You're probably wondering how I got here, writing an article attempting to convince you that Nickelback are actually pretty heavy. The answer is simple: I'm tired of everyone acting like they don't listen to Nickelback.
Since forming in 1995, Nickelback have become one of the most commercially successful Canadian rock bands. They've sold more than 50 million records worldwide —so obviously someone is listening to their music. I'm not asking you to start shouting your love for Nickelback on the rooftops, but I am asking you to hear me out: some of Nickelback's songs are seriously heavy.
The internet was confused, to say the least, when Nickelback first teased "San Quentin" back in 2022 ahead of their most recent album Get Rollin'. Chad Kroeger and Ryan Peake sat down with the radio station WRAT to talk about the audience response to the track's initial teaser, explaining that releasing a song with more of a metal tone wasn't actually out of left field for them.
"All of our records are all over the map," Kroeger explained. "We don’t have one record that really sort of sounds the same in terms of songwriting from top to bottom... and I absolutely love that. I don’t know how we sort of did that and how we got the acceptance from our fans to be able to do that, but we’re very lucky because we don’t have to record the same kind of music thinking to ourselves, ‘Well, the fans are expecting this, so we’ve just gotta give ’em a whole album of that.’"
Let's take it all the way back to The Long Road.
Nickelback's fourth full length album was released in 2003 via Roadrunner Records and includes the track "Because of You." Listeners are hit with all the quintessential elements of metal instrumentation the moment they press play — fervent drumming, distorted guitar riffs, extra-low bass notes and Kroeger's throaty vocals.
What more could you ask for?
Next up we have Nickelback's 2005 album All The Right Reasons. Most people know this record because of its lead single, "Photograph," but that's not the track we're here to talk about.
"Follow You Home" includes one of the most important elements of heavy music — a loud, constant drum beat that leads the band using speed, power and precision.
Don't lie. I know you like this song.
"Burn It To The Ground" comes off Dark Horse. The album became the top-selling rock and metal album of 2009 and, in addition, Nickelback won three Juno awards that year — Best Album, Best Group and Fan Choice.
Let's get into a little bit of heavy metal history with this one... Heavy metal has roots in psychedelic rock, acid rock as well as blues. Deriving from its roots in the latter, one of the most common lyrical themes in heavy metal is sex.
"S.E.X." is about —you guessed it— sex. More specifically, it's about always wanting to have it. The lyrics in this track, including "No is a dirty word," are problematic, at best.
Although this song makes me deeply uncomfortable, it also unfortunately points to one of metal's biggest criticisms — that it sometimes advocates for misogyny.
On the other hand, another important lyrical theme in heavy music is politics, going all the way back to Black Sabbath and their seminal track "War Pigs."
"Edge Of A Revolution" is an example of Nickelback mixing heavy instrumentation with political lyrics. The track was released in 2014 as the lead rock single for No Fixed Address and inspired by protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after a police officer killed an unarmed Black teenager named Michael Brown. The track features lyrics such as "we'll all be dead if the shit don't change" and "we won't lay down and accept this fate / 'Cause we're standing on the edge of a revolution."
In "Million Miles An Hour" from the same album, Nickelback take inspiration from heavy metal's roots in psychedelia. The song focuses on the feeling of being high on drugs. In this case, the instrumentation is more important than the lyrics.
"Feed The Machine" is the title track to Nickelback's ninth studio album. In an interview with Music Choice, Kroeger explained how the band wanted to get back to their roots to create a more aggressive sounding record.
“This album is definitely heavier, as a whole, than a lot of our previous records," he said. "We’ve gone back to some pretty crunchy roots, and we’re happy about that. I mean, we’re always stretching off in different directions and trying different things, but we definitely went with more of an aggressive sound on this record.”
In the same interview, Kroeger called "The Betrayal (Act III)," "probably one of the hardest and heaviest songs we've ever put out… It is quite heavy; there's a lot of screaming that goes on in that chorus," he said. "I think we've all tasted a little betrayal in our days and it is not a flavor that I think any of us liked to swallow." Kroeger's vocals in "The Betrayal (Act III)" highlight a display of raw emotion that has become synonymous with metal music.