One of the greatest aspects of South Park is its continuously clever and affectionate incorporation of music. Be it through ancillary recordings, sincere guest spots, tongue-in-cheek jabs or some other sort of reference, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s transgressive cartoon leaves almost no popular genre or artist untouched — especially not heavy metal.
Metal has been an integral part of the show’s content and spirit since it premiered back in 1997 (with a theme song from alternative/funk metal troupe Primus, of course). After all, both the series and the style exude anti-establishment sentiments, raucous behaviors and over-the-top theatricality – among other similarities – so it’s a match made in heaven.
From traditional appearances and ironic cameos to borrowed tracks and original compositions, here are 11 of the best times South Park bowed down to its metal overlords.
Loudwire contributor Jordan Blum is a university English professor and author of 'Opeth: Every Song Every Album', 'Dream Theater: Every Album Every Song' and 'Jethro Tull: Every Song Every Album.'
Ozzy’s Performance at “Chef Aid” (S2, E14)
Although 2002’s My Future Self 'n' Me briefly mentions early 2000s hit reality show The Osbournes, it’s this episode that properly honors the Prince of Darkness. Basically, South Park’s lovably inappropriate cafeteria sage, Chef, owes money to a record company, so he holds a benefit concert featuring artists whose careers he assisted.
Ozzy is on the bill, and, after telling an endearing story about how Chef inadvertently prompted him to bite the head off a bat, he – alongside The Crystal Method, DMX and Ol' Dirty Bastard – sings “Vapor Trail (Nowhere to Run).” Naturally, Ozzy ends the set in the perfect way — by ravenously devouring Kenny’s head.
Korn Go on a Haunted Hunt in “Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery” (S3, E10)
It was inevitable for Parker and Stone to satirize Scooby-Doo, and what better band to help do it than Korn? Initially, the group (voicing themselves) heads to Colorado to be a part of the town’s “Halloween Haunt.” Unfortunately, they crash their Mystery Machine-esque van when they see pirate ghosts. Predictably, they end up joining Cartman, Kenny, Stan and Kyle in their investigation, and upon solving it, the quintet play “Falling Away from Me.”
It’s a crafty way to premiere a tune from 1999’s Issues while pointing out that many musicians are – as Jonathan Davis declares – “just normal guys.”
Dio Plays “Holy Diver” in “Hooked on Monkey Fonics” (S3, E12)
You can’t showcase the metal genre without including Ronnie James Dio, and luckily, South Park didn’t wait long before bringing him on board. Specifically, Dio shows up two episodes after Korn, wherein he (with drummer Phonics Monkey) belts out “Holy Diver” at a South Park Elementary dance. Parker offers an amusing impersonation of Dio before they start, too.
In a 2002 chat with Reality Check TV, Dio revealed that he was reluctant to do it because he expected the creators to “crucify” him. Once he was assured that they were “real deal fans,” though, he gave in. He elaborates: “I thought to myself, Well, if you want to be an American icon, you better let them do it. And they did, and I was knocked out."
Slayer’s “Raining Blood” All Over “Die Hippie, Die” (S9, E2)
Several seasons later, Slayer received a nod via their signature track. As its title implies, this one sees Cartman eradicating hippies. He even warns the mayor about how an upcoming music festival will generate a plague of them but to no avail. Eventually, that’s what happens, and when other tactics don’t work, Cartman plays “Raining Blood” over the speakers after drilling through a crowd of them in a death-bringing vehicle because “hippies can’t stand death metal.” To his point, they run away and the town is saved.
When asked about it, guitarist Kerry King replied: “It was good to see [it] being put to good use. If we can horrify some hippies, we’ve done our job.”
We won’t even get hung up on calling Slayer “death metal.” Close enough and, besides, it makes for better TV.
Fighting to Disturbed’s “Down with the Sickness” in “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson” (S11, E1)
South Park is known for mixing absurdity with political incorrectness, as the controversial “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson” illustrates. Following Randy Marsh’s racist answer (warning: strong, offensive language) on Wheel of Fortune, South Park Elementary invites Dr. David Nelson (an author with dwarfism) to speak to students about sensitivity.
