6 Amazing Classical Versions of Heavy Metal Songs

At Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio this past weekend, there was a ton of old and new metal. You had the classics, like Judas Priest, Dillinger Escape Plan and Slash; favorites from the last decade, like Slipknot and Halestorm; and artists that are starting to break big on the scene, like Highly Suspect and Motionless in White.

But over the course of the three-day music festival, there was an act that truly stood out among dozens of bands — one that embodies the past, present and future of heavy metal.

I’m talking about Apocalyptica, a band composed of three classically trained cellists and a drummer from Finland that has been shredding up stages since ’93. Although originally a Metallica tribute band, the group began releasing original tracks on their second studio album, ‘98’s Inquisition Symphony.

The band successfully merges the best of heavy metal and classical, and the result continues to be impressive with every album release. Their set offered up some of the best symphonic metal I’ve seen in awhile, and while not a new band, their performance will stick out in my memory has something fresh on the lineup of 40-plus bands.

Imagine four tall, broad-shouldered, long-haired Finnish metal musicians, stomping around on stage in boots and leather and chains, head banging while shredding up their blend of neoclassical, grunge, thrash, Middle Eastern and folk music on customized electric cellos. There is in fact a singer, Franky Perez, that is the exclusive vocalist on the band's new album Shadowmaker. Sort of an "honorary" member for now, he was a fixture at their Rock on the Range show, and was a nice addition to the live lineup. Their songs ranged from original soaring ballads, to heavy metal covers where “shred as fast as you possible can” is the motto.

And lucky for us they are playing right here at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe on Monday, May 25th. So in honor of Apocalyptica, here’s a list of my favorite heavy metal turned classical songs, from a Ukrainian pianist whose hobby is reimagining metal on classic piano (Vika), to the touring pros like the Progressive String Quartet.

Metallica, “Fade to Black,” Apocalyptica

Jimi Hendrix, “Purple Haze,” Kronos Quartet

Opeth, “To Bid You Farewell” piano cover

Pantera, “I’m Broken,” Progressive String Quartet

Black Sabbath, “Iron Man,” String Quartet Tribute

Pantera, “Mouth for War,” Portland Cello Project

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise