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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)!

59 Comments

  1. metallica should have made the list, not just honorable mention.

  2. al rush

    You should have called this ‘MOSTLY Hairband epic songs’…
    You included only two bands that were RESPONSIBLE for REAL HEAVY METAL… What about RUSH, TED NUGENT, JETHRO TULL, DEEP PURPLE, JIMI HENDRIX, BLUE OYSTER CULT, DIO, KANSAS, CREAM, LED ZEPPELIN, ROBIN TROWER, FRANK MARINO AND MAHOGANY RUSH, KING CRIMSOM…ALL of these would be a better pick then HALF your list! What year were you born, 1980?

    • Dan

      al rush ,
      The post is about heavy metal. You mentioned a bunch of great hard rock bands. Also not one of the bands on the list is a hair band, that’s retarded.

    • john

      What are you talking about? Mercyful fate and judas arnt heavy metal but jimi hendrix is? If your think zep is heavy metal go listen to a pantera cd or something

    • 2bheja

      Aw…… Baby forgot acdc. I think you are the one who needs growing up. Zep, jimi aint metal. And there’s some stupid person here who says hotel california is metal. Listen to some real stuff like sabbath, maiden, motorhead, dio, slipknot to name some good ones.

  3. NeuroFanBoy

    Neurosis has a good dozen songs that would qualify for this list as well.

  4. ballsmahoney

    november rain?

  5. Hey Man,
    I think your list is pretty good as it stands. I want to track down some of the bands/songs on here that I haven’t heard. Have my own blog and have reviewed many of the same bands myself. Check it out if you want: happyheadbanger.blogspot.com
    Rock on, dude!
    Joel

  6. SoCalPerson

    In A Gadda Da Vida by Iron Butterfly? Or is that considered more psychodelic/hard rock and is not metal enough. 22 minutes, lead singer who didn’t understand it was supposed to be “In the Garden of Eden,” and recognizable riffs. And without it, a lot of subsequent groups might not have had the guts to go long.

  7. Cornelius

    Hey, are you into Harry Potter too?

  8. Hard

    Armageddon’s Buzzard should be number one on this list, Bobby Caldwell drove excellence from his bands and deserves his place in Hardcore History.

  9. war pigs…the rockin-est metal tune eveh…Tony Iommi is mt god!

  10. Jon

    I totally agree with #1, but I would have also added:

    Led Zeppelin’s “Achilles Last Stand”
    Iced Earth’s “Dante’s Inferno”
    & Overkill’s “Skullcrusher”

  11. Cant see how Anyone can forget Iced Earth’s “A Question of Heaven” That song is like the Metal Stairway to Heaven

  12. chris

    METALLICA IS NOT HEAVY METAL DUMBASS. ITS THRASH

    • john

      haha you sound so stupid. you call this guy a dumbass because he mentioned metallica in a heavy metal forum. Ask 90% of the people in the world to name a heavy metal band, and they will probably say metallica. Thrash is heavy metal

  13. Great list! The vintige pix alone are worth the article! Classic! I love epic metal as well. to take the time to live inside a metal song that will never find it’s way to a “single”. I’m a little reserved on “war pigs” because I feel it is overplayed. Manawar is spot on as well as Stargazer. On your runner’s up, I’m confused. Did you mean “Keeper of the seven keys” off of the Part 2 record or the song “Halloween” off of pt 1? There is no song called “Keeper of the seven keys part 1” But then again I’m just being bitchy!

  14. al rush

    What is considered ‘Heavy Metal’ now, IS NOT what it was when the term was first used. When the hippies said, “That was heavy, man…”, they meant music like I stated above, not the thrash metal, death metal, speed metal, etc. of today. Heavy metal started in the late 60’s,permeated the 70’s and went into the early 80’s. What you younger people call Acid Rock, pyschedellic, rock, classic rock, etc. contains the true, Heavy Metal; the tripping, thougthtful, introspective, hard, driving music that they CAN”T make any more.

  15. al rush

    SoCalPerson— The song was copy written as ‘In The Garden Of Eden’, but at the concerts before the record was made, everyone was so wasted, when they called it out, it sounded to the band like ‘In a godda da vida’. So as an inside joke, that’s what they put on the record…

  16. al rush

    Dan— It’s called Sarcasm, I was making a comment that he might as well called the list ‘Hairbands’, because it would have been as accurate, sighting my opinion that most of them were not true Heavy Metal…

  17. Dan

    al rush,

    When the term heavy metal was first used it was as an insult to the band talked about – so I don’t think we want stay with that original meaning of the term. Hippies saying “heavy” is not what heavy metal music is. Most people agree Sabbath originated the genre. Metal is dark, sinister, bleak, rebellious and yes… heavy. Its a fine distinction between metal and hard rock but either way, denying that the bands in this list are metal is lunacy.

