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

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.

NIGHTWISH Endless Forms Most Beautiful

Album · 2015 · Symphonic Metal
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Kev Rowland
In between this 2015 album and the previous studio release, 2011’s ‘Imaginaerum’ it is safe to say the band had been through some struggles (seek out the excellent tour documentary on YouTube detailing what happened). Due to singer Anette Olzon being hospitalized immediately before a show in Denver, the band went ahead with Alissa White-Gluz and Elize Ryd (who were part of support band Kamelot) taking on the role, using printed lyrics and a revised setlist. This in turn led to Floor Jansen being invited in for the rest of the tour. Late in 2013 it was announced that Jansen would be the full-time replacement for Olzen, and the band also made Troy Donockley a permanent member (he had already been touring with the band for five years at this point). However, before they went into the studio to record the new album it was announced that founding member and drummer Jukka Nevalainen would not be involved due serious insomnia (he has since left the band as a musical member although to this day he is still heavily involved in taking care of band-related business), and he would be replaced by Kai Hahto (Wintersun.

So there had been a lot going on in the band, but they had weathered issues prior to this, particularly with the loss of original singer Tarja Turunen, so like many I was intrigued to hear this album. I happened to see Nightwish on the tour with Floor (who I had always admired with After Forever) and thought the band had connected really well together, so was looking forward to this. Jansen is a good replacement for Olzon, as while she can sing that material well, her voice is also suited to the earlier material of Turunen, and I expected to see something of a return to the sort of material with which Nightwish made their name. When Marco Hietala joined the band in 2001, he made a massive impact as it gave the band a second really strong songwriter and someone who could also take centre stage as lead singer, so I had very expectations indeed.

However, apart from a few standouts, what we have here to my ears is a band who are really going through the motions. It has everything that one expects from Nightwish, but somehow muted. It is bombastic and over the top, yet without the soul and passion I expect. Delicate numbers such as “Our Decades In the Sun” stand out as they are a delight, an oasis of light in a fairly dark and parched atmosphere. But, it’s not a bad album, it is still much better than many bands will ever hope to release, it is just I expected more from a band who had been through so much, and I firmly expected them to take a step up from ‘Imaginaerum’, which I loved, yet somehow they have not managed that.

Anyone who enjoys symphonic metal is going to love this, but for me while it is an excellent album, and one which I am sure I will return to, it doesn’t deliver as I expected it to.

THE DARK ELEMENT Songs the Night Sings

Album · 2019 · Symphonic Metal
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Kev Rowland
The Dark Element is a musical project fronted by vocalist Anette Olzon (ex-Nightwish), together with Finnish guitarist, keyboard player and songwriter Jani Liimatainen (Insomnium, Cain's Offering, ex-Sonata Arctica). This is their second album, with the line-up being completed by Jonas Kuhlberg (bass) and Rolf Pilve (drums). Now, I always enjoyed Olzon’s singing with Nightwish, and was incredibly disappointed when she departed as I felt they had yet to really gel as an outfit, but it has to be said no-one really misses her now that Floor Jansen has made the role her own. I didn’t hear the debut from these guys but was really excited when I heard about it and played it as soon as it was available. Then I promptly put it away and decided I probably was not in the right mood and would play it again another time. That I did, and kept coming up with the same result, which I really didn’t want as I was so looking forward to it.

To put it bluntly this is Nightwish-lite, and there are bits and pieces which remind me of Olzon’s work with that band, but I actually think this could all be forgiven if it wasn’t for the drums! To say they have someone who wants to sit there and just play standard 4/4 with little in the way of variation is an understatement. I soon found that I was concentrating more on what he was doing than Olzon, and that cannot be right! Liimatainen built a very strong reputation with Sonata Arctica, and he is a dramatic guitarist, but the band could do with a better keyboard player, preferably someone who has never heard Nightwish. There are some nice bits and pieces, and Olzon’s vocals are superb, but there still needs to be much more work undertaken for this band to create their own identity and become a force to be reckoned with.

SEVEN SPIRES Emerald Seas

Album · 2020 · Symphonic Metal
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DippoMagoo
It seems almost every year, within the first couple of months I’ll encounter an album from a band I’ve either never heard of or not thought much about before, sneak up out of nowhere and leave me speechless. With perfect timing, comes Emerald Seas, the second full-length release from American symphonic metal band Seven Spires… I vaguely remember hearing their debut, Solveig, back in 2017, and I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it, though it never really stuck with me over time. Needless to say, I now have the urge to suddenly dig much deeper into that one, because after giving Emerald Seas several listens, it has left me floored, in ways no other symphonic metal album has managed to do since at least the last two full-length Epica releases!

