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War Is Hell / Music

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  • Guns N' Roses' "Civil War"
    What's so civil about war anyway?
  • The song "War" is an anti-Vietnam War protest song. The original version was sung by The Temptations but the Edwin Starr cover is also quite famous.
    War! Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothin'!
  • Eric Bogle's song "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda". As an old World War I veteran who lost his legs at Gallipoli sits on his porch, watching the veterans march past every ANZAC Day, he muses:
    The young people ask what are they marching for, and I ask m'self the same question.
    • Also his song, No Man's Land.
      But here in this graveyard that's still No Man's Land
      The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
      To man's blind indifference to his fellow man
      And a whole generation who were butchered and damned
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  • "Mama", from My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade.
    "But the shit that I've done with this fuck of a gun
    You would cry out your eyes all night long...
  • "War Is Hell (On the Homefront, Too)," a No. 1 country song for T.G. Sheppard in 1982. A twist on the trope, the song – set during World War II – sees a 16-year-old grocery delivery boy have his first sexual encounter with the wife of a soldier stationed on the front lines overseas. The woman relates her loneliness and burning desire for sexual intimacy by telling the boy the title line.
  • "Godspeed" by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
  • "Hero of War" by Rise Against
  • The aria 'War, he sung, is toil and trouble' from Handel's Alexander's Feast.
  • "Eve of Destruction" written by P. F. Sloan and most famously performed by Barry McGuire.
    "If the button is pushed, there's no runnin' away.
    There'll be no one to save, with the world in a grave."
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  • "The Patriot Game",
    "And now as I lie here, my body all holes,
    I think of those traitors who bargained in souls
    And I wish that my rifle had given the same
    To those quislings who sold out the patriot game"
  • "One" by Metallica. (based on Johnny Got His Gun, covered above) Also "Disposable Heroes", "For Whom The Bell Tolls", and arguably "Hero of the Day". They're pretty big on this theme.
  • Iron Maiden's "2 Minutes to Midnight"
    "The body bags and little rags of children torn in two. And the jellied brains of those who remain who point the finger right at you. As the madmen play on words and make us all dance to their song. To the tune of starving millions to make a better kind of gun."
  • Black Sabbath's War Pigs and especially Electric Funeral from Paranoid.
  • Sonata Arctica's "Replica", especially the older version. "Destruction Preventer" also gives off this vibe.
    Now tell me, who won here, tonight?
    The price of winning worthless fights?
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  • Trivium's "Down From the Sky" is about dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WWII.
  • This is a common topic for former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, whose father was killed in the Battle of Enzio during World War II; The Final Cut in particular absolutely oozes this trope thanks to it being written as a reaction to The Falklands War.
  • L'arc-en-Ciel's "Hoshizora" is about both the aftermath of either the Tokyo firebombings or Hiroshima and dedicated to the children of Iraq.
    Flickering hot air is the remains of a dream,
    a town that fears the darkness goes to sleep
    A small happiness above the rubble, I was born here,
    I who watches the stars. nobody knows. nobody cares.
    I have lost everything to bombs.
  • "Some Mother's Son" by The Kinks
  • "Gods of War" by Def Leppard
  • "Hell is a War," by Annihilator:
    See the people suffering, watch the children die
    Doesn't it make you wonder why?
    Money and power, the television's red
    One by one, they collect the dead
    Hell is a war - hell, what is it for?
  • Muse's A Soldier's Poem.
    • Map of the Problematique has elements of this, although the main subject matter is different.
  • The discography of Galneryus up until 2009 is pretty equally split between this trope and War Is Glorious. Some of the best for this trope would be "Blame Yourself" and "Stardust."
  • I Was Only Nineteen (A Walk in the Light Green) by Redgum, which details the various horrors faced by the ANZAC troops in Vietnam.
    God help me, I was only nineteen.
  • The Kaizers Orchestra song "170", about a volunteer soldier (given the number "170" and never referred to by name) who leaves behind his pregnant wife to fight in a war. The song ends as his CO sends him over the top first to check if all is clear, and no response comes. The song "Død manns tango" (Dead Man's Tango) involves a veteran who's been forgotten by the world and paralysed from the waist down: It's possible it's the same person.
  • Nightwish's "Planet Hell" and "10th Man Down."
  • Sabaton singing almost entirely about war, uses this trope from time to time. Some notable examples:
    • "Cliffs of Gallipoli"
    "How many wasted lives
    how many dreams did fade away
    broken promises they won't be coming home
    Oh, mothers, wipe your tears
    your sons will rest a million years
    found their peace at last as foe turned to friend
    and forgive"
    • "Angels Calling":
      "Hell on earth, the trenches mean death, better keep your head down low
      Charge their lines, the ultimate test it's a synchronized sacrifice
      Get the wounded after dark
      Left alone in no man's land
      Maddening chaos at the front
      Dream of heaven. Angels are calling your name"
    • "A Light In The Black":
      "Leaving home, set to sea
      Was this really meant to be?
      See the shore of our home fade away
      Facing blood, facing pain
      Have our brothers died in vain?
      Many lives have been lost on the way"
    • The Price of a Mile (over on the quotes page), about the bitter stupid bloody battles of World War I.
    • "A Lifetime Of War" (English version):
      "Has man gone insane?
      A few will remain
      Who'll find a way
      To live one more day
      Through decades of war
      It spreads like disease
      There's no sign of peace
      Religion and greed
      Cause millions to bleed
      Three decades of war"
      • The Swedish version offers a more personal view of the war.
    • They also covered the aforementioned "For Whom the Bell Tolls."
  • Benjamin Britten's War Requiem sets nine poems by Wilfred Owen to music and surrounds them with Ominous Latin Chanting. The standard text of "Agnus Dei" in the Requiem mass replaces the line "Dona nobis pacem" (Grant us peace) with "Dona eis requiem sempiternam" (Grant them everlasting rest); the "Agnus Dei" in the War Requiem uses both.
  • "Army Dreamers" by Kate Bush.
  • "This Is Why We Fight" by The Decemberists:
    "Come the war, come the avarice
    Come the war, come hell
    Come attrition, come the reek of bones
    Come attrition, come hell"
  • "Masters of War" by Bob Dylan from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.
  • Billy Joel's "Goodnight Saigon", about The Vietnam War, is well known for its realism and the many hearts it broke. To give an example, these are the opening lines.
    "We met as soul mates on Parris Island
    We left as inmates from an asylum
    And we were sharp, as sharp as knives
    And we were so gung-ho to lay down our lives..."
  • This is a common theme used in the Gorillaz anti-violence ballads, but "Dirty Harry" from Demon Days(namely the rap solo) is an especially good sample:
    "I got a ninety-days digit and I'm filled with guilt
    From the things that I've seen
    Your water's from a bottle / Mine's from a canteen
    At night I hear the shots ring, so I'm a light sleeper
    The cost of life, it seems to get cheaper..."
  • Smile Empty Soul has a few of these such as "This Is War" and "God's Army" where they make their opinion on the subject extremely clear.
  • Toxic Holocaust use the exact phrase in "War Is Hell," which includes near nearly 1 minute of chanting "war is fucking hell."
  • "Still Spinning Shrapnel" by Skyclad.
  • God Dethroned released a concept album based on the battle of Paschendale. They did not skimp on the details.
  • Thrash Metal band Warbringer seems to invoke this trope more often than not, especially the song 'Forgotten Dead', below. YMMV, as they tend to toe the line between condemning and glorifying war with their explicit, visceral lyrics.
    "The whistle blows, you are forced to advance into oncoming machine gun fire
    Caught in the blast as the mines detonate lifeless bodies hang from barbed wire
    Stabbed through the gut by a bayonet, blood chokes your scream
    Another dying sould is laid upon the altar ofmankind's greed"
  • Avenged Sevenfold has the song "M.I.A." on City of Evil, "Gunslinger" on the self-titled album, "Danger Line" on Nightmare, the title track of Hail to the King and "Angels" on The Stage... It's a theme that inspires them apparently.
  • Carach Angren's "The Funerary Dirge of a Violinist"
    And so the instrument of peace is silenced by the one of war
    It plays the music of the dead; music made of lead
    I've had enough of this sickening war and it's murderous puppets!
