Symphonic Black Metal

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Symphonic Black Metal incorporates symphonic or orchestral elements as a backdrop for a number of other black metal sounds (such as atmospheric or melodic black metal), while also being a distinct genre in its own right.

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EMPEROR Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk Album Cover Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk
EMPEROR
4.48 | 50 ratings
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EMPEROR In the Nightside Eclipse Album Cover In the Nightside Eclipse
EMPEROR
4.39 | 60 ratings
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CHTHONIC Seediq Bale Album Cover Seediq Bale
CHTHONIC
4.48 | 10 ratings
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NOKTURNAL MORTUM Lunar Poetry Album Cover Lunar Poetry
NOKTURNAL MORTUM
4.33 | 13 ratings
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AQUILUS Griseus Album Cover Griseus
AQUILUS
4.30 | 11 ratings
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CARACH ANGREN Where The Corpses Sink Forever Album Cover Where The Corpses Sink Forever
CARACH ANGREN
4.22 | 17 ratings
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CRADLE OF FILTH Dusk and Her Embrace Album Cover Dusk and Her Embrace
CRADLE OF FILTH
4.15 | 31 ratings
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CARACH ANGREN This Is No Fairytale Album Cover This Is No Fairytale
CARACH ANGREN
4.31 | 9 ratings
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CRADLE OF FILTH V Empire or Dark Faerytales in Phallustein Album Cover V Empire or Dark Faerytales in Phallustein
CRADLE OF FILTH
4.13 | 14 ratings
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DIMMU BORGIR Stormblåst MMV Album Cover Stormblåst MMV
DIMMU BORGIR
4.11 | 13 ratings
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LIMBONIC ART Epitome of Illusions Album Cover Epitome of Illusions
LIMBONIC ART
4.17 | 9 ratings
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CHTHONIC Takasago Army Album Cover Takasago Army
CHTHONIC
4.17 | 8 ratings
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When The Sun Goes Out
EP
ABSENCE BETRAYAL
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Interdimensional Summit
Single
DIMMU BORGIR
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Eonian
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DIMMU BORGIR
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Age of Ascendancy
Album
TAMERLAN EMPIRE
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symphonic black metal Music Reviews

DIMMU BORGIR Eonian

Album · 2018 · Symphonic Black Metal
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Kev Rowland
It has been way too long since Dimmu Borgir last released a studio album, and I felt the only way to be able to understand how this fits in the canon was by playing a few tracks from this and then dip into ‘Death Cult Armageddon’. This was an interesting exercise, not least because I always felt that a major part of their sound (at least for me) was the clean vocals of ICS Vortex, but of course he departed long ago. Vocalist Shagrath, as well as guitarists Silenoz and Galder are still there providing the material, while drummer Daray has been there for a decade, keyboard player Gerlioz has been there since 2010, so there is only one new boy, bassist Victor Brandt. Deciding to take their time on the songs has obviously been worthwhile, as there is far more breadth and depth to this than anything that have released previously. They have moved far more into the orchestral and symphonic arena, while still playing black metal like no-one else.

A special mention must be made of Gaute Storås and his work on the choral arrangements for the Schola Cantrum Choir, as it isn’t possible to overstate the impact they have had on the album as a whole. This is very much a metal band, but one that is attempting to create a genre of their own making, taking black metal and forcing into something that is far deeper, heavier and orchestral than anything they have managed up to this. The production is simply superb, incredibly clear while also very heavy indeed, allowing the band to spread their wings and show that when it comes to this style of music there are very few in the world who can even approach the majesty and dark beauty of what they are producing. It has been way too long since these guys have provided us with a new album, let’s just hope that the world tour to follow is just that, and that they make their way down here, as that would be a show not to miss.

SIGH Scenes from Hell

Album · 2010 · Symphonic Black Metal
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Warthur
The first Sigh album to include the scintillating contributions of Dr. Mikannibal on saxophone and vocals, Scenes From Hell continues the band's explorations of symphonic avant-black metal frenzy. David Tibet of Current 93 is an unexpected but welcome guest this time around, offering spoken word recitations on The Red Funeral and Musica In Tempora Belli (roughly translating to "Music In Times of War"). It's all gruesome, rough fun, though I do wonder whether a more lively production job wouldn't have teased out all the ingredients of Sigh's bizarre stew a bit more evenly. That said, the air of murkiness does harken back to Sigh's earliest releases, setting this in a continuity of musical development that began in the second wave of black metal and has fruited in this bizarre hybrid.

LIMBONIC ART Moon in the Scorpio

Album · 1996 · Symphonic Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
LIMBONIC ART originated as a band of three members but as the story goes in the world of extreme metal, personalities clashed and the project was whittled down to the two members of Daemon on lead vocals, guitars and bass and project manager Morfeus on keyboards, lead guitars, drum programming and vocals. Riding in the wake of fellow Norwegian bands in the second wave of black metal, LIMBONIC ART was one of those who opted for the symphonic route in the vein of Emperor, Arcturus, Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth. MOON IN THE SCORPIO was the debut and displayed the early years of black metal engaging in increased uses of symphonic elements that while already explored in black metal, hadn’t been fully exploited to full effect.