Solveig was an epic concept album, centered around a lost soul who’s fallen prey to a demon, and while Emerald Seas builds on this concept, it’s not a sequel but a prequel, instead of telling the story of what happened to the main character in the past. On this album, the main character is a sea captain, seeking eternal life. The tracks go into pretty heavy territory, (including the details of their eventual demise,) though there’s also some happier tracks, with a more adventurous and romantic feel to them, as well as some more sorrowful tracks, and some filled with hope. Basically, the album deals with many different moods, and as such, there’s a lot of variety to both the music and vocal approach, with each track standing out in its way. At the same time, the band uses the lyrics and atmosphere to great effect, ensuring that everything comes together perfectly, as the album flows seamlessly from track to track. As a result, this is an album full of highlight after highlight, while also being as cohesively tied together as an album can be.

While the lyrics are a major highlight of the album (both in terms of the overarching concept, as well as some amazing isolated lines on each track) the overall sound is also very impressive. A lot is going on musically, with the use of symphonic arrangements and Adrienne Cowan’s beautiful, yet fierce voice, being the two constant presences throughout. Some tracks fall into more traditional symphonic metal far, except with a slightly darker atmosphere and more intense riffs than usual, while others are on the softer side, some go into full speedy power metal territory, with some incredible melodies, and some fall into gothic or even symphonic black metal territory, with some very intense drumming, hard-hitting guitars and the use of harsh vocals. The musicians are all excellent, with guitarist Jack Kosto and keyboardist/vocalist Adrienne Cowan standing out the most, along with the epic symphonic arrangements, of course. Everything sounds perfect, though, with all aspects of the album sounding amazing, and the production is very crisp and powerful, as expected.

As great as the music is, the star of the album is Cowan, who’s delivered by far the best vocal performance I’ve heard from her to date. Aside from Seven Spires, I’ve also heard her with Light & Shade, as well as on a couple of isolated tracks with other bands, and in general, I’ve had a mixed reaction to her, finding her vocal range quite impressive, with her mid register being especially strong, but I’ve always found her more piercing, high pitched screams to be a bit irritating. However, on this album she has stepped her game up to a whole new level, delivering both some of the softest, most beautiful vocals I’ve heard on a metal album in recent memory, as well as some of the most intense, powerful vocals, with some tracks doing an excellent of showing how aggressive her voice can be. However, for the first time so far, I find all her vocals here to be brilliant, with the more animated vocals fitting the tracks perfectly, while the softer vocals showcased on ballads are perfect, and the light, smooth yet oh so subtly powerful vocals she uses on the more power metal-infused tracks are fantastic, and probably my favorite style from her. She also performs some very deep, extremely intense harsh vocals, which again fit the tracks perfectly, and are performed flawlessly In fact, they have a very theatrical feel to them which fits well with the storytelling style of the album. Her high pitched screams are indeed here, as well, though they’re limited to fairly short bursts, and are used quite effectively.

The album is already quite impressive, just based on the overall sound, performances, and concept, but it also excels in the songwriting department, with each track building onto the overarching concept effectively, while also each being very engaging on their own. Following a brief but very nice intro track, the first full song is “Ghost of a Dream”, a fairly mid-paced track, with very nice melodic guitar leads. It moves along at a nice pace, and immediately gives the feel of an epic adventure, with a slight folk feel to it, as well as some epic symphonic arrangements, of course. The verses are nice, while the chorus is very melodic, and serves as a great showcase for Cowan’s vocals, along with a very slight hint at her harsh vocals, while the lyrics are excellent, and serve as an overview for the concept. Next is “No Words Exchanged”, a slightly more upbeat track, which alternates nicely between some beautiful melodic guitar leads, as well as some pretty heavy riffs. It slows down early on, for some soft vocal passages, but it speeds up nicely as it goes along, with some wonderful guitar work, epic symphonic arrangements and some excellent vocals.

