Breakin' the Law: 5 Classic Heavy Metal and Hardcore Punk Songs About Justice


Credit: White House /

The fine folks over at Decibel Magazine—America's premiere publication covering all things heavy metal, thrash metal, black metal, death metal, hardcore, grindcore, and more—kindly solicited my thoughts on the noisy intersection where music and law frequently meet. In other words, they requested and I delivered a short list of my personal favorite heavy metal and hardcore punk songs devoted to the topic of justice. Here's the introduction by Decibel's great writer Shawn Macomber and a sneak peek at one of my picks:

Today the Metalnomicon welcomes Reason senior editor Damon Root, one of the most thought-provoking, singular voices writing on the intricacies of American law today. He's also a metal/hardcore devotee and the original articulator of the Suicidal Tendencies litmus test for federal candidates, which, as we all know, has had a profound effect on our nation in several alternate dimensions.

So, anyway, yeah, Root's new book Overruled: The Long War for Control of the U.S. Supreme Court is a straight up tour de force of eye-opening, epiphany-inducing history parsing. It's great and everyone interested in the inner workings of the Supreme Court and its profound effect on our lives should read it. But we suspected some metal/hardcore science got excised by the squares at Palgrave Macmillan and, thus, hit Root up for a list of five classic hardcore and metal songs about justice.

The man did not disappoint…

3. "Legalize Drugs" by Fear

Writing in 1972, future Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman argued that "street crime would drop dramatically" if the U.S. government legalized drugs. Not only did drug prohibition create a lucrative black market run by violent gangsters, Friedman observed, it led to the incarceration of millions of nonviolent offenders whose only crime involved getting high.

Wait, did I say Milton Friedman? I meant to say Lee Ving, the beef bologna-loving frontman for the infamous punk band Fear.

"We've got the largest prison population in the world," sings Ving, and there's only one way to correct that injustice: "When you take away the profit, then you destroy the black market… Legalize drugs!"

Read the whole thing here.

NEXT: The Sony Hack and the First Amendment

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Speaking of justice, apparently there is a GamerGate style SJW effort underway in metal as well.

    1. From the link…

      Critical Theory and Political Correctness

      The sword is called critical theory. The theory of critical theory is simply to criticize. It sounds ridiculous when you put it so simply, but that’s really all there is to it. While the Frankfurt School was in America, they found their new vanguard for the communist revolution: the dispossessed. The subversive nature of critical theory was twofold. First, each area of critical theory could appear to be unique and self-contained. For example, feminism could attack western culture from the perspective of its oppression against women, and that oppression must be unique to western culture. They make no mention of how cultures in Africa, the Middle East or Asia treat women, they only focus on the oppression of women in the west.

      1. That’s an excellent summary, but I’d make a slight adjustment. I’d use (and explain) the term “critique” as opposed to “criticize”. “Critique” is a special bit of jargon that was employed by both Kant and Marx for a specific type of systematic analysis that sought to examine a system, identify its internal contradictions, and then after it is ““problematized” (another piece of jargon), expose its root in order for it to be reconstructed.

        1. That is not what “critique” meant for Kant, dude.

          1. You are correct. However, the Marxists built their conception of “critique” on the foundations of Kantian thought via Hegel, no?

            1. Given that Marx claimed to be “standing Hegel on his head,” and that Hegel’s connection to Kant was itself pretty attenuated, the chain of influence resulted in something Kant himself certainly wouldn’t have agreed with.

              But more specifically, the critique of (say) pure reason wasn’t intended to identify internal contradictions – the contradictions of the antinomies were aimed at traditional metaphysics, and were not intended to show that reason is inherently contradictory. Far from it; Kant intended the first critique to establish principles of objective knowledge that avoided the Scylla and Charybdis of dogmatism and skepticism that he saw Descartes and Hume (resp.) as exemplifying.

              Marx’s criticism is “this seems true because of such and such economic conditions,” Kant’s “this seems true because we are so constituted to receive truth in this manner.” Kant was trying to vindicate objective truth, not undermine it as Marx was.

