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

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symphonic metal Music Reviews

HYLOXALUS Make Me the Heart of the Black Hole

Album · 2024 · Symphonic Metal
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siLLy puPPy
HYLOXALUS is a newer band from Edmonton, Canada which initially was aiming for a melodic death metal sound in its presentation but after discovering an operatic diva named Nina Laderoute, the duo of Mike Bell (guitar/bass/synth programming/lead songwriter) and Danial Devost (drums) hit upon a totally new style of symphonic power metal instead. This power trio released two EPS in 2019 and 2021 and at long last in 2024 releases its debut MAKE ME THE HEART OF THE BLACK HOLE.

A unique sounding album, MAKE ME THE HEART OF THE BLACK HOLE features 7 tracks at 35 minutes of playing time and showcases a unique mix of heavy thundering guitar riffs accompanied by spacey atmospheres and an ethereal almost Gothic clean soprano vocal style of Laderoute. Claimed by some a mix of Strapping Young Lad meeting Tristania, the music ranges from the stampeding energetic opener “He Dies In The Swamp” to more straight forward hard rockers like “Beyond The Soil” which deemphasize the power metal extremes and sound more like straight forward heavy metal at times therefore it seems the symphonic metal attributes are the common denominator.

The tracks are well constructed with instantly catchy hooks, strong musical support and strong vocal support from the operatic diva on board. The tracks differ from each other enough to stand on their own and the atmospheric symphonic touches are an integral part of the musical experience and not just a backdrop. The album is actually quite dramatic and sounds very much like a power metal band went to a night at the opera.

The lyrics are quite entertaining too as they narrate fictitious battles and cosmic commonalities. The dynamics of a thundering power metal background (most of the time) and a soft sensual atmospheric accompaniment with a clean vocal diva set outside the context of the metal universe makes the album sound original that’s for sure.

A really decent debut from HYLOXALUS however it doesn’t sound like the band ever quite achieves what they are going for and that is a larger than life musical experience that offers a great number of intermissions and musical styles. No, this is a collection of tracks that implies it wants to be a concept album or even a rock opera of some sort. Of course i can’t fault an album for NOT being something but it does sound like the dramatic achievements of the musical style deserve a more sophisticated format to match.

Perhaps that is in the future but for now all i have to say is that MAKE ME THE HEART OF THE BLACK HOLE certainly stands out from the never-ending flood of metal bands on the market and that is something alone to be proud of. I also like this album a lot too however i would refer to it more as a mix of Battle Beast and Dol Ammad. I guess my one major gripe with this album is Laderoute, as impressive as her vocals are, is a one trick pony with no variations. She needs to let loose and explore other styles more.

THERION Vovin

Album · 1998 · Symphonic Metal
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SilentScream213
This one leans a lot further into choral and Gothic elements. No traces of any of the band’s Extreme Metal past remain, as most vocal duties are handled by operatic vocals and choirs. The music is still evil sounding, but much more gentle, smooth, and melodic (as far as Metal goes, that is). Songs are built around powerful orchestral pieces, guitars offering simple but effective leads in support of the chorus and strings.

All of the above aspects hold this album together, but there’s a fantastic amount of variety to found. There’s slow Gothic dirges, faster Power Metal pieces, aggressive parts, softer parts, dark atmospheres and uplifting moods. What’s more, the band succeeds in pulling off just about every different style they go for here, which makes the album entertaining and ever changing. Even individual songs shift between these traits, having a fair amount of Progressive elements in many of these compositions.

Each song is densely layered and well-constructed. For me personally, it definitely would have benefitted from some of their past Extreme Metal traits, and I do feel a slight lack of overall heaviness to be found here. But I can’t complain, it’s a very solid and consistent album especially for one with so many different styles present.

