At Ultimate Fighting Championship 108, I was reminded of one very simple, invariable truth: Few things get the adrenaline pumping as quickly and as hard as the right song played at obscene volumes in front of a large crowd.
When Jake Ellenberger entered to Rammstein's "Du Hast" before brutalizing Mike Pyle, I thought that was gonna be the highlight of the musical evening. That was until Gilbert Yvel sauntered up with AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" blasting from the rafters.
Unfortunately for Yvel, he was the one who got smoked (courtesy of Junior dos Santos), but I appreciated the sentiment.
It was a solid night all around for the fighters' musical exhibitions. Even so, it got me thinking about the 10 best songs I had yet to hear used in fighter intros.
Mind you, this is the ultimate in subjectivity—I won't pretend what follows is a definitive list (nor can I promise none have ever been used, just that I didn't hear it).
It's heavy on the metal because that's my preference. The others are gangsta rap (possibly, rap's not my expertise) because a top 10 should be accessible to the masses and only a select few fighters could pull a Dustin Hazelett or Jim Miller.
Lilting artistic tunes, classic rock, and other less antagonistic genres simply don't mesh with the persona most fighters choose for themselves.
Consequently, it is with much regret I must omit a couple legendary offerings—"Wanted Man" by Johnny Cash (the video proves true intimidation is not accomplished via clothes or tattoos) and "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones.
Additionally, I just could make room for all the worthy Metallica and Pantera songs.
So you won't see Hetfield and the fellas making this list with "Seek and Destroy," "The Four Horsemen," "Creeping Death," or any of the others that were begging for inclusion. Nor will you see Pantera's "F***ing Hostile," "Walk," "Mouth for War," or any further testaments to Dimebag Darrell's genius on the guitar.
Lightning round of apologies: "Runnin' (Dyin' to Live)" Tupac and Notorious B.I.G., "Disorder" Slayer and Ice-T, "Super-Charger Heaven" White Zombie, "Blind" Korn (incidentally, if you want a dictionary-definition of the term "sell-out, Korn is it; I don't have a problem with the development, but facts are facts), "Patiently Waiting" 50 Cent, "'Til I Collapse" Eminem, "Closer" Nine Inch Nails (c'mon, tell me you'd be stoked to roll around with a dude after he chose that song), and a trio from AC/DC ("If You Want Blood," "TNT," and "Hells Bells").
On with it:
10. "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" Smashing Pumpkins
It's simple, really—oddly unsettling video, bizarre lead singer, and a sweet title merit consideration. The harder edge to the rock moves that consideration along.
Then, an appropriate hook seals the deal.
Like, "despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage, then someone will say what is lost can never be saved."
No. 9—"Blur the Technicolor " White Zombie
Initial disclaimer—I can't understand a single word in this song other than the title and I have no idea what it means/is about.
However, Rob Zombie is one hell of a creepy individual and this song represents that perfectly. "Blur the Technicolor" sounds paradoxically ominous and you don't get the impression the words relate anything beneficial or pleasant.
Used properly by a Marcus Jones- or Chris Leben-type (i.e. by someone who actually has a screw loose rather than a pretender) and the seeds of anxiety would be sown.
No. 8—"Through the Fire and Flames " DragonForce
Herman Li, co-lead guitarist and five-time-a-week Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner.
That's all you need to know about this band (in fairness, the other hombre is also excellent as is the drummer).
But Li is in another stratosphere.
If you do nothing else, pick up the link at about the 2:50 mark and you'll see exactly what I mean for the next couple of minutes (seriously, WATCH THIS). Li is like watching the graceful hand movement of Eric Clapton at 10X speed. On crystal meth.
You must also respect a modern power metal band that has stayed so obviously devoted to the tenets of the genre's 1980s heyday—big hair and lots of it, lyrics that seem like they've been ripped out of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel, slo-mo power leaps, and rampant alcoholism.
You can catch the other lead guitarist pounding a beer while Li scorches his instrument. From over the fret board.
If Li ever learns to roll like he shreds, maybe he'll get to enter the Octagon to his own guitar riffs.
No. 7—"Wake Up" Rage Against the Machine
OK, so it's tough to shoe-horn the acerbic political activism of Rage into the MMA world. At least as far as a pre-fight introduction goes.
Maybe, wake up to the oppressive opponent against whom I've set myself? Like I said, bit o' a stretch.
Yet I didn't hesitate for an instant before including the call to arms. First, I'd imagine a fighter can draw inspiration and channel energy from any source that is angry enough.
Though it's unclear whether the entire Band is driven to near-insanity by outrage over injustice or if it's merely Zack de la Rocha who suffers the plight, it is clear someone with a heavy hand on Rage's direction is furious.
Second, let's not forget the song's association with the first Matrix, perhaps the sh**-kicking-est movie of all-time.
