Symphonic Metal

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Symphonic metal, sometimes known as operatic metal when referring to artists fronted by an (usually female) operatic singer, is a sub-genre of heavy metal music. Symphonic metal is heavily influenced by classical music, with bands creating symphonies to back a more traditional metal setup of vocals, guitars, bass and drums. The sound is most typically created with a synthesiser; however actual orchestration is often used as well, and choirs are also a commodity within the genre. Unlike other metal music styles, the keyboards generally have more of a leading role in an artist’s sound than the guitars.

Symphonic metal finds its roots in the Swedish band Therion, who originally played death metal. The 1996 album Yeah! Yeah! Die! Die! Death Metal Symphony in Deep C by Finnish band Waltari is also considered to have been an important influence on the genre. Therion had dabbled in experimental ideas and classical influences, but with the release of their fifth album Theli in 1996 the band was producing what is now considered to be symphonic metal. Such releases provided the template for bands such as Nightwish and Within Temptation, who both released their first albums in 1997, although each had elements of other genres in their sounds, those being power and folk metal on Nightwish’s Angel’s Fall First and gothic metal on Within Temptation’s Enter, which is actually best considered a gothic metal release, although the band would later become more symphonic based with the release of their second album, Mother Earth in 2000. Although the birth of symphonic metal as a genre is associated with the late 90s, metal artists had made use of symphonic elements long before that - for instance, Celtic Frost's To Mega Therion (1985) and Into the Pandemonium (1987) both contain tracks that feature symphonic elements, and in 1969, proto-metallers Deep Purple released Concerto for Group and Orchestra which features The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

The term symphonic metal is sometimes used to describe any band that uses symphonic elements, particularly if those symphonic elements are greater than what is normal for the genre in question. There are a few notable and common hybrid symphonic metal styles; symphonic black metal, symphonic power metal and symphonic gothic metal, although there are some less common hybrids such as symphonic death metal, and with the emergence of artists like Across the Sun and Winds of Plague, symphonic metalcore. Each of these styles retains the elements of said style without the symphonic prefix however, which means that when considering symphonic metal as a standalone genre there are not as many artists that can be considered as such as there may initially appear. Even many of the most known artists of the style containing many elements of other metal styles, such as power metal in Nightwish and progressive metal in Epica. Therefore symphonic metal bands are best defined as such if they have a dominant classical influence to them. This is especially important where symphonic gothic metal acts are concerned, as there can be much overlap between the two styles.

While many symphonic metal bands feature a female lead singer, it is not a staple of the genre, although such bands tend to have been more commercial successful both within and without of the metal circles due to having more mainstream accessibility to their music. Many female vocalists in the genre sing in an operatic classical style, which works to effect with the classical inspired symphonic backing. It is this particular brand of symphonic metal that has been alternately labelled as operatic metal. Some artists such as Epica, After Forever, and the early work of Within Temptation combines the female vocals with death growls, in a style that is commonly referred to as ‘Beauty and the Beast’ vocals. This approach has also been utilised in some female fronted gothic metal artists.

Although symphonic metal is widely seen as one of the more commercial metal genres, there exists an extreme variant of the style. Taking more cues from extreme metal sub-genres than normal but retaining the dominant classical influence, the term is best used to describe bands that are influenced by black and death metal, but keeping their main focus on the classical influences. Such artists are less common however, and the term extreme symphonic metal has been used interchangeably with symphonic black metal.

- Written by adg211288 with the input of the Metal Music Archives Admin Team

Sub-genre collaborators (shared with Gothic Metal):
  • DippoMagoo

symphonic metal top albums

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symphonic metal Music Reviews

DEATHORCHESTRA Symphony of Death

Live album · 2020 · Symphonic Metal
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UMUR
"Symphony of Death" is a collaboration album project by Russian technical death metal act Buicide and the Olympic Symphony Orchestra. The album was independently released in December 2020. "Symphony of Death" is a live album recorded May the 4th, 2019 at the Opera Concert Club in Saint Petersburg. All material on the 7 track, 36:14 minutes long album are cover tracks of influential Florida death metal act Death. The album´s release date was deliberately chosen to coincide with the 19th anniversary of Death founder Chuck Schuldiner's death. "Symphony of Death" is available in both audio format and a DVD video format.

