This week I was asked if I would come up with (and be willing to defend) a top five list of the most romantic songs of all time. I said no. I don’t consider myself to be particularly romantic, and my tastes are fairly particular, so I hardly felt qualified to speak about romantic music in broad terms. I offered to provide a genre-specific list instead – the five most romantic heavy metal songs. For some reason I never heard back…
I can’t say I’m surprised that no one took me up on the offer. But I couldn’t help thinking about potential selections anyway. And I started re-listening to a number of songs, trying to decide what a list of romantic metal should look like, or what romance might even mean in heavy metal terms. Turns out (rather predictably), that some of the most romantic metal songs are also songs about death.
Writing more than two decades ago, musicologist Robert Walser noted that heavy metal doesn’t have the most comfortable relationship with sex, love and romance, and he explored this uneasy dynamic in a chapter entitled “Forging Masculinity: Heavy Metal Sounds and Images of Gender” (1993). Walser’s explanations and analysis focus on how heavy metal, as a historically male-dominated genre, has tended to have trouble with women – ignoring them altogether, representing them as dangerous, or appropriating femininity through androgynous style and performance. But it’s really not metal’s fault: “Heavy metal is, inevitably, a discourse shaped by patriarchy,” he writes.
But that was 1993 and this is 2016. Are things any different, any better? Well, in a chapter in the forthcoming Global Metal Music and Culture: Current Directions in Metal Studies, Rosemary Hill suggests that metal may not be as drenched in testosterone as people so often assume. Describing her contribution to the book, Hill writes: “My chapter argues that we need to change the discourse of metal as masculine. During my research, my participants talked about their love of metal. And it wasn’t all about loudness and epic riffs.”
Heavy metal and love. Love of heavy metal. If being metal can be about loving metal, then maybe heavy metal isn’t so allergic to romance after all. And perhaps a heavy metal valentine’s playlist isn’t as strange as the idea might first seem. Turns out, I’m not the only person to think so. Earlier this week Amanda Digiola offered a heavy metal playlist as an answer to the usual Valentine’s Day “celebration of love.” As she pointed out, metal’s take on relationships tends to veer toward “the darker side of romance.”
Check out Amanda’s write-up at xojane.com: “These Heavy Metal Tunes Are All You Need This Valentine’s Day: Valentine’s Day can be a divisive holiday. Why not skip the debate and listen to heavy metal music instead?“
So. What does heavy metal have to do with love? Consider this list my attempt at an answer.
Love should never take itself too seriously. Because sometimes you just have to accept that love can be cheesy, and that’s okay.
Kiss – I Was Made for Lovin’ You from Dynasty (1979)
Scorpions – No One Like You from Black Out (1982)
Judas Priest – Turbo Lover from Turbo (1986)
Alice Cooper – Poison from Trash (1989)
Type O Negative – Bloody Kisses from Bloody Kisses (1993)
Tiamat – Vote for Love from Judas Christ (2002)
Because sometimes love is about what you’ve lost, what you can’t have or what you let go.
Heart – What About Love? from Heart (1985)
Iced Earth – I Died For You from The Dark Saga (1996)
Anathema – Sweet Tears from Serenades (1993)
My Dying Bride – Pale Shroud of Longing from The Manuscript (2013)
My Dying Bride – I Almost Loved You from Feel the Misery (2015)
Because sometimes it’s about the right melody, the right intensity, or the right groove. And sometimes it really doesn’t matter what the song is about.
Nevermore – The Heart Collector from Dead Heart in a Dead World (2000)
Moonspell – Scorpion Flower from Night Eternal (2008)
Tiamat – For Her Pleasure
Lacrimas Profundere – Amber Girl from Ave End (2004)
Swallow the Sun – New Moon from New Moon (2009)
Anathema – Closer from A Natural Disaster (2003)
Because sometimes it’s okay to use Usher as a source of inspiration. Especially if you’ve got Anneke van Giersbergen on board.
Devin Townsend Project – Sky Blue from Z2 (2014)
Feel free to fill in the blanks if you think there’s something I missed. And pipe up if you agree. Or disagree. Do you think there’s such a thing as romantic metal? What metal makes up your soundtrack to romance? What metal fills you with love? Or, perhaps, what metal expresses your love better than you can?