Metal music has always been known for its powerful and intense sound, but it is not just about the heavy riffs and shredding solos. There is a softer side to metal in the form of a ballad. Metal ballads have a unique ability to tug at the heartstrings while still maintaining the signature intensity.
Over the years, metal has produced some of the most iconic ballads in music history. From power ballads that dominate the airwaves to deep cuts that only the most dedicated fans know, there is a metal ballad for every mood. Let’s dive in and explore 13 of the best metal ballads of all time.
1. “Fade To Black” By Metallica
Among Metallica‘s mellower songs, “Fade to Black” is a melancholic rock ballad released on their second album, Ride the Lightning, in 1984.
It begins with a slow, haunting acoustic guitar intro that sets the mood for the introspective lyrics. As the song progresses, the electric guitars and drums gradually build up to a powerful climax that perfectly captures the emotional weight of the lyrics.
The lyrics deal with themes of depression, hopelessness, and suicide. However, despite its dark subject, “Fade to Black” has become a fan favorite and a staple of Metallica’s live shows. The song was ranked #24 on Guitar World‘s best guitar solo list.
2. “When The Children Cry” By White Lion
This power ballad was released in 1988 by the iconic rock band White Lion as a single from their album Pride. The lyrics explored themes of peace, hope, and innocence, with vocalist Mike Tramp’s emotive delivery adding to the song’s emotional weight.
The memorable chorus, sweeping vocals, and simple yet powerful message has made “When the Children Cry” a beloved classic and a staple of 80s rock ballads. It peaked at #1 on Billboard”s Album Rock Tracks chart.
White Lion’s ability to combine hard rock and heavy metal with heartfelt ballads made them stand out in the competitive music scene of the 1980s, and “When the Children Cry” is a shining example of that ability.
3. “Dream On” By Aerosmith
Released in 1973, “Dream On” was American rock band Aerosmith‘s first major hit single. The song features a memorable piano intro and soaring vocals by frontman Steven Tyler, who was also the songwriter.
The lyrics of “Dream On” encourage listeners to follow their dreams and never give up on their aspirations. Tyler’s emotive delivery adds to the message of hope and determination.
The song enjoyed commercial success, peaking at #6 on the US Billboard Hot 100. It was also certified 4x Platinum in the United States and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2018.
The global popularity of “Dream On” helped establish Aerosmith as one of the foremost rock bands of the 1970s and has since become one of their most beloved songs.
4. “Alone Again” By Dokken
An anthem of heartbreak and loneliness, “Alone Again” is a power ballad by the American glam metal band Dokken. It was written by the band’s frontman, Don Dokken, in his early 20s, long before the band Dokken was formed.
When they released their second album, Tooth and Nail, Dokken’s bassist Jeff Pilson reworked “Alone Again” with Don Dokken, creating a much more poignant rendition.
The melancholic tone builds up with the powerful vocals of Don Dokken, paired with an impactful chorus that laments the pain of being alone after a breakup. The track’s emotional power and relatable lyrics struck a chord with audiences and cemented its place as a classic of the 80s hair metal era.
5. “Wanted Dead Or Alive” By Bon Jovi
Written by Bon Jovi‘s frontman Jon Bon Jovi and lead guitarist Richie Sambora, “Wanted Dead or Alive” is a unique mix of a metal ballad and country rock. The song is a celebration of the rockstar lifestyle and the challenges that come with it.
Jon Bon Jovi’s raspy vocals and soulful guitar riffs add to the song’s appeal. The chorus, with its iconic line “I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride,” has become a cultural touchstone, symbolizing freedom and the rebellious spirit of rock music.
The catchy melody and relatable lyrics have won the song a 4X Platinum certification in the United States, and it peaked at #7 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It was also used as a theme song for Deadliest Catch, a Discovery Channel show.
6. “Snuff” By Slipknot
Known for their aggressive heavy metal music, Slipknot‘s “Snuff” is a welcome change that features a slower, more somber music style. The song became a hit to fans, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and receiving a Platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Slipknot’s lead vocalist and the song’s writer Corey Taylor claims that “Snuff” is a very personal song. The lyrics describe the pain and anguish felt after experiencing unrequited or failed love. Fans were quick to connect the song to Taylor’s ex-wife, but Corey neither denied nor confirmed this.
With the song’s melancholic guitar work, emotionally raw lyrics, and atmospheric percussion, “Snuff” is undeniably a powerful metal ballad that showcases Slipknot’s ability to blend heaviness and introspection.
7. “Still Loving You” By Scorpions
A favorite among karaoke singers since its release in 1984, “Still Loving You” is a powerful and emotional rock ballad by the German band Scorpions.
The song showcases the band’s signature sound, with soaring vocals and a memorable melody that has become a classic of the genre. The guitar solos are a standout feature of the song, adding a layer of complexity and intensity to the already powerful sound.