This is obviously a tribute album enterpreting Death´s music with the addition of a symphony orchestra. Honestly when I first heard about the project, I didn´t expect much, but I´ve been pleasantly surprised, and the combination of the technical death metal and the symphony orchestra works really well. It should be mentioned right away, that "Symphony of Death" is fully intrumental, and that the vocal melodies/lines are handled by the orchestra. Again it works like a charm. I like the fact that it´s audible that this is a live recording with audience noise, yet the sound production is still clear, detailed, and powerful. Buicide are well playing and do the songs great justice, and Olympic Symphony Orchestra manage to add some intriguing symphonic arrangements to the tracks.

There is a wealth of great material to chose from in the Death catalogue, and 7 tracks aren´t much, but I think they´ve picked some great tracks for the album in "Voice of the Soul", "Crystal Mountain", "Zero Tolerance", "Scavenger Of Human Sorrow", "Spirit Crusher", "Destiny", and "Pull the Plug".

"Symphony of Death" is the kind of project which could easily have failed badly, but DeathOrchestra manage to present intricate versions of the original material and "Symphony of Death" is ultimately a great tribute to Schuldiner and I´m sure he would be proud of- and grateful for the gesture, had he still been alive. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

THERION Leviathan

Album · 2021 · Symphonic Metal
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siLLy puPPy
It’s hard to believe that THERION began as a somewhat generic sounding old school death metal band when it was founded by Christofer Johnsson all the way back in 1987 but after a sluggish beginning which step by step morphed into full-blown symphonic metal by the time the 1996 album “Theli” wooed the critics and hi brow metalheads into the cult, THERION had done the unthinkable and crafted a brilliant new metal sound that took metal music further into the world of Western classical and opera than ever attempted. The results were riveting and brilliant and catapulted the band to international fame.

THERION kept this momentum going all throughout the 2000s with one excellent album after another that slightly reinvented the overall recipe laid down on “Theli” however beginning with “Sitra Ahra,” Johnsson was obviously getting bored with the band’s signature sound and started experimenting and while the albums thought the 2010’s were interesting, they lacked the focus and enthralling hybridization effect that album’s like “Secret Of The Runes” and “Gothic Kabbalah” had so perfectly captured. This all led up to the band’s most ambitious effort yet, 2018’s triple album “Beloved Antichrist” which tamped down the symphonic metal a few notches and instead delivered a whopping 3-hour rock opera.

While the project sounded like a good idea in writing, the results were very lackluster as the album lacked any sort of cohesive gratification despite exhibiting brilliant performances in bits and pieces. The album was a huge flop and fans were wondering if perhaps THERION should call it a day and go start a philharmonic orchestra somewhere in an undisclosed location in the Swedish countryside. The fiasco that was “Beloved Antichrist” pretty much kept fans wondering what THERION’s next move was going to be and finally in 2021 we have a new album that makes it all so clear just what that next move is. In short THERION has proposed another ambitious project only this time it will disperse its grandiose visions in a three album set that will be released by the following LEVIATHAN sequels in 2022 and 2023.

This is basically what we call damage control as Johnsson is obviously not going to disband the profitable cash cow called THERION which has an international following and dedicated fanbase. LEVIATHAN (bad album title considering the mega-popular Mastodon album) pretty much backpedals to the band’s style around the turn of the millennium and could easily fit anywhere in between “Vovin” and “Sirus B.” What is presented here is a tried and true and very well performed collection of eleven tracks with an impressive lineup of various vocalists, both male and female sopranos delivering divine operatic performances accompanied by sizzling metal guitar, bass and drum backing. As always at this point in THERION’s career, this is a big budget production with a great number of guest musicians and extra instrumentation that includes hammond organ, violin and lots of drumming diversity.

