One would hardly think of Metallica as notable writers of love songs, but their hit "Nothing Else Matters" is one of the best heavy metal love songs out there. In fact, Metallica is far from the only metal band with a song so romantic it would make Cyrano de Bergerac blush.
As with any genre, some hardcore love songs are more metal than others. There is a world of difference between the Guns N’ Roses rock ballad "Sweet Child O’ Mine" and the death metal offering of Lamb of God's "Walk With Me in Hell." But once a listener works their way through the metalcore nature of the latter, the song’s sweet romantic lyrics shine through.
The best metal bands are not scared to show their sensitive side, even if that means slightly alienating some of their hardcore fan base. In several instances, these romantic outliers are also the band’s biggest hit.
- Photo: Rhino Atlantic
Skid Row's weepy breakup song "I Remember You" came off the band's 1989 self-titled debut album. The metal ballad, highlighted by lead singer Sebastian Bach's incredible vocal range, was Skid Row's biggest hit. If Skid Row band members Rachel Bolan and Dave Sabo had their way, however, the track never would have seen the light of day.
Bach says his bandmates thought the song was "wimpy." He recalled, "You know, we wanted to be tough guys, punks, metalheads!"
Thankfully, the group got a second opinion from band manager Doc McGhee, who laughed when he first heard "I Remember You." His laughter wasn't because the song was "wimpy" or bad - it was because he knew it was going to be a huge hit.
I paint a picture of the days gone by
When love went blind and you would make me see
I'd stare a lifetime into your eyes
So that I knew that you were there for me
Time after time you there for me
Is this romantic?
- Date Recorded: 1989
- Albums: Skid Row
- Composer: Dave Sabo, Rachel Bolan
- Photo: Warner Records
Even Satan himself can fall in love. "N.I.B." came off of Black Sabbath's self-titled 1970 debut album. The band's bassist and main lyricist Terry "Geezer" Butler wrote the song about how even the devil can change in the face of falling in love.
"I wrote that, being quite humorous. I thought I was anyway - about Satan fallin' in love with somebody," explains Butler. "And his chat-up line is, you know, 'I can give you the sun, the moon and the stars...' And Satan probably could. It’s like a chat-up line that guys use, and people missed the whole point of it!"
Some people say my love cannot be true
Please believe me, my love, and I'll show you
I will give you those things you thought unreal
The sun, the moon, the stars all bear my seal
Is this romantic?
- Date Recorded: 1970
- Albums: Black Sabbath
- Composer: Black Sabbath, Terry Butler
- Photo: Geffen
Guns N' Roses' most romantic song is also their only No. 1 US single. The popular cut off of their 1988 debut album Appetite for Destruction started out as a joke. Guitarist Slash was messing around with a riff that piqued Axl Rose's interest. The lead singer was able to craft lyrics to the music from a poem he had written for his girlfriend, Erin Everly. Slash hated the song from the beginning. He recalls, "Writing and rehearsing it to make it a complete song was like pulling teeth. For me, at the time, it was a very sappy ballad."
When producer Mike Clink heard a demo of "Sweet Child O' Mine," he immediately knew that it would be a huge hit. Slash eventually made his peace with the metal ballad. "I hated it for years," he admits. "But it would cause such a reaction - just playing the first stupid notes used to evoke this hysteria - so I've finally gotten to appreciate it."
She's got eyes of the bluest skies
As if they thought of rain
I hate to look into those eyes
And see an ounce of pain
Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place
Where as a child I'd hide
And pray for the thunder
And the rain
To quietly pass me by
Is this romantic?
- Date Recorded: 1987
- Albums: Appetite for Destruction
- Composer: Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Steven Adler, Duff McKagan
- Photo: A&M
The early 1990s may have been rich in metal ballads, but few were stripped down in the style of Extreme's 1990 No. 1 Billboard hit "More Than Words." The song off of their album Pornograffitti is about asking someone to show their love, rather than just saying the words, "I love you."
The recording consists of two mellifluous vocal harmonies between lead singer Gary Cherone and guitarist Nuno Bettencourt. The only instrument on the track is Bettencourt's acoustic guitar. The equally austere black and white video of Cherone and Bettencourt just singing helped make the video one of the most played on MTV during that era.
Most people recognize Exreme from this mega-hit single, but the group is actually a hardcore funk metal band. "More Than Words" is the outlier that Extreme loved for launching them into worldwide success, though ultimately it reformed their image to appear as more of a pop ensemble.
What would you do if my heart was torn in two
More than words to show you feel
That your love for me is real
What would you say if I took those words away
Then you couldn't make things new
Just by saying I love you
Is this romantic?
- Date Recorded: 1990
- Albums: Pornograffitti
- Composer: Nuno Bettencourt, Gary Cherone