To celebrate the launching of Season 6 of Game of Thrones, we’ve put together a list of classic rock tunes which each have a decidedly battle oriented theme.
#9. “The Battle of Evermore” by Led Zeppelin
We begin with a folk ballad that speaks of mythical/biblical battles between good and evil. “The Battle of Evermore” is far from a traditional Led Zeppelin song (John Bonham doesn’t even play on the track) but it does have many traditional folk elements with the dueling acoustic and mandolin of Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones along with the storytelling duet performed by Robert plant and guest Sandy Denny.
Listen to “The Battle of Evermore”:
#8. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Metallica
“For Whom the Bell Tolls” comes from Metallica’s second album, Ride the Lightning, and features an interesting chromatic bass riff by Cliff Burton. The lyrics of the song borrow from the Ernest Hemingway novel of the same name which describes a small group of soldiers defending a hill during the Spanish Civil War.
#7. “The Night They Drove Ole’ Dixie Down” by The Band
“The Night They Drove Ole’ Dixie Down” grew out of Canadian songwriter Robbie Robertson’s fascination with the American Civil War. After composing some quasi-fictional lyrics from the perspective of a Confederate soldier, Robertson enlisted The Band’s drummer Levon Helm for lead vocals, in part because he was the group’s sole American and Southerner.
#6. “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” by Rush
The first of several multi-part suites by Rush, the 1975 epic “By Tor and the Snow Dog” is a fictional story inspired by band members Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson both vying to be the group’s lead guitarist during their earliest years as a band. In the “Snow Dog” (Lifeson) is victorious and “By-Tor in retreat returns to Hell” (bass guitar).
Listen to “By-Tor and the Snow Dog”:
#5. “Roads to Moscow” by Al Stewart
“Roads to Moscow” is a mesmerizing, eight-minute acoustic odyssey which follows the plight of a Russian soldier over several years during World War II. It begins in 1941 with the German invasion and advance towards Moscow and continues with the Soviet counter and push through Eastern Europe, leading to ultimate victory. However, the song ends with an ironic twist as the protagonist is sent to a forced labor camp in Siberia in spite of his heroics.
Listen to “Roads to Moscow”:
#4. “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden’s bassist Steve Harris composed “Run to the Hills”, which drew its inspiration from the 19th century battles between Native Americans and the U.S. Calvary. Uniquely, this song is told from both sides of the fictional battle with the common thread being the depiction of senseless brutality on all sides.
#3. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2
On “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, Irish group U2 depicted the 1972 massacre in their home country eleven years after it occurred. Beyond the poetic lyrics and fine vocals by Bono, is the military-like marching drum beat by Larry Mullen Jr and expert guitar riffing by guitarist The Edge, giving it a very authentic vibe throughout.
Listen to “Sunday Bloody Sunday”:
#2. “The Battle of Epping Forest” by Genesis
“The Battle of Epping Forest” took a contemporary news story about East London gang battles and set it back several centuries as a medieval epic with a plethora of colorful character interactions along the way. This nearly twelve minute epic song fits perfectly within the pastoral scenes of the classic Genesis album Selling England by the Pound.
Listen to “The Battle of Epping Forest”:
#1. “The Star Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key / Jimi Hendrix
Topping our list is the national anthem of the United States, with lyrics which vividly describe The Battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The song was originally written as a poem by Francis Scott Key and later set to the tune of a popular British song called “To Anacreon in Heaven”. Most of us know the first stanza, recited at public events, but that is only a quarter (the first of four stanzas) of the entire original work.
In the late 1960s, Jimi Hendrix began performing a solo instrumental version of the song on electric guitar, which brought this centuries old tune firmly into the classic rock realm.
Listen to “The Star Spangled Banner”:
“War Pigs” by Black Sabbath
“Goodnight Saigon” by Billy Joel
“Sheep” by Pink Floyd
“War” by Edwin Starr
With this subjective list we’ve doubtlessly left out scores of artists who may have deserved consideration for this list. Please give us your comments below and tell us where you agree and disagree.
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