As promised last week, I've taken it upon myself to showcase some of the best "dark ballads" from Central and Eastern Europe to have graced the contest and its national finals since Eurovision welcomed its first Eastern European nations two decades ago. What do I mean by a "dark ballad"? One that doesn't employ a conventional ballad formula or chord progression, is musically complex (often linear and building to a powerful dramatic climax), and is low on artifice, high on gravitas and strong emotion. I was going to start with Rona, as her entry exemplifies all of the above and is recent and well-known, but screw that, we're diving in at the deep end - I'm opening this article with the primary reason I wrote it in the first place.

1. Diona Dimm Team - Oče (Father) (Slovenian NF 2007)

Diona Dimm Team (unusual name, great group) are vocalist and songwriter Ana Soklič, pianist Gašper Kačar and producer and multi-instrumentalist Bojan Simončič. I don't go in for "hyperbowl", as Natasha Bedingfield would put it, but in my opinion, this is not only the greatest piece of music to ever appear in a national selection, but in the vast world of Eurovision as a whole. (At least out of everything that I've heard, which is more than the average bear.) Raw, emotionally bare, a musical open wound - Oče is all of that and more, and Ana's vocal performance is simply out of this world. Her rich dramatic contralto injects tremendous darkness and emotion into this powerful, unsettling ballad. Is she singing of her loss and anger at being abandoned by her father, or by God? The lyrics are deliberately ambiguous. Grief, longing, fury, unrequitedness - it's all there.

Competing in the first of two semifinals in EMA 2007, the Slovenian national selection, Oče received precisely 672 televotes to finish 11th out of 12 songs, thus exiting the competition. Alenka Gotar's Cvet z juga qualified in 4th place and went on to win the final two nights later, beating a few other great songs in the process, like Eva Cerne's brilliant Čudeži smehljaja (which deserves to be up there with Hera Björk's Someday and Saša Lendero's Mandoline as a schlager classic) and Steffy & Donald Trumpet's Zadel si me v živo, in what was probably the last good EMA.

(Oče was also beaten in the semifinal by this tinny yet enjoyable ditty, which qualified in 5th place despite shamelessly ripping off two of the previous year's Eurovision songs. The first person to correctly tell me which two Eurovision 2006 songs sexy Sebastian is plagiarising in the comments section below wins Beovizija 2008 on CD. Assuming you even want that.)

Since EMA 2007, both Oče and Ana herself have sadly remained near-completely unknown - in the Eurovision community, in Slovenia, and in general. In a 2007 OGAE Germany publication reviewing the year's national finals, Bernd Korpasch dismissed the song in the most scathing and ignorant terms - superficially criticising Ana's "very deep, very unpleasant" voice and her dress (because of course, it's all about the dress) and labelling the song a "horror show" performed by "a personification of death from a third-class horror film". (Don't make me fetch Ott's nozzle. This is the type of "criticism" that isn't remotely worthy of the word and that speaks for itself.) Ana herself - a professionally trained singer who studied under Darja Švajger among others - remained obscure in her home country until 2012, when she finished 5th in the debut Slovenian series of X Factor, competing in the Over 21s category. She should have been judging the thing. (She should be judging all of humanity and casting people like Bernd Korpasch into a fiery pit.) The above clip wasn't even online any more, and hadn't been for years, until I went to the trouble of ordering the first semifinal of EMA 2007 on DVD from a specialist supplier so I could upload the song and write this piece. This act of curation, of the preservation of great art, reflects how much I love Ana and this song.

Great dark ballads often have a theme of loss conveyed dramatically by the performer, but what really takes them above and beyond is an element of anger mixed in with this loss - something Rona realised between winning Festivali i Këngës and performing in Baku, and something Ana provides in bucketloads as Oče builds to a stunning climax. To me, this song stands with Lisa Gerrard's Persephone (The Gathering Of Flowers) as one of the most profound pieces of music of all time. The world needs this piece of music. The world needs Ana Soklič's voice.

2. Kasia Kowalska - Chcę znać swój grzech (I Want To Know My Sin) (Poland 1996)

Quite a mouthful that one, at least for those not familiar with Polish pronunciation. (Free classes will be provided round the back of the bike sheds after the article. Please wear goggles and protective clothing; no liability can be assumed for participants injured by stray consonant clusters expelled at excess velocity.) The title means "I want to know my sin", and by the end of it, you certainly znasz all about Kasia's grzech. What an incredible vocal. Not only is Chcę znać swój grzech about as rich, complex, tender and impassioned as ballads get, it's also a great argument for the return of the orchestra - listen to those sumptuous strings, the graceful oboe, the wistful piano. The song wouldn't be the same without them.

Kasia is one of Poland's greatest female singers and has had an amazing career over the past two decades. I particularly recommend her debut album Gemini, the standout track of which is this near-10-minute blues piece in English. Next time you're at the grzech-out and you hear the till go beep, think of the fun you could be having on Kasia Kowalska Sweep.

