Top 28 Darkest Songs of All Time

One of the best lists you folks compiled in a while, if we might add...

Ultimate Guitar

This week's traditional Wednesday Question saw the folks of UG community discussing the matter of the darkest songs ever made.

With close to 1,000 comments and plenty of votes, this turned out to be one of the strongest editions of WQ in a while.

Anyhow, all of your votes were neatly summed up into a lengthy Top 28 rundown that patiently awaits to be gazed upon below.

28. Frédéric Chopin - Funeral March (Piano Sonata No. 2)

Opening the list in a very fitting manner, you folks voted for the "Funeral March" or "Piano Sonata No. 2" by classical giant Frédéric Chopin.

Associated with death and of course funerals, this composition was even played at Chopin's own funeral on October 17, 1849 at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

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27. Opeth - Blackwater Park

You folks agreed that any tune off "Blackwater Park" album could work here, but ultimately went for the title track. Telling a gloomy story of a time infected by disease and perversions, this is indeed one dark composition.

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26. Giles Corey - No One Is Ever Going to Want Me

Gloomy and depressive, the Dan Barrett-led project Giles Corey is up next with "No One Is Ever Going to Want Me." UG user Stonesatreyu noted: "That album was written while he was extremely depressed and contemplating suicide, the screams on the title track are him suffocating in a plastic bag with pin pricks in it to limit oxygen to the brain, and a cloth wrapped round it to keep him in the darkness."

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25. Neurosis - Times of Grace

Post-metal champions Neurosis are up next with the title track of their sixth studio effort "Times of Grace." Marking the beginning of the group's collaboration with producer Steve Albini, this effort was crafted to be played alongside "Grace," an ambient companion by the band's alter-ego Tribes of Neurot.

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24. Erik Satie - Gnossienne No. 3

As another representative of dark classical music, Erik Satie is up next at No. 24 with "Gnossienne No. 3." Written in free time, these compositions mark one of the rare occasions where the composer used a brand new term to indicate a new type of composition.

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23. Meshuggah - Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion

Picking things up a notch, up next on the list is Meshuggah and "Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion" off 2012's "Koloss" album. The title is an excerpt from 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer, who said: "Revenge... is like a rolling stone, which, when a man hath forced up a hill, will return upon him with a greater violence, and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion."

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22. Portishead - Undenied

With their 1997 self-titled album, Portishead have delved into a much "darker, deeper and more disturbing" sonic realm. Representing that effort, you folks opted for "Undenied." Note that "Over" also fetched a solid amount of votes.

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21. Joy Division - The Eternal

You folks agreed that Joy Division's entire opus could work just fine here, but ultimately singled out "The Eternal." According to one of the explanations, "Ian Curtis wrote this about a mentally impaired boy who lived down the street from him when he was growing up. The boy was never allowed to leave his family's yard. Many many years later, Ian returned to the neighborhood to find that the boy was now a man, and was still confined to his family's yard. Ian was struck by the fact that this man's entire world was confined just to the yard, hence the song."

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20. Martin Grech - Open Heart Zoo

Written when Martin Grech was just 15 years old, "Open Heart Zoo" was featured in a Lexus ad. Standing out with distinctive falsetto vocals, this is a gloomy track indeed.

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19. Metallica - One

Inspired by "Johnny Got His Gun" movie, Metallica's "One" tells a story of a soldier losing all of his limbs and being unable to hear, speak, or see.

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18. Placebo - My Sweet Prince

According to Placebo frontman Brian Molko, "My Sweet Prince" focuses on two romances - one with drugs and one with a person, both of which end tragically. UG team's N-D noted: "It's about Brian Molko's ex-lover who tried (or even killed, sorry, I don't know) herself - and her last words she wrote on the mirror were 'My sweet prince'... Really haunting and grievous... In the rare moments when Placebo played that song live, Brian couldn't hold back his tears while singing... Real pain..."

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17. Storm Corrosion - Drag Ropes

Mr. Steven Wilson's work got quite a few mentions in the voting process, as his solo track "The Raven That Refused to Sing," as well as Porcupine Tree's "Heart Attack in a Layby" and "Sleep Together" also fetched a solid chunk of votes. However, it was "Drag Ropes," a tune by Wilson's collaboration with Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt known as Storm Corrosion, that made the list.

