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The 10 Best Epic Heavy Metal Songs

I love heavy metal! But I especially love EPIC heavy metal. Heavy metal bands that create great epics can take us on journeys to far off times and places or to the deepest inner workings of the human mind. They bring us on musical excursions through wistful acoustic episodes and thunderous explosions of power. And they lead us on emotional adventures of triumph and tragedy. These are ten of my most cherished epic heavy metal songs.

Rules:

  • Song must be over 7 minutes in length (or damn close)
  • Song must feel epic
  • It helps if it tells a story
  • One song per band

10. Judas Priest – Victim of Changes
Judas Priest basically wrote the book on epic metal if not metal itself. judas priestRight out of the gate on their first album they presented the brilliant and melancholy epic metal masterpiece Run of the Mill. And this was in 1974! Then they follow it up on the next album with Victim of Changes! Well there you go folks, some of the earliest and best epics of all. It seems Halford’s voice is capable of anything and he certainly knows how to tell a story and take the listener on an emotional journey. And the KK’s guitar solo on this song is a journey in and of itself. A true classic.

9. Enslaved – Lunar Force
Blistering Intensity is natural to Enslaved. They are masterful songwriters skilled in dynamics, melody, primitive fury, and philosophical explorations. They are truly one of metal’s best bands and have produced a string of crushing epics throughout their history. It’s hard to pick a best one but Lunar Force stands out for for its juxtaposition of haunting melodies, otherworldly atmosphere, and bone shattering power. Delving into the sparse lyrics reveals an epic and tragic theme that is both surprising and multidimensional.

8. Queensryche – Suite Sister Mary
queensrycheQueensryche has two inspired grandiose epic metal songs, Suite Sister Mary and Roads to Madness. Roads is incredible but I give the edge to this one. I just love the arrangement. There are not many riffs in the song but it moves along and captivates. Geoff Tate is exceptional. The main riff is pure metal bliss – deceptively complex and driven by a simple bass (drum) thump by Scott Rockenfield. But what makes the song truly haunting is Chris Degarmo’s stunning clean picked theme. A theatrical masterpiece.

7. Manowar – Bridge of Death
Manowar is one the greatest epic metal bands of all. manowarIt’s really hard to choose a best epic from them. You’ve got Mountains which I just love. You’ve got Battle Hymn, Guyana, Gates Of Valhalla, Revelation, and March for Revenge. “For When We March Your Sword Rides With Me” – that’s got be one of the most epic lines in all of metal history! I could really have placed any of these exalted metal classics on the list but, Bridge of Death is so awesome with its superb melodic riffs and imagery. And it’s so evil!

6. Fates Warning – The Ivory Gate of Dreams
fates warning
Well here’s longest song on the list. A whole side of an album (if that means anything anymore). 21 minutes! And not one second of boredom. This song appeared on ‘No Exit’ which was new vocalist Ray Alder’s debut with Fates Warning. He undoubtedly had some huge shoes to fill and rose to the occasion in a big way. His screams are legendary as is his passionate and melodic delivery. Songwriter Jim Matheos really went all out on this song, piecing together eight distinct parts into an expansive and moving vision. Their previous epic songs with John Arch like Exodus or Prelude to Ruin are arguably better, but this song has a special place in my heart for its sheer ambition, passion, intensity, heaviness, and diversity.

5. Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell
Ronnie James Dio is responsible for taking metal fans on many epic journeys throughout his career. Heaven and Hell is one of the best. When he teamed up with Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler it was pure magic. It’s a testament to these massively talented guys that they have been involved in so many monumental metal projects. Just listen to classic main riff of this tune! Pure metal through and through. And I love Dio’s majestic yet “open to interpretation” lyrics. Yes you will see Black Sabbath again on this list but I get a pass because this is Dio-Sabbath, and Dio-Sabbath is especially worthy of note to say the least.

4. Mercyful Fate – Satan’s Fall
I’ve always been in awe of the genius of this song. mercyful fateThe riffs never fucking repeat for 11+ minutes (until the very end)! But it still sounds like a focused and coherent song. Riff after brilliant riff, a flurry of catchy diverse vocal melodies, superbly creative drumming, one clever transition after another, and a slew of great solos – unbelievable! And it’s all packaged up to propel the listener on a wicked voyage to the depths of hell. The song is a beast that takes few listens to digest but it’s worth it. By the time that intro riff comes back around again you really feel like you’ve witnessed the rescue of Satan from a perilous demise.

