Although most of the world thought the end times were going to come in 2000 (the millennium) or 2012 (Mayan calendar), some still believe the apocalypse is not far off, or even more so, that we are living in the end times right now. No matter what you believe, here are five songs which portray and describe the rapture/apocalypse.
Number Five: “The End’s Not Near” by Band of Horses. “The End’s Not Near” is a song originally done by The New Year that was covered by Band of Horses on their 2006 single, “The Funeral.” I chose this version because I feel like the vocals show more emotion and better emphasize the meaning of the song. The narrator begins almost sarcastically saying, “The end’s not near / it’s here / Hallelujah / Spread the cheer.” This portrays that the narrator feels that the end of times is not in the future, but is already happening now. He continues by saying, “and watch the millenarians / throw a party for a thousand years”; this line suggests that the people who think the modern world is corrupt are celebrating because the rapture has finally came and upset all order.
The song goes on to describe “the pious praying” and “the martyrs” as those who’ll be sent to hell, again portraying a sardonic tone from the narrator, in that he thinks the end of the world is not how it was written about in the bible. The last two verses describe a person who is almost indifferent to the rapture (“I’m hiding from the kingdom come… / …We’re the saints who don’t want to be found”). Perhaps the most telling lyrics are, “They can’t see everything on earth / with the satellites and the roving drones.” This suggests that perhaps the narrator feels like the end of the world isn’t God’s plan, but is something that is happening because of technology. Overall, this is a beautiful song that puts a new spin on what really happens during the apocalypse.
Number Four: “Four Winds” by Bright Eyes. “Four Winds” is a song by Bright Eyes, off of their 2007 album, Cassadaga. The first couple lines describe war and how people always have to die, whether it’s for their “country,” “caste” or “tribe.” It goes on to say, “a squatter’s made a mural of a Mexican girl / with fifteen cans of spray paint in a chemical swirl / She’s standing in the ashes at the end of the world / Four winds blowing through her hair.” The number 15 is significant here; it could represent the biblical day of rest, the central and southern American tradition of Quinceañera or the Magic Square talisman (aka Lo Shu). The title “four winds” represents spiritual truth or an unusual, devastating event (in the Bible.) In the song, it’s used in reference to the Mexican girl and “it’s knocking over fences, crossing property lines”; this could be seen as God’s judgment being something universal- something that isn’t just destined for one country or people.
Four winds are also known as spirit beings in Cherokee tradition. The song goes on to say, “The Bible’s blind, the Torah’s deaf, the Qu’ran’s mute,” along with describing meditation as holding us “at the center while the spiral unwinds.” The spiral is significant of the journey from the external, material world to the path of enlightenment. Perhaps the most telling lyrics are, “when great Satan’s gone, the whore of Babylon / she just can’t sustain the pressure where it’s placed / she caves.” The Whore of Babylon is a biblical reference. Overall, “Four Winds” is chock-full of religious and mystical symbolism, most of which refer to the end times.
Number Three: “The Future” by Leonard Cohen. “The Future” is a song by Leonard Cohen off of his ninth album of the same name, and this track is essentially about revelations of an apocalypse and the idea of salvation. In this future he describes, there is no solace or serenity; the state of the world and the people in it are twisted, depraved and violent. This can be seen within lines like, “Give me absolute control / over every living soul… / Give me crack and anal sex.” Cohen then says, “Take the only tree that’s left / and stuff it up the hole / in your culture.” This could be a reference to the trees in the Garden of Eden. The main lyrics repeated in the song are: “Things are going to slide in all directions / won’t be nothing you can measure anymore” and “I’ve seen the future / it is murder.”
He then goes on to describe an insane culture of chaos, where there will be no privacy and the western ideals America clings to will be destroyed- he even compares abortion with ruthless leaders (“Stalin”) and atomic bombings (“Hiroshima.”) Perhaps the most telling line is, “When they said repent / I wonder what they meant.” It seems that the narrator of the song wants mayhem with a dash of solitude, because he’s been so desensitized by the worldly destruction portrayed in the media. “The Future” is not only a song about the end times but also an intelligent look at Christian beliefs.
Number Two: “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M. “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” is a song by R.E.M. off of their 1987 album, Document. This is an upbeat song about a person feeling “fine” in the midst of chaos. This chaos “starts with an earthquake / birds and snakes / an aeroplane,” followed by “the ladder,” “a government for hire,” “the Furies,” “reporters baffled,” “the Rapture” and “a nice continental drift divide.” Essentially R.E.M. used many symbolic references in this song, from religious (“the Rapture”) to mythological (“the Furies) to geological (“continental drift divide.”) This song is quirky and brilliant.
Number One: “Swan Song” by Bane. “Swan Song” is a song by Bane, off of their 2005 album The Note. The first and second verses depict possible scenes from the end of the world: “Screaming mothers chase their children down / Fathers tear out their eyes / as the city topples to the ground…/ Outside the streets are in a panic / Truth sellers jump from tall, tell ledges / No sign of Christ with a sword in a his mouth / Beneath a blood red sky / I’ll sit and laugh with you tonight.”
Then this punk song turns into an apocalyptic love song with the following lines: “When the trumpets blare the loudest and cannons roar / All the trains that once came for you spill off the tracks floor / All your horrors they multiply / You realize your fears / I’ll block your ears with both of my hands / Kiss away the tears.” The final lyrics which are repeated until the end of the song are, “When Armageddon’s been locked and loaded / I will come back for you.” For being a hardcore band, Bane created a beautiful track with “Swan Song.” The ending lyrics remind me of a scene in the movie The Butterfly Effect. I only wish that someone would do an acoustic cover of this song.