Heavy metal Mahler

July 7, 2012

Today, being Mahler’s birthday, offers a good opportunity to ponder a vexing question: why is Mahler’s music not played by heavy metal bands?

You might think that I am joking, but you are only partly right. The truth is that certain passages in Mahler’s symphonies would translate splendidly into a head-banging idiom, and the appeal of such high-class, ready-made music ought to be irresistible to serious metalheads, who, after all, often pride themselves on the harmonic and rhythmic adventurousness, architectural complexity, and philosophical profundity of their music. But I have looked, and I have been unable to find even a single instance of a metal band covering Mahler. The situation is really very perplexing.

Consider, for instance, the opening of his Symphony No.6. If this was not actually conceived for a consort of razor-sharp electric guitars and a gargantuan drum kit, I’ll eat my Metallica hat:

Another excellent example of shreddable Mahler is the opening of the Symphony No.2. This is for a more ambitious band, one that doesn’t mind taking the time to build something monumental — luckily, we know that pretentiousness of that sort is endemic in metal circles. But seriously, just listen to this, translating it mentally into the timbres of crunchy rhythm guitars, blazing fingerwork, and Viking battle cries. This could really work:

Happy birthday, Herr Mahler.


Update: In the comments, 236factorial suggests the finale of Symphony No.1 as another good candidate:

7 Responses to “Heavy metal Mahler”

  1. 236factorial Says:

    the last two minutes of the first “titan” symphony would do well in a band too. basically, any of his symphony finales would work quite well. but i think fewer than 1% of bands know that mahler even exists.

    • Some Dude on the Interwebs Says:

      ^^this. Because while metalheads pride themselves “on the harmonic and rhythmic adventurousness, architectural complexity, and philosophical profundity of their music”, in the OP’s words, metal is and always will be blue collar music, as well as firmly rooted in the adolescent.

      Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s exactly why any album by the Big 4 is worth listening.

      • Some Dude on the Interwebs Says:

        Oh, BTW screw Mahler.
        Schubert’s chamber music is full of headbanging-worth moments.
        Rosamunde or the Death And The Maiden quartet – every single bar of it.

  2. cburrell Says:

    I had not thought of that example. Thanks!

  3. Mac Says:

    I’m with you. Let us hope some band comes across this post and decides to give your idea a try. Opeth can play anything.

  4. cburrell Says:

    Opeth, eh? I’ll have to investigate.

  5. cburrell Says:

    The world is topsy-turvy: there is a recording of string orchestra playing the music of Opeth!

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