In this day and age, it’s not so out of the ordinary anymore to have a full-fledged symphonic orchestra blasting in the background of a metal song – there is a whole sub-genre of metal dedicated to this art. What is remarkably less common in the metal music scene is to feature the solo instrument, violin, in the forefront. Yeah, we do have all these cello outfits such as APOCALYPTICA, 2CELLOS, and whatnot – but despite the efforts of Nigel Kennedy and the like, violin still appears to be in the dark. I decided to challenge myself to compile a list of ten kick-ass metal songs that prominently feature violin as a lead instrument, not merely as a nuance in the layers of the orchestral texture. Since the paisley-colored days of yore, the orchestral flavor has been used in rock songs quite a lot, from THE BEATLES classics such as “A Day In The Life” to vintage prog monoliths such as “Nights in White Satin” by THE MOODY BLUES to the pioneering heavy-metal epics such as LED ZEPPELIN‘s “Kashmir.” When it comes to metal bands, NIGHTWISH did almost single-handedly create a whole genre around the concept in the 1990s. The elitist music snob in me reared up its ugly head and got me convinced that listing orchestral heavy-metal favorites would be way too easy. So, off we go in search of metal schlagers that feature a violinist! Of course, I could instantly come up with a few! Easy peasy lemon squeezy…not! The task turned out to be much harder than I thought. In fact, I had to exercise some liberties with the term “metal,” in order not to end up listing too many songs by the same artists. I would not have thought, having all sorts of obscure and rare metal artifacts in my record collection, that it was so devilishly hard to round up ten measly metal bangers with some classically trained violinist shredding off his head on a 300-year old Stradivarius like Paganini on steroids. On the other hand, these few songs that I did find are, bar none, nothing short of haunting, exciting, and intriguing compositions.
- Ne Obliviscaris: Painters of the Tempest – Part II: Triptych Lux
When I first heard this seven-minute mindfuck (pardon my French!) by the Australian prog-metal devils, NE OBLIVISCARIS, I literally flipped my titties (these forming manboobs that I have, that is)! The second movement of the three-part suite, “Painter of the Tempest,” with the sub-heading, “Part II: Triptych Lux,” is a complete package of everything: brutal death-metal riffing, blast-beats, fairies-prancing-in-the-meadows sort of atmospheric, hipster mid-section and – of course! – an inspired violin solo! The transition from the harrowing goblin-metal to the stripped-down violin solo is pure genius: the contrast couldn’t possibly be greater – and that is where the beauty and magic of the song lie.
- Consciousness Removal Project: Soil Sacrifice
Consciousness Removal Project is a one-man post-metal project from Tampere, Finland. “Soil Sacrifice” is the opening track on the 2011 album, “The Last Season.” Halfway into this eleven-minute epic, you will hear one of the most beautiful and serene violin solos ever injected into a metal song. It works to a resonant effect, after a hearty amount of distorted guitar assaults that come to interrupt the lengthy, atmospheric, and tranquil intro.
- Kansas: Point of No Return
A detour into vintage prog realms is okay here, I think. For me, the American proggers, KANSAS, seemed like yet another dad-rock outfit for years, actually. I came by their albums all the time in second-hand stores during the 1990s but I never bothered to check them out until years later. The point of entry was, of course, “Dust In The Wind.” It is maybe the biggest hit from their fifth studio album “Point Of No Return,” released in 1977. The title track is one of the most iconic rock songs that feature the violin. When you listen to this classic back-to-back with, say, that NE OBLIVISCARIS track mentioned above, there are more similarities and common ground than you would have dared to imagine.
- Orphaned Land: Only the Dead Have Seen the End of War
ORPHANED LAND is not your everyday metal bunch. First of all, the band is from Israel, which – with all due respect – is not exactly known for its metal music. Secondly, they blend heavy Klezmer vibes and other Middle Eastern influences quite liberally with their metal conduct, so that their signature sound is inherently oriental. Taken from their 2018 outing “Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs,” the high-octane Klezmer-metal banger of a track, “Only the Dead Have Seen the End of War,” features mesmerizing violin(s). This song is a sort of borderline case, with regard to the purpose of this list, because it sounds like there is more than one violin conducting those topsy-turvy oriental legatos – and, on occasion, it almost sounds as though the violins have been sampled. I find it in myself hard to object to, nonetheless, because – there are no two ways about it: the violin part rocks hard! The oriental vibe here is slightly reminiscent of “The Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah” by THERION, which track I would have included on this list too had it not fallen facedown in the category of symphonic metal that features the whole orchestra.