    “Heavy metal started in the late 60’s,permeated the 70’s and went into the early 80’s”

    Right – and every band on the list is from the 70s or early 80s except one.

    Dan

  18. al rush

    DAN
    It was not an insult, unless used by the ‘establishment’.
    And that’s what Hippies meant when they said the music was
    ‘Heavy’
    I did not deny they were metal, only argued which type.
    Sabbath was ONE of the first.
    Below is a list of ‘Top ten Heavy Metal bands of all time’
    Note #5

    Type O Negative: Slow Deep And Hard (Roadrunner, 1991)
    Metallica: Master Of Puppets (Elektra, 1986)
    Kyuss: Blues For The Red Sun (Dali, 1992)
    Guns and Roses: Appetite for Destruction (Geffen 1987)
    Jane’s Addiction: Nothing’s Shocking (WB, 1988)
    Napalm Death: From Enslavement to Obliteration (Earache 1988)
    Fear Factory: Demanufacture (Roadrunner 1995)
    Dream Theater: Images And Words (Atco, 1992)
    Sepultura: Roots (Roadrunner, 1996)
    Electric Wizard: Come My Fanatics (Rise Above, 1997)
    Because your generation changed the meaning of the phrase, doesn’t change the fact that most of the songs on these lisls would not be considered Heavy Metal when the phrase was coined. Most would just generically be called ‘Metal’
    I was buying some of these albums before you were born. I was there when they started naming this new genre, and I’m polite enough not to insult and call someone names when I’m having a discussion…

  19. Dan

    al,

    You’ve lost me. When you said “most of them were not true Heavy Metal…” I thought you meant they were not heavy metal?!?!

    “most of the songs on these lists would not be considered Heavy Metal when the phrase was coined”

    Why not? Are Maiden and Mercyful Fate so different than Sabbath that they are not true metal? But Kansas is true metal?

  20. GuitarsRM

    They are all great along with the suggestions. What is important is that “we” don’t forget that this awesome Metal demanded the highest quality musicanship which drove it’s competitiveness and creativity. Especially in this day and age where rap/hip hop “music”,Jonas Brothers, High School Muscial and Miley Cyrus torture us with their near total lack of any instrument skills.

  21. canuckistani

    So much for that “one song per band” rule, eh?

    ‘Course, I guess you could argue that Ozzy-era Sabbath and Dio-era Sabbath are different bands… but c’mon.

  22. …. did you forget the song “the number of the beast” and headbangersball” of masterplan.. and also count the song of gamma ray…

  23. kate

    metallica is overrated!

  24. Travenous

    Here’s a nice list of epic tunes from various metal sub genres. I’m aware some of these songs only track at around 6 1/2 mins but they really shouln’t be passed up.

    3 Inches of Blood – Preacher’s Daughter
    Adagio – R’lyeh the Dead
    Black Sabbath – Sign of the Southern Cross
    Blind Guardian – Majesty
    Bruce Dickenson – Book of Thel
    Budgie – Black Velvet Stallion
    Corrosion of Conformity – In the Arms of God
    Death – Perennial Quest
    Deep Purple – Mistreated
    Diamond Head – Am I Evil?
    Dio – Egypt (The Chains Are On)
    Dream Theater – The Glass Prison
    Faith No More – The Real Thing
    Fates Warning – Traveler In Time
    Fear Factory – Resurrection
    Forbidden – Follow Me
    Gamma Ray – Heading For Tomorrow
    Hear ‘N Aid – Stars
    Helloween – Keeper of the Seven Keys
    I Mother Earth – No One
    Iced Earth – The Something Wicked Trilogy
    Iron Maiden – The Legacy
    Judas Priest – Nostradamus
    Led Zeppelin – Achilles Last Stand
    Machine Head – Halo
    Manowar – Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts
    Mastadon – Hearts Alive
    Megadeth – She-Wolf (extended live version)
    Mercyful Fate – The Oath
    Metal Church – Deeds of a Dead Soul
    Metallica – Disposable Heroes
    Obscura – Centric Flow
    Opeth – Ghost of Perdition
    Ozzy Osbourne – Tomorrow
    Pantera – Floods
    Primal Fear – Diabolus
    Queensryche – Eyes of a Stranger
    Rainbow – Gates of Babylon
    Rush – Cygnus X-1 Book 1: The Voyage
    Savatage – Prelude to Madness/Hall of the Mountain King
    Saxon – Crusader
    Scorpions – We’ll Burn the Sky
    Strapping Young Lad – Skeksis
    Stratovarius – Destiny
    The Sword – The White Sea
    Symphony X – The Odyssey
    Thin Lizzy – Angel of Death
    UFO – Love to Love
    Voivod – Neutrino
    WASP – Chainsaw Charlie
    Wolf – Transylvanian Twilight/Devil Moon

