Queen

The Prophet's Song

Composed by Brian May / Queen

Song Review by

"Bohemian Rhapsody" may be the best known epic from A Night At The Opera but that album features another epic that is just as fascinating: "The Prophet’s Song" is a mystical rocker that manages to sustain its eight-plus minute length with a combination of strong riffs and a complex arrangement. The lyrics were inspired by a long stay Brian May underwent due to hepatitis in 1974. During this time, he had some bizarre fever-induced dreams that inspired him to create a lyric about someone who is tormented by a dream of a prophet foretelling the end of humanity: "I dreamed I saw on a moonlit stair/Spreading his hand on the multitude there/A man who cried for a love gone stale/And ice-cold hearts of charity bare." The combination of Shakespearean phrasing and raw emotions make it a lyric that is powerful and hallucinatory all at once. The music behind these lyrics is appropriately dramatic, contrasting dark verse melodies that slowly crawl up to an intense peak with a stately, sing-along chorus. Queen’s recording of "The Prophet’s Song" takes its spooky atmosphere even further with a multi-part arrangement that lends a cinematic feel to the piece: after an atmospheric instrumental intro played by May on the koto (a Japanese string instrument), acoustic guitar riffs lead into a heavy midtempo piece nudged along by heavy guitar riffs worthy of Black Sabbath. Freddie Mercury delivers the lyrics in a suitably operatic style and the group sweetens the sound with lush, airy vocal harmonies, including a dramatic accapella section where complex, interweaved overdubs create intensely swirling ‘rounds’ of vocals. There is also an epic guitar break where Brian May blends several guitar lines into an orchestral tidal wave of sound. This fascinating arrangement makes the song a true tour-de-force and allows "The Prophet’s Song" to stand alongside "Bohemian Rhapsody" as one of Queen’s finest studio achievements.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
A Night at the Opera 1975 Virgin EMI
The Crown Jewels 1998 Hollywood 8:19
Queen 40 Limited Edition Collector's Box Set 2011 Hollywood Records (UK) 8:21
40, Vol. 1 2011 Hollywood 8:20
An Evening at the Concert Hall 2012
The Studio Collection 2015 Virgin EMI 8:21
blue highlight denotes editor's pick