As far as a THERION album goes, LEVIATHAN is indeed a return to form and pretends that the whole “Beloved Antichrist” backlash was just a bad dream however at the same time these grounds have already been covered and no matter how well these tracks are performed (and they are perfectly executed), it just feels like THERION has gotten stuck in a certain moment in its career that it will never escape from due to the fact that the band is popular and therefore obligated to kowtow to the fanbase. Despite these apprehensions to continue down a more experimental path, as a true THERION fan myself, i’d prefer to have the band release experimental flops like “Beloved Antichrist” than to retread that which has already been accomplished two decades ago. THERION will always be a band i have a soft spot for so i can never rate an album this beautifully performed very low but it certainly doesn’t get any extra love for creative growth. This is about as THERION by the books as it gets still though LEVIATHAN is quite an enjoyable album.

THERION Leviathan

Album · 2021 · Symphonic Metal
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lukretion
In my experience, when an artist advertises their new work with the words “We have decided to give the people what they kept asking for”, that normally does not bode terribly well. However, if the man saying those words is Therion’s mastermind Christofer Johnsson, whose latest two controversial and fan-challenging releases are an album of French pop covers and a 3-hour, 46-track, narcolepsy-inducing triple-album, well, then we better listen carefully. Therion’s new album, Leviathan, does exactly what it says on the tin: deliver 45 minutes of “classic Therion” music, packed with memorable, instantly-likeable songs. A "commercial" sellout, you say? I disagree, I don’t really feel I can blame a band that has been pushing boundaries for 34 years of career for wanting to take it easy for once. Regardless of how genuine you feel this new artistic endeavour might be, one thing is for certain: one has to try really hard not to like at least some of the eleven songs on Leviathan.

The album is packed with everything we have come to love about the exquisite blend of symphonic/operatic metal that has defined Therion’s music since the mid-90s. Classic heavy metal riffs form the basis for epic and bombastic orchestral arrangements, striking a great balance between the sophistication of classical music and heavy metal grit. Tasteful folk influences seeps in on tracks like “Die Wellen der Zeit”, the Middle Eastern influenced “Aži Dahāka” and “Eye of Algol”, and “Ten Courts of Diyu” where we even find some Far Eastern music themes. Elsewhere, the album veers towards European power metal territories (“Great Marquis of Hell”; “El Primer Sol”), while gothic-tinged passages emerge as well throughout the record. Leviathan also literally brims with fantastic melodies and an impressive array of vocal styles, ranging from straight heavy metal belting, to melancholic female vocals, to majestic operatic singing.

The list of interpreters is no less exciting. Regular band members Thomas Vikström (tenor) and Lori Lewis (soprano) are joined by some great guest singers, including Marco Hietala (ex-Nightwish), Mats Levén (ex-Candlemass, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen), Noa Gruman (Scardust), Taida Nazraić (The Loudest Silence), Chiara Malvestiti (Crysalys) and Rosalía Sairem. Meanwhile, Israel’s Hellscore Choir directed by Noa Gruman provides lush and expansive backing vocals. The use of such a diverse and varied list of singers, who are often employed together in the same song, is one of the most remarkable features of the album that brings to mind the best work of rock-opera maestro Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon). On the instrumental side, Snowy Shaw and Björn Höglund share duties behind the drum kit, while the rest of the line-up is the same one that recorded the last few Therion albums (Christofer Johnsson on guitar/keyboards, Christian Vidal on lead guitar, and Nalle Påhlsson on bass).

If you are worried that Johnsson’s deliberate attempt at writing “hit songs” may have compromised the earnestness of the songwriting, that’s not the case: the music feels fresh, inspired, and fun. Sure, there’s nothing really revolutionary or experimental here, the album treads similar waters to Therion’s 90s/00s work (and after all that was the whole point of the record). But the eleven songs included on Leviathan are by no means just a rehashed, half-baked version of tracks one can find on Vovin or Secret of the Runes. These are songs that can hold up well to any previous output of the band, which, after 17 albums in a 34-year career, is no mean feat.