  25. heavymetal=bestthingeva

    WTF #1 Kate metallica IS NOT u hear me IS NOT overrated it is like the best band ever created slip knot = good to

    #2 half these songs dude u need to update ( not tryin to insult u or nothin) but u really need to update (ppl will love u for that)

    #3 Guns n Roses, metallica, slip knot, SOAD ( but this band only goes for like 4-5 mins each song), Rammstein, dethklok,

    #4 (dont listen to half these ppl on the comment thing they just dont like u having a site n they dont :D) such as………… canukistany, chris etc

    #5 at least u tried ( these r most likely ur fav songs :) but just as guitarsRM said we will not forget these awesome metal bands

    Brad …

    • john

      music sucks now idk how anybody can listen to soad they i dont even consider that music just a bunch of people making as much music as possible. same with slipknot although they a couple descent songs

  26. Merea

    FAIL! Because you frogot:

    Stratovarius – Infinity

    and Megadeth – THe Killing Road (just for the ridiculous solo)

  27. phil

    Blind Guardian!

  28. spermbank

    Metallica sucks on my decended scrotum

  29. Slayer ftw!

    Wtf???
    Some of these bands arent heavy metal, And you should of put the rime of the acient mariner by iron maiden as number 1. That’s a fucking epic more than 10 minutes long.

  30. Linda Tanaka

    I agree with number six. It is just such an inspiring 21 minutes of moving music.

  31. PP

    champion of ithaca – symphony x. THE most epic piece of music ever.

  32. luigi

    Lör- myspace.com.halloflor – epic stuff
    Blind Guardian -anything by them
    Equilibrium- MANA (one of the most epic things created)
    Kamelot – Elizabeth

    i have more votes but these will suffice for now

  33. Here’s a classic albums epic track from the Jersey band LEGEND. The title track to their 1979 masterpiece release entitled “From The Fjords.” Hell, their track ‘The Golden Bell’ is pretty epic too.

    Can’t think of others right now… Will have to come back to this…

  34. Korgull

    Why are there so many idiots? The one band that could be argued as not Metal are Rainbow but the rest.. Heavy metal for sure! You’d have to be stupid or some new-age “metal” idiot to think otherwise.

    I’d second Legend, as suggested, and point out the band Manilla Road. They are, literally, Epic Heavy Metal.

    Metallica is overrated.

  35. Korgull

    As well: Venom’s “At War With Satan”. Too good.

  36. Metalperson

    I dont think that the time rule is important,for instance For Whom The Bell Tolls by Metallica is extremlly epic,yet is barley 4 and a half minutes long.
    Oh,and can you include instrumentls,in that case Orion is a must.

  37. chuck smith

    where’s type o negative? they had 3 epic metal songs on bloody kisses alone.

  38. chuck smith

    oh, and machine head has 4 bad ass epic songs on the blackening as well.

  39. chuck smith

    I can’t even count the number of epic songs Metal Church have created. Hell, they didn’t even get mentioned once, in any list or comment above.

  40. chuck smith

    Hallowed be thy name over Rime of the ancient mariner or Powerslave? i can’t say that I agree with that one.

  41. chuck smith

    agreed, to many to list indeed. don’t get me wrong…i love all of the ones you listed. i have been around metal my whole life and like all genres of it. i have a massed over 1900 metal cds and counting. my e mail is killerinsideme69@yahoo.com if you ever need anything you can’t find or maybe just to correspond. take care Dan.