While “Still Loving You” didn’t enjoy much commercial success in the United States, peaking only at #36 on Billboard‘s Hot 100, it did extremely well in other parts of the world. It snagged the #3 spot on Belgium’s Ultratop 50 Flanders and received Platinum and Gold certifications in France and Italy, respectively.
8. “Don’t Cry” By Guns N’ Roses
This song is a particularly special one from the hard rock band Guns N’ Roses, not only because it was the first song ever written for the band but also because of its personal significance.
“Don’t Cry” was co-written by frontman Axl Rose and guitarist Izzy Stradlin, which details Stradlin’s heartache from a breakup. They wrote the song within five minutes, and its poignancy is evident in its emotive lyrics and powerful guitars and percussions.
The chorus is particularly impactful, with the repeated line “Don’t you cry tonight” offering a message of hope and resilience. The song even has two different versions, each with varying vocal tracks but still retaining its emotional theme.
The song peaked at #10 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and #1 in Ireland, Finland, and Portugal.
9. “Silent Lucidity” By Queensrÿche
A hauntingly beautiful power ballad, “Silent Lucidity” is a Grammy-nominated song by the progressive metal band Queensrÿche. It was released in 1990 as part of their album Empire and features an atmospheric sound, with a memorable guitar intro and powerful vocals by lead singer Geoff Tate.
The lyrics delve into ideas of lucid dreaming and the power of the human mind, inviting the listener to explore their inner selves and the mysteries of the subconscious.
“Silent Lucidity” was a commercial and critical success, becoming one of Queensrÿche’s most popular songs and a classic rock radio favorite. It peaked at #1 on Billboard‘s Album Rock Tracks and #9 on the Hot 100.
10. “Sister Christian” By Night Ranger
With its jaunty intro building up to an iconic blend of glam and arena rock styles, Night Ranger‘s “Sister Christian” deserves a spot on this list.
The song features a melodic and catchy sound, with a memorable keyboard intro and powerful vocals by lead singer Jack Blades. An even more endearing fact about this song is that the song was written for drummer Kelly Keagy’s sister, Christy; thus, the title.
The song talks about growing up and facing the challenges of adulthood, inviting the listener to reflect on their journey through life. “Sister Christian” succeeded commercially, reaching the top 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.
11. “The Deeper The Love” By Whitesnake
The English metal band Whitesnake released “The Deeper the Love” in 1989. It has the band’s signature blend of hard rock and blues melodies, with David Coverdale’s soulful vocals at the forefront.
The lyrics speak about the intensity and depth of true love, emphasizing that the indeed, deeper the love, the stronger it becomes. The song’s boppy guitar riffs and chorus make it memorable to the band’s fans, and it is often requested at their live shows.
Commercially, it did well, peaking at #4 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock charts. Abroad, it reached the top 40 on the UK, Canadian, and Irish music charts.
12. “Beyond The Realms Of Death” By Judas Priest
Deviating from the themes of love and life on this list, “Beyond the Realms of Death” is a song that has a much deeper and darker message.
“Beyond the Realms of Death” is a powerful ballad by the British heavy metal band Judas Priest. It showcases the band’s versatility and emotional range in focus with a haunting melody and introspective lyrics about loneliness, isolation, and despair.
The song’s protagonist, a man trapped in a dead-end life, contemplates suicide as a means of escape from his pain and suffering. The song’s emotional impact is heightened by the vocals of frontman Rob Halford, whose performance captures the raw intensity and vulnerability of the song’s subject matter.
Although the song didn’t top the charts, it’s still considered one of Judas Priest’s fan favorites. The intricate guitar work added a layer of depth and texture to the song, elevating it into a masterpiece in heavy metal.
13. “Blood Of My Enemies” By Manowar
A powerful ballad by American heavy metal band Manowar, “Blood of My Enemies” was released in 1984 and has become a fan favorite at their live shows.
The song features powerful vocals from lead singer Eric Adams, as well as guitar solos and thundering drums. Despite its themes of battle and bloodshed, the song shares a common characteristic of power ballads: an emotionally charged and melodic chorus.
The song tells the story of a warrior fighting for his people and seeking revenge against his enemies. The epic chorus, with its chant of “I will call down the thunder, I will bring forth the rain,” is sure to get any metal fan’s blood pumping.
Summing Up Our List Of The Top Metal Ballads
The world of metal is full of powerful ballads that showcase the genre’s range and emotional depth. From songs that dominated the airwaves to deep cuts that only the most dedicated fans know, these songs have become an integral part of metal’s legacy.
Whether you’re a die-hard metalhead or a casual fan, there’s a metal ballad for every mood. If there are lesser-known gems or metal ballad classics we failed to include, let us know in the comments!