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16. Fantômas - Delìrium Còrdia

When you get Mike Patton, Dave Lombardo, Buzz Osborne and Trevor Dunn together, you get Fantômas. Their third studio album, "Delìrium Còrdia," features no lyrics and music entirely composed by Mr. Patton, and features a single 74-minute track. The theme - surgery without anesthesia.

A quote on the label backcard reads: "Like the surgeon, the composer slashes open the body of his fellow man, removes his eyes, empties his abdomen of organs, hangs him up on a hook holding up to the light all of the body's palpitating treasures sending a burst of light into its innermost depths."

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15. Rezső Seress - Gloomy Sunday (Hungarian Suicide Song)

Up next, the song that drives people to commit suicide - the "Gloomy Sunday" or the "Hungarian Suicide Song." Composed by Rezső Seress back in '30s, the song was linked with at least 19 suicides. Ultimately, the composer also took away his own life in 1968. An English version of the song was recorded by Billie Holiday, and banned by the BBC for "being detrimental to wartime morale."

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14. Sunn O))) - Big Church (megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért)

Appropriately described by Mr. Humr as "creepy as hell," Sunn O))) is up next with "Big Church."

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13. Bohren & Der Club of Gore - Maximum Black

Coming from Germany, Bohren & Der Club of Gore play the so-called dark jazz. N-D noted: "Really slow, viscous, minimalistic but really atmospheric dark music... Their album 'Black Earth' is one of the darkest albums ever for me. So to nominate only one song I choose 'Maximum Black' - even its title is already dark. Just feel it:"

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12. The Cure - One Hundred Years

While "Disintegration" also gained a decent chunk of votes, "One Hundred Years" gets to represent The Cure on this rundown. As Humr nicely pointed out, "If a song that begins with the line 'It doesn't matter if we all die' isn't dark, then nothing is." An interesting interpretation from the web reads: "Firstly, you have to bare in mind that so many of the songs on 'Pornography' were so psychedelically drug-fuelled, lacking in context, often attempting to merely sound dark and depressing for the sake of it - and often meaningless in reality. R. Smith said himself that he wanted to album to sound 'virtually unbearable.'

"My interpretation of the song is, taking the name literally - 'One Hundred Years' - it's essentially about a century of bloodshed, bloodlust, anger, greed and darkness. All the downfalls of human nature and their consequences. The different stanzas could be seen as referring to a different period from the last century - 'Ambition in the back of black car' (which might be metaphorical), 'In a high building [office block] there is so much to do' - suicidal or terrorist connotations. 'Going home time, A story on the radio' - Returning from the meaningless job you hate, a short-lived break from harsh reality, and listening to the radio to hear the same awful news stories about war or suffering in the world - the insignificance of a working man's life in the modern day."

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11. A Perfect Circle - The Package

Coming from "Thirteenth Step," A Perfect Circle album dedicated to addiction and the 12-step program, "The Package" opens the album with the program's first step - admitting your addiction and weaknesses. Here's a neat interpretation: "The package is our addiction and the narrator says that 'Clever got me this far, Then tricky got me in\ meaning he used people to get his drugs.

"Then the narrator says 'Smile and drop the cliche 'Til you think I'm listening, Take just what I came for, Then I'm out the door again' meaning just shut the fuck up and give me what I came for. 'Lie to get what I came for, Lie to get just what I need, Lie to get what I crave, Lie and smile to get what's mine' the narrator says this is what he did to get his drugs: by lying.

"The narrator then gets aggressive and wants to feed his addiction by yelling 'Give this to me, Mine, mine, mine, Take what's mine, Mine, mine, mine, Take what's mine, Mine, mine, mine,' wanting his drugs back. This proves to us that he is weak to his addictions and needs help."

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10. Burzum - Dunkelheit

Described as one of the darkest songs in black metal, Burzum's "Dunkelheit" gets to crack the Top 10.

