10 classic metal songs that prove keyboards can be cool

Peter Steele, Devin Townsend and Attack Attack
(Image credit: Steele and Townsend: Getty / Attack Attack: Youtube)

Australian, Eurovision-smashing prog metallers Voyager know a thing or two about keyboards. So, ahead of the band's new album Fearless In Love arriving on July 14 via Season Of Mist, we got frontman and Voyager synth master himself, Danny Estrin, to pick out ten classic metal anthems that prove, once and for all, that keyboards can be cool too.

"When Voyager started, keyboards and synths in metal were a big 'no-no' in metal, especially in Australia," Estrin explains. "Alchemist were the only band doing it at the time and the fact that our albums were absolutely oozing with synths made it a little difficult to push through the almost jingoistic “no-keyboard land” diatribe that was around then. Here are a few tracks which stand out as absolute keyboard-driven bangers, some cheesy and playful, some just eerie and beautiful. Keyboards in metal? Yes please!"

Metal Hammer line break

Rhapsody – Emerald Sword (Symphony Of Enchanted Lands, 1998)

"Oozing with Parmigiano, these guys bring neoclassical orchestral bombast-synth to a whole new level. Fabio Lione is on fine form to bring this Italian medieval double kick banger to a whole new level. It's only partially recorded with actual strings, meaning that the quintessentially cheesy sounds of the Korg M1 still get a workout."

Devin Townsend Project – Hyperdrive! (Addicted, 2009)

"Devin is the master of melancholic, uplifting tracks with large hints of cheesy synth goodness, so Hyperdrive immediately springs to mind - especially with Anneke van Giersbergen bringing the vocals. I’d never heard anything like this before."

Attack Attack! – Stick Stickly (Someday Came Suddenly, 2008)

"I still don’t understand it, but it’s here because it went where keys in metal hadn’t gone before. Apparently, according yo the band,  Stick Stickly is 'a message of hope and perseverance in the face of difficulty'. I got more 'total disjointed chaos' vibes, but anyway, it deserves to be here."

Majestic – Curtain of Fire (Trinity Overture, 2000)

"You thought Yngwie solos never end? Try the same on keys but double it and you have the majestic Swedish band, er, Majestic, with chief keyboard operator Richard Andersson. An absurd amount of widdle over excellent power metal, although pro tip from me: sometimes it’s appropriate to let the vocalist sing a chorus without soloing over it...."

Type O Negative – Wolf Moon (October Rust, 1996)

"The way Josh Silver commands his KORGs and moulds them into eerie soundscapes is beyond incredible. Considering this was the mid-90s, the layers of synths upon this beautifully rough “bottom half” of synthie Sabbath-esque downtuned blues guitars made the perfect combination. I was instantly hooked."

Artension – World of Illusion (Into The Eye Of The Storm, 1996)

"Synth-wielding demigod Vitalij Kuprij strikes it hot on this insanely executed keyboard shredfest. Not a moment of dullness as John West tries to compete with Vitalij with soaring prog vocals, usually unsuccessfully, as the Ukrainian keyboard maestro shows off his insane skills. A Shrapnel Records classic."

Van Halen – Dreams (5150, 1986)

"Ok, it's controversial to say that this may be even better than Jump (also worthy of mention here, of course). This is synth heaven, and Sammy Hagar on vocals kills it with soaring vocals. That opening line is pure cheese and it turns into an irresistible keyboard-driven banger."

Rain City Drive – Prayers (To Better Days, 2020)

"Formerly known as Slaves, this track has a synth line to die for – arguably cheesy in the best possible way. I absolutely love the mix on this whole album, which is full of beautiful ambient synth post-hardcore metal bangers!"

Neurotech – The Messianic Symphony (Symphonies II, 2022)

"When I showed Alex our bass player this artist, it was love at first listen. It’s just awesome Slovenian synth metal; the soaring ambient keys are absolutely to die for – the mix of industrial, synthwave, prog, Katatonia, Devin, Funker Vogt with a hint of Type O Negative is too perfect! New album Ave Neptune is grandiose and sidekicks Neurowulf and NeouroAxis are equally as compelling."

Stratovarius – Black Diamond (Visions, 1997)

"Nothing screams class like a synth harpsichord over a metal song– these Finnish legends have created an immediately recognisably iconic track with Black Diamond.  I remember seeing this live in the early 2000s and it was just too good!"

Voyager UK tour dates 2023

Oct 20: Manchester Club Academy
Oct 21: London The Dome
Oct 22: London The Dome
Oct 24: Glasgow Slay
Oct 25: Liverpool O2 Academy2


Danny can mainly be found singing his heart out and tinkling the ivories of his keyboard as a part of Voyager, the progressive metal mavericks from Perth, Australia who became one of the breakout stars of 2023's Eurovision Song Context. Having co-founded Voyager way back in 1999 with his friends at the University Of Western Australia, Danny has fronted the band ever since. He can also write and knows a thing or two about metal, prog rock and rock 'n' roll, making him a welcome addition to the Louder fold.