Symphonic Black Metal

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

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EMPEROR Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk Album Cover Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk
EMPEROR
4.45 | 59 ratings
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EMPEROR In the Nightside Eclipse Album Cover In the Nightside Eclipse
EMPEROR
4.38 | 64 ratings
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CHTHONIC Seediq Bale Album Cover Seediq Bale
CHTHONIC
4.48 | 10 ratings
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AQUILUS Griseus Album Cover Griseus
AQUILUS
4.39 | 11 ratings
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NOKTURNAL MORTUM Lunar Poetry Album Cover Lunar Poetry
NOKTURNAL MORTUM
4.33 | 13 ratings
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CRADLE OF FILTH Dusk and Her Embrace Album Cover Dusk and Her Embrace
CRADLE OF FILTH
4.11 | 35 ratings
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CRADLE OF FILTH V Empire or Dark Faerytales in Phallustein Album Cover V Empire or Dark Faerytales in Phallustein
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4.18 | 16 ratings
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DIMMU BORGIR Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia Album Cover Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia
DIMMU BORGIR
4.06 | 32 ratings
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DIMMU BORGIR Stormblåst MMV Album Cover Stormblåst MMV
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4.13 | 14 ratings
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CARACH ANGREN Where The Corpses Sink Forever Album Cover Where The Corpses Sink Forever
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SAMAEL Passage Album Cover Passage
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symphonic black metal Music Reviews

MIRRORTHRONE Gangrene

Album · 2008 · Symphonic Black Metal
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UMUR
"Gangrene" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Swiss symphonic/progressive black metal act Mirrorthrone. The album was released through Red Stream, Inc. in April 2008. It´s the successor to "Carriers of Dust" from 2006. Mirrorthrone is a one-man act featuring Vladimir Cochet on bass, drum programming, guitars, keyboards, and vocals. Cochet formed Mirrorthrone in 2000 and released the debut full-length studio album "Of Wind and Weeping" in 2003. Cochet also releases albums under the Weeping Birth and Unholy Matrimony monickers.

Stylistically the material on the 6 track, 64:42 minutes long album continue the symphonic/progressive black metal style of "Carriers of Dust (2006)". Cochet is obviously classically trained and the compositions feature an omnipresence of classical piano and keyboard parts. Not completely unlike what some of the last Emperor albums sounded like. The drums are programmed and while they do feature an artificial digital sound, the actual drum programming is well done, and the programmed drums drive the music forward with the needed power. A human drummer would have been preferable but this is decent enough and doesn´t distract too much from the overall impression of the music. The vocals vary from snarling black metal type vocals, to clean vocals, to choirs, and there is generally good variation in the vocal department.

The tracks are generally very long, the shortest being 6:40 minutes long and the longest being 15:02 minutes long. They are structurally pretty complex and contain many different sections, atmospheres, and changes. A few more hooks to help tell the tracks apart would have been great, but it´s hard not to be impressed by the compositional skills at display here. The black metal parts are of the more polished kind, but that part of the music is perfectly designed to work with the many classical parts. So while I find "Gangrene" a more fascinating/intriguing release than an effectful and listenable ditto, my conclusive opinion is one of being mighty impressed by what I´m listening to. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

VARUNA The Epical Trilogy of Vorlaufen I: Night Master

Album · 2007 · Symphonic Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
China in the year 2020 still has the largest population of any nation on planet Earth with an estimated 1.4 billion inhabitants. Yes! That’s billion with a B! Roughly 1/7 or so of all of humanity. However despite such a lofty mass of humans nestled into one crowded region of East Asia, China has not been the most prolific importer of some of the more extreme forms of Western music such as black metal. Sure there have been a handful of artists including Holyarrow, Vengeful Spectre, Black Kirin, Zuriaake, Be Persecuted, Black Reaper and Dopamine but in proportion to the population of the nation, this style of music is still a completely unknown concept to the masses. But of course there are always a few adventurous souls who look abroad for contemporary inspiration and this band VARUNA which originated in Xian and now resides in Beijing is one of them.

This duo that consists of Bloodfire and Deadsphere escaped the cultural baggage and looked westward for some of the darker sounds of music and settled on the melodic yet jarring elements of symphonic black metal. While VARUNA was formed as far back as the year 2000, no music was released until 2007 when the self-titled demo was released along with the band’s sole album THE EPICAL TRILOGY OF VORLAUFEN I: NIGHT MASTER which found a home on one of China’s only metal music labels Dying Art Productions. The band’s name comes from the Vedic religion where VARUNA is a god of the sky, of rain and of the celestial ocean as well as a god of law and of the underworld. Cool! As evidenced from the title, despite the Eastern religious undertones, VARUNA performs in the English language and targets an international audience with an album that one would never guess fro a second emerged from the land of Bruce Lee, Chairman Mao and Confucius . THE EPICAL TRILOGY OF VORLAUFEN I: NIGHT MASTER has a running time of 45:30 and features seven tracks, two of which are instrumental but all soaked in symphonic atmospheres accompanied by unorthodox metal styles featured with black metal elements such as raspy vocals, distorted guitar riffing and frenetic outbursts of raging metal madness. The album feels epic despite its brevity and runs the gamut of extreme metal rampaging to synth fueled almost downtempo segments. What’s not very black metal about this album is how the metal is presented. Despite the black metal clothing so to speak, the guitar riffs range from militant industrial stomps to soaring guitar parts that wouldn’t sound out of place on a neo-prog album from IQ or Arena. The keyboards are ubiquitous with none of the tracks leaving them behind yet the metal aspects while very much the emphasis of the album do drop out and let the ambient atmospheres brew up a storm before the rampage begins as heard on the opening “Intro:supreme” which feels like an soundtrack to an epic sci-fi adventure.