The main focus on MOON IN THE SCORPIO is in creating an operatic symphonic circus of sorts although a rather deranged one. Like much black metal of the day, the guitar and bass create receptive tritone riffing loops while the keys provide the atmospheric accouterments delivered in a more sophisticated symphonic fashion. While the black metal elements such as tremolo guitar playing, demonic raspy vocals and blastbeat drumming patterns are successfully utilized, what sets LIMBONIC ART apart from the pack of the day is that the main focus is on the melodic symphonic keyboard atmospheres that make the whole affair sound like some sort of black metal version of Phantom of the Opera especially when the showtune type segments break from the bleak monotonous riffing and Deamon sounds like a Broadway star.

Overall the atmosphere is dark and chilling with the tracks slowly ratcheting up with extended lengths. The opener “Beneath The Burial Surface” cranks it out for almost fourteen minutes. The album also makes use of a variety of vocal styles including Gregorian monk type chanting on “Overature: Nocturne” and choral arrangements on “In Mourning Mystique.” While the drum machine isn’t quite as satisfying as a real drummer would have been, the truth is that black metal drumming isn’t quite as technically necessary as say a killer death metal band requires and although a little variety is always preferred, i have to admit that in the case of MOON IN THE SCORPIO it works out just fine as the arrangements are well thought out and nothing sounds canned. Add to that the nice production and mix of the aggressive metal elements and the melodic sensual darkness of the synthesizer runs, bell chimes and other sounds that make a rather compelling listening experience.

At times the droning march does remind me a bit of Summoning’s brand of atmospheric black metal but LIMBONIC ART creates a more diverse use of several different movements within tracks that go through different stages with diverse dynamics and tempos. It’s obvious that LIMBONIC ART was very much an influence for later bands like Carach Angren that mixed black metal with dark Gothic operatic features. For me the atmospheric and symphonic branches of black metal can be very hit and miss and the results depend on the proper balance of the opposing forces involved. LIMBONIC ART manages to craft the proper tug of war between those forces to create a unique and satisfying debut in the form of MOON IN THE SCORPIO and a formula that they would utilize for their multi-decade run to the present. The title of the album was most likely taken form the 1987 film but doesn’t really convey any sort of connection.

CRADLE OF FILTH Cryptoriana - The Seductiveness of Decay

Album · 2017 · Symphonic Black Metal
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Kev Rowland


It is hard to believe that Cradle of Filth have now been making a nuisance of themselves for more than 25 years, but here they are back with their 12th album, their second for Nuclear Blast. True, they have been through one or two musicians during that period (okay, so it’s the best part of 30, but who’s counting?), and while Dani has been there since the very beginning, only drummer Marthus can also claim to have been with the band for more than five years. Somehow it never seems to matter, as Dani has a very strong view on what the band should sound like, and the image they should portray, and to my ears it seems like all the travails and efforts have been leading to this point as to my poor abused ears this is the finest thing they have ever done.

For me there has always been a fine line with CoF as to whether they really mean it, or if they are in danger of becoming a parody of the very thing they are trying to represent, but here their blend of symphonic gothic black metal hits every mark, every time. I just can’t fault this album, as from beginning to end I found myself deep inside the dark world of Dani’s creation, where the drums pummel when they need to, the guitars are clean and melodic or distorted and riffing as the need arises, the symphonic histrionics are just right, the female vocals create just the right amount of balance (congratulations to Lindsay Schoolcraft who has large shoes to fill – I was always a huge fan of Sarah Jezebel Deva – but here she gets it spot on) and then there is Dani. Now solidly into his forties, young(ish) Mr. Filth has created an album that takes the bands to new heights, and while I have always had a soft spot for ‘Dusk...And Her Embrace’, I know this has taken the #1 slot for me. If you love CoF then rush out and get this now, as it is everything you have ever enjoyed about the band, just taken to the next level. If you have never been too sure, then now is the time to give them another try.

ARCTURUS Aspera Hiems Symfonia

Album · 1996 · Symphonic Black Metal
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Warthur
The debut album by Arcturus finds the band not quite reaching the symphonic intricacies of La Masquerade Infernale, instead yielding something more like a mingling of black metal and melodic prog - in particular, some of Steinar Sverd Johnsen's keyboard passages in the quieter moments put me in mind of the likes of early Marillion and other Genesis-influenced neo-prog projects. This unlikely fusion yields intoxicating fruit here, with the album neatly blending the styles at a time when the idea of sophisticated Norwegian black metal was still not yet entirely given credit. A majestic counterpoint to the more kvlt efforts of their contemporaries.

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