These songs are based on works of literature. These are also songs that I personally enjoy and from genres that I normally listen to. I limited each artist to one song so that certain bands would not populate the entire list. I am going to begin the list with a few honorable mentions.
Honorable Mention. Black Sabbath – Behind the Wall of Sleep
This song is a reference to the H.P. Lovecraft short story Beyond the Wall of Sleep.
Honorable Mention. Metallica – The Thing That Should Not Be
This song is a reference to the creature Cthulhu which is taken from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Cthulhu is quite literally the thing that should not be.
Honorable Mention. Manowar – Achilles, Agony, and Ecstacy in Eight Parts
This song is a reference to The Iliad. It describes the battle between Achilles and Hector. The song goes on for almost a half hour of awesomeness. It almost made the main list, but I felt that some of the length of certain parts dragged on too much for it be considered a masterpiece as a whole.
I felt that the songs above deserved a mention even though they did not make the official list. Without further ado, I present the top ten songs based on works of literature!
10. Blackmore’s Night – Windmills
This song is a haunting tune that is inspired by the adventures of Hidalgo in the book Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. I have never read the book, but it is on my list to read. It keeps being referenced in other works that that I enjoy so I feel obligated to check it out myself. Despite not having read the book, I am vaguely aware of some of the themes of the story, especially in regard to chasing imaginary enemies. Recently, I have referenced the theme in the context of ducking out of battles that have no need to be fought. The story also stands as a testament of standing up for what you believe in even if it is not the common opinion, “still he braves his path, while windmills only laugh”.
9. Demon’s & Wizard’s – Love’s Tragedy Asunder
This song is my favorite track off of the Demon’s & Wizard’s album The Crimson King. The majority of the album is based off of Stephen King’s, The Dark Tower series, of which I have only read the first book and a short story prequel. Unfortunately, I do not think I have read far enough to get to the relevance of this song. However, the song makes sense and is a great song by itself, “She still has sunshine in her weary eyes. A bed of roses to testify my love. A promise made, now I will make a try. There is no power on earth to tear us apart”. This project is brought to life by the wonderful talents of the vocalist of Blind Guardian, Hansi Kürsch and the guitarist of Iced Earth, Jon Schaffer.
8. Soundgarden – Fell On Black Days
This song is my favorite track off of Soundgarden’s album Superunknown, followed closely by its companion song The Day I Tried To Live. The majority of the album is inspired by the works of Sylvia Plath, who was one of Chris Cornell’s favorite poets. I’ve read some of her work and quite enjoy it. Plath and Cornell both suffered from depression and the pain that they tried to deal with is reflected in their writings. Unfortunately, both of their lives also came to a similar tragic end. Knowing of the kind of pain that Chris Cornell was suffering from, the album, and especially this song takes on new meaning. “Whatsoever I’ve feared has come to life. Whatsoever I’ve fought off became my life. Just when everyday seemed to greet me with a smile. Sunspots have faded and now I’m doing time”.
7. Delain – Such a Shame
Such a Shame is cover song originally by the band Talk Talk. Having heard both versions, I prefer Delain’s version. I feel that singer Charlotte Wessels brings the song to a better emotional level. The song itself is based off of the book, The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. “The dice decide my fate. That’s a shame (that’s a shame). In these trembling hands my faith tells me to react”. I have never read the book, but I added it to my to read list because the premise of a psychiatrist choosing to live his life based off of the outcome of rolling dice sounds interesting.
6. Rush – Tom Sawyer
I have a feeling I might have a slightly unpopular opinion on at least the material this song is inspired by. I adore this song, it is one of my favorite Rush songs and it is based off of Mark Twain’s, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I have never read the book and will never read the book. I have read Huckleberry Finn…and it was one of the worst pieces of literature I have ever read. I am going to base by opinion of Tom Sawyer off of Huckleberry Finn, because I can. For the longest time, I figured I would just dislike anything by Mark Twain, but the guy does have a few quotes that I enjoy. I recognize his impact even though I do not understand it. The song however is a masterpiece of music, “What you say about his company. Is what you say about society. Catch the mist, catch the myth. Catch the mystery, catch the drift”.
5. Blind Guardian – Wheel of Time
It was hard to pick a single Blind Guardian song for this list. They tend to do a lot of songs based off of works of literature, most notably their entire Nighfall on Middle Earth album which is based off of The Lord of the Rings. They have other various songs based off of The Lord of the Rings on other albums as well as songs based off of Game of Thrones and Paradise Lost. However, I feel that above all of those stands the epic Wheel of Time based off of Robert Jordan’s work of the same name. “Wheel of time. Save my soul, find a way. May it be as the pattern has chosen. Oh, wheel of time. Turn the wheel of time. It keeps on spinning. There’s no beginning. There’s no end, wheel of time. There’s no beginning. Just keep on spinning”. It is only right that the fantasy epic has an epic song based on it. I have never read them, but I do plan on remedying that eventually.
4. Iced Earth – Dante’s Inferno
This song is based off of the book of the same name, by Dante Aligheri. I have read this one! In fact, I own three different editions of the book because I enjoyed it so much (I am not sure what that says about me). Thankfully I got the pleasure of reading it in high school which was one of the highlights of the entire high school experience for me. The book also inspired me to write a sort of tribute in the form of Grim Bureaucracy. You better believe that I listened to this behemoth of a song while writing it, it sits at approximately sixteen and half minutes long. “Abandon all hope who enter here. For this is where all things are left behind. Every doubt and every cowardice must die. Souls of rage and anger whipping in despair”. You feel as if you have traveled through the eight circles of Hell along with Dante and Virgil.
3. Iron Maiden – The Trooper
It was hard to pick a single Iron Maiden song for this list. Like Blind Guardian, they also pull heavily from works of literature. The Trooper is the quintessential Iron Maiden song, hell the quintessential metal song period. It stands as one of my favorite songs of all time. It is based off of Alfred Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade, another work of literature I have never read. “You’ll take my life but I’ll take yours too. You’ll fire your musket but I’ll run you through. So when you’re waiting for the next attack. You’d better stand there’s no turning back”.
2. Symphony X – Paradise Lost
I almost chose The Odyssey by Sympony X instead, which is based of the work of the same name by Homer. The Odyssey I have actually read, it was one of my favorite high school reads. I loved exploring the Greek mythology within it. Ultimately, I chose Paradise Lost because I believe that the song is a more consistent work of art. “Looking down from Ethereal Skies. Silent crystalline tears I cry. For all will say their last goodbye, to Paradise”. It is based on the work of the same name by John Milton, which I do plan on reading eventually.
1. Nightwish – The Poet and the Pendulum
In my opinion, only the likes of Nightwish could create such a masterful piece as to stand out above the rest of the songs on this list. I already feel a bit guilty for placing Sympony X ahead of Iron Maiden, let alone putting yet someone else above them. However, Nightwish has earned this position and it didn’t come easily. This song comes from their album Dark Passion Play, which is one of my favorite albums of all time. The title of the song, The Poet and the Pendulum is a play of the title of the Edgar Allan Poe short story, The Pit and the Pendulum. It is also apparent that the short story has inspired the song as well. The song is also inspired by the personal life of songwriter Tuomas Holopainen and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. It is possible that the song has further inspirations as well. The song sits at almost fourteen minutes long and is a compositional masterpiece.