3. Black Sabbath – War Pigs
There’s no metal fan who hasn’t heard this song is there? If anyone can claim to have invented metal it’s Sabbath. Well, they invented epic metal too. As soon as the haunting overture of War Pigs hits you, with sirens wailing, you know you’re in for a dark and sinister trip. Then the punch of the simple 2 chord riff and Ozzy’s chant-like vocals take us ever onward into the black oblivion of war and unchecked power. Sabbath has a long career of brilliant epic heavy metal classics. The Writ deserves special mention for its mind-blowing arrangement and shredding vocal performance by Ozzy. But War Pigs is one of metal’s most respected songs for good reason, it’s just brilliant on every level. And you will get little argument with that.

2. Iron Maiden – Hallowed be Thy Nameiron maiden
Here we go again. It’s nearly impossible to pick just one epic metal song from Iron Maiden. They are one band that is known for their epics. And why not? To Tame a Land, Alexander the Great, The Rime (not Rhyme) of the Ancient Mariner. These are some of the best metal tunes of all time. Hail Steve Harris for weaving so many tales into enduring epic heavy metal songs. Hallowed be Thy Name is such a perfect song it seems. It’s so ominous, so filled with catchy riffs, so descriptive in its storytelling, so perfectly arranged, and so expertly performed.

1. Rainbow – Stargazer
rainbow
This is perhaps the grand daddy of all epics. Towers, wizards, stars, rainbows – this is the textbook of epic metal imagery. But it’s so much more. The tragic nature of the song leaves a lasting impression. And the riff! Ritchie Blackmore has written so many great songs in his long career but this riff is perhaps the most meaningful in that it is the foundation for one of the best songs in the genre. And I can’t forget the magnificent solo which takes you to the brink of the precipice and tearfully nudges you over the edge. Add to that a truly magical performance by Ronnie James Dio and by the time you get to the fade out you never want it to end.

Here are a few runners up that deserve mention:

  • Opeth – Godhead’s Lament (Opeth’s best)
  • Voivod – Jack Luminous (Not known for epics but they crafted an awesome space epic!)
  • Ozzy – Diary of a Madman (too short but massively epic feel)
  • Metallica – Master of Puppets (doesn’t feel quite epic enough but a killer song)
  • Helloween – Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1 (a classic epic indeed)

There you have it. There are always dissenting opinions so if you feel compelled, add a comment below! And if you hunger for more, check out my own attempts at epic metal glory (‘The Endurance’ is our 9 minute epic)!

25 Comments

  1. April

    Metallica fucking suck, what’s the deal with this crappy band?
    Listen to real metal like Nevermore, Opeth, Mastodon…

    • Dan

      Did the people saying Metallica sucks forget their first 3 albums?

    • Morley

      I agree today’s metallica sucks, but The Metallica of days gone by died along with Cliff Burton. Listen to “Ride the Lightening” and tell me that Metallica sucks.

  2. Zero

    Metallica are poop

  3. al

    pretty sure without metallica half the bands nowadays wouldnt exist…

  4. Never

    Metallica is bland and dull.
    I listen to decent Thrash like Sodom and testament, not Shitallica thanks, that drumming is horrible.
    And don’t tell to me too listen to their first albums because I know them, they suck, the only decent thing about the first album is the Mustaine’s guitar playing.

    • Dan

      Mustaine didn’t actually play on the 1st album, he wrote some of the material. Of course I disagree on their 1st three albums, they are all classics, and way better than anything Testament has ever done (which came years after by the way). Testament’s 1st album is cool but after that, not so good. Sodom was pretty formative to the thrash genre, i really need to get more familiar with them.

    • 2bheja

      Well dude. Its agreed that Metallica has been on decline since cliff’s death and cant compose a proper song without him. but you cant forget master of puppets or disposable heroes. Doing that would be an injustice to metal.

      • Zach

        They can’t compose a song without him? Yeah, totally. It’s not like they wrote And Justice For All, one of the heaviest and most technically demanding albums ever, completely without him. Seriously, people need to stop acting like Cliff and Dave Mustaine were the only Metallica members who ever had any talent. James Hetfield is one of the greatest rhythm guitarists who ever lived (Dave agrees with this and has said it multiple times) and was always Metallica’s main lyricist and songwriter. Kirk has wrote some of the most memorable guitar solos ever. Lars is admittedly the weak link (musically) of the band but he was still a good drummer back in the day (not so much anymore)

    • Morley

      Just goes to show you know nothing. Mustaine never played on any Metallica albums.

