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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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EPICA The Holographic Principle Album Cover The Holographic Principle
4.76 | 14 ratings
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THERION Theli Album Cover Theli
4.32 | 41 ratings
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EPICA Omega Album Cover Omega
4.64 | 7 ratings
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EPICA Design Your Universe Album Cover Design Your Universe
4.26 | 40 ratings
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THE GENTLE STORM The Diary Album Cover The Diary
4.34 | 13 ratings
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WITHIN TEMPTATION Paradise (What About Us?) Album Cover Paradise (What About Us?)
4.50 | 6 ratings
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EPICA The Solace System Album Cover The Solace System
4.44 | 7 ratings
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XANDRIA Theater of Dimensions Album Cover Theater of Dimensions
4.36 | 9 ratings
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WITHIN TEMPTATION Mother Earth Album Cover Mother Earth
4.20 | 25 ratings
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THERION Vovin Album Cover Vovin
4.15 | 40 ratings
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DAMNATION ANGELS Bringer of Light Album Cover Bringer of Light
4.30 | 10 ratings
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AFTER FOREVER After Forever Album Cover After Forever
4.09 | 29 ratings
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The Cold Embrace of the Light
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Helena de Troya
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symphonic metal Music Reviews


Album · 2007 · Symphonic Metal
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Kev Rowland
To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the final album by After Forever it has just been reissued by Nuclear Blast on vinyl and CD along with an additional bonus cut and new notes by the band members themselves. They may have only released five albums, but there is no doubt the band had a huge impact on the progressive metal scene, with founder Mark Jansen leaving after the second album to create Epica while singer Floor Jansen has of course now cemented her place as frontwoman of Nightwish. Having not played this album for some considerable time I had forgotten just how good it is. Floor has long been one of the most incredible singers around, and here she is involved with music which is complex but more metallic than her current outfit. When guitarist Sander Gommans comes in with the harsh vocals it is absolutely brutal, providing huge contrast.

Some songs, such as “Withering Time” do contain more operatic and classical sections, but they are a band who originally started playing much heavier music and it is the metal which often shines through. “De-Energized” is metal to the core, with just a few symphonic overtones, and when Floor finally makes her entrance, she has a driving metallic gothic core to place her vocals against, while Sander is most definitely making his presence felt on this one. With the very high profile these days of Floor and her performances with Nightwish, there is no doubt that this reissue will get far more attention than the original did when it came out all those years ago, and rightly so. I first came across them with their second album, ‘Decipher’, back in 2001 and never felt they gained the respect they deserved. Perhaps fifteen years down the track the time is now right for their music to be re-evaluated, and this is a definite goodie.

THREADS OF FATE The Cold Embrace of the Light

Album · 2022 · Symphonic Metal
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Back in March, Layered Reality Productions released this very interesting debut album by US symphonic metal band Threads of Fate. Don’t let the band’s debutante status fool you, though. Threads of Fate’s line-up is comprised of musicians who had important experiences in other metal acts before they joined forces here. The band is the brainchild of vocalist John Pyres, who played keyboards for Among the Giants and Lycanthro. Keyboards and orchestrations are in the capable of hands of Vikram Shankar, whose work with Redemption, Carthagods and most recently Silent Skies has attracted lots of praise in the specialized press. Shankar also plays bass on the album, while Jack Kosto (Seven Spires) handles the guitar work and is also in charge of mixing and mastering. His Seven Spires bandmate Chris Dovas appears as session drummer.

Broadly speaking, The Cold Embrace of the Light falls into the symphonic metal category, although the album covers a lot of ground, bringing in multiple influences and experimenting with diverse styles. Cinematic and orchestral music is certainly one of them, as Shankar’s layered keyboards paint a rich symphonic tapestry that weaves classical and filmscore music together with a contemporary rock/metal approach. There is a strong focus on epic but melancholic melodies, bringing to mind dark progressive/power metal bands like Kamelot and Evergrey. At the same time, there are also influences from extreme metal, blackened death metal in particular, that are manifest in Pyres’ expressive growls and in the occasional explosions of blast beats in the songs’ most intense passages. Doom metal is another influence, as the tempos are often dilated and the album is drenched in a feeling of moody melancholia that reminds me of acts like Swallow the Sun. As I said, the album covers a lot of ground, which is what made it so interesting and appealing to me as soon as I first listened to it.

Digging deeper brings even more satisfaction. I really liked the songs’ rich harmonic structures created by Shankar’s opulent keyboard arrangements and Kosto’s clever guitar work that alternates groovy rhythmical riffs to contrapuntal melodic playing. It is clear that a lot of thoughts went into the songwriting and arrangements, as the band strives to stay as much as possible away from formulaic song structures. Pre-choruses, bridges, instrumental breaks, key and tempo changes are all used craftily to spice things up and retain the listener’s interest, for the most part successfully. I also appreciated the huge dynamics contained in nearly all songs that continuously swing from quiet piano/vocals passages to massive, wall-of-sound orchestrated climaxes. This confers a dramatic feel to the music that forms the perfect background for Pyres’ theatrical and heartfelt vocals. The complementary use of clean vocals and growls add further variety and dynamics to the music.

