The 10 Heaviest Genesis Songs
Bands with multiple songwriters inevitably face creative tension — after all, an album has only so many tracks. But the upside is musical freedom: With so many influences swirling around, it's easier to avoid the pitfalls of predictability.
Genesis carried that strength throughout their career — from their classic prog tunes fronted by Peter Gabriel through their sleeker singles with Phil Collins out front. Few bands could pair 23-minute epics ("Supper's Ready") with syrupy pop ballads ("In Too Deep") in a set list, making it all feel cohesive. But Genesis have a lot of underrated qualities, including a flair for heaviness — whether achieved through distorted guitar riffs or throat-ripping vocals.
Below we look back at 10 times the band kept it dark with the 10 Heaviest Genesis Songs.
10. " ... In That Quiet Earth"
No one’s gonna throw up the horns to this fusion-y instrumental, an eruption after the simmer of "Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers … " But it’s still heavy in two distinct ways. The intense first half is carried by a windswept Steve Hackett guitar melody, with Collins mercilessly pummeling his kit. The second settles into a choppy, "Squonk"-like hard-rock riff, with Tony Banks’ dissonant synths snaking around that framework.
9. "The Musical Box"
Yes, a song titled "The Musical Box" — one including an electric guitar part that sounds remarkably like an actual musical box — is heavy enough to make this list. The real rocky stuff kicks in around the 3:38 mark when crunching power chords and Hammond organ lay the groundwork for an abrasive Hackett solo. Then there's the famous grand finale, in which Gabriel repeatedly, and ferociously, barks out the word "now."
8. "Back in N.Y.C."
Gabriel may be a prog godfather (progfather?), but he’s never shied away from his punk side — just look at his early solo live gigs. He kept only a few Genesis songs in his live arsenal at that time, but "Back in N.Y.C." was a perfect fit for his brattier stage aesthetic, the singer snarling each line with extra grit. The original version is, of course, way more interesting, with tight ensemble playing that accentuates the band’s muscle. Collins’ drums land somewhere between hard rock and jazz-fusion, each massive tom flourish and ride cymbal stroke worth a rewind.
7. "The Return of the Giant Hogweed"
Gabriel has written a lot of insane lyrics, no doubt about it. (Who else in rock history has sung about a raven stealing a man’s castrated penis in a tube?) And this prog curiosity must rank among the weirdest, following a massive mutant plant that infiltrates cities, "preparing for an onslaught, threatening the human race." The band’s venomous attack is the perfect springboard — every riff seems to be distorted, either naturally or artificially, from Banks’ Hammond organ to Hackett’s finger-tapped guitar triplets.
6. "The Waiting Room (Evil Jam)" (live)
You can't not mention "The Waiting Room," an instrumental improv that emerged from a place of deliberate creepiness. "We just sat there and tried to frighten ourselves!" Banks once noted, detailing the track's plonky haunted-house textures. Even when the mood lifts around halfway through, a true heaviness persists — and it's even more pronounced on the live version from their 1998 box set, Genesis Archive 1967–75, with Collins drumming maniacally around the stabbing guitars.
5. "Supper’s Ready"
This Genesis epic covers a lot of ground in its 23 minutes; not all of it is particularly heavy. (The piano-led stretch titled "Willow Farm" could be the funniest, kookiest moment in their catalog.) But it crescendos into darkness with "Apocalypse in 9/8," a doom-and-gloom highlight featuring a nasty, riff-driven instrumental and a vocal section that opens with Gabriel belting "666!" Any time you reference the Antichrist, you're guaranteed to make a list of this ilk.
Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, With a Few Desert and Mountain Beasts would have been an amazing '70s prog album title. Instead, a 1910 book of folklore bearing that name indirectly inspired a classic heavy prog song. The Squonk, according to legend, roams the hemlock forests of Pennsylvania, weeping from shame due to its grotesque appearance — and "Squonk" recounts that legend, with a hunter catching the creature in a sack only to realize his prize has dissolved into a "pool of tears." If that all sounds a bit overly fanciful, Collins’ swaggering, "Kashmir"-like drum pattern and Mike Rutherford’s enormous bass pedals balance out the whimsy with some bite.
3. "Down and Out"
When Hackett left Genesis in 1977, it was natural to assume the band would soften a bit. (Anyone who's heard "Follow You Follow Me" would probably call that a wise prediction.) But the remaining trio kicked off their next LP, ... And Then There Were Three ... , with one of their heaviest cuts: "Down and Out," a knotty powerhouse that seems almost defiantly hard-edged. Rutherford's guitars rip like buzz saws, and Collins attacks his snare with rare menace.
2. "The Knife" (live)
Armando Gallo, a journalist and photographer who’s covered Genesis extensively over the years, wasn’t a fan of the band’s folkier second LP, 1970’s Trespass — and he wasn’t converted until seeing the band transform "The Knife" into a live powerhouse. "I was into heavier stuff, probably, King Crimson and so on," he said in 2006. "But when I saw them [in January 1971], especially when Peter Gabriel ... nearly jumped into the crowd during 'The Knife,' I really fell in love with the band." Indeed, that track — already the album’s edgiest moment — realized its full potential onstage, with new recruits Collins and Hackett matching the intensity of Gabriel’s anti-war lyric. The version from 1973’s Live makes the original sound like a demo.
1. "Fly on a Windshield"
Originally titled "Pharaohs," this ominous piece developed by linking two interludes: one quiet and one loud. (They wanted to conjure, as Banks noted on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway reissue DVD, "the Egyptian army coming across the landscape.") The opening section is deceptive, its choppy electric strums and choral mellotron creating a sort of wooziness that only resolves at 1:17 with an intense shift into heaviness. Gabriel’s reverbed vocal dissolves into the shadow of Collins’ Bonham-like drums and Hackett’s violent, spasming guitar — a musical payoff that Banks described as "probably the single best moment in Genesis."