Punk and metal are classed as alternative genres for a reason; they stand apart from mainstream pop, and do so proudly and defiantly. However, there have been quite a few instances over the years where releases that were never meant to click with the masses have managed to cross over and strike a chord beyond the boundaries of the niche scenes that birthed them.
It’s worth celebrating these moments, because they bring more people into the alternative fraternity, and rattle the establishment in one fell swoop, so let’s discuss the most iconic examples.
Come Out and Play – The Offspring
In the early 1990s, punk had hit a bit of a slump, with grunge dominating in its place. Then in 1994, The Offspring blew away the cobwebs with Come Out and Play, a playful tune that nevertheless had punk sensibilities and an incredibly distinct sound which became the band’s calling card.
Along with the success of the album on which it featured, Smash, it’s arguably responsible for putting American punk back on the map, and managed to do so while still being an independent release.
The Offspring are often rumored to be on the cards to be inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, and it’s hard to imagine that this would even be up for discussion without Come Out and Play.
Paranoid – Black Sabbath
It’s hard to imagine just how impactful Paranoid was when it originally released in 1970. The 60s was over, and a new generation of musicians were lining up to break new ground with new sounds.
The fact that it was such a transitional period is evidenced by the official video, which is an intriguing mix of 60s aesthetics with the heavy metal sound that would explode in the coming decade.
A number 4 hit in the UK, Paranoid was Black Sabbath’s breakthrough release, and would shape so many other artists as well.
Ace of Spades – Motorhead
Speaking of bands influenced by Black Sabbath, there’s no doubt that Motorhead fall into this category. Formed in 1975, their most famous track didn’t emerge until 1980, when Ace of Spades took the world by storm.
As well as being one of the greatest songs about poker, it’s also one of the most enduring heavy metal hits of its era, probably due to its timelessness. Some tracks show their age quite quickly, but Ace of Spades is as fresh today as it was four decades ago.
Killing in the Name – Rage Against The Machine
Few bands talk the talk and walk the walk like RATM. Their revolutionary ethos not only infuses their music, but informs their actions, and it’s sad to recognize that this isn’t always the case on the alternative scene.
Killing in the Name epitomizes the message they’ve been putting across since the 1990s; if you don’t question authority, you’ll be in line to get stepped on by it.
The reason it deserves a place in this list is specifically down to its revival in 2009, when it was purchased by British music fans in protest over music mogul Simon Cowell’s monopoly on the festive charts with his talent show releases.
Enter Sandman – Metallica
Charting at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100, Enter Sandman is the most commercially successful song in this list, so it’s fitting to discuss it last of all.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about it is that it’s not a song that makes compromises to appeal to the mainstream. 30 million sales worldwide cemented Metallica as titans of the heavy metal movement.