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9. Slipknot - Iowa

"Iowa" is a 15-minute mammoth piece by Slipknot about a fella who kills women and then does heinous things with their bodies.

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8. Pantera - Floods

Featuring what is universally acknowledged as one of Dimebag Darrell's greatest solo pieces, Pantera's "Floods" is about that flood that comes to wash us all away.

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7. Michael Andrews & Gary Jules ‎- Mad World (Tears for Fears cover)

Originally released by Tears for Fears in 1982, "Mad World" reached the new level of darkness when Michael Andrews and Gary Jules a got a hold of it for "Donnie Darko" soundtrack in 2001.

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6. Immortal Technique - Dance With the Devil

We'll just leave this explanation from PrimalScream91 here: "A song about a kid who wants to join a gang. Among other crimes, his final test is to take part in the gang rape and murder of a woman. Before he kills her, he removes the cover from her face and is repulsed to find that the woman in question is actually his mother, which leads him to commit suicide."

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5. Alice in Chains - Dirt

Epitomizing hatred, "Dirt" by Alice in Chains is up next...

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4. Radiohead - Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Supposedly inspired by 1991 novel "The Famished Road," "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" was described by frontman Thom Yorke as one of Radiohead's "saddest songs." He said: "'Street Spirit' is our purest song, but I didn't write it. It wrote itself. We were just its messengers. It's biological catalysts.

"It's core is a complete mystery to me. I wouldn't ever try to write something that hopeless. All of our saddest songs have somewhere in them at least a glimmer of resolve - 'Street Spirit' has no resolve. It is the dark tunnel without the light at the end.

"I detach my emotional radar from that song, or I couldn't play it. I'd crack. I'd break down on stage. That's why its lyrics are just a bunch of mini-stories or visual images as opposed to a cohesive explanation of its meaning. I used images set to the music that I thought would convey the emotional entirety of the lyric and music working together. That's what's meant by 'all these things are one to swallow whole'. I meant the emotional entirety, because I didn't have it in me to articulate the emotion. I'd crack.

"Our fans are braver than I to let that song penetrate them, or maybe they don't realize what they're listening to. They don't realize that 'Street Spirit' is about staring the fucking devil right in the eyes... and knowing, no matter what the hell you do, he'll get the last laugh.

"The devil really will get the last laugh in all cases without exception, and if I let myself think about that to long, I'd crack.

"It's why we play it towards the end of our sets. It drains me, and it shakes me, and hurts like hell every time I play it, looking out at thousands of people cheering and smiling, oblivious to the tragedy of it's meaning, like when you're going to have your dog put down and it's wagging it's tail on the way there. That's what they all look like, and it breaks my heart.

"I wish that song hadn't picked us as its catalysts, and so I don't claim it. It asks too much... I didn't write that song."

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3. Nirvana - Something in the Way

Homeless, rejected by family, and allegedly living under a bridge (which was later proven as myth), Kurt Cobain wrote "Something in the Way"...

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2. Nine Inch Nails - Hurt

The Johnny Cash rendition of "Hurt" also got a solid share of upvotes, but it's the original Nine Inch Nails version that triumphed, fetching Mr. Trent Reznor a silver medal for this week. Full of anger, remorse, darkness and self-loathing, this is probably the most personal song the man has ever crafted, as well as one of the most personal tunes ever. A work of art, you could say.

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1. Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath

"Black Sabbath" from "Black Sabbath" by Black Sabbath gets the gold this week as the darkest song of all time in the eyes of UG community. You folks also gave plenty of kudos to Type O Negative's version, check it out below.

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175 comments sorted by best / new / date

