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Unplugged & Akustik

When Metal Bands Pull The Plug: Unplugged And Acoustic Projects

Image: Disturbed [YouTube]

We all love the powerful guitar riffs and thunderous drum beats that make up metal and rock. That's why our favorite bands sound so very different when they suddenly put away the electric guitar and reach for the acoustic guitar. Today we dive into the world of the most famous unplugged and acoustic projects!

There are quite a few bands that have released at least one acoustic album in their history. What's more, the versions are also played live and fill entire halls with enthusiastic audiences. And that's despite the fact that metalheads are said to always make their music sound loud and brutal. So let's take a look at how popular unplugged versions really are in the metal and rock scene.

The History Of Unplugged And Acoustic Projects: Rock Bands Are Leading The Way

The first acoustic and unplugged versions in the history of rock have had a significant impact on the world of music. Bands like Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles began performing and recording their songs in acoustic versions in the 1960s and 1970s. These albums not only changed the sound of music, but also the way audiences perceived it.

A notable example is the 1970 album Led Zeppelin III, which contains a large number of acoustic songs such as "Gallows Pole" and "Tangerine". Although the album initially received mixed reviews, it became a classic over time and achieved high sales numbers.

Another legendary unplugged album is Stripped by The Rolling Stones from 1995, featuring acoustic versions of some of their hits, including "Angie." The album was highly praised by critics and reached high chart positions worldwide. It showed that the Stones could be successful not only as a loud rock band, but also convince in an intimate and acoustic setting.

The Beatles also made an important contribution to the development of the unplugged music style with their 1968 album The Beatles (also known as The White Album). It contains songs like "Blackbird" and "Julia" that are dominated by acoustic guitars. The album was a great commercial success and enthusiastically received by fans. The tracks revealed that the Beatles could write not only catchy pop hits, but also intimate and emotional songs.

Since then, many metal and rock bands have released unplugged albums as well as acoustic versions and sung their way into the hearts of their audiences. It was only in 2015 that the song cover "The Sound Of Silence" by the otherwise very hard metal band Disturbed from the USA became known worldwide. Through this version, the prejudice that metal singers can't sing was dispelled once and for all. The original was written by the duo Simon and Garfunkel and was released in 1964.


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What Is The Difference Between Acoustic And Unplugged?

The two terms are usually used in the same context, because at first glance they seem to have the same meaning. However, there are some differences between acoustic and unplugged songs.

"Unplugged" refers to a type of live performance in which the artists amplify their instruments electronically, but do not use any type of electronic effects or amplifiers. This means that the music is presented in its purest form, without any technical support. The term "unplugged" became popular in the 1990s, when MTV hosted a series of unplugged concerts in which well-known artists presented their hits in acoustic form. These performances were often more intimate and offered the audience a chance to experience the songs in a new way.

The term "acoustic", on the other hand, refers to a specific type of music in which the instruments are played primarily acoustically, without electronic amplification. Acoustic songs can be presented live or in studio recordings and refer to the way the music is produced. However, unlike unplugged performances, acoustic songs may use electronic effects or amplification to enhance the sound or create certain moods.

The Most Famous MTV Unplugged Concerts Of All Time

MTV Unplugged concerts have produced some of the most iconic performances in music history over the years. While the format was originally intended for acoustic performances, metal and rock bands have also taken the stage to present their unique interpretations of their hits. Here are some of the most famous MTV Unplugged concerts by metal and rock bands:

1. Nirvana (1993): Nirvana's performance at MTV Unplugged in 1993 is considered one of the best and most influential in the format's history. The band presented their songs as well as cover versions in an intimate atmosphere, trading their loud and distorted guitars for acoustic instruments. Their performances of "About a Girl", "All Apologies" and especially "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" are legendary and show the band from their most vulnerable side. The concert was recorded and is now celebrating its 25th anniversary, which is why a brand new version of the album MTV Unplugged In New York was released. The performance took place just a few months before the tragic death of Kurt Cobain. It was only after this incident that the album was released in 1994.

2. Die Toten Hosen (2005): Popular German bands such as Die Toten Hosen have also taken part in MTV Unplugged. The concert was an absolute highlight in the career of the punk rock band. It took place in Vienna's Burgtheater, where the group was accompanied by strings, brasses and other instruments. By the way, frontman Campino found it extremely difficult to stay seated for the duration of the performance, as per MTV Unplugged rules. That's why he can be seen half-sitting on a box in the recordings, which was offered to him as a compromise. Shortly before the final song, the musicians were introduced to the sounds of "Eisgekühlter Bommerlunder" (Ice-Cooled Bommerlunder). Classics like "Hier kommt Alex" and the Ramones cover "Blitzkrieg Bop" were not to be missed either.

3. Korn (2006): One of the most famous nu-metal bands surprised its fans with an MTV Unplugged concert in 2006. The group presented its energetic songs in a completely new way. Especially the duet of Korn singer Jonathan Davis with Evanescence singer Amy Lee will probably be remembered by the fans forever. Another highlight was the performance of "Make Me Bad" and "In Between Days" together with Robert Smith of The Cure. This was also an unforgettable moment for Davis, as he himself listened to The Cure's music back in his school days!


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One Song, Two Interpretations

Bands often reinterpret their own songs and release them as acoustic versions. This is what Machine Head did, for example, with their song "Darkness Within," which was released in 2011 on the album Unto the Locust as both a metal plank and an acoustic version. The hardcore group Stick To Your Guns also released the track "We Still Believe" as a metal track on their record Diamond and additionally included it as an acoustic song on the limited edition version. Just recently, a new version of the song "Dying to Believe" by the American nu-metal band Papa Roach was released. In 2022 the original song was released on the album Ego Trip, and now the song has been released in an acoustic version with a music video!


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In the end, it's clear: Metalheads and rockers completely embrace the heartwarming unplugged shows and the goosebumps you get when performing an acoustic song on the big stage.

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