When the second track “Unseen World” begins it showcases the general theme of the album, namely open with an mood setting keyboard movement and then add the chugging metal riffs that sound like everything except classic second wave black metal. In fact when the vocals deviate from the raspiness, this doesn’t sound like black metal at all much of the time but once the blastbeats and traditional moments do occur then there’s little doubt that Norwegian bands like Darkthrone and Immortal weren’t primary influences. Whether China continues to adopt these extreme sounds of the Western nations or not is anybody’s guess but in the case of VARUNA, this is fairly decent example of looking elsewhere for your inspiration and doing a damned good job of pulling off an album that is engaging. While i find this album excellent, it’s on the lesser end of that excellence scale. Despite the perfect production that allows the ambient elements to really shine, some of the ambient stuff sounds a bit cheesy at times but this is rare. Still a really great album considering this came from the middle of China!

SIGH Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien

Album · 2007 · Symphonic Black Metal
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UMUR
"Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien" is the 7th full-length studio album by Japanese progressive/experimental metal act Sigh. The album was released through The End Records in June 2007. It´s the successor to "Gallows Gallery" from 2005 and not surprisingly the two albums sound very little alike (which would actually have been unusual as most Sigh are pretty different in style and sound).

"Gallows Gallery (2005)" saw Sigh play a twisted form of power/heavy metal with very few nods towards their black metal past, but "Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien" brings back the raw black metal vocal style and a slightly harder edged basic sound. Of course Sigh haven´t stagnated or gone back to the roots, as they are an ever changing and developing act, and this time around they are opted to challenge themselves by making a symphonic tinged black metal album. They´ve used symphonic elements before, and it´s been obvious on preceding releases too that lead vocalist/keyboard player Mirai Kawashima is a classically trained musician/composer, but on "Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien", Sigh go all in on the symphonic concept.

You would think with a band covering as much musical ground as Sigh manage to do, that they would fail once in a while, but listening to "Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien" it´s abundantly clear that it´s not this time around. Sigh pull off playing symphonic black metal with the same ease as they have managed to play raw and savage old school black metal, avant garde/progressive black metal, psychadelic progressive black metal, and power/heavy metal on their preceding releases.

The basis of Sigh´s sound is still guitars, bass, drums, and snarling blackened vocals, but "Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien" is loaded with symphonic orchestral keyboard arrangements and choirs, which work well with the raw backing. "Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien" is a concept release divided into three parts, and the overall theme is religious (God, Satan, good vs evil type story), with use of bits and pieces from "Requiem" (liturgical service of the Roman Catholic Church).

Upon conclusion "Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien" is yet another bold, creative, and adventurous release by Sigh. Clever songwriting, powerful delivery of the music, and a professional and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly. It´s through and through a high quality release and a 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

FORMICARIUS Rending The Veil Of Flesh

Album · 2020 · Symphonic Black Metal
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Kev Rowland
This is the second album from Formicarius, who have brought in of Kevin Paradis of Benighted to provide drum duties this time around. He isn’t the only guest either as Sakis Tolis (Rotting Christ) and Nicholas Miller (Aklash) are involved on “Early Will I Seek Thee”. Both bassist Hægtesse and guitarist Lord Saunders provide different types of vocals, while there are also some female backing vocals here and there which provide some clarity through the symphonic black metal onslaught which I suspect are provided by keyboard player Morath. The final member of the band is lead guitarist Nazarkardeh, who can often be found leading the death metal act De Profundis.

There are times when this album is very good indeed, showcasing all that one would expect from this style of music, but for me it just isn’t consistent enough to make it a great piece of work. There is a reason why notes are seldom held for very long from singers in this style of music, and there are too many instances when there is just too much quavering and going off key. But the use of a twin vocal attack of black and death must be applauded as it’s not something which is heard very often. I would like the keyboards to be more aggressive and slightly more forward in the mix, but that would have to be at degradation of the guitars which are very good indeed with strong interlinks and riffs. It easy to see why Paradis is in such demand these days as he really takes control here and provides an incredible foundation for the rest of the band to work with.

If they can keep him in the band and continue to drive forward then the next album could see them taking the genre to a whole new level.

DIMMU BORGIR Eonian

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

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

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