Whether you’re an artist or a fan, metal has no boundaries. It’s made, performed and received all around the world. So many bands. So many countries. But which country is the best metal country? Is it Finland? The United Kingdom? Perhaps, Germany? Who cares? Most of these bands, no matter what country they originate from, have one thing in common. It’s English.
Most music, not only metal, is sung in English. But why is it so? Well, the answer is simple, but complex at the same time. Most importantly, English is considered a universal language. Over 375 million people speak English as a first language and 1,5 billion people as their second language. Also, foreign artists singing in English can broaden their market exposure easier than if they were releasing music sung in their native language.
However, it wouldn’t be metal without breaking some rules and patterns, right? Sometimes, it can be difficult to translate ideas and structures in your head. That could be one of the reasons some artists choose to sing in their native tongue. Or another language that suits the song better. Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian… In this article, we wanted to pay attention to those unique songs with non-English lyrics. Here’s the list of 15 most exceptional metal tracks with “foreign” lyrics sung by women.
Tarja – Mystique Voyage
Tarja, the voice of Finland, is known for her love for foreign languages. When speaking to her audience, she always tries to say at least a few words in a local language, no matter what country she performs at. Born in Finland, previously living in Argentina, currently in Spain, travelling the world – “Mystique Voyage” is a perfect song to paint a picture of her life path. The extraordinary combination of three languages – English, Finnish and Spanish – works well with this piece from her fourth studio album “Colours In The Dark”. By the way, did you know that Tarja had also sung a song in Czech? You can find a live performance of Antonín Dvořák’s “Song To The Moon” on her “Beauty And The Beat” DVD.
Sirenia – Oscura Realidad
Some bands like experimenting with different languages for their lyrics. Take for example Norwegian gothic metal band Sirenia. Besides dominant English and Latin choirs, you can hear Norwegian, Spanish and French throughout their discography consisting of eight (soon nine) studio albums. Looking back at their 2008-2016 era with singer Ailyn hailing from Barcelona, it’s only natural the band wanted to spicy their lyrics with some passionate Spanish. „Oscura Realidad“ is a Spanish version of „Dark Reality“ and you can find it on the Japanese edition of their 2011’s album „The Enigma Of Life“. With over 406 million Spanish speakers worldwide, it’s not a surprise this Romance language is so frequently used in music.
Stream Of Passion – Delirio
Marcela Bovio is a true flame bringing her Mexican temperament not only to no longer active Dutch progressive metal band Stream Of Passion. She’s known for her extensive work with bands such as The Gentle Storm, MaYaN, Epica and Ayreon, as well as solo career. „Delirio“ is a touching song from Stream Of Passion’s last studio album „A War Of Our Own“ before breaking up. On this track, Bovio’s voice is truly one to cover distances, break the mountains, light the faith and weave dreams and illusions. Add her impressive violin skills, and you get one of the most epic and impassioned metal songs with Spanish lyrics.
Diabulus In Musica – Furia De Libertad (feat. Ailyn)
Spaniards are easily spotted anywhere thanks to their loud speaking voice. As a part of the Spanish character, it’s something that contributes to the creation of a special atmosphere. Is one singing Spanish metal beauty not enough to create an absolutely magical atmosphere? No way. But if you want to double the dose of passion, we have a literally electrifying song for you. Spanish symphonic metal outfit Diabulus In Musica led by talented Zuberoa Aznárez have joined forces with Ailyn Giménez García for a haunting duet called “Furia De Libertad”. The track is available on their third studio album “Argia”, and if you dig deeper through their repertoire, you certainly will find some more hidden treasure. Including the Basque language.
Lacuna Coil – Senzafine
Just as Spaniards, Italians are believed to be one of the most passionate nations in the world. They are renowned for wearing their hearts on the sleeve and expressing their thoughts. Italian is the fourth most studied language in the world. Pretty impressive, considering Italy’s relatively small size. However, when it comes to Italian gothic metal band Lacuna Coil, there’s nothing small about them. A demo for their most famous Italian song “Senzafine” was firstly released in 2000 as a part of “Halflife” EP and the final version was included in the band’s second album “Unleashed Memories” one year later. Moreover, the song has various live acoustic versions as well as the official studio acoustic version.
MaYaN – Dhyana
When Sicilian soprano Laura Macrí joined MaYaN as a full-time member in 2013, there was no doubt her identity and musical background would become more notable in the music of these Dutch symphonic death metallers. Macrí is a professional opera singer who has performed with Andrea Bocceli. And raising from Italy, it was a logical step to involve the language of classical music in MaYaN’s work. The title track of their newest record “Dhyana” offers a combination of English, Italian and, thanks to Marcela Bovio, Spanish. However, “Dhyana” is not a stand-alone Italian moment in MaYaN’s musical portfolio. For example, check out a dark acoustic Italian piece “Insano”.
Epica – Falsches Spiel
Symphonic metallers Epica are well known for their extensive use of Latin choirs in their songs. However, there’s one song that’s in yet another language. Did you know that their song „Run For A Fall“ has a very rare German version? It’s called „Falsches Spiel“, and it was released back in their „We Will Take You With Us“ era. With Simone Simons currently living in Germany, it´s only natural they chose this language.