There isn’t a single bad song on the album: Leviathan is one of those records that you can put on and smoothly enjoy from the first to the last note. Nevertheless, a few tracks stand out for me. “Tuonela” is one of those, partly for Marco Hietala’s compelling vocal performance, partly for the beautifully constructed chorus that masterfully combines three melodic lines played by Hietala, the Hellscore chorus and two violins. “Die Wellen der Zeit” is a surprisingly simple ballad carried by the lush voice of Serbian singer Taida Nazraić, one of the most shining new talents enlisted on this record. “Nocturnal Light” is the other ballad and is another great track, more majestic and operatic, which gives me strong Vovin vibes. Meanwhile, the “Eye of Algol” is a multi-part Middle-Eastern-tinged beast that contains a really cool riff on the chorus, while “Ten Courts of Diyu” is a beautiful atmospheric piece that closes the album in style with a spine-tingling vocal performance by Noa Gruman and a nice guitar solo by Christian Vidal (if there’s one thing that I perhaps miss on this album is more spots for instrumental solos).

After the last couple of releases, Therion’s fans might be wary to approach Leviathan, but there is really no need to. If you are a fan of the band’s output between Theli and Gothic Kabbalah, this album will not disappoint you. Neither will it surprise you, but perhaps Therion’s fans have had enough surprises already in the past decade. Leviathan may be the most linear and accessible album that Therion have released in the past ten years, but there’s a catch: this is just the first installment of a trilogy of albums that Johnsson has already written up and is preparing to release in 2022 and 2023, respectively. The man seems incapable of writing less than 40 songs in one sitting! I don’t know about you, but after having listened to Leviathan, I very much look forward to the rest of the trilogy!

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

EGREGOR Pachakuti

Album · 2020 · Symphonic Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Emerging from the far northern Chilean city of Arica, EGREGOR has so far released two albums beginning with 2015’s “Karma” and took off many years to craft the followup. Finally after setbacks due to the pandemic and other world madness, EGREGOR at last returned in 2020 with its sophomore offering PACHAKUTI which features more progressive compositions and higher octane metal heft than its debut and it’s making some waves around the world.

Led by guitarist Richard Iturra, the band is completed by bassist Alejandro Heredia, drummer Rodrigo Cerpa, guitarist / vocalist Giancarlo Nattino and the divine feminine charm of Magdalena Opazo on vocals. The band comes off somewhat as the Latin American version of Epica with lush symphonic orchestration, chugging metal heft and strewn out compositions that offer the possibilities of mixing in Andean folk music influences into a standardized from of European extreme metal.

The title PACHAKUTI is derived from the Aymara language with PACHA meaning “earth” and KUTI meaning “return" with themes revolving around the mythological world of the ancient South American indigenous peoples. The entire album is performed in the Spanish language so unless you speaka the lingo then you no get it, dig? Musically EGREGOR engages in a thick mash up of metal styles along with symphonic and folk influences. Atmospheric dominance is ubiquitous on PACHAKUTI with lush symphonic backdrops providing the heft of the album’s epic stature with the chunky metal parts merely adding a bombastic contrast.

While Magdalena’s feminine charm dominates the album’s sensual side, Giancarlo Nattino provides more extreme vocal contributions with angsty screams thus providing the classic beauty and the beast approach. The tracks are highly melodic steeped in not only contemporary metal chops oft from melodic death metal bands such as Arch Enemy but tinges of Andean flavors infused into the melodic scales. The dynamics vary between lusher piano driven ballad moments to the more dramatic chug-infused guitar riffing with the occasional guitar solo thrown in for good measure.