    If you're going to include Chopin, Prokofiev should get a spot.
    War Sonata No. 7 "Stalingrad", major chords and clusters are supposed to be the tanks entering and crushing the city and the accents in the bass, the bombs and tanks shooting.
    I'd put Street Spirit at number 1 every time. That "cracked eggs, dead birds" line is dark as fuck.
    That description Thom was quoted with, holy shit, I've never been a huge Radiohead fan, but always respected their process and style, but I remember in Highschool listening to Street Spirit on a whim on my buddies ipod. It hit really hard for me the first time I heard it, and it hits really hard now, still feels like all the air is getting slowly sucked out of the room when it's playing.
    Awesome to see Giles Corey on this list. The album suffers from it's reputation of being crushing and depressing when there is actually so much more to the album than that, it ends in quite an uplifting way and the songwriting throughout is second to none.
    Glad to joy division the eternal and some burzum but something by cough really needs to be on here
    Would've nominated some Lifelover if I had been able to. Mental Central Dialog or Twitch are pretty dark.
    I didnt read the entries but I really expected to see a Warning song. But maybe it's not 'Dark', more depressing.
    Anything Patrick Walker touches is as dark and moving as anything wound can be. 40 Watt Sun - Restless, Carry Me Home Warning - Watching From A Distance, Footprints
    GY!BE/sleep is the darkest song in the history of mankind
    I love Godspeed, F#A#Infinity is pretty dark too or Yanqui U.X.O. But yeah "they don't sleep on the beaches anymore"... Also after reading this list half of it is kind of just a yawn compared to all the black metal/death metal out there. But i think this list could have also used some dark ambient/industrial music similar to Juno Reactors "Luciana" or some Nocturnal Emissions etc.
    Really surprised nothing from Scott Walker made it on here. His song "Jesse" from The Drift is spooky and demented as all get out. Gives me the creeps.
    I would have put some Dir en grey on here. Kyo's lyrics are often sickeningly and shockingly dark (with such gems as "I'll rape your daughter on your grave" and "One day I will fuck your parents"), and their recent ventures into more extreme forms of metal certainly helps as well. I feel like "One" should have been higher up on the list, but that's just me.
    Totally agree. At some point, it's like they've made a commitment to make their sound and looks as dark as possible, even power ballads like "Ain't afraid to die" are very atmospheric and gloomily dark. But I wonder what would be the darkest Dir en grey song ever, Vanitas and Bottom of the death valley just popped up in my mind, what do you suggest?
    My vote goes for "Embryo" for the lyrical darkness alone: (Source: Wikipedia) "The album version depicts an overtly explicit scenario of the protagonist being raped by its father and carrying his child while Mother looks on from Heaven." Yep.
    WOW!! I've never really paid much attention to the lyrics of Embryo, this whole theme made me quiver. BTW, this is maybe the fourth time I see your mentioning of Dir en grey, I'm starting to worry that there's someone in this world is more Diru fanatic than me
    I'm merely a fan of their music and art, as I am with lots of other bands. There are people out there that need to know what Kyo ate for breakfast this morning and actually give a fuck what they're wearing nowadays. And I have a harder time with their original "visual kei" style, mostly because J-rock on its own isn't really my thing. I just happen to love what Dir en grey has evolved into. That being said, I've reviewed a bunch of their albums. I remember originally giving Uroboros a rather low score, which is funny because it quickly became one of my favourite metal albums of all time.
    MaxLees666 · May 28, 2016 08:04 PM
    Admittedly, I chose some bad lyrical examples, but those were the first ones that popped into my head (since they sing mostly in Japanese, it's hard to think of any other lyrics I could add). They do write more deep, thoughtful, poetic dark lyrics, though. Check out "Vinushka" from "Uroboros". It doesn't have any "shock value" lyrics, and it's just good ol' dark poetry. And I'd say those kind of lyrics, rather than my examples, are more the rule than the exception.
    Manic Street Preachers "Holy Bible" album is up there with Joy Division and Nirvana.
    No Korn Daddy?
