Even the hardest headbanger sometimes needs a break from the sonic excess. Our ears and our necks can only take so much. That said, "heavy" is not always about volume and aggression — sometimes the quietest songs are actually the most devastating. (Give Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt" another spin if you don't know what we mean.) With that in mind, we asked you to pick the "best acoustic song by a heavy band" and you offered up some truly stellar choices that exemplify the wide expanse of what "heaviness" really means. Below are the top five vote-getters.
Death classic "Voice of the Soul" may be the least heart-wrenching cut on this list, but it stands as a stunning tribute to the late Chuck Schuldiner's untouchable ability to compose and perform, talents that, in this case, he directed toward creating a classical masterpiece like some kind of modern Beethoven or Shostakovich. Glimmering electric riffs are layered under meandering acoustic lines, progressing from a swaying stroll to galloping climb to the heavens in oscillating patterns. The result is one of the most beautiful passages on Death's swansong, the 1998 studio album, The Sound of Perseverance.
One of the many marks of genius on Opeth's Blackwater Park is the way that the band knew when to pull back on the heaviness and indulge their musicianship along other avenues. On its own, "Harvest" sounds like it could be a folk song passed down from generation to generation. It showcases the Swedish band's aptitude for instrumental playing and knowledge of how to write a truly captivating composition. In the context of the frequently crushing album, the song feels even larger and more outside the bounds of typical heavy metal.
Corey Taylor has called "Snuff" a "very heavy song" to play that he sometimes has difficulty getting through due to just how emotionally charged and raw the lyrics and diminutive guitar strains are for the singer. A gripping story of romance gone wrong, "Snuff" rarely fails to have even the hardest Maggot singing along proudly when Taylor breaks out the acoustic and delivers a tearful performance of this one in live sets.
"Nutshell" is a country-tinged heartbreaker that, especially during Alice in Chains' iconic Unplugged performance, captured singer Layne Staley at his most honest and broken. His haunting quake always relayed the story of his internal strife, but his death put into perspective just how deep his despair ran, and it's all there in "Nutshell." The electric guitar solo keeps this from being a truly acoustic song, but the depressive tempo and relaxed drive of the backbeat hold down this wrenching ballad and secure its place on this list.
If there were ever a song to succinctly show off the genius of Dimebag Darrell's playing, look no further than Pantera's "Suicide Note Pt. 1." The song feels out of time and even mystical; its intro is an out-there work of atmosphere and power that sounds completely unlike anything the band had written prior. It then launches into an acoustic melody that would fit right inside the blood-soaked world of a Cormac McCarthy novel, with Darrell playing an acoustic 12-string guitar to perfection. Philip Anselmo, meanwhile, is at his most solemn and pained throughout, offering up an unflinching look at drug abuse and thoughts of ending it all. Beautiful and harrowing, all at once.