Favorite n Lists: My Favorite Works of Metal Music

This is a list of my favorite songs of the four metal bands I most frequently listen to: Amaranthe, Dragonforce, Dragonland, and Nightwish. Some commentary on my thoughts comes after the list for each band. This commentary is generally short, except in the section for Nightwish, for which it appears I am just gushing feelings even though I told myself I wouldn’t write too much.

It’s likely Within Temptation deserves to be here too, but I only recently started to have a liking of that band, and haven’t even listened to all the band’s music yet, so I don’t feel I should list out my favorites there yet. For now, I’ll just mention that I particularly like In the Middle of the Night, Memories, What Have You Done, Paradise, and The Truth Beneath the Rose.

There’s many more songs I like from most of these bands beyond the ones I’m listing here. For a song to make it onto the lists below, they have to be at least somewhat breathtaking. I considered adding Honorable Mention sections to these lists, but decided that would just make the lists too long. Also, numbering only starts somewhat down each of these lists, where I really want to point out the very best. I generally don’t like giving too many things a numerical ranking, because there should really be overlapping margins around these items; even where I start writing explicit numerical rankings, they’re still intended to be rather squishy orderings.

I have opted to follow more conventional title capitalization standards, even though the official names of many of these titles capitalize every word.

Finally, some songs I include in these lists are covers by the band of an original song by another band, which I decided I will list while not counting the song towards the total count of the list for the band.

Favorite 13 Songs of Amaranthe

Razorblade (8th track of The Nexus)
Supersonic (10th track of Maximalism)
Hunger (2nd track of Amaranthe)
Leave Everything Behind (1st track of Amaranthe)
Invincible (2nd track of The Nexus)
Call Out My Name (7th track of Amaranthe)
1.000.000 Lightyears (3rd track of Amaranthe)
5. Stardust (5th track of The Nexus)
4. Afterlife (1st track of The Nexus)
3. Automatic (4th track of Amaranthe)
2. Amaranthine (6th track of Amaranthe)
1. Infinity (12th track of The Nexus)

Album distribution:
Amaranthe: 6
The Nexus: 6
Massive Addictive: 0
Maximalism: 1

You may realize that my opinion of Amaranthe drops significantly for works after its 2nd album, The Nexus. I think my thoughts are best approximated as “it really got too much pop in relation to metal at that point”.

On a music video note, I like the double fade at the end of the video for Amaranthine.

And on a music-orthogonal note, I appreciate Amaranthe as a band where Danes and Swedes work together. I’m sure there was still plenty of room to continue the friendly rivalry, though.

Favorite 16 Songs of Dragonforce

Black Winter Night (4th track of Valley of the Damned)
Disciples of Babylon (6th track of Valley of the Damned)
Hatred and Revenge (bonus track of Reaching into Infinity)
Through the Fire and Flames (1st track of Inhuman Rampage)
Heroes of Our Time (1st track of Ultra Beatdown)
Fury of the Storm (2nd track of Sonic Firestorm)
Symphony of the Night (5th track of Maximum Overload)
Ashes of the Dawn (2nd track of Reaching into Infinity)
Seasons (6th track of The Power Within)
E.P.M. (bonus track of Ultra Beatdown)
6. Land of Shattered Dreams (9th track of Reaching into Infinity)
5. Heart of a Dragon (9th track of Valley of the Damned)
4. Midnight Madness (7th track of Reaching into Infinity)
3. Above the Winter Moonlight (5th track of Sonic Firestorm)
2. Where Dragons Rule (bonus track of Valley of the Damned)
1. My Spirit Will Go On (1st track of Sonic Firestorm)

Album distribution:
Valley of the Damned: 4
Sonic Firestorm: 3
Inhuman Rampage: 1
Ultra Beatdown: 2
The Power Within: 1
Maximum Overload: 1
Reaching Into Infinity: 4

Boy do I wish more of these were available on Guitar Hero.

I find Above the Winter Moonlight to be a good “usually happy” song, particularly with the sunny opening.

The remake of Where Dragons Rule is much better than the original.