Predictably, the always amoral Cartman laughs at him, leading to a contentious rivalry between the two that involves plenty of name-callings. Their feud culminates in a shirtless schoolyard brawl as “Down with the Sickness” plays. It doesn’t last long – Cartman beats him after only a few seconds – but it’s a hilariously apropos song choice nonetheless.
Multiple Metal Songs in “Guitar Queer-O” (S11, E13)
In typical fashion, this 2007 episode lampooned the then-immensely popular Guitar Hero video games. (Actually, it aired about a week after Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock released, so it was quite timely.)
Poking fun at the superficiality and addictiveness of the series, it saw Kyle and Stan jeopardizing their friendship over which one of them became more popular and skilled. Expectedly, they replicate a wide array of songs along the way, such as Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” Warrant’s “Cherry Pie,” Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name,” Buckethead’s “Jordan” and Skid Row’s “I Remember You.” What a stellar soundtrack.
The Tale of Vünter Slauche (Slash) in “Crack Baby Athletic Association” (S15, E5)
Slash had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo as Randy’s guitarist in Season 7’s “I’m a Little Bit Country,” but he receives more attention here. In fact, much of the runtime revolves around the kids discovering – upon trying to recruit him to play the halftime show at a crack baby brawl – that the guitarist comes from a Dutch myth called Vünter Slauche. Like Santa Claus, his fable has been reinvented across multiple cultures and eras, and the children’s parents dress up as him to keep the lore alive. Ingeniously, it ends with Stan and Kyle encountering Slash’s famed hat and instrument (so their faith in him is restored).
Ten Years of Van Halen in “Ginger Cow” (S17, E6)
Here, the four main boys get embroiled in a worldwide mishap involving a “ginger cow” (complete with freckles and a red wig) and the theological divinations of Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Ultimately, these religious leaders reconcile, and in an instance of ridiculously imaginative exaggeration, their symbols are combined to form the Van Halen logo. Furthermore, this unity instigates “ten years of Van Halen,” and at an outdoor celebration in Jerusalem, David Lee Roth and company take the stage to play “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” and “Hot for Teacher.”
If only it were that easy for metal to really resolve international conflicts.
Worshiping Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast” in “Sons a Witches” (S21, E6)
As the town commemorates Halloween, numerous patriarchs – including Randy and Kyle’s dad Gerald Broflovski – gather atop a mountain to party in honor of “Witch Week.” Once there, they drink whiskey, smoke crack cocaine and sing a chant about putting spells on their bosses and wives. All the while, “The Number of the Beast” provides the ideal accompaniment.
True, it would’ve been cooler if Iron Maiden showed up and became a part of the plot, but the mere addition of the track is satisfying (especially since it preempts newcomer Clyde Duncan reading from a legitimate spellbook and turning himself into a malevolent, yes, witch).
Crimson Dawn Cover Dying Fetus and Death Decline in “Band in China” (S23, E2)
There have been several instances of South Park characters starting their own groups, but none have matched the brutality of death metal troupe Crimson Dawn. It’s fronted by Stan – who formed it in defiance of his father’s marijuana business, Tegridy Farms – and filled out by Butters, Kenny and Jimmy.
At Autumn Fest, the rest of the town eagerly awaits their first performance, only to be horrified when they launch into Death Decline’s “Useless Sacrifice.” Later, they rehearse Dying Fetus’ “Second Skin,” and the stylized editing (coupled with the notion that these sounds are coming from children) makes it very funny.
DVDA & James Hetfield Teach Kenny that “Hell Isn’t Good” in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
Even 1998’s film adaption of South Park needed some metal. Although Lars Ulrich appeared in “201” and all of Metallica – plus Judas Priest – were in “Christian Rock Hard,” neither manifestation rivals this one.
Essentially, Kenny pushes a button to enter Heaven but is denied access; afterward, he's caught in a tornado of fire and demons that take him to the Underworld as James Hetfield sings “Hell Isn’t Good.” What’s more, Hetfield’s backed by DVDA (Double Vaginal Double Anal), Parker and Stone’s hardcore punk rock band with staff members Bruce Howell and D.A. Young. How’s that for showing love to metal?