While they play at being super tough and desensitized all the time, we all know deep down that metalheads are softies. The very fact that we’ve all dedicated ourselves to a genre of music that is wholly based on reacting to the world at large with outrage, sorrow, and escapism speaks to our true emotionality. But even though we often wear their bloody hearts on our sleeves, and our torsos, and the backs of our vests, many metal fans still have a hang-up about crying. Which, when you think about it, is a shame,.
There’s nothing more pitiful than someone who refuses to cry, or makes excuses for why they’re crying. Crying’s healthy, and feels good, even if it’s not always the sexiest thing in the world. So we figured we’d put together a list of metal tracks that’ll get you teary-eyed and give you a chance to sob one out. Because hey, if you’re going to weep, why not weep about metal?
Here are 11 metal songs that’ll get you crying like a bitch…
Mutoid Man and Chelsea Wolfe, “Bandages” (War Moans, 2017)
After a whole album of inspiring-yet-rip-roaring speed metal, Mutoid Man somehow end their 2017 masterpiece War Moans on the perfect emotional note. Not only does “Bandages” slow things down, it also ups the poetic ante, taking the record’s running theme of soldiering through the battle of everyday life and acknowledging the pain that results from such a constant fight. Wolfe’s haunting vocals add an extra layer of resonance here, acting as the echoes within the cave of your heart. Sometimes, all you can do is take your hands off the wound and let it flow.
Machine Head, “Darkness Within” (Unto the Locust, 2011)
It’s not that “Darkness Within” is a sad song – far from it. The track is an homage to metal itself, celebrating how the music has saved and completed so many of us. But in doing so, Machine Head remind the listener of that time before they found their distorted muse, and the difficult moments that it’s helped them through. In that respect, the song is at times a tough look in the mirror, but when the tears come, they run clean.
Rammstein, “Zeit” (ZEIT, 2022)
“Time – please stand still, stand still…” The running theme of the title track for Rammstein’s latest album is one we’ve all felt – the sudden realization of how much is in the rearview mirror, and the desire to have things pause even for a moment. That the track is performed by a band admitting that they are in the autumn of their years makes it extra powerful. Then again, maybe it’s just the poetic music video that puts our collective hand over our mouth.
Korpiklaani, “Tuuleton” (Jylhä, 2021)
The Finnish word “tuuleton” translates into “windless,” and Korpiklaani frontman Jarkko Aaltonen told The Pit last year that the song is about a bird who’s unable to fly — a sad symbol, to say the least. But even if you don’t understand this folk metal track’s lyrics, the melancholy it channels is palatable. As appropriate as the song is for a moment of helplessness, it sounds equally ready to soundtrack a sunrise you’re surprised you survived to see.
We (understandably) don’t often think of folk metal as a genre that makes one cry, but this track proves that when they’re done right, those sorts of tracks hit hard.
Slipknot, “Vermilion” (Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, 2004)
Would “Vermilion” be AS heartbreaking without its acoustic counterpart? Maybe, but we’re not entirely sure. The truth is that the heavier take on this track definitely feels less traditionally emotional early on, with Corey Taylor rasping and bellowing his guts out. But the closing breakdown, and Taylor’s pained cries of, “SHE ISN’T REAL! I CAN’T MAKE HER REAL!” will have broken listeners choking up in their rage. Sometimes, it take a blazing fire inside to turn on the waterworks.
Strapping Young Lad, “Force Fed” (SYL, 2003)
You don’t really think of Strapping Young Lad as a “crying band,” which makes sense, because neither do we. But after he shrieks through the beginning of “Force Fed,” Devin Townsend launches into a soaring chorus saying, “We’re young, and we’ll find a way to love again…” The hugeness and power of that refrain is deeply inspiring, and will get your metal-leaning dreamers all misty-eyed. Maybe there’s hope yet, you know?
Triptykon, “Aurorae” (Melana Chasmata, 2014)
The work of Tom Gabriel Fischer is commonly associated with snarling riffs and unearthly groans. But with “Aurorae,” the Celtic Frost/Hellhammer mainman’s project Triptykon corralled their epic, stygian sound into a powerful and snappy goth metal lament. “Aurorae” gets across the honest experience of suffering from depression even as it eventually crescendos into a whirl of cathartic rage. There is no shame in mourning your own heart.
System of a Down, “Soldier Side” (Hypnotize, 2005)
We all know System of a Down are no strangers to big emotional numbers, with moving tracks like “Spiders” and “Aerials” featured all throughout their discography. But “Soldier Side” lacks the furious, inspirational upswings that those songs have at their cores. There’s nothing empowering here, none of the band’s typical hard-worn honor – this is the wailing of families losing their children, set to the clicking of Death’s teeth. Here, God is dressed in black.
Type O Negative, “Bloody Kisses (A Death In The Family)” (Bloody Kisses, 1993)
Though goth as the Dickens, Type O Negative were often tongue-in-cheek and sardonic about their actual feelings. But “Bloody Kisses (A Death In The Family)” is as earnest as it gets. Lamenting the suicide of his beloved and preparing to undertake his own, Pete Steele plunges head-first into his own misery, and takes us with him. For those of us who’ve entertained the idea of giving it all up, or who have known someone who has, the song is a powerful wringing-out of the darker parts of the heart.
Fear Factory, “Resurrection” (Obsolete, 1998)
Even a sci-fi concept album can pull your heartstrings when it wants to. Fear Factory’s Obsolete goes out with a battle cry, but it does so via the melancholy blast of “Resurrection.” The track seems to call out to the universe while simultaneously looking inwards, remembering one’s flaws, fears, and “wasted tears.” You don’t have to believe in God to scream your heart at the heavens.
Alice Cooper, “Hell Is Living Without You” (Trash, 1989)
If you can’t get misty over an ’80s hair metal power ballad, do you even have a soul? Alice Cooper ain’t exactly the weepiest musician on earth, but the sheer earnestness and massive chorus of “Hell Is Living Without You” are the stuff of sobbing while banging the steering wheel of your car. There’s just something about the hits in the refrain which feel deeply in touch with finding one’s self addicted to another human being. If you’re gonna blubber, blubber cheesy, motherfucker. Besides, there’s something really wonderful to someone asking what’s making you cry and getting to answer, “Alice fucking Cooper!”