    They don't understand the language of music cannot be spoken in death
  • "Combat" from Heaven Shall Burn deals with child soldiers.
    You are an orphan now,
    Adopted by the beast of war
    The end of all your childhood dreams has come
    A life of combat, forevermore
  • Phil Ochs's Signature Song is considered to be be I Ain't Marching Anymore.
    For I marched to the battles of the German trench
    In a war that was bound to end all wars
    Oh I must have killed a million men
    And now they want me back again
    But I ain't marchin' anymore
  • The traditional Irish anti-war song Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya details the maiming the titular soldier receives when off fighting, and the horror of people seeing him when he returns.
    Where are your legs that used to run
    When you went to carry a gun
    Indeed your dancing days are done
    Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye.
    Ye haven't an arm, ye haven't a leg
    Ye're an armless, boneless, chickenless egg
    Ye'll have to be put with a bowl out to beg
    Oh Johnny I hardly knew ye.
  • Tom Waits: "Hell Broke Luce" from Bad As Me.
  • Old Crow Medicine Show: "Big Time In the Jungle"
  • "War" by Bob Marley from Rastaman Vibration, based on a speech by Haile Selassie for the UN.
  • War Ina Babylon by Max Romeo.
  • "Mars: Bringer Of War" by Gustav Holst from The Planets.
  • Australian folksinger Judy Small's "Mothers, Daughters, Wives" is about the women the soldiers left behind, and how their roles changed as the men of each successive generation left and, perhaps, never came back.
    Then your daughters grew to women, and your little boys to men
    And you prayed that you were dreaming when the call-up came again!
    But you bravely smiled, and held your tears, as they proudly waved goodbye,
    But the photos on the mantlepiece, they always made you cry.
  • No Bravery by James Blunt focuses especially on the horror of the civilian population.
  • The unfinished song "Ronin" by Cormorant explores this theme. Even though it was a 1/4 of the way finished, Arthur von Nagel provided the rest of the lyrics.
    You once visited the graves
    Of the heroes and the knaves,
    Asked God why it wasn't you,
    Why you lost the will to live,
    Why your homeland wouldn't give
  • A lot of lyrics of later Dismember, particularly on Massive Killing Capacity. From "On Frozen Fields":
    On frozen fields of horror
    March through the firestorm
    Mangled victims lay
    Forgotten and forlorn
  • Kreator's Warcurse makes it clear what the song is about from the very first lines:
    Envision World War Two
    In a land that's ruled by hate and hunger
    I guide the fading souls
    As bodies drown in flames
  • Galaxy Hunter's "Kandahar" is about a platoon of soldiers fighting The War on Terror in Afghanistan.
  • "Out in the Fields" by Gary Moore & Phil Lynott is a deceptively upbeat song whose lyrics warn that "No color, religion, flag, or uniform ever stopped a bullet from a gun".
  • "Mimi wo Sumashite" by Hazuki Fujiwara if the lyrics remind you of losing your family during a war.
  • Apocalypse Orchestra's "Theatre of War":
    Dead men walking, trumpets blare
    Death rides by on his bony mare
    Triumph is certain, in the mind's eye
    Truth hides under limbs piled high
  • "In the Army Now" by Bolland And Bolland, which was also covered by bands as Sabaton and especially Status Quo.
    You've got your orders better shoot on sight,
    your finger's on the trigger but it don't seem right
  • "Born in the U.S.A." by Bruce Springsteen, a commentary on the return of American soldiers to their country after The Vietnam War:
    Got in a little hometown jam
    So they put a rifle in my hand
    Sent me off to a foreign land
    To go and kill the yellow man
  • A common theme in David Rovics' work, his songs tell how the horror of war leaves no one untouched: the soldiers (e.g. "When Johnny Came Marching Home"), the non-combatants (e.g. "Baghdad") and those left at home (e.g. "Song for Cindy Sheehan").
  • "Dirty Paws" by Of Monsters and Men tells the story of a war between two groups of forest creatures: The bees, not wanting to share the sky, declare war on the birds. The creatures of the forest, led by Dirty Paws, helped the birds take down the tyrannical bees, but the formerly green forest was "colored black" as a result.


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