heavy metal

The Top 10 Greatest Metal Songs to Run Over 10 Minutes Long

Death Angel (2011) Do you remember how when you first start listening to metal, you found it unusual that Metallica had so many songs that lasted seven or eight minutes? For many bands/artists in many different genres of music, that is quite a stretch. However, there are some acts that truly push the boundaries of their own creativity and arrangement strategies by crafting tunes that exceed ten minutes! A metal song that runs over ten minutes in length is more than just a song, it is an epic heavy metal odyssey!

Years ago when I was a heavy metal radio DJ at the College of Charleston, I did one show where I crammed a whole bunch of cuts that ran under two minutes long into one hour. The idea of doing a show made up of tunes that ran over ten minutes in length had crossed my mind as well. However, between the show’s running time, the songs I had selected at the time, and narrating in between songs, I just wasn’t sure about how to make it work. Now, the time is right to share my favorite extra-lengthy metal marathons with the masses…er, I mean, whoever wants to read about them.

10. Onslaught - Welcome to Dying from “In Search of Sanity” (1989)

We have a twelve-and-a-half minute ballad kicking off the list. Now, when I say ballad, I mean a metal ballad—the kind of song that makes a squeaky-clean entrance, then gets heavier, then softens up again. Metal Church fans should definitely give this one a listen. Even though this number definitely could have been shorter, it still works and flows well at this length.

The British thrashers were joined by Grim Reaper frontman Steve Grimmett for this outing, which seems to have a lot to do with why their third release was more polished than their earlier records. Onslaught went through a line-up change and label change with every album until splitting up in 1991. While musicians have continued to come and go since their reunion in the mid-2000s, they have maintained a stable relationship with AFM Records for the past decade or so.

9. Razor - Last Rites from “Custom Killing” (1987)

When I got into Razor as a teenager, I was always told that “Custom Killing” was one of their weaker releases. However, now that I’ve heard the album, I don’t understand why it received such a negative response from their fans. It sounds like Razor, and it’s original frontman Stace “Sheepdog” McLaren’s best vocal performance (in my mind, that is)! It may have had a little to do with having a couple of longer songs. In any event, the flack that the quartet received ended up being a blessing in disguise, as it inspired them to set the naysayers straight with an absolutely vicious fifth record (“Violent Restitution”) the following year. Of the two tracks in Razor’s catalogue that exceed ten minutes in length (the other being “Survival of the Fittest” from this same album), I prefer this one. The riff in the verse is a major reason for this cut’s inclusion on the list.

8. Iron Maiden - Rime of the Ancient Mariner from “Powerslave” (1984)

For many a headbanger, their first time ever hearing a metal song running over ten minutes long was probably when they first purchased “Powerslave”. The closing track is based on the poem of the same name by English poet and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge (which was one of his longest works as well). The poem is about a sailor who shares his story of surviving being on a ship headed for disaster with someone on their way to a wedding. The first five minutes are just magnificient, but admittedly, it gets somewhat dull during the middle of the song. Oh sure, there’s atmosphere and it serves a purpose in relation to the story, but the song really comes to life again about eight minutes into it. This is strictly my humble opinion, however. Many fans cite it as a favorite Maiden track, and it’s certainly a great tune to play while you’re on a boat!

7. Carnivore - World Wars III and IV from “Carnivore” (1985)

OK, so the actual song lasts about seven minutes. The last three minutes are really just the “Star-Spangled Banner” played in the wind to resemble the annihilation of the planet, but it still counts. Bassist/vocalist Peter Steele, who later found greater success with Type O Negative, recruits military soldiers in the chorus of this tune. He also warns that the two wars that they will be participating in will ultimately lead to Earth’s demise. Much like a movie series that continuously churns out unnecessary sequels long after reaching an appropriate conclusion, Steele finally promises that a World War V will occur long after all life on Earth is destroyed. I love the way the drums and bass kick in after the intro riff. The melody in the verses and solo are also major reasons why I chose to put this song on the list. This is a true anthem for the apocalypse!

6. Death Angel - The Ultra-Violence from “The Ultra-Violence” (1987)

What we have here is a riff-tastic monster of a thrash metal instrumental crafted by several Filipino teenagers from the San Francisco Bay Area. This track just had to be included because of its ferocity, and because it has such a natural flow to it. You can tell just from listening to this tune that when they were writing it, one part led into the next one. The more polished “Act III” was my introduction to Death Angel, but once I heard “The Ultra-Violence”, I was massively impressed with how much more aggressive the debut album was. They never made another album quite like this one!