    • Matt

      I know this is an extremely late reply, but my god you are close minded. You have clearly, CLEARLY not listened to Metallica’s early work. Lars was a great drummer back in the day. He’s not so great nowadays but he was superb in the 80s and 90s. Their first four albums are widely regarded as masterpieces, and Master of Puppets is probably the album most frequently cited as the greatest metal album ever. The only good part about Kill Em All was Dave Mustaine? You stupid, stupid idiot. He did not play guitar on it, and while he wrote SOME (not all, I’m sick of Megadeth fans acting like Dave wrote all of Metallica’s pre-Black Album discography) of it’s best riffs, the lyrics he originally wrote for the album (which were changed, thankfully, but Hetfield and Ulrich) were probably the most juvenile, most idiotic lyrics ever written anywhere. Metallica’s next album, Ride the Lightning, is one the greatest, most groundbreaking metal albums ever, and truly a high point in rock music. No doubt you have some ill-conceived conception that Dave was solely responsible for it, but he only had two small credits on the entire album (Dave himself does not claim anymore than that). Master of Puppets, as I’ve previously stated, is the album most often cited as the finest album in metal history. Dave does not have a single writing credit on it, and he does not claim to have had a hand in any of its songs. Their next album, And Justice For All, is one of the heaviest, darkest, and most ambitious albums in metal history, and they did it without their amazing bassist Cliff Burton (RIP). Once again, Dave had no writing credits on it, nor does he claim to have helped on any of the songs.
      In conclusion, you are a close-minded pig who only hates on Metallica because of the trend nowadays to hate on them. If you would actually LISTEN to their music, you would know that they are one of metal’s very finest bands. I used to be like you. I loved Megadeth and Dave Mustaine (I have since realized that he is a douchebag and one of the bitchiest people on the planet), and always hated on Metallica. Then I listened to their album Ride the Lightning. I suggest you do the same.

  5. 2bheja

    I’m disappointed. Where is no of the beast? Black sabbath(the track)? But i’m glad rainbow was given a place of honour. And priest is so at the end. It deserves more. I wish master of puppets had been done by someone else. Crappy metallica destroys the grand list. I agree with all thore who hate metalica. Except for the first 3 albums, metallica has known to deliver only crap, proving itself again and again with lulu this year. Well atleast the last year.

    • Dan

      I love Number of the Beast too!! But these are epic tracks, and the rule I used was that the track had to be 7 minutes long. NOTB and Black Sabbath are not 7 min long, although Black sabbath is pretty close…and certainly epic sounding!

  6. 2bheja

    Hey that aint a rule for deciding whether a song’s epic or not. I mean thats not kinda fair. The rule itself outrules the masterpieces of heavy metal.

    • Dan

      Well, epic does imply a longer work, so I thought 7 was a pretty good place to draw the line.

  7. Say Tann

    To support and continue the “Satanic” aspect of “metal” -why not make the time cut-off 6:66 (7 minutes, Six seconds) ?

  8. Waffle

    The instrumental metallica songs are all epic.

  9. Jade

    All on the list are great picks but I gotta admit, Judas Priest’s “Beyond The Realms of Death” is way way more epic than “Hallowed be Thy Name”, and in case of Maiden “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” would be a better pick in case of being epic.I’m a bit disappointed “Beyond The Realms” isn’t up there(and it is 6:52 in length, very close to the required length). Also wondering why “Pull Me Under” isn’t in there. The lyrics alone should qualify.

  10. Attila Lantos

    I’m I evil. Both versions are good. This song got me into heavy but took me a few years to realize that it’s a diamond head song. Great epic. Agree with your list though.

  11. Dry Master 118

    The Odyssey by Symphony X

    Try this one out for size. At 24 minutes long, this beast of a song has it all, rich vocals, killer solo’s and an awesome story to go with it.

    Knock yourselves out.

  12. Awesome list- so dig the original choices! This is not your grandpa’s list- and can I get a Hurrah for Dio! Love the love for one of metal’s greatest voices!!!

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