There’s a lot to dig your teeth into in this album, and a lot to like too, especially if you are sucker for deeply melodic music which explores dark and melancholic moods, as I am. However, I also believe that there is also room for improvement here, in order to make the leap from good album to masterpiece. First, I feel that Pyres’ vocals and vocal melodies are somewhat the album’s weak link. This is paradoxical given that the record places so much emphasis on the vocals. And just to be clear, Pyres is a competent singer so don’t expect any cringe-worthy vocal performance here. My issue with Pyres’ vocal lines lies mostly in the way his cleans are constructed and performed. There is a sense of stiffness and monotony in the clean vocal melodies that I think comes from the fact that he often sticks very rigidly to the beat, without moving much around it This, and the frequent reliance on long sustained notes, fairly narrow contours and limited resonance, introduces a sense of weariness and sameness as one progresses through the album that is difficult to shake off. This negative impression is further reinforced by the fact that many of the songs are based on similar musical ideas and explore essentially the same mood. I said earlier that Threads of Fate put a lot of effort in spicing things up, which is true and really commendable. But it’s also true that about two-thirds of the songs here exploit the same idea of starting with a quiet/moody verse and slowly building up to a massive, tear-jerker chorus, which grows tiresome after a while. This is why I particularly appreciated songs like “The Horrors Within” and “Love Held Hands with Hatred” that bring in slightly different atmospheres (the malign, black metal interjections in “The Horrors Within”) and rely on alternative songwriting approaches (the fast, aggressive “Love Held Hands with Hatred”).

I would not want my last paragraph to be taken as too negative, though, because I did truly enjoy The Cold Embrace of the Light, to the point that I purchased the physical CD even though I had already access to the promo. It’s a quality release that shows a lot of potential and that will appeal to a wide and diverse range of metalheads, from doom lovers to prog aficionados. There’s just a few more steps to be taken to project Threads to Fate into the stratosphere, and I firmly believe that the band have all the compositional and playing skills to get there with their next album.

THREADS OF FATE A Funeral for the Virtuous

EP · 2018 · Symphonic Metal
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Threads of Fate formed in 2017 from an idea of vocalist John Pyres (Among the Giants; Lycanthro). He recruited guitarist Jack Kosto (Seven Spires), keyboard player Vikram Shankar (Redemption, Silent Skies) and drummer Jake Dick (Atomic Witch) to record this EP that was then released independently in 2018. The album contains four tracks for a duration of about 23 minutes. The music can be broadly classified as belonging to the symphonic metal genre, although Thread of Fate bring together quite a diverse set of influences that they combine with gusto to create a fairly original and unique sound.

The music is richly symphonic thanks to Vikram Shankar’s masterful orchestral arrangements and a songwriting that it unafraid to experiment with contrapuntal melodies and multiple layered harmonies. John Pyres uses both his clean, high tenor tone and his growls. The former use melodies that would not be out of place on a dark prog/power metal album (Evergrey; Kamelot). Pyres’ growls run all the spectrum from guttural lows to mid-range shrieks, suggesting a blackened death metal style as the primary influence. Jake Dick’s drumming is also in the black metal style, with frequent blast beats and brutally fast and technical sections. The atmospheres are downcast and melancholic, with hints of doom, but there is also an overarching epic feeling that runs through the music, making for an interesting and imaginative combination. If you can think of a sonic collision between Swallow the Sun and Evergrey with an added dose of metallic aggression, you may get an idea of how the EP sounds like.

It is not difficult to see why this EP caught the interest of Dutch prog/symphonic metal label Layered Reality Productions, which four years later released Threads of Fate’s debut full-length. There are many good ideas thrown in the mix here, with a strong balance between structural complexity, technical playing and an unwavering sense of melody, making each song accessible but also challenging and stimulating. Inevitably for a self-produced debut EP, there are quite a few rough edges too. The raw production and mixing is one of them, which penalizes the busiest and most complex passages of the music. I am also not a big fan of Jake Dick’s performance. His choice of drumming patters and his general lack of restraint do not always work for the betterment of the songs. I am not surprised that the band switched to a different drummer for the full-length album. There’s room for improvement also in John Pyres’ vocals, especially his cleans that at times sound a tad too strained and tentative.

The 2022 full-length will massively improve on many of these imperfections, testifying to the strong potential of this band. This EP is nevertheless an interesting listen that fans of melodic symphonic metal will lap up in an instant.

DEEP SUN Dreamland - Behind the Shades

Album · 2022 · Symphonic Metal
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I follow female-fronted symphonic metal with both curiosity and wariness. My unease mostly comes from the fact that the genre’s strict stylistic parameters make it fairly difficult to innovate. As a result, for each album that catches my interest there are other ten that fall completely flat, all sounding similar to one another like faded copies of something written 20 years ago by Nightwish or Epica. Fortunately, Deep Sun’s third full-length Dreamland - Behind the Shades is THAT one "black swan" that I keep looking forward to each time I go through the list of new symphonic metal releases.