    "Daddy" gathered a lot of votes, but it took only 31st place. And sorry for posting this as a reply, but I just wanted to share the rest of the list (songs which also gathered a lot of upvotes) - maybe it'll help someone who also like dark music to discover more great tracks: Massive Attack - "Butterfly Caught" [or "Angel" and "False Flags" too] Suicide - "Frankie Teardrop" Korn - "Daddy" Chelsea Wolfe - "Carrion Flowers" Matt Elliott - "The Kursk" Bauhaus - "Bela Lugosi's Dead" Depeche Mode - "Little 15" Megadeth - "In My Darkest Hour" Blut Aus Nord - "Procession of the Dead Clowns" Rammstein - "Mein Herz Brennt (Piano Version)" Dinosaur Jr. - "Poledo" Pink Floyd - "Goodbye Blue Sky" Slint - "Don, Aman" Eminem - "Stan" [and "Kim" too] Steven Wilson - "The Raven That Refused to Sing" Frédéric Chopin - "Prelude Op.28 No.20 in C Minor" [performed by Ivo Pogorelich] Converge - "You Fail Me" Tool - "Sober" The Smiths - "Last Night I Dreamed That Somebody Loved Me" The Third Eye Foundation - "Still Life" The Doors - "The End" Ministry - "Filth Pig" Queen - "I'm Going Slightly Mad" Krzysztof Penderecki - "Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima" Mazzy Star - "Into Dust" Porcupine Tree - "Sleep Together" Mad Season - "Wake Up" Today Is The Day - "Temple of the Morning Star (Acoustic)" Simon & Garfunkel - "The Sound of Silence" David Gals - "Dead Days" Stalaggh - "Projekt Misanthropia" Bethlehem - "Schuld Uns'res Knöch'rigen Faltpferd's" Gustav Mahler - "Das Lied von der Erde" Aphex Twin - "Come to Daddy" Mark Lanegan - "One Hundred Days" Leonard Cohen - "Avalache" Diamanda Galas - "Gloomy Sunday" Katatonia - "Departer" Modest Mussorgsky - "Night On Bald Mountain" 16 Horsepower - "Harm's Way" Celtic Frost - "Synagoga Satanae" Soundgarden - "Head Down" Gary Numan - "A Prayer For The Unborn" Lou Reed - "Perfect Day" Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - "Water's Edge" Morbid Angel - "At One With Nothing" Silencer - "Death - Pierce Me" Sigur Rós - "Fyrsta" Elliott Smith - "King's Crossing" Tom Waits - "How's It Gonna End" Oxbow - "S Bar X" Thirty Ought Six - "Shut" Live - "The Dam at Otter Creek" Skepticism - "The Organium" Sorry for the long list again but I hope it'll be useful.
    Wow, my vote for Gary Numan made it into the (albeit extensive) runners up list! Pleasantly surprised by that, good to know!
    I would have went for Sterile Nails and Thunderbowels for a Silencer suggestion and The March and The Stream for Skepticism. That song is so personal to them they requested that Tyranny's cover be left off their tribute album and in the liner notes of Lead And Aether, the track is dedicated so someone named Iia (1976-1996). 20 years old when they died.
    Thanks for the expansion. I highly suggest people check out Brand New's Limousine. It didn't make this list but is truly dark... It's a song about a tragedy on Long Island where an ex-marine was driving drunk and t-boned a limo. It was a wedding party, and the only person that was hurt was the 7 year-old flower girl. She was decapitated.
    Thanks man. I added as many tracks as I could to this playlist on Tidal. I think only 4-5 tracks are missing from your list and the list from above. 138
    Was Parkway Drive - The River also on this list? this is also quite a dark song.
    Im surprised threnody to the victims of hiroshima didn't get picked for top 28, i didn't even vote for this but that song is pretty freakin dark and chaotic, along with most others in that dissonant classical vein.
    It might have been nominated too many times to get enough votes on any one of them, but I'm pretty sure that the first one had more votes than some of these.
    Great list! I'm glad to see "Black Sabbath" at #1. So many bands and artists have tried to emulate the tone of this song over the last four and half decades but no one's quite done it. It's also awesome to see The Cure on here... The whole album trilogy of Pornography, Disintegration and Bloodflowers is some of the darkest rock-based music ever written.
    Have you ever watched the Trilogy Tour DVD? They play all 3 of those albums in chronological order, it's a great spectacle.
    Solid list and enjoyably versatile. Sad to see no Deftones song on here, though. "Pink Maggit" is still the most eerie tone I have ever heard, even after checking out all songs here I didn't know.
    Surprised this wasn't mentioned on Wednesday's page.
    I missed the deadline for this, but I'd have gone for Type O Negative - Bloody Kisses...A Death in the Family. Good shout whoever suggested Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds too.
