Building Mass Through Metal: The Five Most Anabolic Songs of 2022
A few weeks ago, Olympic weightlifting content creator Zack Telander posted his list of the top 10 most anabolic metal songs of all time. For the most part, he focused on the tracks that defined him inside and outside the weight room without getting too deep into underground metal. However, the best metal thrives in the chemically-tainted sewage of the underground, and the biggest dudes at the gym are likely chemically-tainted themselves.
While one could assume that every metal track is perfect to help build muscle, it’s simply not true. There are common elements to a good lifting track like groove, texture, distortion, rhythm, and overall heaviness. These traits are enough to get you in the door, but they don’t make a song worth adding to your playlist. Sadly, this concoction benefits bands who strive for a caveman-like aesthetic without using it to convey anything other than their masculinity. Pantera is a great example. Sonically, they possess all the hallmarks of a band rife with weight-room-friendly tracks. However, they’re too on the nose, like renting a $600 costume for a friend’s Halloween party. Look, we’re glad you’re committed, but you’re trying a bit too hard.
The point is that while 90s metal and its subgenres, be they groove metal, nu-metal, or alternative metal, check all the requisite boxes, there are songs and bands out there that outperform them. Nobody is going to scald you for playing “Walk” (or Machine Head’s “Davidian” if you want to go against the grain ever so slightly), but there’s so much more out there.
Each of the songs in this list possesses that extra touch that pushes them over the edge. A little existential sauce, if you will. There’s meat on the bones of these tracks, and they’ll slap some meat onto your bones. They will serve most gym needs, whether it's high-volume hypertrophy work that necessitates an indulgent groove, or a one-rep max attempt that demands full motor and musical recruitment. However, you may need to supplement these tracks with additional cuts, much like how you’d toss in rear delt flyes at the end of a back workout.
Finally, rest assured that all of these songs have passed the rigorous lab tests required to earn their certifications. They’ve all seen ample field experience in the harshest and least anabolic of fitness conditions, i.e. a commercial gym located in a downtown square of a major city that blasts air conditioning until early November. They can unlock your latent potential to look like a Minotaur, to jack your glutes until you carry a shelf in your back pocket, or to be a brick wall with ears and eyebrows. Of course, there are plenty of picks from this year that could’ve made the list. As such, use these five as a solid starting program.
Wiegedood - "FN Scar 16"
There's Always Blood at the End of the Road
The opening track from the Dutch black metallers album There's Always Blood at the End of the Road is the audio equivalent of a short and intense Eastern European man (who may or may not be Ivan Abadjiev) slapping you in the face and tugging on your ears. It’s absolutely pummeling, burying heads in the sand through trance-inducing repetition. It bursts with anger to the point that it can trigger your fight-or-flight response. You will either be breaking your personal bests when listening to “FN Scar 16” or the bar will break you - there are no alternatives.
CLEAVER - "Sunset"
No More Must Crawl
The French metalcore trio CLEAVER’s “Sunset” strikes every mood you could want when you’re about to rip the weight of a few corpses off of the ground. There are nods to Converge’s late-90s heyday, groove metal flirtations, and the oh-so-important breakdown. However, note how “Sunset” wills itself into existence. It’s so forceful because it had to be delivered this way. Nothing less would suffice. It’s an all-or-nothing track that crawls upwards and fully exerts itself in the blink of an eye, barely crossing the two-minute mark. It trades endurance for aggression, which is what world-record-setting lifts in the weightroom demand.
Spider God - "Bet"
Of all the sacrilegious covers Spider God performed on Black Renditions, “Bet” is the most head-scratching. It’s a black metal power pop cover of Troy Bolton’s “Bet On It” from High School Musical, and the best track from the album. Spider God turns the melodrama from Bolton’s rejection of Sharpay’s tyrannical hold over the Lava Spring talent show turns into a hero’s journey. His caustic vocals and jagged guitars mutate it into a twisted search for identity, a reclamation of the self from external influences, as if that isn’t the reason why we don’t all want to be jacked in the first place.
Undeath - "Rise from the Grave"
It's Time… to Rise from the Grave
Death metal is the perfect weight-lifting genre, genetically speaking. Every chemical base in its DNA codes for anabolism, but that being said, some death metal bands are more genetically predisposed to stimulate hypertrophy than others. In 2022, Undeath’s “Rise from the Grave” expressed its superior phenotype by containing everything you’d want from a death metal gym anthem - grizzled riffs, goldilocks-like grooves that are neither too fast nor too slow, and a chorus that forces you to push for one more rep. Many meathead metal bands can deliver those goods, but Undeath are also 2022’s most fun death metal act. It’s that crucial aspect that puts “Rise from the Grave” atop the totem pole because lifting, though strenuous, solitary, and stinky, is ultimately meant to be fun.
The Spirit - "Of Clarity and Galactic Structures"
"Of Clarity and Galactic Structures
Though “Of Clarity and Galactic Structures” is a nihilist’s anthem proclaiming that nothing matters in the cosmos’ vast scheme, it’s also a plea to find meaning in one’s life. The German black metal duo The Spirit illustrates how necessary it is to define oneself by bemoaning the lack of purpose in the universe. As they see it, nothing matters. This realization brings mental clarity along with it, and there is nothing that clears the mind more than a heavy set of hack squats. By rejecting the false notion that the universe owes us a reason to live, The Spirit encourages us to make our own living, placing insignificant human factors in the backburner, and discovering our own truths. The truth, as anyone who’s lifted for a significant time period will tell you, is that you must forge your own path towards self-made gigantism. Plus, who doesn’t want to look like a galactic structure?