THERION LEVIATHAN III

Album · 2023 · Symphonic Metal
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Artem Grasm1k
Review on Leviathan III by Artem "Metalman" Grasmik

"We totally go bananas on the third Leviathan". Probably the best description by Thomas Vikström himself that album can get. Craziest experience. The diversity of the songs just impress as was promised by Christofer Johnsson. In many aspects this album is groundbreaking, it's rare nowadays, when almost everything in music is said and done. Or is it...? This album gives such a question to the listeners and offers wide range of musical encounters. Metal flamenco? Check. Death metal choir? Check. Spiritual musical journey to another dimension? Check. Old Swedish lullaby in metal shell? Punkish bacchanalia? Four counterpoints by choirs at the same time? And much, much more there are on Leviathan III. To understand and to appreciate such complex, not trivial, tricky work you have to listen to it dozens of times. Of course it's a format not for everyone, though I would hardly recommend people who usually don't dive deep into the music to give it a try. Because in our non-stop always fussy world with so much fast food in all areas of life it's like a breath of fresh air, pure art. But it is also like an old treasure chest, that needs to be explored thoroughly and individually because some of the songs can't be be described fully and properly in words, but nonetheless I'll try my best to share my impressions with you.

Out of three parts this one is the most adventurous and heavy. There are some strongest hits here, but not all of the songs on it can be labelled as hits. It just can't be so due to the conception of the album. For hits go check first part of the trilogy. Interesting though, that the album build on extremes between cold and hot in atmosphere. For example there are songs which give you warm vibe (like Turkish Ruler Of Tamag, Amazonian Ayahuasca, Greek An Unsung Lament, Spanish Duende) and cold vibe (Maleficium with choir in Latin singing about eternal frost or Swedish Midsommarblot and Scandinavian Twilight Of The Gods). This contrast I suppose was depicted on the album cover in colours of sandy cliffs and night starry sky.

The album kicks off with heavy banger Ninkigal, which can scare some of the listeners with harshness already at the door (but don't worry, the next song is probably for you). But it also can please some of the old Therion's followers. To be honest I'm not a fan of death metal and it's elements in 98% of cases. Ninkigal is that kind of exception. Remember mentioned death metal choir? It's here and very powerful to say so. And though firstly I perceived it alienated, when understanding of how this song works came, it started to sound very natural. Roughness of death metal choir and really heavy guitar riffing balanced with gentle vocal performance of Lori Lewis and delicate sounds of keyboards. On top of that you get Snowy Shaw's intensive drumming and another epic female choir. Personally to me this song gave a special gift. I usually don't associate songs with colours, more with feelings, moods, images. But this time two colours came to my mind on the first listening: green and red. I asked myself what does it mean? What do I associate it with? A forest and a blood. A forest drenched in blood and soaked in it? Don't know why it dawned on me, but that's cool.

Ninkigal is like a bullet, a deadly one and flies extremely fast to the second song Ruler of Tamag, which is totally opposite to the opener. Very hit-oriented, very interesting, extremely beautiful. The masterpiece. I fell in love with that song (so did my girlfriend, she adores this song). Taida Nazraić with her gentle, beautiful and innocent voice did a great vocal job here conveying emotions. Turkish choir sounds mighty on this one. Who could have ever thought that it can sound so majestic and enchanting. And gratitude goes to Therion for bringing different languages and cultures to the table. In this song I especially love that first verse is played on acoustic guitars given that warm atmosphere, the second one is played on electric clean guitar and the third one's epic orchestral piece bringing that grandiose feeling - the difference between them is so enchanting. The special moment of Ruler Of Tamag for me is the final part, the crescendo, when Big Choir consisted of many Therion's vocalists sings and Rosalia Sairem doing some lead vocals in a manner of Linnea Vikström as a cherry on top (totally agree on that with Christofer Johnsson). I've forgotten to say, song contains some interesting percussion sounds and it is a very beautiful story from Tengrism religion delivered by Per Albinsson.

After the crescendo we get An Unsung Lament... Hard to describe that one. A song for inner circle? Oh, it was already said by Mr. Johnsson... It's awkward. Funny though I think the beginning of the song more similar to Judas Priest's Living After Midnight than to something from Kiss, maybe that's just me. The song itself is more like medley or... a solyanka soup, very delicious as well. Though I have to admit, that I considered An Unsung Lament as a overloaded song with unrevealed potential at first. But after a dozen listens to the song - the understanding of "how it works" came and now An Unsung Lament is one of the highlights of the album for me. My favourite parts are the ones with la-la-la-la-la-la chanting and "...the battle of Typhon and Zeus..." verse. Oh, yes, very nice and outstanding performance by Snowy on drums, especially on cymbals (chief of cymbals). Lori leads us to the end of the song and straight to the next one where she shines.