For all its magnanimous glory though, where PACHAKUTI falls short is in its ability to really stand out from the legions of similar minded prog metal acts that have appeared in great numbers in the last 20 years or so. Taking cues from various bands ranging from Epica, Nightwish and other female led symphonic metal bands, EGREGOR unfortunately doesn’t really strike me as a band that has much to offer outside of the fact they sing in Spanish and incorporate a few local folk flavors to the mix. Likewise Magdalena’s vocal range just doesn’t seem to have enough gusto to tackle the more operatic demands that this style of music requires to make it a compelling musical experience.

In the production department EGREGOR excels with beautiful lush atmospheres seamlessly blending together along with a well-defined separation of the sensual cadences with the more aggressive metal orotundity however most of the tracks are rather forgettable as EGREGOR doesn’t deviate significantly form the pre-established European model of status quo symphonic metal. Nevertheless PACHAKUTI is a decent albeit underwhelming slice of symphonic metal that showcases Chilean acts finding influences from North American and European extreme metal bands. While PACHAKUTI is hardly a bad listening experience, it seems the lofty goal of some sort of concept album isn’t matched by the actual results. Lots of room for improvement but certainly a band on the rise when compared to the lackluster “Karma” that preceded.

METALLICA S&M 2

Live album · 2020 · Symphonic Metal
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Vim Fuego
21 years ago when “S&M” came out, I eviscerated it.

I was being paid to write album reviews. Well, yeah, they were only a minor part of my job as an underpaid, overworked hack reporter for a small regional daily newspaper, but they got printed in the paper, so it counts! I called Metallica “…bloated rock dinosaurs of the type they once despised.” I said the double live album recorded with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra should have been cut back to a four-song EP, and the rest of the album should have been shelved as a failed experiment.

So much for the power of the poisonous pen. Metallica fans loved “S&M”.

It went at least gold in two countries, platinum in eight more, double platinum in four countries (including my home country of New Zealand), and triple platinum in Canada. And that’s just the audio version. The DVD concert film went gold in Austria, platinum in Brazil, six times platinum in the United States, and seven times platinum in Australia. In short, the whole “S&M” venture sold millions and millions of copies worldwide, and was an outstanding success.

With such a success the first time why not do it again on the 20th anniversary of the first collaboration? So once again, Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra performed together on 6 and 8 September 2019, and this album is the record of that occasion.

It’s a bit different to last time though. Personnel-wise, orchestra conductor Michael Kamen had passed away in 2003, with Edwin Outwater now in place. Robert Trujillo had long since replaced Jason Newsted in Metallica. And producer Bob Rock was also long gone, with Greg Fidelman now the man in charge of the mix.

The collaboration between band and orchestra seems more thorough than the original version too. There were times on the original “S&M” where the band just completely drowned out the orchestra, who seemed only to be there for decoration. This time, it seems the orchestra is more integral to the performance.

Metallica’s introduction music, Ennio Morricone’s stirring “The Ecstasy of Gold” is usually played via a tape. This time it gets a full orchestral rendition, and segues into the classically inspired “The Call of Ktulu”. Right from the first few notes, it’s immediately obvious the collaboration between band and orchestra is more thorough than the original “S&M” concerts. There were times on “S&M” where the band just completely drowned out the orchestra, who seemed only to be there for decoration. This time, it seems the orchestra is more integral to the performance.

The extra facets added to “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Day That Never Comes” by the orchestra give both of these songs a fresh new sound. The rendition of “The Memory Remains” is beautiful in a heavy yet melancholic way. The audience filling in for Marianne Faithful is particularly moving.

Even the tracks from “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct” (another Metallica album I’m not keen on, but the hordes love) work really well here. “Confusion” shines with the orchestration. Lars sounds a bit puffed during “Moth Into Flame” though, lagging slightly behind the beat in the first faster section, but hey, it’s a live performance, so such things are always a possibility. Mr Ulrich gets a free pass on this one.

“The Outlaw Torn” gets it’s full ten-minute airing here, which includes the wonderful jam at the end of the song, which was foolishly trimmed from the studio original. “No Leaf Clover”, the better of two tracks originally written for the first “S&M” gets a repeat performance, with a sparkling new finish. Thankfully, the dire “-Human” doesn’t reappear.

