Monday, June 27, 2011

The 10 Most Metal Classical Compositions

Top 10 List

Classical music can be pretty dull and pretty. But it can also be metal as fuck. It's been observed many times that classical and metal have many similarities. But as a metalhead who doesn't know much about the masters, it can be pretty tough to know where to start. Research has found that metalheads and classical music fans share a lot of personality traits.
Apart from the age differences, they were virtually identical . . . . Both were more creative than other people, both were not terribly outgoing and they were also quite at ease. . . . There's also a sense of theatre which is common with both groups.
Given all that, we should be able to find even more common ground. So, here are the ten most metal classical compositions. Some you may already know, but unless you studied classical music there should be something new in here for you.

10: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: "Requiem Mass in D Minor" (1791)

Mozart's "Requiem Mass" is dark and dramatic. It was originally intended for church services, as the title suggests. No matter what you think of the Catholic Church, they know dramatic art that strikes a visceral chord.

9: Ottorino Respighi: "The Pines of Rome" (1924)

"The Pines of Rome" is part of the Italian composer Respighi's masterpiece trilogy. Heavy and brooding, and slow to climax, this masterpiece should make doom and Neurosis/Isis aficionados feel right at home.

8: Igor Stravinsky: "The Rites of Spring" (1913)

Used in the movie Fantasia, Stravinsky's most famous work is a true masterpiece of ominous atmosphere. Skip to about 6:45 for things to get really scary.

7: Richard Wagner: "Ride of the Valkyries (1856)

Wagner is known for his very metallic features, including the use of Norse mythology in his music as well as the design of a jumbo cello to create a heavier sound. "Ride of the Valkyries" has been so over-used in Hollywood and elsewhere as to have become a cliche, but if you listen to it without all the baggage it's easy to see how excellent it is.

6: Niccolo Paganini: "24 Caprices" (1818)

Paganini was black metal before there was black metal. A violinist who was rumored to have made a deal with the devil and wore white face paint. He wrote complex music that's been described as violent. If you don't believe that, skip forward to the 5 minute mark.

5: Ludwig Von Beethoven: "5th Symphony" (1808)

Everyone knows the main theme to Beethoven's 5th Symphony. But you may not have stopped to consider how awesome it is. Incredibly dramatic, there's little more awesome than this. It was used in the movie Fantasia 2000.

4: Iannis Xenakis: "Jonchaies" (1977)

Xenakis specialized in strange, atmospheric music that should appeal to lovers of anything scary. There are so many weird things going on here I don't even know where to begin. But it's eerie as hell, thanks to all the discordant notes. Atmosphere at its finest.

3: Johann Sebastian Bach: "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" (?)

Before there was Electric Wizard, the heaviest instrument on the planet was the pipe organ, and Bach was the master. One of the most recognizable pieces of music in all history, it's been used everywhere, and may be most associated with an early horror movie aesthetic.

2: Carl Orff: "Carmina Burana" (1936)

You've heard "O Fortuna" (the beginning and ending of Orff's "Carmina Burana") everywhere, so much so that it's almost a cliche. But that doesn't change the fact that this is metal. Nothing is more ominous. I included it in my very old and very outdated top 100 metal songs list. And Therion's version of that part is best.

1: Edvard Greig: "In the Hall of the Mountain King" (1876)

Let's not forget that metal was built on the almighty riff. Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is one of the most metal riffs ever composed before Tony Iommi's accident. When I had a crappy band in high school, we even tried to do it. Check out Apocalyptica's rendition above.


  1. Really? No "Night On Bald Mountain?" I would have thought that would be #1. Mussorgsky is very metal. "The Gates of Kiev" is another one.

  2. I'm also surprised at the absence of "Mars, Bringer of War". The song sounds so menacing, it's no wonder Nile included a section of it in their song "Ramses, Bringer of War".

  3. I, too, am surprised that you picked 2 pieces from Fantasia but left off Modest Mussorgsky, since when I saw "metal" and "classical" together, that was the very first thing that came to mind.