    Honestly surprised that Soundgarden's "Fourth of July" didn't make it in the comments. (from at least what I've seen). The low tone, distorted guitar and bass in the beginning sounds everso dooming. Lyrics are a masterpiece and the line "Down in the hole, Jesus tries to crack a smile... beneath another shovel load" haunts me every time.
    Here's a cool video of Geezer and Tony telling the story of the black sabbath riff from the classic albums: paranoid documentary
    I think Darkness Within by Machine Head should have been on here. Great list though.
    shit! how did i forget about that song. Man that tune helped me through some very turbulent times indeed. Possibly my favourite song off "Locust"
    Might not be one of the darkest songs ever, but Fiona Apple's cover of Pure Imagination is worth a mention. Then there's Dealers of Fame, Hush Yael and The Family Ruin, all by Oh Sleeper. Those songs are extremely dark, especially since the first two are based off real things.
    You guys put the wrong Chopin piece, it was Prelude No. 20, not funeral march
    Just to add some songs in: A Lot Like Birds - Kuroi Ledge Icarus The Owl - Pilot Waves Mastodon - Crack The Skye Kuroi Ledge is about someone jumping off a balcony and the thoughts going through their head leading up to it and during the act. Pilot Waves tells the story of someone leaving the singer on bad terms, only to get into a horrific car accident. Crack The Skye is about Brann's sister, who killed herself when he was a young teenager, and him pleading with the devil to give her back.
    I would add Queens of the Stone Age - The Sky Is Fallin'
    I listened it a lot when I was depressed so I'm a bit biased.
    I was really hoping for at least one country song on this list. Goddamn UG users, expand your horizons a bit. Bringing Mary Home (Red Sovine) I'd be Better Off in a Pine Box (Doug Stone) He Stopped Loving Her Today I'm No Stranger to the Rain (Keith Whitley) Whiskey Lullaby That's some dark, dark shit right there
    I already nominated 16 Horsepower, dark/funeral country band and their song "Harm's Way". Anyway, good list, thanks for mentioning it!
    You know, a couple of hours after posting my suggestions, I thought of the saddest song I've ever heard, "David" by Cody Jinks. I don't know if I'd have ever nominated it because it's so obscure that there's almost no chance anybody else would have heard it, but if you want to hear a sad sequence-of-events narrative in song, give "David" a listen. A truly devastating but undeniably moving song.
    Just checking it - thank you! Uplifting melody is contrasts with emotion in lyrics - good stuff, thank you!..
    C'mon there is hip hop and classical music on this list, no need for more expanded horizons. It's just that if you don't post your nomination during first 30 minutes you don't have a chance to have your song on the list
    In other news, Hillary Clinton has penis envy.
    I've discovered way more great songs/bands from the results of UG's weekly Wednesday question than any YouTube or Spotify suggestion could ever give me!! Thanks people
    These artists included in this top 28 are rather popular. I'm surprised that people actually discover something here. Oh wait, it's UG. Lol.
    Yeah, because we all know the most interesting, hip and underground music have a lot going for it. Like being featured in a fucking Starbucks commercial. You, sir, can lick a fun box.
    You, sir, have provided me with much amusement with that reply. I love these 'too cool for school' wankers who get their music elitist hats on given the tiniest chance. Not normally one for online abuse but yeah, Shaico, you can go lick a chocolate starfish once you're done with the fun box.
    Undertaker still has the greatest version of the Funeral March.
    I know everyone on ultimate guitar loves metal and metal rules!! \m/, but what about Kim by Eminem?! That song is pretty freaking dark too!
    i lost what little respect i had for him after he went and remarried that bitch after talking all that shit
    I am pretty sure I read somewhere that Pantera - floods is about Phils drug addiction
    A song that I find really dark is I Can't Take It by Tegan and Sara. You can feel the heartbreak poor little Sara was feeling when she penned the piece.
    Dirt? seriously, even Nutshell would be darker than that
    nutshell is fucking awesome but listen to the second verse of dirt again and tell me thats not some of the darkest shit youve ever heard
    not gonna argue that but I think has a darker feeling, more sorrow. Dirt feels more aggresive