              1. I agree. I should have spelled out the differences between Kant’s and Marx’s conception more. Would you agree that it would be more accurate to say that, through Hegel, Marx and Engels accepted the basic process of Kantian critique, but where, as you pointed out, Kant used the contradictions found through transcendental dialectic to argue against certain metaphysics, the Hegelians, and then the Marxists embraced the contradictions and argued for their own metaphysics and epistemology? And from there, the boilerplate Marxist dialectic that I described above provided the foundation for the critical theories of the Frankfurt School, et al.?

                In short, would you agree that it’s fair to state that Kant and Marx used Kantian critique, but to two very different ends?

                1. Nice sub-thread.

                2. I didn’t see this; you might not see this at all.

                  The antinomies are a tiny part of Kant – I’m trying to be as objective as possible and get into his head, which is tough, as it’s in my interest in this argument to claim that they’re a tiny part of his philosophy. Honestly, though? They aren’t very important. You can see that in the fact that the aesthetic and analytic are where the “Copernican revolution” is explicated, with the antinomies (and the rest of the dialectic) serving merely a negative purpose of refuting former metaphysics.

                  The use to which Hegel and Marx put the “contradictory thesis and antithesis” thing in the antinomies was as a basis of their philosophies, whereas for Kant contradiction…wasn’t really that big a deal. I mean, basically, he was pointing out contradictions just to USE the law of non-contradiction to say “something is going on here.”

                  So on that specific thing, Kant would, I think, have been baffled to see talk of thesis/antithesis/synthesis. Wouldn’t have made sense to him how this could be the basis for any positive insight.

                  1. CONT: More generally, critique for Kant was revealing the “transcendental” conditions for experience in order to show what we put into experience – but for him (and maybe he was self-contradictory to think this, but he DEFINITELY did) this grounding of experience in partly subjective conditions vindicated its OBJECTIVITY. Obviously for Marx it was totally different – interpretations are flawed because they’re not representative of reality but merely extensions of ideology based on socioeconomic status.

                    And I guess I can put this back in if I can’t fit this into one comment anyway…as radical, iconoclastic, objectivity-hating as Kant’s heirs may have been, Kant himself was very conservative with his metaphysics and epistemology. In fact, sometimes overly simplistic with it – witness the faith he had in the science of his day, Newtonian physics (which he thought could be proven by philosophy!), and Euclidean geometry. He was very much trying to find a firm foundation for objectivity.

                    1. The transcendental dialectic looms large in people’s minds I think for a few reasons:

                      1. final nail in the coffin of Cartesian/Leibnizian/Wolffian metaphysics

                      2. dat refutation of the ontological argument doe

                      But for Kant himself? I don’t think it was such a big deal. It was like, “OK, now that I made my point, let’s see how this applies to some shit you fools got wrong before I came along.”

    2. Well, not surprising. They are going after everything men enjoy.

  2. You can say a lot of things about Damon Root, but he knows his audience.

    1. Follow me
      I’ll take you there
      You needn’t think
      You needn’t care

      On the way
      We’ll find some others
      Baptize them with lies
      And make them brothers

      No I will never follow
      I will never follow
      Your truth diseased and hollow
      No I will never follow

      Forget your thoughts
      Forget your will
      Tell that voice inside
      To just keep still

      If it gets too be too much
      Just turn your eyes away
      The free individual
      Is from a bygone day

      No I will never follow
      I will never follow
      Your truth diseased and hollow
      No I will never follow
      I’ll be your destroyer
      Your world’s great annoyer
      I’ll be your destroyer
      No worn propaganda for me

      Follow me
      I’ll take you there
      You needn’t think
      You needn’t care

      We’ll all go gentle
      Into that good night
      There’ll be no more raging
      Against the dying of the light

      No I will never follow
      I will never follow
      Your truth diseased and hollow
      No I will never follow
      I’ll be your destroyer
      Your world’s great annoyer
      I’ll be your destroyer
      No guns, knives, nor lawyers
      No I will never follow
      I will never follow
      You can’t take my will away
      My dreams will never say die