The first power metal-infused track is “Every Crest”, which has a strong adventurous feel to it, with furious drums, some wonderful guitar leads, and some of Cowan’s smoothest singing on the album, as well an incredibly upbeat, very fun and catchy chorus. The verses have a nice atmosphere to them, which is unique, being fairly relaxed but also epic, while the rest of the track is a much faster pace, and while it has some heavier sections, it’s mostly a very melodic track, with some excellent melodies throughout. The first extensive use of harsh vocals comes on “Unmapped Darkness”, another track which alternates nicely between some very heavy guitar work at times, as well as some gorgeous, upbeat melodies, with the chorus, in particular, being amazing and having some more very light, beautiful vocals from Cowan. The track serves an awesome showcase for her, overall, with the chorus being rather upbeat and epic, while some other sections are a bit faster and more intense, but the highlight is the occasional more aggressive sections, where her harsh vocals come to the front of the sound, and they sure are quite intense and wild, in the best way possible!

I’ll admit, even though I hadn’t remembered much about the band’s debut, I did have high hopes for the album going in, just based on the quality of lead single “Succumb”, which may be my favorite track of 2020 so far. It’s a blazingly fast, cheerful, upbeat power metal track with more wonderful leads, some especially memorable and epic symphonic arrangements, and a stunning chorus. While the track has a lot going on musically, with everything sounding perfect, the vocals and lyrics are the highlight, as the track has a romantic feel to it, which Cowan pulls off perfectly, both with some of her most beautiful, yet fierce vocals, as well as with some extremely beautiful lyrics, especially during the chorus, which has a very poetic feel to it. In complete contrast to that masterpiece is the second single “Drowner of Worlds”, which showcases the band at their absolute darkest, heaviest and most atmospheric. It’s a very moody track, with an overwhelmingly dark feel to the symphonic elements, while the choirs add an extra level of creepiness to the track. Musically, the track has a very theatrical feel to it, very much falling into symphonic black metal territory along with the likes of Dimmu Borgir, with a slightly gothic feel. The highlight, of course, is Cowan, who delivers some vicious growls, and they suit the tone of the track perfectly. While she mostly uses her deeper growls, there’s an especially furious section around halfway through, where the drums turn to blast beats and the track explodes, and at that point, she switches to some of her higher-pitched screams, though here they fit perfectly, and sound awesome.

Once again shifting gears, the band delivers two ballads next. First is “Silvery Moon”, a wonderful track, with a slight folk feel to it. It represents the gentler side of the concept, with the main character looking back to happier times, following his physical death on the following track. It has some beautiful guitar work, including a stunning solo in the second half, and the symphonic arrangements are perfect, but once again, the highlight is Cowan, who delivers some of her softest, most tender vocals throughout most of the track, slowly building up to a brief outburst of some of her most powerful, emotional vocals, and she sounds incredible. The other ballad is “Bury You”, a slightly heavier track, which falls more into power ballad territory. It alternates nicely between some very softer sections, with nice use of soft keys and light guitars, as well as some slightly heavier sections, with the chorus being very nice and melodic, while having a slight hint of heaviness. The music is very beautiful, but unsurprisingly, the vocals are the best part, especially during the middle where they get very intense, once again.

Coming towards the end of the album, “Fearless” is another darker track, with a strong gothic metal feel. It has a very sinister atmosphere to it, with some fairly heavy but subtle guitar work, which gives way to more intense growls from Cowan, though unlike “Drowner of Worlds”, this song does have some softer sections, with the chorus, in particular, having some very soft, very theatrical sounding vocals, with a slight operatic quality to them. The track is awesome, overall, and does a nice job of alternating between soft and heavy sections. Next is a very brief, yet beautiful interlude track, with very nice use of piano, as well as more great vocals and lyrics, which gives way to “The Trouble With Eternal Life”, the last full song on the album, and yet another instant classic. This track opens up with soft piano for a while, before slowly bringing in the symphonic elements and then the full band, with more wonderful guitar leads, as well as a slight heaviness to the riffs. It’s another very upbeat, fast-paced power metal track, though it has a slightly more sorrowful tone compared to earlier power metal tracks on the album, while still retaining some hopefulness, especially during the very melodic, catchy and fun chorus, with some more very light and beautiful vocals. The album closes with the title track, a very nice orchestral track, full of reprises from throughout the album, The way it recreates melodies in a softer, more beautiful way helps to demonstrate just how amazing these tunes are, and it’s a great way to end the album.