- Dark Lunacy: Dolls
Okay, let’s face it: there really aren’t that many metal songs that feature the solo violin. So, it’s time to bend the rules a little. Without going fully mental in the symphonic metal direction, how about a song that features a chamber orchestra? DARK LUNACY is an Italian melo-gothic metal outfit that flirts quite openly with symphonic elements. “Dolls” from their 2000 studio album “Devoid” features a chamber orchestra – and it definitely does add a nice touch to the band’s somewhat Fin-de-siècle Gothic vibe. I just discovered this band by desperately researching all the dubious Internet archives of obscure metal music and, judging by this one song, I definitely have to come back to this bunch.
- Carach Angren: The Funerary Dirge Of A Violinist
I promised not to plunge headlong in the symphonic metal realms, but I guess symphonic black-metal is one more exception to the rule that I can put up with – besides, this track has the word “violinist” in it, so it fits the description to the tee. I have a feeling there must be a DIMMU BORGIR track that would suit my needs here, but for the life of me, I cannot name a single song when I would most need it! Yeah, sure “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse” has one killer of an orchestral arrangement, but let’s not go there just yet. Let’s take a look at “The Funerary Dirge Of A Violinist” by CARACH ANGREN. Here, the orchestral blast is maybe not as in-your-face as on those beloved DIMMU BORGIR schlagers but it does the job rather marvelously.
- Korpiklaani: Pellonpekko
Yes, why don’t I take a look at the folk-metal realm? Don’t the folk-metal bands always have a violinist in their line-up? Coming to think about it: yes, they most often do. I’m really not that familiar with the “big names” of the scene because, for some peculiar reason, I always seem to end up with the most obscure and freaked-out bands the genre has to offer. KORPIKLAANI is one of the biggest household names in the genre and from their huge catalog, I know only a couple of songs. One of them is the track, “Pellonpekko” from their 2003 album “Spirit of the Forest.” The violin performance on this track is pretty close to the Klezmer vibes of ORPHANED LAND – but with a Finnish twist, of course.
- Roman Grau: Veniam
Roman Grau (FROZEN EMPIRE, HI-TECH) is a Russian musician whose solo work is predominantly atmospheric and orchestral with a good pinch of dark overtones. His 2015 release “Emerald” was nicely reminiscent of some of the most haunting ULVER moments we have been exposed to over the years. The violin on the track, “Veniam,” was performed by the Russian violinist, Elena Galicina and it sounds genuinely spine-chilling. No, this is not exactly metal per se – but I’m sure that metalheads will appreciate this sort of darkly shaded music.
- Ayreon: Day Sixteen – Loser
At this point, it has become painfully obvious that I am not going to come up with ten metal songs that feature violin as a solo instrument. So, here goes! AYREON‘s 2004 prog monolith of a double album “The Human Equation” is nothing short of an everything-bagel: it features Devin Townsend on vocals, a wicked Hammond duel between Arjen Lucassen and Joost van den Broek, and full-on orchestra tapping out some Celtic flavor.
- Nightwish: Amaranth
Well, since I am to go this way, I might as well end this on a high note. NIGHTWISH is obviously the king of the hill in terms of symphonic metal. I could pick any song from their back-catalog. So, let’s end this list with a banger. The orchestral arrangement here is pure diamond, as usual.
So, at the end of the day, this was nothing short of a mission impossible. I couldn’t find ten metal songs that feature violin as a lead instrument – not without resorting to dark magic. I would have needed to include several songs from bands such as NE OBLIVISCARIS or KANSAS – and in the name of common decency, I chose not to go into the obscure fusion-jazz dungeon of the 1970s. I know that Frank Zappa has some “interesting” violin tracks in his massive catalog, but they might be a little too much for most. If you know some banging metal schlagers that feature a violin and the songs weren’t on this list, drop a comment – because I’m really perplexed that I couldn’t find more.