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 New Releases

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The Anastoria
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QANTICE
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Zero Gravity (Rebirth and Evolution)
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TURILLI/LIONE RHAPSODY
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symphonic metal Music Reviews

QANTICE The Anastoria

Album · 2019 · Symphonic Metal
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Kev Rowland
For those of you who haven’t come across Qantice before this, they are a symphonic power metal band, and this is their third album. Before I go any further I ought to mention the musicians (excluding the numerous guests). They comprise David Åkesson (lead and backing vocals, trumpet), Tony Beaufils (guitars, banjo, bouzouki, synths and orchestration), Alexandra Laya (violin), Christine Lanusse (bass) and Aurélien Joucla (drums). Now let’s just let that sink in for a minute. I understand a violin being in a metal band, given that symphonic bands tend to use synthesised strings I’m a little surprised we don’t see more, but trumpet, and banjo! As is normal for me, I played this album without looking at the press release, so when I heard a banjo making a very prominent entrance during a guitar solo, I was somewhat stunned. That it also made perfect musical sense for what was going on was also something of a surprise.

This is a band who are trying to make their own presence felt, and are not yet another Nightwish clone, and have more than a smidgen of power metal about what they are playing as well. The arrangements are complex and layered, while in David Åkesson (Aldaria, Vivaldi Metal Project, Six Foot Six, ex Moonlight Agony) they have an incredible singer, and with an orchestra and metallic outfit behind him he needs to be. The album itself is a slow grower, as the songs aren’t as immediate as they could be, but those who can imagine Savatage being taken into symphonic extremes will find a great deal in here to enjoy.

TURILLI/LIONE RHAPSODY Zero Gravity (Rebirth and Evolution)

Album · 2019 · Symphonic Metal
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DippoMagoo
Rhapsody has been around in one form or another since the early 90’s, and at this point, trying to keep track of all their different incarnations could become quite the headache. Needless to say, the band themselves have gone through quite a few changes over the years, while things were only made more complicated in 2012 when former guitarist/keyboardist/songwriter Luca Turilli formed his own version of the band, called Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. Well, things only became even more complicated in 2018, with the birth of yet another new version, called Turilli/Lione Rhapsody. Yes, indeed, the biggest selling point for this particular version is the reunion between Luca and longtime Rhapsody (of Fire) vocalist Fabio Lione, who parted ways with RoF in 2016. The rest of the lineup consists of other former members of the band, including live guitarist Dominique Leurquin, bassist Patrice Guers and longtime drummer Alex Holzwarth. With such a stacked lineup, expectations were obviously sky high for the latest take on Rhapsody, and now that their debut Zero Gravity (Rebirth and Evolution) is here, it certainly lives up to expectations, while in some ways being quite different from what one may expect.

With his previous Rhapsody project, Luca Turilli already moved in a much different direction from the classic Rhapsody sound, going with a much more keyboard focused, heavily orchestrated sound, filled with progressive elements and complex arrangements, and while the old power metal sound was still fully intact, it was toned down a bit in speed and intensity, for the most part. Much of that is true of Zero Gravity, with the keyboards and orchestras certainly dominating most of the tracks, and the use of choir vocals is extremely prominent, once again, especially on the interlude track “Origins” and the ballad “Amata Immortale”, but they can be found throughout the entire album, and are used very effectively, as always. Keys are also very prominent, and come in various forms, from a more modern, almost trance infused electronic style on some tracks, to some classical piano at times, as well as more atmospheric keys. Guitars are obviously still there, as well, with some pretty solid rhythm guitar work throughout, as well as some excellent melodic solos, but listeners definitely shouldn’t expect a ton of neoclassical shredding, or a ton of really heavy power metal riffs, in general, as this is very much an epic, extremely melodic symphonic metal album, with the power metal elements being somewhat dialed back, even compared to Turilli’s previous two albums.