At this point, it seems inevitable that one band or another will come almost completely out of nowhere to leave me stunned and blown away early on in the year, and in 2020, that band is Seven Spires! I was somewhat interested in hearing Emerald Seas, based on the little I remembered of their debut, and I’ll admit “Succumb” sure made me curious to hear the overall album, but I could have never expected the full release to be such a beautiful, yet intense, dark yet at times upbeat and hopeful, concept album, which goes in many different directions, yet manages to come together perfectly. Fans of the band’s debut need to hear this, and I’d also recommend it to any symphonic metal fan looking for the potential next big thing, as after hearing this album, I certainly believe Seven Spires have the talent and songwriting capabilities to become one of the very best in their genre!

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2020/02/15/seven-spires-emerald-seas-review/

DELAIN Apocalypse & Chill

Album · 2020 · Symphonic Metal
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DippoMagoo
In a recent review, I commented on the importance of naming an album, and how some bands tend to be more creative with their album titles, while others tend to play it fairly safe. I’ve seen plenty of interesting album titles in recent years, as well as plenty of forgettable ones, but one that instantly raised my eyebrows upon seeing it is Apocalypse & Chill. Yep, that is indeed the title of Dutch symphonic metal band Delain’s sixth full-length release, and it sure is a strange one. Oddly enough, though, upon listening to the album, the name actually starts to make more sense, as it both gives an idea of what to expect from the lyrical concepts, as well as accurately describing the music pretty well.

I’ve long seen Delain as a band that consistently releases some very good albums, and I’d definitely consider them one of the more important symphonic metal bands in the world at this point, but I find their albums never quite reach the levels of some of my favorites in the genre. This continues with Apocalypse & Chill, though I do think it’s one of their most consistent releases to date, as well as by far their most interesting and unique.

Stylistically, Delain has always struck a nice balance between heaviness, light symphonic elements and beautiful vocals from Charlotte Wessels. Apocalypse & Chill takes all of these elements to the extreme, with almost every track alternating between some of their most aggressive guitar work to date, as well as having some of their catchiest, most melodic choruses and vocal sections, and while the symphonic elements still aren’t as grand as the likes of Nightwish or Epica, there are some pretty big arrangements on some tracks. For the majority of the album, the band alternates nicely between some pretty modern sounding, at times brutal guitar work, and some very nice keyboards, which are at times very flashy and modern, while at other times they’re more relaxing and atmospheric. While all musicians do a great job, it’s clear keyboardist Martijn Westerholt and vocalist Charlotte Wessels are the main focus of the album, with both delivering their absolute best performances to date. As usual, the production is fantastic, with all instruments sounding clear and powerful, and whenever orchestration is used, it’s mixed in perfectly with everything else.

While Delain has always had great musicianship and excellent vocals, I find their songwriting is generally solid, but not quite top tier. This continues somewhat with Apocalypse & Chill, though I do think this album is possibly their most consistent release yet, as while there’s only one track I’d consider a masterpiece, there are no weak tracks, and every song is great in its own way. The album opens with “One Second”, which is either the second or third single released depending on how you view things (I’ll explain in more detail later.) Either way, it’s a nice, fairly simple track, where the guitar work is heavy, but in a fairly subtle, understated way, with some very flashy keys being the main focus of the music, while Wessels is accompanied on vocals by guitarist Timo Somers, who delivers some very powerful slightly animated vocals during the chorus, where he excels. It’s a solid track on its own, and it gets the album off to a nice start.

Next is “We Had Everything”, a rather fun and upbeat track, which has some very nice, trance infused keys, which again drive the music, though the guitar work is a bit more prominent here, and it does get pretty heavy in between vocal sections. Wessels shines on this track, singing very lightly during the verses, utilizing her higher register, and then delivering some very soft and smooth vocals during the fun and catchy chorus. The instrumental work is nice throughout the track, with the guitar solo in the second half, in particular, being very melodic and epic at the same time. Things slow down slightly with “Chemical Redemption”, a track that again alternates nicely between some crushing riffs and rather light keys, with the verses, in particular, using the keys more for atmosphere and extra flavor, while the chorus is nice but a bit understated compared to most other tracks on the album. The highlight of the track is a very melodic, very beautiful guitar solo, which leads into some pretty epic orchestral arrangements.

