The Top 12 Synthwave Tracks for Metal Fans
Daft Punk shocked the world last month by announcing they’d be calling it quits. For many metal fans, Daft Punk were one of those electronic acts, much like The Prodigy, who bridged the gap between distorted guitar loyalist and embracing the musical freedoms of the synthesizer. Industrial metal is also a part of many fans’ DNA, with bands like Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and Skinny Puppy making the twisted samples and dark atmosphere brought forth from electronic elements more accessible to the metal crowd.
Synthwave, however, is closer to what Daft Punk represented: a mostly lyric-less form of music that relies heavily on dark vibes. Some metal fans are also horror buffs, so the works of John Carpenter (who released his latest, Lost Themes III, this winter), Goblin and Fabio Frizzi, which they’ve heard for years, aren’t too far off from the updated, bass-heavy grooves of synthwave, making the genre transition easy.
Still, metal fans can be stubborn in broadening their horizons, so here are some hard as fuck synthwave songs to convert you if you’re not there yet.
Perturbator – “Neo Tokyo”
The recent release of the video game Cyberpunk 2077 re-ignited an interest in cyberpunk-themed media, of which synthwave is also a part. Perturbator, the French phenom who has produced tracks which personify cyberpunk since 2012, has earned his spot as the dark lord of the genre. For metal cred, he has appeared at festivals like Wacken and Hellfest. “Neo Tokyo,” a reference to the cyberpunk anime Akira, hits hard in all the right ways, a high-octane track that gets the adrenaline pumping as well as any Napalm Death grindfest would. The music video montage put together by That 80s Guy for the song mixes the most action-packed scenes from Robocop, Taxi Driver, Videodrome, Turbo Kid and The Terminator to make something that isn’t exactly sex, but feels like it.
Carpenter Brut – “Turbo Killer”
Carpenter Brut, France’s other prodigal son, shares similarities with Perturbator, but it’s the differences which make Brut the other king of synthwave. Inspired by John Carpenter and ’70s Italian horror soundtracks, Carpenter Brut takes these influences and injects them with Herbert West’s special green syringe. Brut also has some metal mileage, producing albums for Deathspell Omega, opening for Ministry and playing a Hellfest or two. As for the song “Turbo Killer,” “Turbo Lover” it isn’t. A ripping synth track with an uncannily familiar melody, it is accompanied by a Seth Ickerman (Blood Machines) directed video which is a peak into a Prince of Darkness-esque satanic neo-future.
GosT – “Garruth”
Black metal and synthwave is an unlikely combination, but GosT has it nailed. The satanic overtones are strong in “Garruth,” preceded by the intro track “Possessor,” which includes samples by the news media relating to ritualistic satanic murder and dead bodies being unearthed and reborn. The black mass then begins with Mayhem-like war drumming and an agitated scream. The organic drum work mixed with the spooky synths make this track an exceptional combination of two dark styles.
Megadrive – “NARC”
Sega Genesis soundtracks were always gnarly, badly produced jumbles of pixelated sounds, but a lot of the songs had a metal undertone and did jam hard. Megadrive takes these nostalgic Sega sounds and puts them through modern programming to make songs that are that special kind of late ’80s / early ’90s retro. Once you’ve finished watching Saturday morning cartoons, turn on that Megadrive! “NARC” sounds like it should be listened to when blasting away crooks whilst on the hunt for the T-800 in the Robocop vs Terminator game.
Dance with the Dead – “Go!”
Picking a single Dance with the Dead song is difficult, as they’re all both eminently metallic and danceable. Dance with the Dead usually utilize guitar work in their synth onslaught, so the songs immediately feel more familiar if you’ve just listened to Dragonforce. “Go!” is the first track on their horror infused rock/synth album, Loved to Death. Once you’re done listening to this one, stay for the rest and try to resist the urge to dance until you bleed.
Lazerhawk – “Skull and Shark”
What’s more metal than a lazer hawk? A skull and a shark? Maybe a zombie fighting a shark, as seen in Lucio Fulci’s Zombie? And like the undead masses methodically stalking those hapless victims on a tropical island, Lazerhawk’s tracks on this album take a grim approach, lurching forward with a threatening aura. “Skull and Shark” sounds like a track found within a stylistically violent Giallo film. You can almost imagine blood dripping off his gloved fingertips while he’s programming the jittery keys on this track. Just look at the album cover (by Dave Rapoza)! If you saw it next to Overkill’s The Years of Decay, you wouldn’t think twice.
We Are Magonia – “Diabolus in Musica”
Any track from We Are Magonia’s album The Living Will Envy The Dead is a certified banger. These newcomers have taken the best aspects of rock-infused, horror-themed synthwave seen in the works of Carpenter Brut or Dance with the Dead and have blended them with the satanic themes of GosT to create something that might be listened to at an all night rave following a black Sabbath. “Diabolus in Musica” might be your least favorite Slayer album but chosen synthwave track.
King Stephen – “Monsters After Midnight”
Choosing a King Stephen track to recommend is like choosing a Stephen King book to devote several hours of your life to reading; the choice is difficult, but there are a few obvious standouts. You may feel like you’ve heard it before as King Stephen revels in the cliches and tropes found in classic spooky melodies. “Monsters After Midnight” best exemplifies what this synthwave act is all about: generally frill-less, organ-infused horror synth tracks perfect for playing in the background at a Halloween party.
Nitelight – “Zero Tolerance”
To show those naysayers of the genre what’s up, simply point them to Nitelight’s synthwave rendition of Death’s “Symbolic” to illustrate that the genre is able to take metallic elements, run them through a synthesizer and maintain the integrity of the original material. While this album as a whole isn’t nearly as aggressive as the other offerings on this list, it is still atmospheric and it’s damn good. As fans of synthwave know, sinister sounding “night stalking” songs are just as enjoyable as ones that mimic a stabbing frenzy.
Fixions – “Sagat”
Fixions take the cyberpunk elements popularized by the Blade Runner-inspired segments found in Perturbator’s music and evolve them into songs that feel more proggy in nature. Rather than the usual 4/4 track that sounds like it was programmed by The Terminator, Fixions changes up the sounds and time signatures, making each song epic but still heavy. “Sagat” links synthwave with one of its founding forebears, that of video game music (covered extensively by Power Glove). Blast this next time you fire up Street Fighter II Turbo.
Acryl Madness – “Swift Deflection”
Enter the madness. Those looking for that burst of steroid-injected bass and pounding drums ala Carpenter Brut will find it in this track by Acryl Madness. The way in which these songs are produced makes it impossible not to nod your head to the throbbing beat, and while this a list of synthwave songs for metal fans, I’d also include it on a list of metal songs for synthwave fans.
Street Cleaner – “EDGE”
Is this Godflesh? With Street Cleaners’ album, Edge, we are taken on a tour through the neon-lit alleyways and cyber shark infested sewers of a dystopian megacity. On the album, each track inhabits its own scummy sector of town, bringing to mind such dynamic retro cyberpunk offerings like the Ghost in the Shell soundtrack (if only there were a nightclub shown in the film, they might be listening to Street Cleaner). The title track stands out as a rival to the guitar-laced synth-rock compositions from Dance with the Dead.