Stylistically, the songs are a bit tricky to describe, as they generally aren’t as ambitious or complex as most of Ascending To Infinity or Prometheus, but they also aren’t nearly as speedy or energetic as classic Rhapsody. Instead, this is actually a very fun album, with a ton of huge, catchy choruses, and epic orchestral/choral arrangements, but the tempos are generally fairly restrained compared to normal, with most of the tracks being fairy upbeat, without ever really going full throttle. It almost feels like a deliberate decision not to ever go that fast, as even during the various sections where tracks do speed up, they never get past a certain speed, which would be considered much slower than max speed on most previous Rhapsody releases. Not that this is a problem, though, as the songwriting is generally amazing, as always, with the choruses and symphonic arrangements being especially impressive, but anyone expecting a more traditional power metal album may be disappointed. Performances are obviously top notch, with Luca doing some amazing work, as always, and of course Fabio sounds in top form, with his powerful, soaring vocals being as strong as ever, while his softer, dramatic vocals are also impressive, and he gets to showcase some stunning operatic vocals on a couple tracks, which are amazing to listen to! Production is also fantastic, and sounds more powerful and dynamic compared to Prometheus, which I always found to be a bit weak sounding, as the keys and symphonic arrangements sound amazing, without having to sacrifice any of the guitar sound, so that’s one area where I can say this album is a big improvement over the two Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody releases.

No matter how good an album sounds, though, it doesn’t matter if the songs are bad, but thankfully, Zero Gravity largely delivers with excellent songwriting, as well. Kicking things off is lead single “Phoenix Rising”, which has a brief intro, with some fairly non distracting narration, before the main melody kicks in and it’s an epic use of keyboards right from the start, as well as some nice rhythm guitar work. The track moves along at a nice pace, with fairly slow, quiet verses, before setting up an amazing, epic chorus with massive vocal melodies and an amazing performance from Fabio, as well as the choirs. The second half of the track has a very beautiful guitar/keyboard solo, and overall, it’s an excellent opener, as well as one of the best tracks on the album. Next is second single “D.N.A. (Demon and Angel”), a track dominated by choirs and keyboards. It kicks off with a tease at its chorus from the choirs, and quickly moves on to some very electronic, trance style keyboard melodies, which stick around throughout the whole song, while the verses are fun, but slightly repetitive, with how it constantly alternates between Fabio, the choirs and Amaranthe vocalist Elize Ryd, who makes a guest appearance on the track. The chorus is extremely catchy and addictive, and is easily the highlight of the track, as well as being one of Luca’s catchiest, most playful choruses to date. The song in general has more of an accessible feel to it than normal, while still being extremely epic, especially with the choral section in the second half.

The first non single on the album is the title track, and it’s another stunner of a track, opening with some beautiful female operatic vocals and light, atmospheric keyboard backdrops, which pick up intensity when Fabio makes his entrance, with some very theatrical vocals during the verses. The track quickly speeds up a little while before the chorus, and the chorus is very upbeat, and extremely epic, with some of the best vocal melodies on the album, as well as some excellent guitar work. The track overall is brilliant, alternating between soft and heavy passages, as well as having a really nice folk infused middle section, and of course a great guitar solo. The only track that has yet to fully win me over is “Fast Radio Burst”, which in contrast to its name, is actually one of the slowest paced tracks on the album, though that isn’t actually my problem with the song. It opens up with some weird sound effects and a bit of narration, before settling into a nice rhythm, with some pretty good riffs, and it then turns into more of mid paced progressive metal track, with a nice groove to it. The verses are quite good, and the buildup to the chorus is great, but the chorus itself is plagued by some rather irritating harsh vocals (which are made more puzzling by the fact that they only appear on this track and feel hopelessly out of place) as well as a pretty weak ending. The track effectively feels like a whole lot of build up, with no payoff, aside from the usual great instrumental section in the second half, and so it ends up being a bit of a disappointment

Things quickly pick up, once again, with “Decoding the Multiverse”, a very beautiful, epic track, which starts off with some nice piano work, before speeding up and turning into one of the heavier, more guitar driven tracks on the album, while still having some very nice piano work throughout. It alternates between soft, slow verses, and a more upbeat, fun chorus, and it has the perhaps the speediest passage on the album during an excellent guitar/keyboard solo in the second half. It’s a very fun track, overall, and is definitely one of my favorites on the album. Following that is the short but sweet interlude “Origins”, which makes full use of some amazing choir vocals, and then comes “Multidimensiona;”, another excellent, mostly mid paced track. It has a nice rhythm to it, with some more very modern sounding keys, some pretty chunky riffs, and epic symphonic arrangements, as usual. It moves along at a fairly slow pace during the verses, before picking up for the chorus (a recurring theme for the album in general) and the chorus is again excellent, with huge vocal melodies, awesome keys, and very effective drumming. It’s a very epic, fun track, while having a slightly darker tone than most other songs on the album.

