Many metalheads that I know of are not really fond of the genre I’m going to talk about. They believe symphony doesn’t have a lot to do with Metal. So, I decided to do this article to show that the mix between symphony and Metal can produce such a great harmony. Let me tell you more about this amazing genre; Symphonic metal.
For those who don’t know about Symphonic Metal, let me tell you about it. Symphonic Metal is a genre of metal, accompanied with different elements of music similar to classic orchestras or symphonies. They are mostly known for their classical themes and their female vocalists.
As for genres, there are many different sub genres of symphonic metal, let me name some: Power, Black, Death, Progressive, Operatic, Gothic and others. But the main three are Black, Power and Gothic. These three are how symphonic bands are categorized.
Usually in Metal tracks, we hear the normal instruments such as guitars, bass, and drums. But as for Symphonic Metal tracks some instruments were added, to give that feeling of a musical symphony, such as Keyboards, which play the most important role in the music, and tend to have the most complex, difficult part in any classical track- cellos, violins, flutes, and other classic instruments. Some bands could just use a keyboard to do all the classical parts. Others could use real instruments in recording or even getting an orchestra live!
Lyrics of Symphonic Metal are highly expansive, covering a wide range of topics. They often have a scent of fantasy, or dramatic themes. Epics are considered to be the most used of a symphonic metal track.
Also bands in Symphonic Metal tend to have female vocalists. Female figures with their operatic voice, give a symphonic feeling. Those female vocalists of the best Symphonic Metal bands tend to sing mezzo-soprano melodies. And who would be a better example than Sharon Den Adel, “Within Temptation’s” vocalist? With her high-pitched voice, and operatic style, this band broke all the boundaries known for a symphonic metal band!
Other bands with male vocalists usually fall into symphonic black and symphonic death metal, such as “Wintersun”, “Anorexia Nervosa”, “Lux Occulta” “Crimson Moonlight” and others.
These were the characteristics; let’s now talk about the genres and the bands!
I guess that genre speaks for itself! It is pure symphony mixed with metal. Not black, not power, and not death, just symphony, few bands stick to this genre. The first pure symphonic band is “Dunwich” formed in 1985 from Italy. The last known line up for the band was Claudio Nigris, who was the composer and the keyboardist, and Francesca Naccarelli who was the vocalist. The last album they released was in 2008 and called “Heilagmanoth”.
One of the very, very interesting bands that appeared in 1991 and still alive is “Haggard”. However they started as a death metal band, but later transformed into symphonic metal as they developed. They have a very interesting line up consisting of 16 members! Starting normally from drums and bass, till violin, cello and piccolo. Let alone 2 soprano vocals!
“Haggard”, as I have been told are famous here in Egypt, for their pure symphonic style. Two songs of which I heard were “De La Morte Noire” and “The Observer”, and I was stunned. If you haven’t heard them yet, I guarantee you a great piece of art.
Later on, in 1993, another band came out from Czech Republic called “Interitus”. This band, apart from “Dunwich” showed a new meaning of symphony. In addition to their female vocal, they had 3 violin players, to give a classical feeling in recorded and live concerts.
In the past couple of years-starting from 2006 till now, many symphonic bands appeared, and most of them made sure to have a female as a vocalist. Some of them are “Inopia”, “Scarlet heart memory”- which is male solo project – “Underverse” and “Whyzdom”.
Symphonic Power Metal:
Symphonic power metal could also be known as epic symphonic metal. It usually doesn’t come with this name only, but it is also associated with other sub genres, as gothic symphonic power metal, melodic symphonic power metal, symphonic progressive power metal and more! What differentiates them from other symphonic metal bands is that they have an extensive usage of keyboards or classical instruments in a melodic way, and very high operatic vocals. Most of the symphonic power metal bands are European.
In almost all the symphonic power metal tracks I heard, the lyrics had a story in beneath. Many lyrical themes, almost too many to list!
Of course, when we name power metal we should recall “Nightwish” the prototypical symphonic power metal band. They started in 1996 from Finland and produced their very first album “Angels fall first”. As per Tim Pigeon, a reviewer from metalreviews.com: “Nightwish play bombastic, symphonic power metal that is distinguished by Tarja’s operatic voice and a heavy reliance on keyboards”. One of the greatest songs by Tarja Turunen that could illustrate the genre well is “Ghost Love Score” from the album “Once”, released in 2004. Later on, Tarja was replaced with Anette Olzen in 2005, and also produced a very beautiful song that would come to be another example of the genre called “The Poet and the Pendulum” from the album “Dark Passion Play” -2007- “These songs follow the epic scope and extended formal characteristic of power metal while making extensive use of orchestral elements”- Wikipedia.
The first Symphonic Power Metal band was in fact Symphonic Progressive Power Metal band, named “Exawatt” formed back in 1991 in Italy. Their first album entitled after their name was released in 1995 which was a demo. Their first full-length album was in 2005 and called “Time Frames” which made a great smash hit in the metal world.
As I searched for symphonic power metal bands, I was surprised to see the Egyptian band “Redeemers” in almost all the search results as they played power metal. “Redeemers” was formed in 2001 having the theme of warriors and fantasies. The vocal has a great operatic voice and they have a great usage of keyboards which gives you a feeling of the old ages. Their songs are sung in a conversational way with the music in the background to travel with your ear back in time!
Later on, in the 2000’s hundreds of bands appeared, especially from Europe, but they didn’t really concentrate on having a female vocal, the music was what mattered. “Ante Mortem” “Beyond the Forest”, “Epica”, “Red Dawn”, “Silver Claw”, “Versailles” and dozens of others who decided to follow the symphonic power metal style!
Black Metal fans, I think you may like the upcoming part. So stay tuned for part 2! To be continued….
– You can find Symphonic Metal – Part Two through here.