The acoustic version of Seasons is worth a listen. It makes for a drastically different mood and perspective.

It turns out my top three songs for Dragonforce have titles that can be concatenated into a coherent sentence.

Favorite 23 Songs of Dragonland

Hundred Years Have Passed (1st track of Holy War)
In Perfect Harmony (4th track of Starfall)
Dûrnir’s Forge (9th track of Under the Grey Banner)
Shadow of the Mithril Mountains (2nd track of Under the Grey Banner)
Dragondusk (11th track of Battle of the Ivory Plains)
Ivory Shores (12th track of Under the Grey Banner)
Contact (3rd track of Astronomy)
The Trials of Mount Farnor (9th track of Under the Grey Banner)
Starfall (2nd track of Starfall)
Illusion (bonus track of Starfall)
Ride for Glory (4th track of Battle of the Ivory Plains)
The Shores of Our Land (6th track of Starfall)
A Thousand Towers White (4th track of Under the Grey Banner)
11. Under the Grey Banner (11th track of Under the Grey Banner)
10. World’s End (10th track of Battle of the Ivory Plains)
9. Fire and Brimstone (5th track of Under the Grey Banner)
8. Calm Before the Storm (5th track of Holy War)
7. The Returning (7th track of Starfall)
6. As Madness Took Me (1st track of Starfall)
5. The Dream Seeker (5th track of Starfall)
4. The Book of Shadows (9th track of Starfall)
C3½. Sole Survivor (cover of Helloween, bonus track of Starfall)
3. The Black Mare (6th track of Under the Grey Banner)
2. Dragondawn (1st track of Battle of the Ivory Plains)
1. Ilmarion (1st track of Under the Grey Banner)

Album distribution:
Battle of the Ivory Plains: 4
Holy War: 2
Starfall: 9
Astronomy: 1
Under the Grey Banner: 9

There are 25 songs on this favorite-23 list even after removing the cover song, because I’m having Illusion and Starfall count as one song, since they’re nearly identical.

I strongly recommend listening to the entirety of Dragondawn with your eyes closed. Just stay, imagine, and visualize.

I’m not sure why I like the third album of the trilogy so much better than the first two. I really think after their Starfall/Astronomy interlude Dragonland has substantially changed…much to the better. Under the Grey Banner is an excellent album from beginning to end.

Favorite 32 Songs of Nightwish

Last Ride of the Day (11th track of Imaginaerum)
The Pharaoh Sails to Orion (9th track of Oceanborn)
Away (3rd track of Over the Hills and Far Away)
Nightquest (bonus track of Oceanborn)
Come Cover Me (3rd track of Wishmaster)
7 Days to the Wolves (12th track of Dark Passion Play)
I Want My Tears Back (5th track of Imaginaerum)
Nemo (3rd track of Once)
The Islander (10th track of Dark Passion Play)
Escapist (bonus track of Dark Passion Play)
She is My Sin (1st track of Wishmaster)
The Riddler (8th track of Oceanborn)
Sleeping Sun (bonus track of Oceanborn)
C. Phantom of the Opera (cover of Andrew Lloyd Webber, 9th track of Century Child)
Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean (3rd track of Oceanborn)
Last of the Wilds (11th track of Dark Passion Play)
Erämaan Viimeinen (bonus track of Dark Passion Play)
Dead to the World (3rd track of Century Child)
Rest Calm (9th track of Imaginaerum)
Beauty of the Beast (10th track of Century Child)
14. Shudder Before the Beautiful (1st track of Endless Forms Most Beautiful)
13. Dead Gardens (7th track of Once)
12. Deep Silent Complete (9th track of Wishmaster)
11. Crownless (8th track of Wishmaster)
10. Meadows of Heaven (13th track of Dark Passion Play)
9. Turn Loose the Mermaids (8th track of Imaginaerum)
8. Sahara (7th track of Dark Passion Play)
7. Ghost Love Score (9th track of Once)
6. Lappi (9th track of Angels Fall First)
5. Sacrament of Wilderness (4th track of Oceanborn)
4. Dark Chest of Wonders (1st track of Once)
3. Ever Dream (4th track of Century Child)
2. Eva (6th track of Dark Passion Play)
C1½. The Heart Asks Pleasure First (cover of Michael Nyman, single bonus track)
1. Swanheart (6th track of Oceanborn)