Maleficium. I'm surprised that this song wasn't chosen as a single by the band, though firstly to be honest I didn't get it (just like Thomas). By the way, Thomas is the beast here! So much energy! Sledgehammer performance! His voice age so well, just like fine wine. Nice choir singing in Latin and touching Lori's vocals just captures your soul. Maybe I wanted a little bit more lines by Lori in this song, but all in all great song. This song is one more example of this strange colour thing - here I got gold and black and associations with dawn and darkness. I was very surprised when I read the lyrics. I also understood about what Gothic Kabbalah vibe Christofer Johnsson spoke, and GK probably my favourite Therion album. But for me this vibe was not so obvious (as in Alchemy Of The Soul from Leviathan II for example).

Here comes another one highlight of the album - Ayahuasca. True musical spiritual journey to cosmic domain. Also the Masterpiece. Very catchy and unique song by all means. The second part of the song gives certain relax and chillout feeling. Thomas once again is great here (especially in the meditative vocal part) as is Taida and Rosa. But there is also a very special guest here - Piotr Wawrzeniuk. He gives this song a special flavour. Just like Nalle Påhlsson on bass and Bjorn Höglund on drums. My favourite parts of the composition are "Sing to me of days..." and "Stand amid the waves.../Let the nightingale...". I assume despite all the complexity this song might be played live by the band (especially to their legion of the fans in Latin America). I have to say that I relisten this one more often than any other from Leviathan III. So, I guess that is because Ayahuasca is very unique and sincere musical effort and probably the best depiction of this era of Therion.

Baccanale is probably not among the strongest tracks on the album, but holds some jokers up the sleeve. It starts with heavy riffing double attack and enchanting vocal lines which remind me Arabian Nights by Will Smith from Guy Ritchie's Aladdin 2019 (exactly this version). For me it sets cool oriental tone. But the pure gem here of course guitar battle (Priest like) between Christian Vidal and Kristian Niemann. How I wish it could last longer! They're both brilliant players, their second round is a blast. For me they're equals.

Nordic inspired Midsommarblot is my personal favourite from the album. Some things shouldn't be the best to be loved and held dear. The third and final time when colours came to my mind (Nota Bene: usually I don't associate music with colours at all) it was white and blue - snow and frozen water I thought. Too obvious? Maybe, but I guess Thomas succeeded in writing true nordic song about his homeland. I like this one so much. Thank You, Mr. Johnsson that You make this decision to put it on the album. You definitely made at least one fan happy by that. In my opinion solo in Midsommarblot totally deserves attention. It's super. I also like the decision with the ending, when first comes the silence and then suddenly music appears once again. Well done!

What Was Lost Shall Be Lost No More immediately from the first notes gave me Deggial vibe. Song is a vocal monster, length of the name matches to this vocal madness that's happening here. Thomas once again shines on that one with powerful and astonishing performance. Counterpoints is definitely something Therion do extremely good, maybe even they're the best in that. Hope the band will not abandon such element in their future works. It's useless to try to describe what the magic ciphered in counterpoints. Just listen to it. But I have to say I was surprised when after the solo right at the end came Chiara Malvestiti and put extra logs to the pyre. Brilliant!

Now it's time to talk about something very special. Sometimes magical moments come through the most unexpected things. Duende? Flamenco? In metal??? "Sure" - said Thomas. His true achievement, very deserved. Crazy experiment, undeniably successful (whether you like it or not). And this intro on acoustic traditional guitar composed by Vidal? It's gorgeous! Very soulful. I have to say on Leviathan III Christian Vidal is shining through on the entire album. Applause, Master. On Duende there is another brightest star - Rosalia. She wrote Spanish lyrics of the song and performed so well. My soul was aflamed by her performance. That is something flamenco should do. Very appropriate to use trombone and trumpet on this one. Special credits also go to Snowy for putting such a hard knocks in this song creating nice rhythm. This song (as is An Unsung Lament) especially appreciated by my friend of elder generation, she just loves it! I think the song is definitely the highlight of the album and destined to become fan favourite.

Close to the end another stomper approach - Nummo. This time with Thomas, Chiara, choir and Snowy on drums. Amazing rhythm, as I said real stomper. I like the song from the first listening, very accessible song, very hit-oriented (guess that is why it was chosen as a single). Interesting return to African cultural topic and to Sirius topic.