The second (or first) single from the album is “Burning Bridges”, and to me, this stands as by far the best on the album, as it utilizes on aspects of the band’s sound perfectly, and I’d say it’s one of the band’s absolute best songs to date. It opens with more brutal guitar work, accompanied by some epic symphonic arrangements, which carry on throughout the track. The verses move by at a quick pace, with some rather light guitar work, powerful lead vocals, and more epic orchestral backing, and then the chorus comes and is absolutely fantastic and extremely epic, with some of the best vocals I’ve ever heard from Wessels. The real highlight, though, comes in after the second run through the chorus, where some very intense and powerful harsh vocals are used, for the first and only time on the album, and that’s followed by an epic instrumental section, where the orchestral elements are really pushed to the front. While I do think the track hints at elements that could have been used more throughout the album, I also think that only having them on this track helps it to stand out a lot more, and ultimately, it ends up feeling like the one track where everything just comes together perfectly.

After that stunner of a track, “Vengeance” is a bit more typical, though still pretty fun. It moves along a solid pace, with some rather light and melodic guitar work, as well as more symphonic arrangements. The catch to this track is that vocal duties are split between Wessels and Beast in Black vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos, who sounds as wild and energetic as always. The two work together well, which makes for a fun chorus, and while track overall isn’t spectacular, it is a lot of fun. Another standout is “To Live is to Die”, which utilizes some very futuristic sounding, industrial style keys, which serve as the main driving force, though the guitar work is also fairly heavy at points. It’s a pretty dark and atmospheric track, with Wessels again delivering some very powerful and emotional vocals. One track which really demonstrates the concept of the album well is “Let’s Dance”, with some rather grim lyrics being overlapped with repeated proclamations of “it’s a beautiful day”. While it does make for an interesting effect and is an interesting idea, I do find the repetition to be a bit much, and so the verses are rather irritating to sit through. The chorus is quite fun and catchy, though, the very heavy guitar work is quite good, so the track still ends up being solid, overall, if not one of my favorites.

More heavy guitar work follows on “Creatures”, which comes pretty close to sounding like later Evergrey during its intro, though it does soften up a bit during the verses, with some very dark sounding keys, and the track overall has a rather bleak feel to it, which is somewhat countered by beautiful vocals, and an excellent chorus. It’s yet another track where the whole “Apocalypse & Chill” idea fits in quite well. The one ballad of the album is “Ghost House Heart”, either the third or fourth single. It’s another very atmospheric track, which makes nice use of some soft piano work, and more orchestral arrangements. It’s a very nice track, with some great moments, but it never fully takes off, instead simply remaining a solid track throughout. The first track released from the album is “Masters of Destiny”. However, whether or not it’s actually the first single is debatable, as it was originally released as a single for the early 2019 EP Hunter’s Moon. Either way, it’s easily the most epic track on the album, with the orchestrations and choral vocals being pushed to the max, while the guitar work is fairly subtle and not the main focus. Instead, it serves as an excellent vocal showcase for Wessels, who delivers some of her most powerful vocals to date, especially during the spectacular chorus.

The last heavier track on the album is “Legions of the Lost”, another excellent track, which alternates nicely between heavy guitars, soft verses, a very melodic and beautiful chorus, and it mixes in some very nice keys and orchestral elements, at times. The last vocal track is “The Greatest Escape”, a softer track, which almost feels like a ballad during the verses, where Wessels is accompanied only by some light keys, though it does become slightly heavier and more upbeat during the chorus, which is quite beautiful. Closing out the album is a full-length instrumental track, “Combustion”, which is, in fact, the longest track on the album. It’s a very beautiful track, once again moving from some soft sections with some very nice keys and piano, as well as having some very heavy guitars, especially in the middle. It has plenty of memorable moments, and it certainly closes the album out quite effectively.

Despite the rather strange name, Apocalypse & Chill is another great album from Delain, which showcases all aspects of the band very well, alternating between some very heavy, modern guitar work, to some rather flashy, upbeat keys, some epic orchestrations, some very catchy choruses and vocal melodies, and some very beautiful sections. Fans of the band are sure to be pleased with the album, while any symphonic metal fans looking for a fun album with some great vocals would also be highly recommended to give this album a listen, as Delain has proven themselves to once again be a consistently great band.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2020/02/08/delain-apocalypse-chill-review/

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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