Album distribution:
Angels Fall First: 1
Oceanborn: 7
Wishmaster: 4
Century Child: 3
Once: 4
Dark Passion Play: 8
Imaginaerum: 4
Endless Forms Most Beautiful: 1

Once again, there are more songs in the list than the number at the top plus covers because Last of the Wilds is just Erämaan Viimeinen without lyrics (and some amount of shift in style). They’re both very thumbs-up.

Remarkably, TVTropes has an AwesomeMusic page on Nightwish where they list no less than 49 of Nightwish’s songs, and Swanheart, my number-1 pick, is nowhere mentioned on it.

If my list included Honorable Mentions, I’d add Alpenglow (from Endless Forms Most Beautiful) to it, along with numerous others. To me, though, it’s only Honorable-Mention-level beautiful, even though Tuomas Holopainen’s opinion is, apparently, that Alpenglow is the most Nightwish song they ever made.

Everything on this list from number 8 (Sahara) onwards pervasively emotionally moves me. Many of these songs cause me to feel like I’m “on for the ride” that the waves of the song has brought.

Many of these songs demonstrate a slow-building accumulation of intensity that I really appreciate. In several songs, it feels like it represents the arrival of newfound power, particularly as a journey from a wistful, forlorn beginning. Great examples of this include Ever Dream, Eva, Rest Calm, and Meadows of Heaven, the last of which is an instance of this slow intensification happening over the course of over 7 minutes. (I actually couldn’t believe when I looked these up that Meadows of Heaven was actually longer than 7 Days to the Wolves.)

Another pattern that really appeals to me is a more abruptly transformative structure. A song starts with medium intensity, then backs down for a phase that is calm, but is really a suppression of a subtly building line. At a certain point, this line explodes with magnificence for an extremely dramatic ending. This is how Ghost Love Score and 7 Days to the Wolves flow. At the end of the song, a listener could feel that something has massively changed from where it was at the beginning of the song and is never going back to be the same way again.

Back to Ever Dream. I usually prefer recorded over live versions of music (because typical forms of audience involvement in music quite significantly irk me), but the version of Ever Dream with Floor Jansen singing is just too powerfully beautiful and has to be mentioned.

Swanheart is, to me, otherworldly. The best word I have to describe this song, I think, is “pristine”. Its delicate sounds more an immaterial perfection that somehow eventually materializes in the slow majestic progression at the end of the song.

Very high ranking in my list is a cover, The Heart Asks Pleasure First, the original by Michael Nyman (which itself is already very beautiful). It’s included not in any album but in the single for The Crow, The Owl, and The Dove (itself also a beautiful work, that doesn’t make my Nightwish list simply because so many are to me even more, like with Alpenglow’s situation), and thus is really obscure among Nightwish’s works, and I think it really deserves to be less obscure.

Imaginaerum, Nightwish’s 7th album, is a spectacular concept album that they went to make an entire film for. Some of you may know from previous mentions that I consider this film tied for my 2nd favorite film with How to Train Your Dragon and V for Vendetta. Thus, I was quite surprised by myself when I laid out my favorites that only four of its songs land on this list. I guess this is an example of a place where I derive high value out of the cohesion of the parts, lost when I analyze the songs individually. The film really traces the typical Nightwish themes of the fall of the once-great, and many of its songs recall in exquisite description past experiences of a life long lived before a final succumbing to dementia.

Finally on the topic of Nightwish’s recurring themes, I’d like to mention Sacrament of Wilderness and Crownless. I find these two songs to be elemental to Nightwish’s essence in music. Sacrament of Wilderness is a foundational work for Nightwish’s recurrent adoration of nature, and Crownless is the most direct representation of the falling-of-the-once-great theme.

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