3. Slobodan Trkulja - Nebo (Serbian NF 2007)

This is the song that Molitva beat to win Beovizija 2007, before going on to deservedly win Eurovision 2007. To my sheer delight and in a brilliant decision by RTS, it then returned as the interval act in the first semifinal of Eurovision the following year, bringing it to a much wider audience. I don't have much to add on this one - its brilliance speaks for itself. While I obviously love Zeljko, and a strong case could in fact be made for including all four Eurovision zeljkoballads (Lane moje, Lejla, Oro and  Nije ljubav stvar) in this article, Nebo is better. It's the kind of piece you imagine being sung by the Serbian monks in the monasteries of the Fruška Gora mountains.

4. Alyosha - Sweet People (Ukraine 2010)

After the unprecedentedly discotastic triple whammy of Verka Serduchka, Ani Lorak and Svetlana Loboda in 2007-9 (not to mention Ruslana and Tina Karol in the years before), we were all expecting big things from the Ukraine in 2010. How do you top comedy drag, disco divas and thrusting musclebound gladiators in giant hamster wheels? The answer: you can't, so you don't try. Instead, Ukraine took the wise and brave step of swapping the comedy mask for the tragedy one by choosing a song just as brilliant as its predecessors but completely opposite in tone. As a last-minute replacement for some bald guy whose internal selection by Ukrainian state TV was suspected to be corrupt, Alyosha certainly delivered, but in a way nobody expected from the country. In a weak semifinal filled with derivative gubbins from arsehole to breakfast time, her powerful rock vocal and expressive, stripped-back performance were the high point of the evening - just as they were in the final two days later. And nary a buff centurion in sight.

5. Dida Drăgan - Blestem (The Curse) (Eurovision 1993 semifinal, Romania; performed out of competition)

If Dida Drăgan had performed this as her competition song in Kvalifikacija za Millstreet, she'd surely have qualified - or at least I'd like to think so. Blestem is pure theatre and boasts a bewitching and eerie performance and vocal. The overall effect is of a woman caught in a dramatic tempest, with the ominous rolling piano almost representing squalls of rain.

6. Rona Nishliu - Suus (Personal) (Albania 2012)

Suus had such an impact and is still so fresh in everyone's minds that not much needs to be written about it. Suffice to say, it significantly raised the bar for dark ballads at Eurovision, while also proving they can do very well indeed in the 50%-jury era. Composed and orchestrated by Florent Boshnjaku, this song is simply world-class - as is Rona - and I'm so pleased that not only did it win Festivali i Këngës and qualify from its semifinal, it came 5th in the final, 3rd in the jury vote, and found a legion of fans the world over. (Check out the many covers on Youtube.) Shaving over a minute off the song's running time without compromising its integrity or musical narrative was always going to be tricky, but Boshnjaku pulled off this feat with aplomb, with the result that the Eurovision audience was treated to a concise three-minute version of arguably even greater intensity than the original. That said, the full version (above) represents the definitive Suus - and it's yet another great argument for the return of the orchestra.

7. Zsuzsa Antal & Fishers Company - Falak között (Between Walls) (Hungarian NF 2008)

This isn't a song you necessarily "get" the first time you hear it - I certainly didn't. But listen a couple more times and it unlocks, revealing a beautiful, complex, intricately constructed musical narrative that's much less austere than it first appears. Backed by cello, piano, flute and percussion, Zsuzsa Antal's operatic mezzo-soprano takes the listener on a truly magical and distinctly Hungarian journey. Outstanding. How this finished 4th behind Czésy's pleasant but generic Disney ballad is beyond me.

I realise upon concluding this piece that it's been the final part in my trilogy on the artistic, serious side of Eurovision that began with From Schlager To Serious (my opening Fellowship Of The Ring but with fewer elves) and continued with 50 Shades Of Ott (my lightweight Two Towers but with more cock jokes). Thanks for joining me - I hope you've enjoyed reading this series (and listening to the songs) as much as I've enjoyed writing it. All that remains for me to say is: for all the blinkered, xenophobic carping about Eastern European entries and "block voting" that persists to this day in Western Europe, and that fails to take cultural, historical and geopolitical realities into account, it can't be denied that our Slavic, Baltic, Uralic, Romanian and Shqip neighbours have significantly improved the overall artistic quality of the contest (as well as making for a far more interesting national final season). It's no coincidence that I couldn't think of a single Western European "dark ballad" of comparable quality to include in this piece, and that the countries the above songs originate from form a contiguous belt. Less than twenty years on from the first Eastern European entrants, Eurovision would be nothing without Eastern Europe - its composers, musicians, singers, its cultural and artistic heritage. I'm proud to hold my glass of chai aloft and say: here's to the next twenty years!

Follow Eurovicious on Twitter - @eurovicious