements to health systems. This includes areas like hospitals, the CDC, and public health.
Exmilitary – Death Grips
There’s something about opening an album with spoken word from Charles Manson that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Exmilitary is rife with themes of destruction and societal collapse, and there is some notion of a cultish feeling that remains constant throughout the entire project. This album provides listeners with an extremely aggressive vision of a dystopian society. Stefan Burnett practically constructs a world based on greed, power, and anger throughout this project, a world we’re supposed to understand is our own.
Similar to Plastic Surgery Disasters, Death Grips’ Exmilitary takes place within some sort of pre-apocalyptic world, but from the lens of a cult, instead of actual society.
This album feels important within the era of COVID-19 because of the strange communities this pandemic has built. Certain people feel entitled to their liberties and simply refuse to stay inside at the request of their government, prompting strange, unnerving behavior. Ignorance of social distancing has created a network of anti-authority groups, protesting in cities like Huntington Beach.
The Positive: As we get wrapped up and enveloped in this dystopian society, we might finish the album feeling like we’re in it. As we remove ourselves from this perspective, as listeners, we understand the extremity linked to this mindset. Death Grips gives us a glimpse at the nastiest, darkest parts of human nature, but it is equally important to remember there is always a better side. We’re living in it, right now. People are making blood donations a priority. Corporations are aiding the public. Citizens of quarantined areas are doing everything they can to maintain safe, responsible social interaction.
As many of us are entertained by the idea of a dystopian society, it is only safe to do so from the perspective that it will not actually become a reality. Staying positive during the pandemic is incredibly important; physical and mental health are linked quite closely to each other.
Acknowledging this, remember that each of these albums are extreme, over-the-top depictions of apocalyptic scenarios. Don’t get too in your head about it.
Robbie Baker is a .WAV staff member, he wrote the article. Hailey Honneger is a .WAV staff member, she made the cover art.