Metal crowds aren’t really used to conductors explaining songs mid-show, but this is a reasonably common occurrence in orchestral performances. The spoken introductions to Prokofiev’s “Scythian Suite” and Mosolov’s “The Iron Foundry” do just this, and gives these pieces some context. It starts with Lars welcoming Metallica fans from dozens of countries attending the performance, and then introducing musical director Michael Tilson Thomas, who shared the background behind “Scythian Suite”. It is performed by the symphony orchestra without Metallica, and fits the program perfectly, proving classical music can be as heavy as metal. Written in 1915, the piece was originally intended for the ballet “Ala i Lolli”, but was rejected.

The collaborative performance of Russian futurist piece “The Iron Foundry” is outstanding, and is possibly the break-out performance of the entire concert. The orchestral/metal/industrial track is unbelievably heavy and mechanical, but still quintessentially organic. It segues into a beautiful introduction and rendition of orchestra and voice arrangement of “Unforgiven III”.

Apparently the late Cliff Burton first floated the idea of Metallica performing with an orchestra. In memory of Cliff, his writhing bass solo “Anaesthesia (Pulling Teeth)” gets an airing here. Principal bassist Scott Pingel had played in metal cover bands in his teenage years and was drawn to “Anaesthesia (Pulling Teeth)”, but never did anything more with it. His music interests strayed away from rock and metal, and via R&B, jazz, and fusion, ended up with a career as an orchestral musician. Pingel came up with the idea of playing the song on an upright electric bass with a bow. Initially, the song was to be a duet with Robert Trujillo, but on hearing Pingel play the song to the band, Trujillo insistent Pingel play it solo. It was the right decision. He nails Cliff’s sound and feel, but adds a modern warmth and nuance.

The final few tracks are the old classics you would always expect to hear at a Metallica concert. The orchestral representation of a battlefield at the introduction to “One” are particularly evocative. “Master of Puppets” is far more convincing a collaboration than the 1999 version. “Nothing Else Matters” was written and originally recorded with a string section, and a full orchestra only adds to the emotional depth of the song.

Overall, the orchestra adds a warmth and depth to the Metallica songs here. It seems to be a better mix than the first “S&M” album. The brass and horns add power, the strings emotion, the woodwinds beauty, and the percussion clarity. Another factor in making this the far superior orchestral collaboration is song selection. This time round it is mostly slower songs - there are no total mismatches like the dreadful messes that were “Fuel” and “Battery”. When the band does play fast, the arrangements are such that it doesn’t seem the orchestra are being left behind or just marking time until their next fill.

This could have been a pretentious mess, but it’s not. Metallica is not done as a creative force just yet. Don’t let any hack reviewers try to put you off. This album is incredible.

symphonic metal movie reviews

NIGHTWISH Showtime, Storytime

Movie · 2013 · Symphonic Metal
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Pekka
You probably know the story. Anette Olzon, Tarja Turunen's replacement at the Nightwish mic was let go in the middle of the band's tour for Imaginaerum, and Floor Jansen was summoned to be her stand in at an extremely short notice, finally ending up as the permanent vocalist. At least for the time being, that is, knowing the band's tumultous history with their front women. While all this was happening they had the cameras rolling for a tour documentary they would probably have released anyway, but this turn of events naturally kicked the interest level up a notch or two.

The documentary starts at the turning point of the tour - the gig with the Kamelot singers while Anette was hospitalized and the heroic entry of Floor Jansen, and so naturally the viewer expects a dramatic back story of how they got to the low point. But no, the tour starts out great and everything goes smoothly and the touring machine is examined in great detail from many angles right down to Tuomas Holopainen's wine bottle stand under the keyboards. The tour continues to be a success and everyone is having fun, and suddenly they have insurmountable personnel strife that just can't be salvaged. Especially after reading the mercilessly honest and brutally detailed official band biography, it's very disappointing that the problems with Anette are in no way explained. They just couldn't continue being in the same band and that's that.

