If you’re listening to a sad, gloomy song, there’s an excellent chance that it’s in a minor key. Without spiralling too deeply into the music theory vortex, in Western music, each song is written in a key, which identifies the song’s root note (like A or F#) and the scale, which indicates whether it is minor or major. The key is chosen based on how the song needs to sound. Upbeat songs tend to use major keys while songs in minor keys tend to feel sad or ominous.
For example, Happy Birthday To You is in a major key, as is John Lennon’s Imagine and The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights. These are poppy, affirming songs with very obvious major key properties. Major doesn’t always mean “happy,” but major key songs do create a sense of real vitality. Examples in metal include Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train, Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell and Iron Maiden’s Number Of The Beast.
On the other side of the coin, there’s little surprise that dark, haunting tracks like Metallica’s Enter Sandman, Black Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Dio’s Holy Diver or Maiden’s Hallowed Be Thy Name are all written in minor keys. But what if they weren’t?
“Happy Metal” is the brainchild of Ben Bouissieres and Andy Xiong — two visionary shredders who have created a world in which famous metal songs written in minor keys are reimagined in the corresponding major key. Essentially they take world-beating anthems from the likes of Slayer, Metallica, Arch Enemy and Iron Maiden and transpose them note-for-note into the corresponding major key. The results are stunning. Tracks like Hallowed Be Thy Name transform into sugary pop gems that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Saturday morning kiddies cartoon show.
Changing the key of popular songs isn’t a novel concept; one finds examples of musicians converting songs in minor keys to major keys — and vice versa — across YouTube. Precious few, however, pull it off as brilliantly and as enthusiastically as the Happy Metal guys. From their masterful song selection to the surgical attention to detail invested into each cover, these tracks play out as arresting, fully-formed pieces of music. The metal world has taken note. Trivium’s Matt Heafy joined the guys for an utterly brilliant major key revamp of Until The World Goes Cold, complete with a corresponding new video based off of the original.
Last month, the lads set their sights on a Megadeth classic and the results must be heard to be fully appreciated. Originally written in F# minor, Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good! is pure aural malevolence with a sound as dark and hyper-aggressive as its lyrics. But in the key of F# major, it becomes something wholly different.
You really just need to hear it for yourselves but be warned — once you get a taste of what they do, there’s an excellent chance that you’ll fall into their happy little rabbit hole. You’ve been warned.