My favourite rock / metal outros of all time
On the “fade out” vs “stop” debate, I am team end the damn song with a bang! Nothing against a quality fade out — I think it fascinating that there are portions of the Comfortably Numb or Hotel California solos we’ve never heard — but I just love a flourish. So here’s my list.
Before you read — I excluded guitar solos
Way too many songs end great because of iconic solos being the last bit of the song — Fade To Black, War Pigs, Sultans of Swing, the two mentioned above… So I’m excluding those from the list, they’d skew it. I wanted everyone to go out with a bang together, not just the axeman. So don’t outrage because one of them is not there. I’ll do another post later on my favourite guitar solos of all time.
For each song, I’ve mentioned when the outro begins. Feel free to ignore it if you’re prefer surprise, but whatever you do, do NOT fast forward to just that point — outros work best when you’ve devoured everything before it, as it often incorporates elements of the song together in one grand finish.
#5: Riverside — Second Life Syndrome
The Polish prog-rock band are one of the two bands I always recommend fans of Porcupine Tree check out (the other being The Pineapple Thief). This is, quite simply, their best work. A sprawling, atmospheric 16-minute epic that goes from ominous intro to heavy prog to melodic to a slowed-down middle section, to a more jarring one — before resolving with a sweet solo and sweeter finish that completely rewards the long journey.
Outro begins: 12:40 (though the best part’s at 13:24)
#4: Thank You Scientist — My Famed Disappearing Act
Those how know me know I won’t shut up about these guys. In a nutshell, they sound like Dream Theater, but trying to have fun. They have a saxophonist, trumpeter, and a violinist as part of their 7-man ensemble that describes themselves as “a bunch of weirdos making music for weirdos that still care about weird music”.
Let’s get to this delightful track. While other tracks in this list will make you want to say, punch the wall or do burpees by the time it’s over, this one will want you go dancing all over the neighbourhood, before popping into the corner pâtisserie. There’s all the TYS elements here — infectious chorus, intricate playing that’s more complex than it sounds, guitarist Tom Monda’s astonishing ability to convert guitar scale finger exercises into an unforgettable riff, one of which starts the track off, terrific drumming… And all that’s before the ending.
Monda starts with a solo at 3:45 (the song is relatively short), which ends with him mimicking the chorus, backed up by the brass, before one last chorus by Salvatore Marrano, and then the actual outro starts (I cheated) at 5:17. The intro riff comes back, double bass kicks in and all is well.
Outro begins: 3:45
#3: Dream Theater — Learning To Live
This is the last track of the prog-metal legends’ second album, Images & Words, often considered the band’s (and sometimes, the genre’s) best. For good reason — it has everything from their most well-known track (Pull Me Under) to what I think is the signature prog-metal song (Metropolis Pt 1), to the lovely, sweet piano-based Wait For Sleep (aka the only DT song non-prog-metal fans can stand), and then… Learning To Live, my favourite DT track and among my top 5 songs ever.
Even before the outro kicks in, the song has already established itself as a classic — fabulous intro, jaw-dropping instrumental work (which is a given), and outstanding singing by the oft-maligned James LaBrie, who at 7:07 hits an epic career-high note (which to this day is highly anticipated in concerts — there’s even a compilation). The outro, when it comes shortly later, doesn’t transition from light to dark or quiet to heavy as is the case with many others in this compilation (or indeed, DT’s discography) — but turns euphoric into more euphoric. From out of nowhere, comes a callback to the previous track on the album (the piano intro of Wait For Sleep) followed by some of the most emotional playing the band has done together (I will be the first one to say that DT is a band given to wankery, but when they decide to go melody, they fucking go melody). LaBrie lets out one last cameo, Myung lets us know how well he can play the bass, and then everyone joins in with throwaway riffs and fills. This song is an outlier in my list that it’s a fade-out rather than ending with a bang, but surely, by this time you’re not going to be pedantic. Take a bow, gentlemen. What a fine way to end a very, very fine album.
Outro begins: 8:11
#2: Opeth — Ghost of Perdition
This is my favourite song of all time. It just has everything — an astonishing intro that grabs you by jewels, a dark-to-light transition even seasoned Opeth fans couldn’t see coming, the best seconds harmony vox they ever did, all musicians shine, a sweeeeet guitar solo (my only complaint with this song is that the solo is too damn short)… And that outro.
By the time you get there, Opeth has already taken you on a journey that traverses astonishingly diverse terrain. The outro begins as aforementioned sweet solo ends — with Mike growling up a storm as one of the best throwaway riffs plays in the background, before heading into light when you least expect it, then dark again, then somehow both together. Somehow out of nowhere, another throwaway riff. And the track comes to a screeching halt. If you’re listening to the whole album, Ghost Reveries, of which this track is the opener, you’re barely given time before you’re thrown to The Baying Of The Hounds, another monster. Absolute pulse-racer, this.
Outro begins: 8:18
Before the top one, some honourable mentions:
- Alcest — Les Jardins De Minuit
- Blue Oyster Cult — Astronomy (Imaginos Version) — one of my favourite songs of all time.
- Tool — Vicarious
- The Beatles — I Want You (She’s So Heavy) — this is a cheeky ‘un ;)
Alright, here we go then. Strap in for this. Headphones on. Distraction-free, please. This deserves it.
#1: Cult of Luna — Cygnus (feat. Julie Christmas)
In 2019, when I was to go to Europe for a metal festival, I was already looking forward to a bunch of names. I mentioned on a festival forum my inclination was prog and prog-metal, and someone suggested I check out Cult of Luna. The band was described as post-metal, so I assumed a heavier version of God Is An Astronaut and the likes, which in itself didn’t seem like a bad thing at all, I quite like atmosphere and I quite like heavy — so mixing the two together seemed a cocktail I could down. Boy oh boy. I’ll write more about them later, but this one track!
Julie Christmas — an American singer who I admit I hadn’t heard before — collaborated with them for one excellent album. Adding female vocals to Johannes Persson’s guttural growls (CoL is not exactly what you might call elevator music) gave an exciting dimension to an already brutal sound.
This outro needs to be heard to be believed. No, experienced.
When it arrives, it comes as an astonishing resolution of a long, agonising ‘wait’ — that broody atmosphere which is signature of post-metal, just before you know things are going to explode. And explode this does. While Julie starts the song heavy, her performance at the end makes the initial bit seem like a pop single. Then she transitions into a chant, a callback to an earlier lyric, starting the outro proper, singing the same line over and over till it becomes hypnotic. Layer after layer just keeps getting added (this is a great headphone testing track) before Persson himself joins in, and just when you thought there was not scope for it to get heavier, it does. And again. And again. Till the track collapses under the might of its own awesomeness and ends. So much so that there’s a 35-second ‘fade out’. You’ll need that time to catch your breath. If you’ve got this far, you’re likely to have tears in your eyes, or a sprained neck. Possibly both.
Outro begins: 9:50
And there you have it! My top outros. I know, I know, I’ve missed out <insert your favourite Tool track> here. It’s okay. Don’t outrage. I called it ‘my favourite outros’ and not ‘THE DEFINITIVE BEST COLLECTION OF OUTROS OF ALL TIME EVER PAKKA PROMISE’. Please comment with your favourites.
And I’ll be doing more lists like this. Up next — favourite guitar solos, that’s gonna be a nice long one :)