The lone ballad on the album is “Amata Immortale”, and it’s an excellent one, almost feeling like a full on opera, with some nice classical piano used throughout, to go along with Fabio singing in Italian and going full operatic style, along with some absolutely stunning accompanying choir vocals during the chorus, which is one of the highlights of the album. The track on the whole is absolutely stunning, though some metal fans will likely be bored by it. The longest track on the album is “I Am”, which clocks in at just over 7 minutes, and it’s also the most complex, most fully packed track on the album, with some excellent instrumental work, and a nice mix of soft, slower passages, and heavier, more upbeat passages, including more piano work, more epic keys, some saxophone, and a ton of epic symphonic arrangements, as always. It also has a guest appearance from DGM vocalist Mark Basile, who’s especially prominent during the second verse and chorus, and he gives a very powerful, emotional performance, which takes his parts of the song to new heights. The music becomes very theatrical at one point in the second half, giving off some Queen vibes, before going into a great instrumental section, and overall, the song is another stunner. Closing out the album is “Arcanum (Da Vinci’s Enigma”, which is also sung entirely in Italian, as far as I can tell. It starts out softly, with some beautiful keys and symphonic arrangements, before speeding up turning into another full scale, epic symphonic metal track, with slight power metal leanings. It’s another track which alternates nicely between some very some passages, and a very upbeat, extremely epic chorus, and it has some more outstanding choir vocals as well as some more operatic vocals from Fabio, and it’s definitely a fantastic way to close out the album!

There’s always going to be high expectations for anything Rhapsody related, and of course Luca Turilli and Fabio Lione both have a large following, and so expectations for this first offering from Turilli/Lione’s Rhapsody were sky high. Thankfully, the band has delivered an excellent debut, and while power metal fans may be a bit disappointed, anyone else should be very pleased, as it’s an amazing album that largely builds on the more epic, cinematic style Turilli has used on his previous couple of albums, while at times being a bit more accessible, and having some of his catchiest choruses ever. Fans of his epic symphonic arrangements and usage of choir vocals, as well as fans of Fabio Lione, should be especially pleased with this album, and fans of symphonic metal in general are highly recommended to check this out, while obviously fans of Rhapsody, in all its forms, will need to hear it, while power metal fans who aren’t overly into Rhapsody may want to take a pass. Overall, though, it’s an amazing album, and one I am very happy with, even if it doesn’t quite reach the heights of some of Luca Turilli’s all time best works.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/07/03/turilli-lione-rhapsody-zero-gravity-rebirth-evolution-review/

NIGHTWISH Angels Fall First

Album · 1997 · Symphonic Metal
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martindavey87
‘Angels Fall First’ is the 1997 debut album by Finnish symphonic metal group Nightwish, who would go on to become one of those most popular and prolific bands of the genre.

Compared to later releases, however, ‘Angels Fall First’ sounds very raw, and at times, slightly disjointed and directionless, lacking the epic bombast that the band would incorporate on future albums. However, there’s still a clear vision here of what the band want to accomplish, and there’s no doubting the writing talents of keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen and guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, and the potential they display.

While ‘Angels Fall First’ is full of tasty guitar riffs and some fantastic interplay with keyboards, as well as a good balance of both male and female vocals, I find that most songs seem to deviate from the hook that first got my attention. Songs like ‘Elvenpath’, ‘Tutankhamen’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ have some incredibly strong and memorable melodies, but after a few minutes I find myself not really paying attention. It’s almost as if the ideas are there, just not quite the ability to flesh them out into full songs.

Still, this is a young band in their early days, playing a style of music which is equally in its early years, and so it’s forgivable that this album just isn’t overly memorable. No doubt Nightwish will improve vastly over time, but ‘Angels Fall First’ is best left for the die-hard fans of the band.

