The Lost Art Of The Heavy Metal Sex Ballad
These days, many would argue that heavy metal isn’t very sexy. As metal became more and more extreme and entrenched, it often forsaken steamier subject matter for violence, horror, and depression, lest its creators come off as soft for wanting to press against a human body rather than hack it up for barbecue. Sexuality automatically creates vulnerability, loaded as it is with cultural stigmas and physical realities, so plenty of bands choose to instead write about detached topics like battle and monsters (or, even worse, the unrealistic sexual cliches offered by mainstream culture and Gothic literature).
This is a damn shame, and honestly somewhat bizarre. Metalheads love couching their musical roots in Southern blues music, which was all about looking for love in all the wrong places and grew out of guitar chords that sound like two bodies grinding on each other. But in 2019, it feels like not even the slowest and heaviest of metal bands are trying to write solid baby-making music.
But this wasn’t always the case. Before grunge made metal became self-conscious of its own ridiculous image, plenty of bands wrote slow, sexy tracks that were also genuinely heavy. These songs were the perfect inspiration for backseat whale music, but they also usually took things in a raw, bestial direction, reveling in Satan and sweat rather than teenage schoolyard romance.
For many, the heavy metal sex ballad was one of the genre’s most valuable commodities, proof that it could cause all the same vapors as soul or funk. Today, it’s a forgotten art form, either lumped in with its corny hair metal ballad brethren or ignored in favor for more blatantly gross songs about sliding things in and licking things up.
So this Valentine’s Day, we offer you a list of classic heavy metal sex ballads. Remember to use protection, or at the very least wear some spikes.
AC/DC - Little Lover (1976)
This slow, steamy track from AC/DC’s 1976 debut High Voltage shows the metal sex ballad in its infancy. The key riffs are hard, but not quite crushing; the lyrics are sexual, but hadn’t mastered nuance enough to keep from being gross (“The wet patch on your seat/Was it Coca Cola?” Yikes). And yet the song remains as a purely positive celebration of young lust, using a pelvis-smashing rhythm and scandalous lyrics to stoke the fires of the collective metal loins.
Judas Priest - Fever (1982)
Few heavy metal sex ballads are as perfect as Fever. This one has it all — big bouncing riffs, hissing reverb on the chorus, a killer opening kick, a tasty-as-all-Christ solo in the middle, and the incredible closing line, “All day and all night.” Though not as vivid as Judas Priest tracks like Ram It Down and Eat Me Alive, its pneumatic stomp adds the grind needed to make it feel dirty at a single listen. This is one to get hot and bothered to.
W.A.S.P. - Sleeping (In The Fire) (1984)
Has a song ever sounded more like a bra strap being gently lowered? This B-side from W.A.S.P.’s self-titled album is an example of a rare breed: the satanic metal sex ballad! Blackie Lawless urges his lover to “taste the love of Lucifer’s magic”, upping the delicious sinfulness of getting busy. And at the end of the day, that’s where rock and roll first earned its title as “the Devil’s music” — because it inspired young people to slam.
Lita Ford - Back To The Cave (1987)
Where the ladies at? Contrary to what many hair metal bands seemed to believe, not all women fall into two neat categories of leather-clad bad girls and high school sweethearts. Lita Ford’s debut album, 1987’s Lita, proved that women could play and write heavy songs just as well as men, including the metal sex ballad. Back To The Cave isn’t just a simmering invitation to lust, it’s a declaration of something all amorous headbangers feel at one time or another — the need to return to their den, where pants are always optional. We’ll take that over gross dick metaphors any day.
Great White - Rock Me (1987)
The slow-burn of Great White’s Rock Me shows a patience that most bands (and lovers) only dream of. The song’s bass-driven intro ambles along with bare-bones guitar and wily blasts of smoky harmonica, to the point where you wonder if the song’s ever going to get any louder…and then two and a half minutes in, the band hits you with a chorus that’ll have you arching your back in an air guitar frenzy. Normally the idea of a seven-minute-plus hair metal ballad would make us throw up in our mouths a little bit, but we’ll take it any day of the week if it’s as hot as this one.
Alice Cooper - Little By Little (1991)
You gotta love a song that opens with the crack of a whip. Hair metal-era Alice Cooper is full of sexy songs, though they’re often loaded with metaphors about torture and Frankenstein (hey, the dude has a brand to maintain). But Little By Little off, off of the Coop’s 1991 album Hey Stoopid!, is as ribald as the shock rock master’s ever gotten. Plus, how can you feel anything other than total arousal at that second group “WOAH” in the chorus?
Halestorm - Do Not Disturb (2018)
Man, Lzzy Hale doesn’t mince words. Just when we thought the heavy metal sex ballad was dead, Halestorm brought it back with full force on Do Not Disturb, a slow, bass-heavy song beckoning a fictional lust object — and their girlfriend — to come up and spend a no-strings-attached night in a sweat-soaked hotel room. But what’s sexiest about the track is how honest it feels — Lzzy doesn’t just talk about desire or burning passion, she tells you to turn your cell phone off and wonders aloud how your accent will sound when you climax. This one’ll have you fanning yourself before you know it.
Honorable Mention: Belphegor - Sexdictator Lucifer (2008)
Does any genre quite spice up an evening at home with that special someone like blackened pervert death metal? With Sexdictator Lucifer, Austria’s own Belphegor have penned the ultimate love song for those who prefer riding crops and urine to jacuzzis and lingerie. That the song is sung in barked German, features samples of actual female moaning, and includes a moment where vocalist Helmuth screams, “BONDAGE!” only adds to its distinct charm. Sometimes, Cupid wears a ball gag.
WORDS: Chris Krovatin