Mix 'em together and it'll do in a pinch.
No. 6—"Harvester of Sorrow" Metallica
Ahhh, the boys make their first appearance...and not their last.
Yes, I'm a homer. Yes, I'm aware that not everyone shares my affinity for the increasingly pretentious thrashers from Los Angeles. No, I don't care.
Metallica is my favorite band; frankly, I think I deserve congratulations for limiting myself to only two of their triumphs. Anyway, check the link because it's from their 1991 concert in Moscow where they played in front of about a million people.
Think Hetfield and company have a hard time getting excited? After seeing/hearing millions of people who don't even speak the same language going nucking futs for them?
And who would be amped about facing a harvester of sorrow that could back it up?
Bonus points for the obvious nod to mixed martial arts—"Drink up, shoot in, let the beatings begin, distributor of pain, your loss becomes my gain."
No. 5—"Hit 'em Up" Tupac
If you're gonna use Tupac's notorious shot across Biggie's bow (or wife), you better be really unhappy with the gentleman standing opposite you in the cage. Otherwise, the entrance is going to seem a little contrived.
You can't channel Shakur at his angriest—and this was, by all appearances, a man intimately acquainted with bitter rage—unless the circumstances remotely justify it.
If you're just playing the disgruntled bad-ass, it will be obvious when juxtaposed with Pac's animalistic verses.
This is a guy who says, "First off, f*** your b**** and the clique you claim," AFTER announcing that he had sex with "fat mothaf****" Christopher Wallace's wife.
Apparently, those initial mild barbs didn't count because "First off..." you know the rest.
In other words, this is an emergency song—"Do Not Break Glass Except in Case of Genuine Hatred."
No. 4—"Real Muthaf***in' G's " Eazy-E
I pretty much had to include this if only for the video dissing Dre.
Although I'm aware the official position is that Tupac's previous recording is the gold-standard in lyrical assaults on your adversary, I still prefer Eric Wright's tribute to profane animosity.
The beat is better, the words seem to fit more precisely, and I just enjoy the pace.
There's also the matter of Eazy's voice.
As I said, rap ain't my thing so most of it sounds pretty generic. Thus, the recordings I do particularly like tend to have a distinctive hook. Wright's high-pitched, sort of tinny tone does right by my ears.
Furthermore, the track would be the perfect appetizer before a tete-a-tete between legitimately bitter rivals.
Suga vs. Rampage, anyone?
(Not because they're both black.)
No. 3—"Symphony of Destruction" Megadeath
The name really says it all. Plus, Dave Mustaine (founding member) was once part of Metallica. Gotta keep it in the family.
In all honesty, this is the only Megadeath song I could name if dropped into the middle of it. So, no, I'm not the world's biggest fan.
But this song? This song, right here?
It can go toe-to-toe with the best of 'em (incidentally, Katt Williams is a funny man).
Not only does it combine the staples of any great metal song (resplendent guitar work accompanied by savage drumming), the lyrics are profoundly appropriate:
"You take a mortal man...watch him become a god...watch people's heads a-roll...just like the Pied Piper led rats through the streets, we dance like marionettes, swaying to the symphony of destruction."
Sounds like every fight audience I've ever seen.
No. 2—"By Demons Be Driven" Pantera
One thing a great entrance track needs, almost without exception, is a kick-ass opening.
If I were coming out of a tunnel into a huge crowd with this little ditty reverberating from wall-to-wall, I might find it difficult to control myself during each growling chord.
Keep in mind, I'm a relatively mellow person; for these monsters on edge who make a living in the cage, maybe it's wise to go a different direction.
Still, combine some sincerely disturbing lyrics with the high-octane notes and I say you've got a good start on that intimidation.
I mean, picture staring across the Octagon at, say, Brock Lesnar or B.J. Penn while this bad rider pulses away?
They'd be driven by DEMONS, for Pete's sake!
No. 1—"Master of Puppets" Metallica
You could argue that I conceived this entire idea as an excuse to write about my love for this song. I say this without one HINT of exaggeration, I get chills whenever I hear this track.
If you want to know why a lot of very gnarly people—I'm not including myself here—worship as a god a seemingly delicate dude like Kirk Hammett, pick up the clip at about 5:25.
Pantera has a song called "The Art of Shredding;" they were talking about Hammett's nimble fingers (not really, but you know what I am saying?).
You'll also see why we tolerate Lars Ulrich's current foolishness. The man can beat those skins.
That the song is about drug abuse is but a minor detail—you can see the fight relevance of such lyricism as "I'm your source of self destruction, veins that pump with fear, sucking darkest clear, leading on your death's construction."
How about "Obey your master...master of puppets pulling your strings, twisting your mind and smashing your dreams?"
Now, can you imagine an arena full of fight fans getting ready to see a big bout if one of the gladiators were to make an entrance to "Master?"
And it looks glooorious...