5. Ranger - Where Evil Dwells from “Where Evil Dwells” (2015)

Considering that this number isn’t a stream of riff consciousness like many others in the list, it is a song that seems like it wasn't originally written with the intention of exceeding ten minutes. However, it came out that way and it worked. It’s more of a song where certain parts are just played for an extended period of time. One reason for its length is the leads between the first chorus and second verse. The intro riff might just be the most memorable in Ranger’s discography so far! I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more from this band in the future!

4. Fates Warning - The Ivory Gate of Dreams from “No Exit” (1988)

The addition of new singer Ray Alder and departure of original frontman John Arch definitely signaled changes in the Fates Warning sound, as it does just about every time a band brings in a new vocalist. In addition to being more progressive than many other bands and songs included in this countdown, this is the one track out of the ten that actually runs over twenty minutes in length! Like many of Rush’s lengthier compositions, “The Ivory Gate” is divided into chapters. The fourth and seventh chapters are particularly captivating. You would think that with many 10-minute+ songs there would be some boring filler moments, and sometimes there are. I thought I’d find some of that on “Ivory Gate” and would ultimately end up omitting this song, but it holds my interest nicely throughout the full twenty-one minutes and twenty-five seconds! The acoustic guitar and even piano work on this track are nothing short of outstanding!

3. Mercyful Fate - Satan’s Fall from “Melissa” (1983)

If you want a song with demonic evil falsetto laughs, a totally off-the-wall and progressive song structure, a few doom elements, and a soothing melodic moment that seems to have appeared out of nowhere, this eleven-and-a-half-minute dark voyage might just be your jam! Guitarist Hank Shermann claims he continuously added new ideas to this song over the course of a few weeks or a month. KD has attested that this song was difficult for the band to perform live without their guitars going out of tune simply because of its length. But will they play it during their post-pandemic reunion shows? Time will tell. Like the Iron Maiden track ranked at #10, “Satan’s Fall” was known for being the band’s longest song for many years, but they eventually broke their own record later in their career (see also: “Dead Again”).

2. Manilla Road - Dreams of Eschaton from “Crystal Logic” (1983)

One of the earliest songs within the metal genre to push past the ten-minute mark happens to be this beauty from the late, mega-talented Mark “The Shark” Shelton. Although it occupies the main riff from Angel Witch’s “Angel of Death”, that riff is an excellent component to the rest of the song’s structure. The whole trio is in top form here. Shelton’s vocals were literally at their nasally high point on this third effort. There’s lots of chugging and roaring chords in the guitar department, and the rhythm section is as heavy as it gets for this style and era of metal! You can’t forget about the beautiful acoustic guitar intro either! After Shelton makes a classy departure with some more of his recognizable lead work, the song ends with an atmospheric synthesizer outro that doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the tune. Luckily, it lasts just long enough to justify the track’s place on this list.

1. Sacrifice - Truth (After the Rain) from “Soldiers of Misfortune” (1990)

Usually when I compile a Top 5-Top 15 list, I have something coming in at #2 that wows me so much that it’s hard to believe I have another song in mind that I love even more! While I had to sacrifice (excuse the corny pun) a few numbers that I enjoyed and take some time to determine an appropriate arrangement to complete this list, I always knew that I’d proudly hold this mid-tempo tune in the #1 spot. On their second album (1987’s “Forward to Termination”), the Toronto quartet was inspired by the lengthier compositions by Iron Maiden, Rush, and Mercyful Fate to write a nearly-eight-minute track of their own entitled “Flames of Armageddon”. However, given how much Sacrifice’s musical chops and songwriting abilities improved by the time of their third release, it only seems natural that they would churn out another well-written piece at an even longer length. You might be expecting a song that changes from frantic speed to a slow pace multiple times. Like the title track of this release, it never really bursts into a full-on thrash assault, but doesn’t get boring for a second. The harmonic first forty-five seconds make up one of the most beautiful intros to any metal song, and there is so much sharp melody and creativity throughout the rest of the tune. After the most impressive drum fill you’ll ever hear from timekeeper Gus Pynn almost nine minutes into it, “Truth” makes a nice exit with a clean, jazzy ending.

We hope you enjoyed this article, and believe me, it was not an easy one to write! You’re probably still trying to take in all of those songs right now, but while you’re in the process of doing so, share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Tags:  Iron MaidenMercyful FateDeath AngelSacrificeTop 10

    May 20, 2021

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