So the big potential is wasted, possibly due to Anette's refusal to be included in any form, and that may after all be a blessing in disguise, since the documentary was originally supposed to be a stand alone release. I'm only guessing here, but perhaps this bastardisation was the reason they chose to include the Wacken gig as well, and push the documentary to the second disc.

And holy hell are they on fire in the main feature! I get immense pleasure from the sense that this group that I started listening back in 1997 when I first heard The Carpenter on a metal compilation cassette (fuck yeah) made by a friend, and lost for some years after Once, has finally found the perfect line-up without a single hiccup. Tarja's voice was what made the band stand out in the beginning, but as a metal frontwoman she was always awkward, as was the pop-oriented Anette Olzon after her. Third time's the charm, and in Floor Jansen they have a true stunning metal goddess with lungs to handle any and every song from the band's catalogue while making them her own. And let's not underestimate the official addition of Troy Donockley, who brings important colour to their sound. I'll be excited to hear how the band utilises his rather metalless but extremely pleasant voice on the next album.

The band is captured touring my favourite Nightwish album, so the setlist leaves little to be desired, but it would've been nice to hear more than one track from their first three albums. And Scaretale from Imaginaerum, though that was such a perfect performance by Anette that I doubt Floor can top that. Nightwish as a musical unit is so much tied to the taped orchestrations these days that it leaves very little space for improvisation, which is why it's nice to hear a little additional keyboard solo in I Wish I Had An Angel, and which is also why it's easy to let the newly improved vocal department steal the show.

Put cameras on this show, and it's bound to be brilliant. The band were on top of their game on this tour after the personnel change, so it will be interesting to see how they make the new line-up work on record. For the first time since 2005 I'm eagerly awaiting the next Nightwish album.

Concert ***** Documentary **½

METALLICA S&M

Movie · 1999 · Symphonic Metal
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AtomicCrimsonRush
"Let's hear it for Michael Kamen yeah!" He was the only one who had the guts to do this. This is the ultimate exercise in excess, to marry Metallica with a Symphony orchestra. The DVD is a crystal clear well edited package onthe ultimate event of the year. It is great to watch the orchestra getting into the music and then to see Metallica banging along. The crowd are as raucous as any Metallicrowd and of course it is as heavy as it always is. There are some fantastic surprises such as Call Of Cthulu sounding very Gothic and powerful with the violins and brass. The concert shows in equal measure the band and orchestra trading off seamlessly. It has been done before of course with Deep Purple and other metal acts. It is almost becoming a cliche of late with many bands taking up the idea including Kiss, Within Temptation, Dream Theater and Therion, all of which are captured on DVD. Non metal acts have done it such as Camel, Yes and ELP. The weird thing about it is these orchestral and rock marriages always work for me. I love to hear that massive orchestral sound with the crunching distortion of guitars. To hear a violin sweep across when you expect a guitar solo is bliss to my ears.

There are so many highlights on this DVD including Master of Puppets, more dramatic than ever, the darkness of super heavy The Thing That Should Not Be, The Memory Remains, iconic with audience participation, Nothing Else Matters, a definitive highlight and the crowd are in raptures when this is played. For Whom the Bell Tolls sounds very Gothic with the sweeping violins, and the song One is a masterpiece with the orchestral accompaniment.

The footage is professionally shot and edited as you would expect and it is nice to see the orhestra mamebrs having fun with this. None of the songs are less heavy, they are augmented to majestic heights. Watching this concert live is the best experience which is perhaps a pinnacle of the group's existence. Soon after it all turned sour as we know, captured on the astonishing Some Kind of Monster doco, but it is so great to see Metallica at the height of their powers as we do in S & M. Check out this DVD to see metal at its grandest.

