Top Ten Beautiful Metal Songs
Often frowned upon for being harsh and unemotional, metal music actually has more than its fair share of beautiful songs. I’ve compiled a list of my top ten here. In deciding what songs to put on my list, my rule was that only one song from any given band can be listed, so that no bands are repeated. Please also note that not every song listed is a ballad. I’ve also tried to stick with some more well known bands, though I’ve covered a few different genres. The list is not ordered, and shouldn’t be considered a definitive top ten of anything. I don’t even consider it a list of my personal favorite “beautiful” songs. It’s just ten songs that are beautiful that I think people should hear, particularly my fellow metalheads.
Enisferum, "Eternal Wait"
Ensiferum are a Finnish folk metal band; one of the leaders of the genre. Complete with growls, clean male vocals, and clean female vocals, “Eternal Wait” is the ultimate folk metal ballad. The song moves between brilliantly placed clean guitars, and moody distorted riffs. The highlight of the song is the vocals. They are all incredibly well-done, with the female vocals adding more to the chorus. Most of the vocals are extremely layered, as well. The song is from the band’s first album, which is one of the few albums that I would consider perfect. “Eternal Wait” is a truly beautiful song. Go check out the album!
Nightwish, "The Pharaoh Sails to Orion"
Nightwish are another Finnish band, and they are generally better known than Ensiferum. I had a difficult time picking out this song, because the band has a discography chock full of beautiful music. I chose “The Pharaoh Sails to Orion” for its subtle beauty and the fact that it’s still full of metal intensity. The biggest draw to the song is the trade-off from opera vocals to a nearly harsh male vocal. The structure of the song is also quite impressive, being nearly undefined (aside from that piano riff and the verses) until the chorus repeats itself at the end of the song. It seems like a lot was fit into the meager six minutes, but it sure does work well. I would recommend the whole “Oceanborn” album, as it’s a perfect release.
Death, "Voice of the Soul"
One of the greatest instrumental bands of all time, the death metal band Death could clearly compose beautiful music too. “Voice of the Soul” was on the band’s final album, The Sound of Perseverance. Both clean and distorted guitar lines grace the song, and there are many memorable parts to be found. It’s very guitar-driven, with the other instruments playing hardly any role at all. The mood and atmosphere are brilliant as well. The song builds into a flurry of guitars, only to calm back down into a relaxing end. Anyone who hasn’t heard this song should check it out immediately.
Metallica, "Fade to Black"
Probably the most recognized song on this list, “Fade to Black” is one of the best ballad songs ever. The melodies are simply pretty, and it helps that the song was carefully placed on the best Metallica album of them all. Too bad they couldn’t keep this great momentum up. I’m sure everyone reading this is already familiar with the song, but I’ll describe it anyway. “Fade to Black” begins with nice and pretty acoustic guitars, but its chorus is completely heavy (and without vocals). It builds into a bridge with some of the best riffing Metallica has ever done, and the song bows out with a long guitar solo. I was going to say “The Call of Ktulu” instead of this one, but I changed my mind.
Amorphis, "Black Winter Day"
One of the most beautiful songs from one of the most beautiful albums ever made, “Black Winter Day” is a masterpiece. Released in 1994 on the legendary Tales from the Thousand Lakes album, “Black Winter Day” is the signature song from their older work. The way the band mixes brooding piano lines into melodic, yet crushing, death metal riffs is completely incredible. This was the first Amorphis song I ever fell in love with, and it’s one of the best for sure. The melodies are gorgeous on both the guitar and piano. I’ve always been a fan of the vocals on this song in particular. Seriously I would just buy the whole Tales from the Thousand Lakes album if you’re even contemplating listening to this.
Theatre of Tragedy, "A Hamlet for a Slothful Vassal"
That title is a mouthful! The best song from the signature gothic metal band is a beauty in and of itself. From the melancholy guitar lines to the happy piano parts, everything just works in the most beautiful of ways. Released in 1995 as the opening track on the band’s self-titled debut album, "A Hamlet for a Slothful Vassal” is four minutes of dynamic art. The most noticeable thing about the song is the unique vocal contrast; the band features a soft female voice and a death growler. This is another one where I would recommend buying the whole album, because it’s really good. Their second and third albums are quite beautiful, as well. I’ve written a review for their third album, Aegis, on this website.
Iron Maiden, "Mother Russia"
This Iron Maiden song is not only beautiful, but also one of the band’s most underrated tracks. It’s the last track from their 1990 album No Prayer for the Dying, an underrated effort as a whole. The backing choir vocals are extremely well-placed during the song, as well as the use of undistorted guitars. The riffs are regal and theatrical, and the vocals are top-notch. I also find the marching rhythm to be quite pleasing. I would highly recommend this song to any Maiden fans who haven’t heard it. It’s their lost gem.
I actually don’t generally have much of an emotional connection to Judas Priest’s songs, but this is a sad song for sure. It’s one of the best from the album Stained Class, which was released in 1978. Since Stained Class is most likely my second favorite Priest album, I’m obviously a fan of this song. The happiness of the chorus coupled with the lyrical content is haunting. I love the contrast between soft and heavy, which adds a good dynamic to the song. I’m sure most people reading this already know the song, but if anyone doesn’t I would suggest listening to it.
The opening track from their 1986 album Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, “Solitude” is a classic in its own right. This is a prime example of a sad, beautiful song. The moody vocals compliment the apocalyptic guitar parts. I love how the main riff is extremely simple, yet effective. I also love the clean guitar intro. The vocalist sounds a little silly at times, but his range is incredible. The atmosphere is bleak and foreboding, just like it should be with the doom metal genre.
Dream Theater, "Metropolis Part 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper"
Here’s the necessary inclusion of the flagship progressive metal band, Dream Theater. “Metropolis Part 1” is one of my favorite songs from the band. It was initially released in 1992 on the band’s sophomore album, Images and Words, which is widely regarded as a classic in the prog-metal genre. It features my favorite performance from vocalist James LaBrie; he really shines on this song. Something that I really like about this song is that it doesn’t get old during its nine-minute duration. The diversity and complexity of the sounds within the song is stunning. The lyrical concept is also intriguing and even sparked a whole album (Metropolis Pt. II: Scenes from a Memory) as a sequel. I would recommend listening to the whole Images and Words album if you enjoy this song. It’s somewhat similar to the rest of the songs on that album.
So that’s it. Ten beautiful metal songs. This was a bit difficult for me to create, since I can think of many more songs. So I've added his handy honorable mentions section.
- Tristania- “Evenfall”
- Agalloch- “She Painted Fire across the Skyline”
- Eluveitie- “The Endless Knot”
- Black Sabbath- “Wheels of Confusion”
- Immortal- “At the Heart of Winter”
- Blind Guardian- “Nightfall”
- Sonata Arctica- “Full Moon”
- Leaves’ Eyes- “Ocean’s Way”
- Opeth- “Forest of October”
- November’s Doom- “A Dirge of Sorrow”
- Insomnium- “Daughter of the Moon”