      1. Nice one. Also a little Dag Nasty: Minority of One

        Look back on what they told you
        and see what truth can’t hide
        the government controls you and brother that’s not just a line
        but don’t trust them to tell you what is right
        no one can tell you how to live your fucking life
        question priorities
        don’t trust the majority
        question priorities
        don’t trust the majority
        even when you’re a minority of one

  3. Are there any communists in the hardcore scene?

    1. You really must be joking to ask that question…..

        1. Yes, it’s that bad.

          1. Hey Colonel, I read your interview with Blood + Honour magazine. I hope that you posting here indicates you are returning to your earlier libertarian political leanings, and moving away from you more collective political beliefs.

            1. It’s interesting that you’ve read that. Our new outfit is much more interested in working against the common enemy – The State. My views have always leaned toward that end anyway.

              1. the common enemy – The State

                The State? A National State? A Socialist State? A National Socialist State? Your political beliefs are incongruous with personal liberty.

                1. I have never promoted any of those things and I defy you to provide a concrete example(s) of where any of my lyrics stated any such philosophy.

                  1. I haven’t listened to you music enough to pick out lyrics. But the Blood + Honour interview was pretty blunt about your political beliefs.

                    In that Bill and me always wanted to do a more WP oriented band on the side called YT REBIL (spell it backwards?)

                    From the WN perspective, Dr. William Pierce really made an impact on me.


                    And some of the distribution channels your band uses may be considered Nazis. Because they call themselves the National Socialist Movement.

                    1. See my post below. As for Dr. Pierce, hey we’ve all got those dark places. Its sort of like Christians who go to church each Sunday, but only ingest a little of this and a little of that without eating the whole meal.

  4. They take away our freedom
    In the name of liberty
    Why don’t they all just clear off
    Why won’t they let us be
    They make us feel indebted
    For saving us from hell
    And then they put us through it
    It’s time the bastards fell

    Don’t believe them
    Don’t believe them
    Don’t be bitten twice
    You gotta suss, suss, suss, suss, suss out
    Suss suspect device

  5. I fought the law

    The law won

    1. One of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time. And written by the same guy who wrote/sang the Mary Tyler Moore theme.

        1. Yes, exactly. Bob Mould.

  6. You have the right to free
    Speech as long as you’re not
    Dumb enough to actually try it.

    Know your rights
    These are your rights

  7. I don’t know how no one has posted this yet.

  8. Here’s some that were forgotten:

    One Law for Them – 4 Skins
    Police Story – The Partisans
    State Control – Discharge
    No Monopoly on Violence – Kriegs Legion
    Cop Car – The Exploited

    1. And of course………..
      Free Speech for the Dumb by Discharge

    2. But looking at your new band, I see you are still a collectivst. Never mind.

      1. Where do you come up with that kind of bullshit?

        1. I may have unfairly characterized your new band. But your band warranted a blog post here. Just saying.

          1. Reasonable. Ya know, I’m not going to run away from and/or apologize for other projects I’ve done. The fact that Uprise Direct made mention that we are doing something else now is not an issue with us. I’m sure that there are guys in that movement who would be interested regardless of what we are doing. If someone is willing to come to a show and listen to us without the usual drama they’d be more than welcome, be they left, right, or middle.

  9. Prison for praise is not worth thinking
    Sin is still in and our ballots also shrinking
    So unleash the dogs the only solution
    Forgive and forget, fuck no I’m talking about a revolution

    Corrosion Of Conformity – Vote With A Bullet

  10. I looked at the paycheck which had said $7434 , I didn’t believe that my mom in-law realy bringing in money in their spare time at their computer. . there brothers friend has been doing this for only 16 months and just paid for the morgage on there place and bought a top of the range Aston Martin DB5 .
    You can join just easy ——-

  11. Anthrax – I Am the Law
    System of a Down – Prison Song, Mr. Jack

  12. But what about the long tradition of libertarian disco?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.