Like all metalheads out there I do love the sound of powerful guitars and pounding drums, the backing orchestrations that elevate a symphonic song to high heavens (see EPICA’s “Unchain Utopia”), or the soaring vocals that give you goosebumps and take your breath away (see DYNAZTY’s “Paradise of the Architect”). But at the same time, I think there is something incredibly pure and fragile, yet beautiful and endearing in acoustic songs. Most of the time it is just vocals and guitar (or piano) that drive the song forward and you really don’t need anything else. To me, acoustic songs bring out the soul of the song much more than the electric versions, because they’re stripped of all layers of melodies and embellishments, thus connecting with the listener on a deeper level. You don’t need a big wall of sound to impress an audience – a good vocal melody and an accompanying instrument will do the trick. In the end, it’s all about execution, ambiance, and lyrics!
Amaranthe – Acoustic Set
To promote their then-new album, “Helix” (2018), and their tour across Europe with POWERWOLF, Swedish melodic metal band AMARANTHE was invited by Metal Hammer Germany to do an acoustic set. Considering how bouncy and electrifying their music is, it was interesting to hear the same songs with just vocals and guitar. While expecting the ballads “Amaranthine” and “Unified” to sound good, it was a pleasant surprise when the heavier and more electronic-driven numbers like “Hunger,” “Dream,” or “Drop Dead Cynical” turned out to be equally invigorating. Nils Molin (who also sings in DYNAZTY) and Elize Ryd are skilled vocalists who balance one other out nicely.
Epica – Martyr of the Free Word
Transforming such a heavy song as this into an acoustic piece proves my point extremely well. Trading the guitars and drums for a gentle piano and Simone Simon’s magnificent voice (and some cello) turned this song into a soulful anthem about social injustice. In truth, EPICA’s EP “The Acoustic Universe” is a real treat for the ears and the heart.
Seventh Wonder – Victorious
Piano, guitar, and Tommy Karevik’s heartfelt delivery are the driving forces behind “Victorious,” a wonderful anthem about humanity’s achievements. This song in its full-on power metal format on “Tiara” (2018) is glorious in itself, but this acoustic rendition brings the lyrics to a whole new level of depth and insight; simply wonderful.
Within Temptation – Ice Queen
A good song structure will always shine through during an acoustic performance and WITHIN TEMPTATION proves this with their delicate acoustic version of “Ice Queen,” which they also perform during live shows. Sharon Den Adel’s super vocals combined with an acoustic guitar give the lyrics new depth and dimensions – perfection!
Poets of the Fall – The Sweet Escape
There’s just something that leaves me breathless when listening to the songs from the Alexander Theatre Sessions, but especially this one (closely followed by “War”). The wonderful lyrics, the soulful interpretation, the warmth of Marko Saaresto’s vocals are just pure melodic heaven – so fragile, so minimalistic, so beautiful.
Shinedown – 45
Another great example of a heavy rock song transformed into something quite delicate and intimate is this acoustic rendition of “45” by American rock band SHINEDOWN. The soulful lyrics are again front and center in this performance as Brent Smith’s passionate and intense vocals soar above Zach Myers’s accompanying guitar. Goosebumps are assured.
Kamelot – End of Innocence
The backing piano melody coupled with Tommy Karevik’s touching vocal delivery makes this version of “End of Innocence” even more splendid than the fully electric version from “Haven” (2015). The delicate atmosphere provided by the piano brings the lyrics more into focus and imbibes them with more meaning.
Ville Valo & The Agents – When Love and Death Embrace
This song has always had a particularly gloomy atmosphere to it but this stripped-down version focuses more on the feeling of love and tenderness coming from the vocals and lyrics. Ville Valo’s performance is especially haunting and the listener can feel a wide range of emotions coming from him, while the guitars lines add a bit of melody to the song. This is so elegant and ethereal.
Stone Sour – Song #3
Rock music and acoustic performances are intrinsically linked to one another because of how non-theatrical rock is, as opposed to metal. The transition between the full band effort to the more austere approach to the same song is not as steep as with more embellished metal songs. Every acoustic performance from a band like STONE SOUR (or an artist as Corey Taylor) is a testament to the power of a simple acoustic rendition.
Slash & Myles Kennedy – Starlight
Yet another example of a song where the basic structure shines during an acoustic performance. The melody coming from the guitars contrasts with Myles Kennedy’s powerful vocal delivery, driving the song forward with intensity and emotion.
Hellscore – Unsainted (A Cappella cover)
HELLSCORE is a choir led by Noa Gruman, lead singer of Israeli symphonic metal band SCARDUST. The group takes rock and metal songs and presents them in an A Cappella version; that is, with just vocals, no instrumentals. Recently the choir made an intriguing version of SLIPKNOT’s single, “Unsainted,” taken from the band’s latest album, “We Are Not Your Kind” (2019). It’s not exactly acoustic but still carries the same magic and energy.
Halestorm – Dear Daughter
Lzzy Hale wrote one of the most beautiful songs ever when she composed this ballad. Either you listen to it in its album version or in this format, one thing is sure – the emotions will come bubbling to the surface not just because of the empowering lyrics, but also because of her gentle delivery and the melodic acoustic guitar. There are so many feelings that music brings forth and love is definitely among the strongest.
Written by Andrea Crow
Interview with messier — “There’s only three of us, so we have to make it count and get the sound as big as we can.”