Jinjer – Желаю – Значит Получу
Some people say there’s little or no difference between Ukrainian and Russian. There is! Widely popular in their motherland, all around Europe and overseas, young force Jinjer with unstoppable vocalist Tatiana Shmailyuk sit on the Ukrainian metal throne. Hailing from Horlivka, with more than 80% of its inhabitants speaking Russian as their first language, track „Желаю – Значит Получу“ is the only Jinjer song with Russian lyrics. You can find it on their recently re-issued debut album „Cloud Factory“.
Eluveitie – The Call Of The Mountains
If you’re asking which band has lyrics in the most unique language, the answer is without a doubt Eluveitie. Hailing from Switzerland – a country with four official languages – these folk death metallers are predestined to experiment with their lyrics. English and Gaulish (an ancient Celtic language) go hand in hand with Eluveitie’s music. But it doesn’t end there. Just as Eluveitie have many members, they also have one particular song in many language variations. If you’re a fan of the band, there’s no way you‘ve never heard of „The Call Of The Mountains“. Besides the album version in English, this track from their „Origins“ album has a bonus version in Italian, French, Swiss-German and Romansh. Amazing, isn’t it?
Myrkur – Ulvinde
If we speak of black metal, it’s important to emphasise that a large number of bands write lyrics in their native language, some of them even in archaic ones. If you scroll through the discography of the Danish vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Amalie Bruun, better known as Myrkur, you’ll find truly interesting pieces. One of the best known must be “Ulvinde“, a song about escaping into the wilderness and the past. This haunting song in Danish – language dated back to Viking times currently spoken by around 6 million people – can be found on Myrkur’s second full-length album „Mareridt“, and is an excellent example of how important the language can be for some subgenres of metal. It wouldn’t sound the same in English, right?
Doro – Für Immer
This song was composed by the German heavy metal band Warlock and released on their final studio album in 1987. As much as it seems that „Für Immer“ was forgotten a long time ago, it’s not true. This divine ballad was re-released many times in various versions as a part of Doro Pesch’s solo career, and she even named her first German album after it. Considering that German is the most common mother tongue in Europe, no wonder Doro loves it so much. Oh, and did you notice that one line in Spanish? Doro truly is the queen of heavy metal. Forever.
Nightwish – Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan
And back to the country that has the most metal bands per capita. Finnish language teachers are convinced that most people studying Finnish for pleasure are doing so because of their interest in the Finnish metal scene. Well, raise your hand if you ever wanted to learn Finnish because of your obsession with Nightwish. Listening to „Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan“, it’s understandable you wanted to sing along with Tarja and discover what’s hidden behind those complicated Finnish words. Meaning “Death Makes An Artist” in English, „Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan“ is featured on 2004’s album “Once”, the last album with Tarja on lead vocals. The song has significance in connection to yet another Nightwish singer, Anette Olzon – she sang the song live with an orchestra despite not being a fluent Finnish speaker.
Kobra And The Lotus – Let Me Love You
The ultimate winner in terms of originality must be Canadian heavy metallers Kobra And The Louts with their Japanese version of „Let Me Love You“. Japanese is one of the most fast-paced spoken languages, but it’s not an issue to Kobra Paige. Fully aware of the fact that Japan is one of the biggest producers of animation in the world, the band supported the track with an interesting music video – performance shots of the band are followed by anime-styled images depicting the story of struggle and love with a happy ending. The song comes off KATL’s latest record „Prevail II“.
Leaves‘ Eyes – Sigrlinn
Over eight minutes long epic track „Sigrlinn“ is the perfect example of how well Norwegian works with symphonic metal. The angelic voice of Liv Kristine (accompanied by her older sister Carmen Elise Espenæs and Alex Krull on male vocals) tells the love story of Sigrlinn and Sveinung – the married couple living by the fjord. Sveinung leaves his wife with heroic intents – to give her more. Unfortunately, bad weather, the harsh mountains, Froeya and the three-headed troll are too challenging for him, and he fails to return to his wife. On this elegy-like song, Liv Kristine sings in Norwegian, specifically „Nynorsk“, which is one of the two official Norwegian written standard languages in Norway. Liv herself labelled the song as a sung poem or a romantic poetry written in dialogical form between two protagonists and the narrating choir. The song is featured on the band’s album „Meredead“ released in 2011. As the main lyricist before her departure, Liv Kristine used to write lyrics not only in English and her mother tongue, but also sang in French, Irish and Shakespearean English.
Anette Olzon – Vintersjäl
Once upon a time, there was one crazy Swede who received disability benefits after claiming an addiction to heavy metal. Attending 300 metal concerts in one year, there’s a great probability he had seen Anette Olzon live at least once. In 2016, Olzon released an EP with two songs, including a Swedish song called „Vintersjäl“. It’s a perfect track to relax during long winter evenings with lit candles and a picture of breathtaking Swedish snowy landscapes on your computer screen or in your mind.
As you can see, metal artists like to experiment with their lyrics and are not afraid to sing in their mother tongues. Our list is just the small fraction. You can try Ehts for French or Arkona for Russian. Do you know more songs like these? And what are your favourites? Let us know, we’re curious.