8 pieces of classical music for curious heavy metal fans

2 February 2018, 11:45

The worlds of classical music and heavy metal have collided gloriously in the past, but what if you need some pointers about where to start?

Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring

Specifically the ‘Dance of the Adolescents’. Chugging rhythms that recall the finest of the NWOBHM pioneers. Maybe the likes of Black Sabbath were secretly listening to the sound of ballet being changed forever and taking notes.

Jehan Alain: Litanies

Sorry metallers, your trusty 7-foot Marshall stack has nothing on the mighty pipe organ. Look to the French organ school for volume, power, and some of the most darkly thrilling music ever written - try Oliver Messiaen, Jean Langlais, and this epic exploration of sound on a plainsong melody by Alain.


Arvo Pärt - Fratres

Lovers of the epic sonics of Sunn 0))) and drone riff merchants Sleep need to turn the lights down and wrap their ears around this one. The Estonian composer is in usual genre-melting form with incredible violin figurations, expansive strings and bell-like sounds that seem to flip between the ancient and the strangely modern. And just listen to way the violin just tears everything to shreds at around 5.20.

Vivaldi - The Four Seasons

‘Summer’ has been given the metal guitar treatment a number of times with huge success, but to understand why it falls so beautifully under the fingers it’s best to listen to the original. Very much for those who enjoy the work of Yngwie Malmsteen.


Mahler - Symphony No. 6

One for fans of Wolves In The Throne Room rather than Dream Theater. If you like your riffs sludgy, combative and eked out over the course of several hours, Mahler is for you. Check out the plod of the first movement.


Richard Strauss - Also Sprach Zarathustra

For fans of glossy bombast in their metal, from Iron Maiden all the way to Guns n’ Roses, you need the dynamic swell of Strauss’ most famous work. Think about how well this would work for stadium entrance music.


Ligeti - Lux Aeterna

For those who love the ambient end of the metal spectrum (basically anyone whose life was altered by Throbbing Gristle or Mogwai), you’re going to love Ligeti. This is one of his more accessible works, but still shows just how hard-edged he was - listen out for the microscopically evolving textures.


Gorecki - Symphony No. 3

This was actually turned into something of a jazz-metal masterpiece by saxophonist Colin Stetson, but anyone with a penchant for Deafheaven or Japanese screamo legends Envy will find much beauty in the intensity of this symphony.