But everything comes to an end. Now I'm getting serious. I truly believe that Twilight Of The Gods is the best song on Leviathan III and in all Leviathan trilogy. For me it's one of the best Therion's songs in their entire catalogue. Perfect fit for what I call "The Therion" compilation. And what a great way to end such magnificent album as Leviathan III. Mats Leven is a beast and he did extremely well on Twilight Of The Gods. I suppose it is his more Candlemass manner of singing, but it fit so well to this composition. All his trademark sighs and raw energy in the voice empowered this song. So did Chiara's vocals here. She is gorgeous here! I think it is her pinnacle in Therion for the time being. But my personal favourite moment in this song is the part, where Thomas sings "As all returned into Ginnungagap" and till the end. It's a true final crescendo. This song is an example of when all involved members are doing their best for the sake of overall picture. And everyone endeavors to improve the final result as much as possible. Every instrument and voice woven between each other and in overall picture. Orchestra, drums, guitars, keyboards, just everything. Perfect. The true Masterpiece. Hope that Therion will play it live on their Leviathan tour in 2024. I also want to mention that my father, who actually doesn't like symphonic and operatic metal music and doesn't listen Therion was stunned by Twilight Of The Gods when I present it to him (as was I when the single came). I also hope that the band will continue to collaborate with Mats Leven on appropriate songs in the future, because his voice is a very good match to the music of Therion in my opinion. Mr. Johnsson would probably say that I'm a bit nostalgic, but I'm not. I don't believe that the grass was greener, the light was brighter back in the days. But I believe that some old friends of Therion can still give something new, something unique to the band and enrich band's music if given a chance.

It was a long musical journey and I'm very grateful to the band for such experience. Some might say I'm too much praise this album, but it really deserves it. Where is the criticism? Well, considering that I'm not a fan, who always loves earlier stuff more, but the one who likes band's efforts to create something new and always evolve, I don't need to necessarily have criticism in my review. And about such a high mark to the album: it was given not only to the great songs themselves, but first of all to creativity and new approaches, innovations in music presented on Leviathan III in general.

By the way I want to say that Leviathan III has excellent sound, best in years that Therion had. Detailed sound. All the frequencies are audible. All instruments (and there are many of them and many layers on the record) are also audible. Very splendid work by Eric Mårtensson. Except maybe for one thing only (consider it my little criticism), sometime the voices are too deep in the mix, drown in it and not shine on in all their greatness. I know a thing with different equipment and headphones and I tried different, I have a good collection. Of course in some of them situation is better, in some worse. But in most of them it is noticeable. And especially suffered Lori's parts and Merve Çakar's (Ruler Of Tamag soprano) vocals. Well, all in all it's still one of the best mixes in modern era productions.

Thank You so much, Therion, Christofer Johnsson, Thomas Vikström, Lori Lewis, Rosalia Sairem, Chiara Malvestiti, Christian Vidal, Nalle Påhlsson, Björn Höglund, Snowy Shaw, Piotr Wawrzeniuk, Kristian Niemann, Taida Nazraić, Catalina Popa, Fabio Amurri, Merve Çakar, Per Albinsson, Eric Mårtensson, the choirs and all other wonderful musicians who put so much efforts into that opus for us to enjoy! You're the best!

VISIONS OF ATLANTIS Eternal Endless Infinity

Album · 2002 · Symphonic Metal
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lukretion
Vision of Atlantis’ debut album Eternal Endless Infinity firmly belongs to the symphonic power metal subgenre that Nightwish popularized in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Closer to home, fellow Austrian band Edenbridge are another reference for the six-piece formation from Bruck an der Mur. As per the genre’s aesthetics, the line-up is comprised of two vocalists, one male (Christian Stani) and one female (Nicole Bogner), and a keyboard player (Chris Kamper), in addition to the standard metal/rock instrumentation (guitars: Werner Fiedler, bass: Mike Koren, drums: Thomas Caser).

If you are familiar with the genre, you won’t find many surprises in Eternal Endless Infinity. The formula the band follows throughout the LP’s ten tracks is tried and true. A tight double-bass drumming dictates a fast tempo in most songs, which the guitars and bass follow diligently by providing a satisfying low-end chugginess to the music. Chris Kamper’s symphonic flourish are very prominent and very very good, spanning a wide range of timbres and styles, from classical orchestration to electronic effects (“Eclipse”). Folk influences are occasionally blended into the music, too. Instrumentally, the album’s ten songs offer top-notch material, showcasing the four musicians’ technical proficiency (listen to Thomas Caser’s high-speed drum fills), but also their taste and skills in writing and arranging the songs.

