Planet Of The Apes Is More Metal Than You

On the 50th anniversary of its premier screening in New York, we take a look at how the sci-fi movie classic has influenced rock and metal ever since…

Planet Of The Apes Is More Metal Than You

Science fiction classic Planet Of The Apes premiered at Capitol Theatre in New York City on February 8, 1968. Charlton Heston stars as George Taylor, an astronaut who crash lands on a mysterious planet after being in deep hibernation. To his and his crew’s horror, they discover that the planet is ruled by primates and keep humans captive. The film has captured the imagination of many rock bands, and to celebrate its 50th anniversary, we’ve compiled an essential playlist inspired by the story.

Misfits, Forbidden Zone (Famous Monsters, 1999)

When the spacecraft Icarus, carrying Taylor and his team of astronauts, crashes into a lake, they make their way across the Forbidden Zone, a desolate wasteland which is off-limits to all apes. The bleak landscape is later revealed to be the area surrounding New York City which was decimated by a nuclear explosion. Ever since their inception in 1977, New Jersey punks Misfits’ stock-in-trade has been references to cult horror and science fiction films, so it was inevitable they’d be inspired by Franklin J. Schaffner’s 1968 classic. This brisk, fuzzed-up track, taken from their album Famous Monsters neatly summarises this element of the story as then-frontman Michale Graves croons, ‘Some say that's where man began, on this wasted piece of land, where evolution's yet to show…’ 

Cathedral, Urko's Conquest (Supernatural Birth Machine, 1996)

While Urko didn’t appear in the first Planet Of The Apes film, he appeared as the violent head gorilla in the short-lived 1974 television adaptation; a bit of a bastard with a habit of shooting first, grunting questions later. The lamented British doom quartet Cathedral’s contribution to this playlist comes in the form of Urko’s Conquest, a tar-thick track from their fourth album Supernatural Birth Machine, whose lyrics ‘Gorilla guns aim at your face, surgical apes have taken out your voice’ read like a nightmarish AirBnB customer review. 

Groop Dogdrill, Simian Kind (Every Six Seconds, 2000)

This Doncaster trio opened their second album with Simian Kind, a frantic three-minute thrash with a frenzied cry of ‘Get your hands of me!’. This is, of course, a nod to the scene where Taylor attempts to escape from Ape City after Dr. Zaius’ arranges for him to be castrated, only to find himself upside down in a net and barks the immortal line, ‘Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!’. The spaceman has a point. Dirty monkey hands are the last thing you want when being subjected to a delicate surgical procedure.

Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13, Planet Of The Apes (Viva Las Violence, 2001)

These North Carolina horror punks looked to the 1968 classic for this track taken from their fourth studio album. The lyrics are a perfect encapsulation of the plot line, all set to trashy, glam-fuelled punk: ‘I crash my ship into the sea, oh my God, where could I be?, I swim to shore, what do I see, a bunch of fucking monkeys coming after me’ sings Wednesday 13 as though he’s penning the most terrifying postcard to his friends back home.

NOFX, The Idiots Are Taking Over (The War On Errorism, 2003)

The Californian punks’ ninth album The War On Errorism was largely a diatribe against then-President George W. Bush. In The Idiots Are Taking Over, Fat Mike likens the experience of living in a G0d-fearing, right wing country to Taylor’s insurmountable situation five decades ago: ‘I'm starting to feel a lot like Charlton Heston, stranded on a primate planet, apes and orang-utans that ran it to the ground…’ This album highlight takes on a depressing relevance some 15 years on.

Red Kross, Zira [Call Out My Name] (Third Eye, 1990)

This track, taken from the Californian alt-rock quartet’s third album, is a thinly-veiled love song directed at chimpanzee psychologist Dr. Zira. Frontman Jeff McDonald doesn’t appear to care that she’s romantically involved; she was the fiancée (and later married to) the kind-hearted Cornelius, an archeological scientist. “We wanted it to seem like a regular love song but the people who were cool enough would figure it out,” says McDonald. But it’s still a love song to a chimp, no matter which way you cut it.

Slough Feg, Ape Uprising! (Ape Uprising!, 2009)

These San Francisco-based metallers use Pierre Boulle’s original story as the framework for this epic, 10-minute title track of their seventh studio album. The song gallops along like classic Maiden as frontman Michael Scalzi sings of incarcerated primates breaking free and exacting revenge on their human oppressors. Could happen.

Screeching Weasel, Planet Of The Apes (How To Make Enemies And Iritate People, 1994)

These influential Illinois punks roped in Green Day’s Mike Dirnt to play bass on their seventh album following the departure of Dan Vapid. This track is not a discourse on Pierre Boulle’s 1963 science fiction novel, but a rant about violence perpetrated by pit bullies at punk shows: ‘Planet of the apes you are so wrong… you’re a simian, you’re the missing link, this club's a zoo thanks to you and your gorilla buddies too’. However in 2011, frontman Ben Weasel was involved in an altercation with two women during a show at Austin music festival, SXSW; his four band mates quit, describing the incident as “shameful and embarrassing”.

John 5 And The Creatures, Here's To The Crazy Ones (Single, 2006)

While this showy instrumental has no direct reference to the film, this song is fit for inclusion in this playlist solely for the bizarre video which accompanied the release. While watching Planet Of The Apes with his wife Rita in their home cinema, the guitarist nods off and, wobbly film effect, he dreams of performing in his garden with his bandmates The Creatures, but as characters from the film. “I had the weirdest dream,” he remarks after waking up, delivered in a style that suggests he won’t be troubling the Academy Awards selection committee any time soon. That said, sweet licks. Quite literally, if you watch the video.

Words: Simon Young

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