ARION Life is Not Beautiful

Album · 2018 · Symphonic Metal
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DippoMagoo
One of the most promising bands to come out of Finland in recent years is symphonic power metal band Arion. I discovered them in 2014 with their debut, Last of Us, and was immediately impressed by their strong vocal melodies, varied songwriting and their ability to blend softer tracks nicely with speedy power metal tracks. They’ve gone through some changes since then, with original vocalist Viljami Holopainen leaving and being replaced by Lassi Vääränen, who they quickly put to work with a new single, At the Break of Dawn. After that, the band was mostly silent for a couple years, while quietly working on a full album, and now, over four years after their debut, they’ve returned with their second full-length release, Life is Not Beautiful. I was excited to see where the band would go musically, as well as to see whether the new vocalist would fit in well, and while I have some mixed feelings on the latter, overall Life is Not Beautiful is another excellent release, which definitely moves the band’s sound forward, while still feeling familiar enough to keep existing fans happy.

Fans of the band’s debut will likely notice a slight change in the music direction between albums, as while the guitar tone and symphonic elements still feel familiar, the actual songwriting has changed a bit, moving towards a slightly more modernized sound, with crunchier guitar work in places, as well as an increased focus on harder hitting, speedy power metal, over some of the more relaxed material Last of Us had. There’s still some softer passages, for sure, including two ballads, but overall there’s a definite push towards heavier material on this release, and there is a time where the guitars overtake everything else, with the symphonic elements still being strong, but not quite as dominant as on the debut. Musically, everything sounds as great as before, with guitarist Livo Kaipainen, in particular, turning in a strong performance, with some excellent crunching riffs and strong solos, while the keyboards add some extra flavor, and the symphonic elements make everything feel more epic, especially on tracks like “No One Stands in My Way” and “The Last Sacrifice”. Songwriting is strong throughout, though none of the ballads grab me nearly as much as “You’re My Melody” from Last of Us, which may be at least partially because of the vocals.

Speaking of which, the aspect I was most concerned about going into this release, was, in fact, the vocals. Original vocalist Viljami Holopainen had a very smooth voice and he really excelled during the softer sections, while still doing a great job on the heavier parts. New vocalist Lassi Vääränen, on the other hand, has a much deeper and much rougher voice, which alone makes for a big change in direction. That’s just the beginning, though, as Lassi has a very wild, over the top delivery throughout the album, rarely toning it down, instead coming close to screaming at the top of his lungs most of the time, with a very energetic vocal performance that works great on heavier tracks, but not so much on the more melodic tracks. Worse, he fails to put in any kind of touch at all, taking some choruses that could have potentially been amazing, and instead of turning them into nearly incoherent scream fests. He does a pretty solid job throughout the album, and it must be noted he sounds very good on the three bonus re-recorded tracks from the debut, so part of the problem may be with the vocal melodies themselves, but either way, his vocals really bother me from time to time, and I feel he’s the one thing keeping me from potentially enjoying this release even more than Last of Us.

One area I wasn’t too worried about was the songwriting, as that’s an area the band had proven themselves to be great in on their debut, as well as the terrific single At the Break of Dawn, and so it’s no surprise to find that every song on this album is excellent musically. Following a nice orchestral intro track, opener “No One Stands in My Way” kicks in, and is a very epic, mid-paced track, where the symphonic elements dominate. It would have fit in pretty well on Last of Us, though it does have some of those extra crunchy guitars in bursts, as well some very energetic vocals from Lassi during the verses. The chorus is also epic, and Lassi’s vocals fit in pretty well on it, so it’s a strong start to the album, overall. Next is the single, “At the Break of Dawn”, and of course it’s still as amazing as ever. It’s a speedy, hard-hitting track with some great guitar work, epic keyboards, especially during the chorus, and while Lassi himself sounds pretty solid, the highlight of the track is Amaranthe vocalist Elize Ryd, who really shines the during the chorus, as expected.

The first song where the vocals really start to irritate me is “The Final Sacrifice”. It starts off slow, with some nice atmospheric keyboards, as well as some quiet vocals from Lassi, which already feel slightly off-putting. Once the track gets going, it picks up the pace and turns into a speedy power metal track, with some nice melodic leads, but the big moment is the chorus, which is very melodic musically, with some epic orchestral work, and it leaves room for some big vocal melodies, except Lassi falls back to his screaming, and the result is not exactly the most pleasant. It’s still a nice track overall, but it feels like the vocals hold it back a bit. Next is “Through Your Falling Tears”, a soft piano ballad, which is very beautiful musically, and while Lassi doesn’t excel in the way his predecessor likely would have on this track, he does a solid enough job on the chorus, not overdoing it too much with his screaming, so it ends up being a solid, if not quite amazing ballad.

