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10 classical songs that would sound even more epic with a heavy metal makeover

Apocalyptica
(Image credit: Press)

Even before heavy metal was officially a Thing, the worlds of classical and guitar were crossing over. In December 1969, Deep Purple released Concerto for Group and Orchestra and in the decades since everyone from Metallica and Black Sabbath to Architects and Emperor has found ways to incorporate orchestral elements into metal, spawning the symphonic metal subgenre in the process.

But what about in reverse? We asked Apocalyptica - the Finnish masters of reinventing metal songs in a classical style - to pick out ten compositions that are in dire need of a heavy metal makeover to help bring them into the 21st Century. "All music has its deep roots in classical music, making it easy to find connections and relations in music throughout all centuries," explains cellist Perttu Kivilaakso.

"All music is built from similar elements, every composer working with those same tools, notes, rhythms, chords and melodies. What makes the biggest difference is the chosen style you arrange the music into, how it sounds with that chosen instrumentation, with the way they are interpreted and performed… The same melody could work as a metal song or in a baroque composition, as well as in trance,  psychedelic rock, synth pop, romantic opera or bluegrass etc. - it's all very fascinating!"

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1. Giuseppe Verdi - Dies Irae (Requiem, 1874)

"Doomy subject and lyrics, loud as f***, big beats and hits, choir… all the necessary elements of proper heavy metal can be found here!"


2. Igor Stravinsky - Infernal Dance (The Firebird, 1910)

"The title says it all. This one has some serious groove and a totally suitable dark/evil mood."


3. Ludwig van Beethoven - 9th Symphony (9th Symphony, 1824)

"I could have picked various themes from Symphony No. 5 or 9. Beethoven is said to be Lucifer’s favorite composer… I think that’s as metal as it can get!"


4. Richard Wagner - Ride Of The Valkyries (Die Walküre, 1870)

"Wagner was a crazily over-the-top composer with all his vision and bigger-than-bombastic setups… Most probably, if he had lived in more modern times – he would have added some distorted guitars (and even a few helicopters) into the track."


5. Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 11 (The Year 1905, 1957)

"You could include more or less anything from Shostakovich, especially in his orchestral works. There are often very metal-type riffs going on underneath and you can really hear that in Symphony No. 11."


6. Gustav Mahler - Trauermarsch (Symphony No. 5, 1904)

"When talking about classical composers, you can’t avoid mentioning creators of some big symphonies like Gustav Mahler or Anton Brucker. Their massive works are so full of heavy elements, and a whole lot else besides. They are typically like 60-90 minutes long, with a whole range of various emotions in them. But cutting off a theme or two, then developing it as a shorter metal song just might work."


7. Pietro Mascagni - Intermezzo (Cavaleria Rusticana, 1890)

"Metal doesn't have to be just heavy. Mascagni's Intermezzo, from Cavaleria Rusticana, has all the required elements for a beautiful ballad."


8. Einojuhani Rautavaara - II. Feroce (Symphony No. 8, 1999)

As I am from Finland, I've got to choose something a bit surprising from our country. But once again… all the elements of music can be found in so many various genres. Similar rhythms and approaches can be found everywhere and you can really hear that in Feroce from Einojuhani Rautavaara's Symphony No. 8 (The Journey). 


9. Pablo de Sarasate - Op. 20 (Zigeunerweisen, 1878)

Sarasate's Zigeunerweise is one of the most well-known virtuoso, musically acrobatic songs for violin. On the violin it is extremely difficult technically, so with a cello it's basically impossible - but that sounds like a nice challenge for us!


10. Iannis Xenakis - Metastaseis (Metastaseis, 1955)

"With composers like [Iannis] Xenakis or Krzysztof Penderecki, their music probably isn't all that suitable for a straight-up cover song. But, pick up any 1.5 minutes of their music, and it’d definitely work well as an extremely scary intro for a show!"

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Apocalyptica's latest single I'll Get Through It is out now

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