While the metal stereotype of the stoic, grimacing Viking with white face paint shredding and wailing about combat, blood, and loss is undeniably badass, the expectation for only the hardest metal songs paints a reductive picture of the genre as a whole.
Since its evolution from blues and psychedelic rock, metal has taken many forms and expanded in many different directions, with only a few hardline rules: it has to shred, it has to whip ass, and it has to be loud. No one ever said it had to be serious or aggressive.
Even the genre pioneers knew this. Led Zeppelin had countless tender ballads under its belts by the end of the band's career, Black Sabbath’s first album had a song about a chill and enchanting wizard, and countless metal bands throughout the years were formed entirely for purposes of tomfoolery.
The main takeaway from this truth is that headbanging potential and softness are not mutually exclusive. Some of the best metal songs are, in fact, about soft subjects. Even if they are not good, they are at least hilarious.
- 145 VOTES
'Before The Morning Sun' By Korpiklaani
Korpiklaani's softness can be largely attributed to their folk roots. The Finnish group spent their first 10 years as Shamaani Duo, a shamanic folk band. They only incorporated thrash metal elements when they assumed their new name, Korpiklaani.
On their debut album Spirit of the Forest, frontman Jonne Järvelä might be screaming with urgency, but if you listen closely, he is merely admiring the beauty of elfgirls dancing in a circle as he walks down the forest path at dusk. This appreciation is genuine, as the rest of the album honors nature in similar ways.
Down, in the forest path
When the night comes closer
Air's full of magic
When, elfgirls dancing
Dancing in the circle
I watch them from the bushes
Down, in the forest path
- 260 VOTES
'United' By Judas Priest
Judas Priest's sixth album, British Steel, was so called because it was heavily inspired by The Beatles, who were decidedly not metal at all. It was recorded in Ringo Starr's home studio, bought from John Lennon. They drew inspiration from Lennon's spiritual presence in the space, and the peacemaking, inspirational subject matter is reflective of Lennon’s own values.
So, keep it up
Don't give in
Make a stand
We're going to win
We can do it
We can do it and if they wanna they can try it
But they'll never get near
Then they can get out of here
- 369 VOTES
'Amore' By BABYMETAL
Many of the bands on this list are comprised of grizzly, growling dudes with a surprising capacity for softness. BABYMETAL is the exact opposite: a trio of Japanese idol archetypes performing a kawaii heavy metal fusion. Do not let their looks deceive you - BABYMETAL is shockingly aggro.
"Amore," from the group's second album METAL RESISTANCE, emphasizes this dichotomy especially well. The first minute of the song has the vocals and instrumentation of an average radio J-pop song, only to unleash a face-melting power metal riff for the refrain. The subject matter deals with the concept of love powerful enough to fill the sky, break through clouds, and save the Earth.
Let the words of love resound into the night sky.
Let them bring Amore to outer space.
Breaking through gloomy rain clouds,
one keeps running for 24 hours.
One is destined to keep running.
Let love save the Earth.
- 442 VOTES
'Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle' By Dethklok
In the pilot episode of Metalocalypse, Dethklok endorses "Duncan Hills Coffee" and writes and performs a jingle for the brand. Fans had to sign a waiver in order to attend the Arctic Circle performance of the Duncan Hills jingle.
While the subject matter of coffee and its enjoyment is rather provincial and mundane, the high mortality rate at the performance may detract from the softness of this particular song.
Prepare for ultimate flavor
You're gonna get some. Now!
And scream. for your cream!
- Photo: ra_ga_na / Instagram532 VOTES
'The Field' By RAGANA
Hailing from Olympia, WA, witchy black metal duo RAGANA have distilled beauty mixed with ear-shattering rumble into its pure essence. While the emotional tone of many RAGANA songs veer toward anger and deep melancholy, "The Field," from 2015 album Wash Away, offers a more hopeful tone.
While the poetic elements of the song are not concrete enough to suggest any explicit meaning, the song alludes to a past traumatic event and invokes themes of light, growth, and purity.
golden, the light was golden, gold and pouring, now we're safe.
some veil is dissolving and light shines from your face.
now only artemisia will grow in that place -
bitter and pure as the promise we made.
my old and secret kingdom has lost its boundary -
"broad is the road that leads to death, and thousands walk together there."
and now the field is open, the field is open, the field is opening.
the field is open, the field is open, i see it opening.
- Photo: Freedom Hope & Fury/Inferno627 VOTES
'Manthra of Hope' By Appalling Spawn
Czech grindcore band Appalling Spawn has a deceptively brutal name for a band known for such tender, moving lyrics. The first track of Freedom Hope & Fury, "Manthra of Hope," asserts that you are a god who cannot weep for the suffering of the world, telling the listener they have the power to end sadness.
The balance between brutality and softness is especially stark when you view pain as something one has the power to end.
With hope live, with hope love,
With hope suffer and with hope ... [perish].
We all know pain,
Sometimes we all weep,
You are god don't weep...
With hope wake, with hope fall asleep
You are god so please don't weep...