Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a Padres household, but watching Trevor Hoffman emerge from the bullpen to the chiseled machismo of “Hell’s Bells” was always one of those rare, transporting aesthetical experiences in professional sports. Perhaps because nothing represents the delicate art of the closing-pitcher walk-on anthem better than AC/DC’s premiere gargoyle jam. It’s burns slowly without being boring, it’s moody without shoveling dead weight—it hints at a deep, ancient coiled energy, something that all but confirms the opponents worst fears. Few songs can make a doughy late-thirties reliever look like the destroyer of worlds, but “Hells Bells” is one of those songs.
Unfortunately due to baseball players’ profoundly terrible taste, we rarely get wonderful moments like Trevor Hoffman’s walk-on. But we can dream, can’t we? Here, on Opening Day, are 12 songs that would make excellent pitching psalms.
1. The Knife – “Silent Shout”
You’re not going to meet too many baseball players with a deep infinity for pitch-black Swedish goth-house, but the title track from The Knife’s 2006 opus Silent Shout makes a pretty strong case for itself. Perfectly syncopated, meticulously crafted and deeply weird, “Silent Shout’s” bizzaro-badass pulse would level dugouts just as well as it levels dancefloors. Those opening bass rumbles would sound great in a stadium.
2. Modest Mouse – “Black Cadillacs”
This one would never actually make it onto a baseball field because of its distinct NSFW-ness, but the angry, guitar-singed Good News For People Who Love Bad News deep-cut practically surmises the entire ethos of a closer. “We were done, done, done/ with all the fuck, fuck, fucking around!” These words might be tattooed on the inside of Mariano Rivera’s eyelids.
3. High on Fire – “Snakes for the Divine”
In which High on Fire outdo even their liberal standards of restraint with a solid 45 seconds of elliptical riffing culminating in a power-chord blistering so nasty even the most un-extreme of us feel compelled to break things. It couldn’t be more ideal.
4. Mobb Deep – “Shook Ones Pt. II”
Unsurprisingly, one of the world’s grimmest hip-hop anthems also makes for some exceptionally apt walk-on music. Sure it might be a bit of an antonym watching a milquetoast, pinstripe-donned goober take the field while Prodigy tells you in no uncertain terms that he’ll “stab your brain with your nosebone,” but that vicious, piano beat makes even the smallest of us feel dangerous.
5. Sleigh Bells – “A/B Machines”
The elastic guitar bounce that serves as “A/B Machines” backbone is among the least subtle things ever laid to tape, even for Sleigh Bells’ fuzzed-out template. It also has the innate decorative power to make anything you’re doing sound immediately like a popcorn flick. Listless warm-up pitches could be turned into grand, burly chest-bumps when this is playing in the background.
6. Clams Casino – “Motivation”
This instrumental served as the glistening bedrock to Lil B’s 2011 talker “Motivation.” Because of B’s charming deficiencies as a rapper, the beat eventually caught fire for its own merits because, well, it’s pretty impeccable peak-and-burst club anthem. The intro’s amniotic bubbles only make the explosion that much more gratifying. It won’t make a closer look impenetrable, but it will certainly get the fans out of their seats.
7. Elbow – “Grounds For Divorce”
The closest the Ramsbottom quintet has ever come to crossing over into U.S. soil is also arguably their most external rocks-off moment in a 15-year career. The bluesy, boozy, sing-along jam “Grounds For Divorce” has turned mid-afternoon festival sets into scorched earth; it’d probably work just as well in a stadium. A big bloodletting chorus with a hefty dosage of raw guitar tones—it does you-don’t-know-what-you’re-getting-into pop perfectly.
8. Pixies – “Tame”
“Tame” is the quintessential Pixies song. The touted loud-quiet-loud formula ground down to its basic elements, it manages to bottle the band’s famous dirty psychosis in a two-minute blast. It’s hard to look like a schizo bully coming out of the bullpen if you don’t look like Brian Wilson, but “Tame” might be the next best thing.
9. DJ Shadow – “Midnight in a Perfect World”
This is one of the quieter songs on this list, but DJ Shadow’s 1996 slow-jam opus Endtroducing… is one of those rare records that immediately casts a spell on a room. “Midnight” might start small in sepia keyboards and a dusty soul-sample, but it musters up a generous amount of momentum for its scale. It’s a stand-by track for any study-break playlist, and I’d like to think it’d put any closer worth his taste deeply in the zone.
10. Jay-Z – “99 Problems”
This one goes without saying, but Jay-Z’s ubiquitous rant-anthem remains a raw, black-and-white example of angry pop. Rick Rubin’s massive guitar thwock might be the most instantly recognizable rap beat in history. “You know the type / Loud as a motorbike / but wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight.” Yeah, those batters are gonna feel pretty insignificant.
11. Slayer – “Raining Blood”
A lot of the songs on this list hint at some subtle intensity boiling just underneath the baseball cap. They all work well, but you could always pick the most iconic thrash-metal song in history, you know, the one that starts with a thunderstorm, the one that you couldn’t even get through on medium in Guitar Hero. Slayer’s finest moment is engineered to make men look like animals.
12. Aphex Twin – “Come To Daddy”
So hear me out on this. Bottom of the 9th, your team is up 1-0. The lights go down and the “Come to Daddy” video is projected on every screen in the stadium. Suddenly you realize every member of the opposing franchise needs to use the bathroom. Aphex Twin’s pulverizing electro-hell might be an exotic choice for a closer, but in terms of absolute horror it makes perfect sense.