WITHIN TEMPTATION The Silent Force Tour

Movie · 2005 · Symphonic Metal
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adg211288
I find that music DVD’s can be a hit or miss thing’s with fans but this one is a definite hit. If you haven’t had the chance to see Within Temptation live then this DVD captures them at their flawless best; perfect renditions of many of their best songs, spanning all four studio releases that they had at the time, great stage sets and special guests. I’ve actually seen the band while they promoted the album that they released in 2007, The Heart of Everything and in that show they mainly only played songs from said album and The Silent Force, throwing in a couple of fan favourites from Mother Earth, so The Silent Force Tour DVD makes for a great chance to see early classics such as Candles and The Other Half (of me) performed.

Clearly the band have spared no expense to make their show one to rival that of band’s said to be the some of the greatest live performers of modern times. We see a torch light procession for Candles, huge blow up creeper things to represent the power of nature during Mother Earth and lead singer Sharon den Adel suspended above the stage in a cage for Caged. Some band’s will go out of stage and just play but not Within Temptation. This is not just music, this is a show.

But first and foremost in importance is the music. Within Temptation play without fault and Sharon den Adel never misses a single note. We even get to hear the vocals of guitarist Robert Westerholt on a couple of songs, giving fans who may have only heard The Silent Force or The Heart of Everything a chance to hear Within Temptation’s earlier ‘beauty and the beast’ style of vocal delivery. Song highlights are Deceiver of Fools, Angels, Caged, Mother Earth, Candles, The Other Half (of me), Jane Doe and It’s the Fear.

Extras wise there is three music videos for the singles that came from The Silent Force (Stand My Ground, Angels, Memories) and two shorter live appearances on the first of the two discs. The extra live shows only have songs that appear in the main show and one is the same songs as the three music videos but it’s the main concert that you should be buying this for. If you’re like me you won’t be bother by that fact after you’ve watched the main show.

On the second disc you’ll find backstage footage from various places; making of documentaries for The Silent Force album and the three music videos; some interviews; a photo gallery and a bloopers/credits section. It’s not stuff that you’d probably watch more than once but I’m giving this DVD it’s rating based on the main feature. All this extra stuff is just a bonus next to that. That in itself I feel is justification for the 100% score I’m giving this DVD. If you like this band, what are you waiting for? Go buy it.

(Review originally written for Heavy Metal Haven)

METALLICA S&M

Movie · 1999 · Symphonic Metal
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Stooge
I had owned the CD version of S&M years ago, so it is good to revisit this with the visuals thrown in. Contrary to what I remembered from the CD, there really isn’t too much toestepping between what Metallica plays and what the orchestra plays. Most of the songs sound about as smooth as the originals. In fact, the only songs that I’m still not convinced worked effectively were “Until It Sleeps”, “Wherever I May Roam”, “Sad But True”, and much of “Battery” (though I love the intro). Even “Enter Sandman” worked surprisingly well.

Most of the material in this concert comes from songs from the Black Album and later. I would have liked to see a bit more variety in their song selection as there are plenty of songs from their past that almost naturally lend themselves to orchestration. Even a tune off of Kill ‘Em All would have been an interesting attempt.

Just for fun, here are some songs I would have liked to see them attempt with the orchestra: “Fade To Black”, “Orion”, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”, “…And Justice For All”, and “The Unforgiven”.

Although not the first rock/metal band to perform with an orchestra, Metallica often gets credit for starting a trend for rock bands to collaborate with an orchestra. However, much of the credit for the success of S&M should be given to conductor Michael Kamen. He was the one who spearheaded the project by taking an interest in Metallica’s music and proposing that they further collaborate (he did some arranging in 1991 on “Nothing Else Matters”). His arrangements on the two previously unreleased songs, “No Leaf Clover” and “- Human”, give both songs a strong identity. It would have been interesting to hear an entire album or an EP with all new material, because the collaboration certainly had potential.

As a whole, I’d say this is a good Metallica release. The performance by all involved is good and it’s shot well. However, it would be a stretch to call this essential Metal(lica).

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