However, two things hold this album back. First and foremost, the production is terrible. To put it bluntly, the sound quality is closer to that of a demo than a professional studio album. The guitars sound raw and at the same time lack presence. The bass is inaudible. The drums sound poor as well, flat and lifeless. Meanwhile, the vocals seem to have been recorded with the singers placed two meters away from the mic: their voices often struggle to emerge from the background and at times completely disappear behind the other instruments (are those muffled noises in “Lords of the Sea” and “The Quest” supposed to be growls?). Talking about vocals, this is the other main drawback of the record. Granted, they have not been recorded very well, but it is also clear that the two singers, Christian Stani and Nicole Bogner, are not yet in full control of their voices. Nicole in particular seem to struggle with her power, and her mezzosoprano vocals at times sound incredibly feeble and tentative. On the other hand, she seems to have a good timbre and a decent range. Christian Stani’s delivery is more satisfying, although he seems to have an inferior range and technique compared to Nicole. Overall, both their performances do not sound fully convincing, albeit for different reasons, which is of course a massive problem given that the band’s chosen genre requires the focus to be placed on the vocals.

Having said that, I must also concede that Eternal Endless Infinity does possess a special charm. Part of it comes from the spontaneity and enthusiasm the band clearly put in the songwriting, which is simple and by no means perfect, but also bursts with an energy and genuine passion that one may not always find in more accomplished releases. In many ways, Vision of Atlantis’ spontaneous approach reminds of Nightwish’s early records, which were similarly imperfect and eager to impress. Another contribution to the album’s special charm comes from Christian Stani’s vocal delivery. I criticized his technique earlier, but it is also true that his shouted, almost goth/punk approach stands out in a positive way in the context of this record, especially because it creates a beautiful contrast with the power metal stylings of the compositions.

Ultimately, these factors are Eternal Endless Infinity’s redeeming grace and save it from total disaster. It is not enough, however, to elevate the album beyond a “collectors only” status, in my opinion. Better examples in this subgenre abound, both from other bands and from Vision of Atlantis themselves. Eternal Endless Infinity is thus interesting to explore only if you are a fan of the band and want to dig deeper into their origins.

THERION Leviathan II

Album · 2022 · Symphonic Metal
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Kev Rowland
It is incredible to think Christofer Johnsson formed Therion more than 35 years ago, as they are still putting out wonderful symphonic albums of great depth, and here they are returning quickly with the second part of their ‘Leviathan’ trilogy. The first came out in 2021, this towards the end of 2022 while the next is due in 2023 so they were obviously conceived, if not recorded, at the same time. Johnsson said he has achieved everything he had wanted after the release of ‘Beloved Antichrist’, and was bereft of ideas so sat down with lead vocalist Thomas Vikström to work out what to do next, and they decided that instead of progressing in the way they wished to why not give the fans exactly what they wanted?

This means Christofer Johnsson (guitars), Sami Karppinen (drums), Nalle Påhlsson (bass) and Christian Vidal (guitars) providing hugely complex and complicated multi-layered arrangements which also have plenty of room for Thomas Vikström and Lori Lewis to really shine. It is symphonic, metallic, progressive, orchestral, melodic, designed for rock arenas and classical stages alike, blending together different forms so the join is seamless. One wonders how many hours were spent in the studio by the singers as they are multi-tracked time and again to create harmonies on top of harmonies, yet for all this the band never move away from being a guitar-led rock band. We even get some Middle Eastern influenced in “Marijin Min Nar” where Lori shows not only her rock voice but some professionally trained high soprano which is just sublime.

This is an album which has enough melody and hooks within it to capture the listener the first time of playing, but when more time is invested the rewards are great. When played on speakers one gets one level of understanding, although only if the volume is high, as there is much more to comprehend when using headphones. It is a compelling piece of work, and there is no doubt Johnsson has achieved his aim in giving fans what they want, and now we all eagerly await the conclusion of this set later this year. Yet again, Therion have delivered wonderful symphonic metallic music of the highest order.

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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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