One song where Lassi does excel is the hard-hitting “Unforgivable”, a very speedy track, which feels similar to “At the Break of Dawn”, except the guitars hit just a bit harder, and Lassi is the only vocalist here. His screams actually work very well during the chorus here and help make it super intense and epic. It’s a very fun, extremely catchy track, and easily my favorite on the album. Sadly, the same can’t be said for “Punish You”, which is probably the worst song on the album, just because of the vocals. Musically, it has a very modern sound to it, with the guitar work, in particular, feels like it would fit great on a modern melodic death metal track, and during the verses Lassi’s deep, rough vocals work quite well, but as is a common theme on the album, once the chorus hits, things go downhill in a hurry. He switches to a higher register, which is in one word: disastrous. The less said about it the better, really. The song itself is still very good, thanks to the verses and some excellent instrumental work, especially during the solo section, but the vocals bring it down quite a bit. Another track I have mixed feelings on is the title track. It’s another song with some very modern sounding, crunchy guitars, almost going into metalcore territory, and it’s excellent musically, with an especially melodic and beautiful solo towards the end. As usual, the verses are strong, but Lassi’s nasally screams get on my nerves once again during the chorus, almost as much so as on “Punish You”. Closing out the album is one more ballad “Last One Falls”. This is the one track on the album where Lassi tones it down completely and sings softly, with pretty good results. He isn’t the most emotive vocalist, but his deep voice fits the sorrowful tone of the song nicely, and he gives a solid performance. As mentioned earlier, the album features three bonus re-recorded tracks from Last of Us, including the softer title track, where Lassi sounds good, but a bit off, as well as the speedier tracks “Seven” and “I Am the Storm”, where he actually sounds great, particularly on the latter, where I’d even say he takes the song to new heights. Musically, the tracks sound pretty much identical to the original versions, so it all comes down to which vocalist you prefer.

Overall, Life is Not Beautiful is a bit of a frustrating release, as it’s a brilliant album musically, continuing with the epic symphonic metal of the band’s debut, while pushing towards more of a power metal direction, with quite a few speedier songs as well as some harder hitting, more modern sounding guitar work, but new vocalist Lassi Vääränen isn’t the best fit at times, and brings my enjoyment down on a couple tracks in particular. At the same time, he does bring a new intensity and energy that can help the band in the future, and I think if they write material that’s well suited to his voice, they could reach the next level. It hasn’t happened yet, but Life is Not Beautiful is still an excellent album overall, which I can easily recommend to fans of their debut, as well as anyone looking for some great symphonic power metal, with great songwriting, great instrumental work, and some good vocals, especially during verses and heavier sections.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/10/20/arion-life-is-not-beautiful-review/

METALLICA S&M

Live album · 1999 · Symphonic Metal
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FMOTP
S&M must be one of the most divisive albums in Metallica's huge discography. Some listeners seem to believe that Metallica has no business playing their most popular songs with a symphony orchestra. I obviously disagree. They're far from the first metal band to try this, but their innovative songwriting makes them more justified in this approach than most. James Hetfield has stated in Ultimate Guitar magazine, and other places, that the idea of combining Metallica with orchestral music started with Cliff Burton. How much, and how open-minded, of a Metallica fan are you? How tolerant are you of the musical experimenting that the band has done since the release of RIDE THE LIGHTNING? I think it makes a difference in the final rating of S&M. If your answer to these questions is "a lot", like me, you should definitely enjoy this album. I disagree with some of the MMA & PA collaborators whose reviews I respect and follow closely. I like James' singing. With all of his acknowledged flaws, I think his voice suits the band's music.

Metallica's setlist here wisely starts with RIDE THE LIGHTNING, when the songwriting began to improve and James began to learn how to sing. When it comes to individual highlights, I love the percussion in the second half of "The Memory Remains". It reminds me of John Adams' HARMONIELEHRE. "Devil's Dance" sounds like its name; it could be the dance before the ritual sacrifice in the soundtrack of an old horror movie. I do agree with the reviewers who write that S&M is too long at over two hours. But I'm a biased Aspie; I think that most albums over 45 minutes are too long! It helps to get the DVD version of this instead of the CD. Unusually, Metallica are a band that still seems to love playing live and getting the audience feedback, and it's apparent on the DVD. I now realize that I'm posting this review in the live album instead of the video section. I enjoyed both formats, but the DVD is really the one to get!

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
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
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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