  42. this is all gay shit you fucking faggets. where is 5FDP, slipknot, pop evil, death clock, mudvayne, You guys are all dumb fucks. nobody likes this old shit any more from the 80’s or whatever. you guys are fucking gay

  43. chuck smith

    it’s spelled faggot, you retard. and you wouldn’t have any of those bands that you speak of without the bands listed above. if bands like slayer, destruction and kreator hadn’t succeeded your “screamo” bands wouldn’t exsist. but leave it to a narrow minded simpleton like yourself to come on here and drop a bunch of profanity, exposing your obvious lack of intelligence. your inability to read has handicapped you even further, as the subject was EPIC metal. you know, “epic”…..
    ep·ic
    ? ?/??p?k/ Show Spelled[ep-ik] Show IPA
    –adjective Also, ep·i·cal.
    1.
    noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style: Homer’s Iliad is an epic poem.
    2.
    resembling or suggesting such poetry: an epic novel on the founding of the country.
    3.
    heroic; majestic; impressively great: the epic events of the war.
    4.
    of unusually great size or extent: a crime wave of epic proportions.
    –noun
    5.
    an epic poem.
    6.
    epic poetry.
    7.
    any composition resembling an epic.
    8.
    something worthy to form the subject of an epic: The defense of the Alamo is an American epic.
    9.
    ( initial capital letter ) Also called Old Ionic. the Greek dialect represented in the Iliad and the Odyssey, apparently Aeolic modified by Ionic.

    perhaps if you can get someone to help you read this, you will be able to learn a little about paying attention before you open your foul mouth again. none of the bands you listed have any, and i mean any songs that can be considered epic. so why don’t you go somewhere where all the oxygen can be removed from the room and die, as you are an obvious waste of such an abundant resource.

  44. Bakke

    These are some of my favorites:

    Hallowed Be Thy Name – Maiden
    No More Lies – Maiden
    Afraid to Shoot Strangers and Fear of The Dark

    One – Metallica
    The Day That Never Comes – Metallica
    The Call Of Ktulu, Orion and Suicide & Redemption

    Strength Of The World – Avenged Sevenfold
    A Little Piece Of Heaven – Avenged Sevenfold
    Buried Alive – Avenged Sevenfold
    Save Me and I Won’t See You Tonight pt. 1

    The Piper Never Dies – Edguy
    The Asylum – Edguy
    Tears of a Mandrake and The Pharaoh

    Pull Me Under – Dream Theatre

    Green Grass & High Tides – The Outlaws

    Day Two: Isolation – Ayreon
    Age Of Shadows/We Are Forever – Ayreon
    Liquid Eternity – Ayreon

    24 Hours – Star One

    Child In Time – Deep Purple

    Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd

    November Rain – Guns ‘N Roses

    Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who

    Foreplay/Long Time – Boston

    Cemetary Gates – Pantera

    Worlds On Fire – The Butterfly Effect

    Message to God – Royal Hunt

    Good Mourning/Black Firday – Megadeth
    Holy Wars.. The Punishment Due – Megadeth

    Gehenna – Slipknot

    And of course, some rock classics;

    Hotel California
    Stairway to Heaven
    Comfortably Numb

    Rock, Metal.. Good music is in every genre!

  45. Jez

    Here are some good ones:

    Pantera – Cemetery Gates (7 mins)
    Dream Theater – Octavarium (24 mins)
    Slipknot – Gehenna (7 mins)
    Machine Head – Clenching the Fists of Dissent (11 mins)
    – Halo (9 mins)
    – A Farewell to Arms (10 mins)
    Obscura – Septuagint
    Gehenna – The Shivering Voice of the Ghost (6 mins)
    Death – Voice of the Soul (4 mins, so not nearly long enough but this deserves to be an epic)

  46. buks

    WTF!! your list is a peace of trash… this is the no

    10. fire house – reach for the sky
    9. van halen – running with the devil
    8. skidrow – crazy train “tribute ozzy osbourne”
    7. metallica – enter the sand man
    6. fire house – all she wrote
    5. ac dc – thunderstruck
    4. metallica – master of puppets
    3. iron maiden – wasted years (imposible guitar solo)
    2. ac dc -black in black
    1. iron maiden – hallowed be thy name

  47. druck

    where the fuck is metallica……this list is bullcrap :(

  48. Guardian

    Blind Guardian is way better than overrated Shitallica could ever dream to be.
    Metallica fucking sucks

  49. Electric

    Where is Testament, and to anyone who say Metallica: Metallica fucking sucks, they’re just commercial shit.

  50. Eye

    Metallica sucks ass compared to Megadeth and Testament, both now and then.

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