Mental health struggles are all too common. For many headbangers, these issues are what brings us to heavy metal in the first place. Here are the best power ballads about death and depression.
Metallica – “Fade To Black”
The epic centerpiece of Ride The Lightning is the ultimate heavy metal meditation on death and a staple of every depressed teenage headbanger since 1984. “Fade To Black” opened the floodgates to an emotional side of serious heavy metal that had gone unseen until this point.
This was the turning point where hair bands no longer had the monopoly on power ballads and power ballads no longer had to be hyperbolic declarations of love. Thanks, Metallica.
Megadeth – “A Tout le Monde”
The standout track on Youthanasia and one of the most loved songs in Megadeth’s entire catalog, “A Tout le Monde” is a complete departure from Dave Mustane’s typical scorched earth approach to heavy metal.
Although the song is often interpreted as an anguished cry for help in the form of a suicide note, Mustaine claims that it is actually a reference to his mother visiting him in a dream shortly after her death.
Pantera – “Cemetery Gates”
The Cowboys for Hell were masters of sonic manipulation. Sure, Pantera can be faster and more brutal than any band in spitting distance, but their real power came from their uncanny ability to reach into the souls of their fans and speak candidly about everything that fucked them up. “Hollow” is a staggering testament on loss and “This Love” is pretty much the darkest breakup song ever written, but “Cemetery Gates” is arguably the crowning achievement in the band’s entire career.
Phil’s voice never sounded more anguished and that riff is a freight train straight into the void.
Testament – “Return To Serenity”
Testament has never been a stranger to the power ballad. Although their 1989 single “The Ballad” had already shown the Bay Area thrasher’s softer side to headbangers the world over, it was with “Return To Serenity” that they proved to be masters of the craft.
A devastatingly relatable lamentation on the effects of chronic depression and ode to hopelessness that nonetheless features some of Alex Skolnick’s most engaging guitar solos.
Overkill – “The Years Of Decay”
Bobby Blitz and company are best known for thrashing brutality and fist-pumping anthems. Although the name Overkill probably doesn’t conjure images of somber reflection from their fans, the few times the Motörhead of thrash have tried their hand at the power ballad have been spectacular.
The Years Of Decay (the album) shows Overkill at their most daring and experimental, and the title track is no exception “The Years Of Decay” (the song) is an 8-minute meditation on wasted time, exhaustion, and the futility of life in general. The song ends with an epic Bobby Gustafson guitar solo that will worm its way into the darkest recesses of your soul.