Heavy metal is a lot of things to a lot of people: brutal, exhilarating, cathartic, but "beautiful" isn't really one of the first words to come to mind when describing a metal song. This doesn't mean that metal bands are incapable of writing beautiful songs, though. Here are seven incredibly beautiful songs written by metal bands.
1. Iron Maiden - "Wasted Years" (1986)
Most Iron Maiden songs are about thrillingly violent things like war and murderers, but this classic from 1986, the first written solely by guitarist Adrian Smith, is about something much more relatable: nostalgia and homesickness. Without going the traditional route of full-on balladry, the song has a wistful tone absent from most Iron Maiden tracks.
2. Danzig - "How the Gods Kill" (1992)
After two albums of dark yet still somewhat bluesy heavy metal, Glenn Danzig fully embraces his gothic side on Danzig III: How the Gods Kill, especially on the title track. The song's cleanly picked arpeggios would already make it stunning enough, but the way Danzig's vocals are recorded, with a faintly hissing preamp, makes his voice sound ghostly and distant.
3. Boris - "Farewell" (2005)
The Japanese trio Boris is famous for its genre-hopping, shifting from drone metal to psych-rock to even J-Pop. On the opening track to their 2005 LP Pink, the band chose to go with shoegaze, and the resulting song is an ambient rock masterpiece, sounding like Kevin Shields if he joined Electric Wizard.
4. Metallica - "Fade to Black" (1984)
"Fade to Black" holds a special place in my heart, being the first "difficult" song I ever learned how to play on guitar. Nostalgia aside, Metallica's first ballad (or half-ballad, anyway) is one of the most beautiful songs to come out of the original wave of thrash metal, if not the most beautiful. The guitar harmonies in the song's outro, in particular, are absolutely magnificent.
5. Type O Negative - "Die With Me" (1996)
I have a friend who once described Type O Negative as not so much a metal band as a gothic pop band that likes to use heavy distortion, which is a completely accurate description. A song like "Die With Me" could have easily been one of the slower songs off of Siamese Dream or Superunknown. R.I.P. Peter Steele.
6. Cult of Luna - "Sleep" (2001)
Here's an example of a song that manages to be achingly beautiful without sacrificing a single ounce of its heaviness. While the first two minutes of the song wander around like a lost Godspeed You! Black Emperor piece, it all explodes with that monolithic riff that sounds like it's coming off of the top of a mountain.
7. Black Sabbath - "Planet Caravan" (1970)
I'm very guilty of skipping over this song every time I listened to Paranoid in middle school, because that's a metal album, and "Planet Caravan" wasn't a metal song. Coming back to the album as an adult, however, made me realize just how gorgeously trippy "Planet Caravan" is, and how bad my taste was when I was 13.