The Swiss band have been around for a while, now. Founded in 2005, it took them several years before they released their debut EP Flight of the Phoenix in 2013. Two full-length albums followed in 2016 and 2019 and Deep Sun gained more and more popularity especially in their home country. The band started pre-producing Dreamland in late 2020, so a lot of time and work went into it, and the results certainly show this. I was instantly struck by two things when I listened to this LP. First, the songs preserve a freshness and unpredictability that are hard to find in the symphonic metal genre. The band put a lot of thought in the songwriting, using bridges, instrumental detours, and occasionally even structures that avoid any repetition, to ensure that the listener can rarely tell where a song will go next. The arrangements are also very clever, especially Tom Hiebaum’s excellent classically-influenced orchestrations, which are well integrated with Stephan Riner’s guitar work, creating a complex yet highly accessible harmonic structure. This “progressive” take on the symphonic genre is absolutely refreshing and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting through the nearly 50 minutes of the album, as time literally flew by.

The second remarkable thing about this album is the quality of the melodies. They are incredibly catchy without being trite or predictable. There is a lot of variety too, as singer Debora Lavagnolo explores many different moods and styles, using both her natural voice and operatic singing and incorporating folk as well as classical music influences in the construction of her vocal lines. She is a real powerhouse, technically impeccable but not at all sterile in her delivery, as too many other singers in this genre. Listen, for instance, to her performance on “Killer in the Dream” and the heart-rending ballad “In Silence”, which show her incredible ability to adapt her voice to the mood of the song to convey emotions with her singing. If I were to draw a comparison, her performance on Dreamland reminded me of Sharon den Adel's on Within Temptation’s masterpiece Mother Earth. Come to think of it, there may be subtle similarities between that album and Dreamland, in terms of the intoxicating exhilaration they both transmit to the listener.

Deep Sun are a breath of fresh air in a genre that is way too often self-referential and stale. Granted, there is nothing ground-breaking on Dreamland either, as Deep Sun do stay within the stylistic parameters of the operatic metal genre, after all. But their ability to write so exquisitely arranged songs that remain unpredictable and fresh even after repeated listens is truly a plus as well as a rarity in the genre. While I will keep scouting the list of new releases to see if I can stumble upon another black swan, Dreamland is a serious candidate for the top position in my “symphonic metal album of the year” list.

THERION Secret of the Runes

Album · 2001 · Symphonic Metal
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Just one year after releasing a solid but somewhat lacklustre album like Deggial, Therion are back with what many consider the high point of their whole discography: Secret of the Runes. A concept album centred around the nine worlds of Norse mythology, Runes is a massive step-up relative to the band’s previous releases, which improves and expands their blend of symphonic metal in multiple directions. There are a number of reasons for this advancement.

First, Therion are now a proper band rather than a solo project by Christofer Johnsson. Brothers Johan and Kristian Niemann (bass and guitar, respectively) and drummer Sami Karppinen had joined Johnsson already for the recording of Deggial in 2000. Although on Runes Johnsson retains control of most of the songwriting and arrangements, there are contributions from the other band members too (Kristian Niemann is credited as co-writer of the opening track “Ginnungagap”) and, more generally, one gets the feeling that the ensemble now sounds more like a band, with more nuanced and personalized arrangements for the rock instruments and more freedom in terms of performances (more guitar solos, more drum fills). In short, there is more depth to the band’s performance than on the preceding couple of albums (Vovin, Deggial), which were instead largely a Christofer Johnsson solo affair.

Second, the sound production has also improved on this album. This may sound strange since, for the recording of Runes, Therion actually transitioned from the famous Woodhouse Studios, where they had worked with renowned engineer and producer Siggi Bemm, to their very own, newly built Modern Art Studios, where they instead relied on in-house engineering (Karppinen, K. Niemann, Johnsson) and production. Mixing and mastering duties were instead assigned to Mikko Karmila and Mika Jussila (Amorphis, Childreon of Bodom, Nightwish, among many others). The album sounds much better than Vovin or Deggial, which were both recorded and produced at Woodhouse Studios. One difference between these albums is that on Runes the drum sound is lighter and drier and the drums are placed further back in the mix, so that they are less “in-your-face”. This is great because Therion’s songs often rely on simple grooves, which can make the music feel sluggish and undynamic when the drums dominate the mix. The arrangements are also airier and more spacious, which contributes to make Runes an easier and more immediately likeable album than the dark and oppressive Deggial or the occasionally rigid Vovin.

Ultimately, though, the superiority of Runes comes down to better, more inspired songwriting. The songs are varied and dynamic, moving between different sections and moods. This is a major improvement over previous albums, where often the same riffs were repeated over and over, making the songs feel monolithic and static. The vocal arrangements are also more varied. In some songs, Johnsson wrote counterpoint and multipart vocals melodies (“Jotunheim”; “Nifelheim”), and in general I get the feeling that more attention has been paid to the alternation between male and female vocals that in many occasions engage in playful duets (“Asgard”). Most importantly, the signers are finally given vocal melodies that are catchy and memorable. This is a huge difference relative to many of the songs that were recorded for Deggial, where the vocal parts were particularly lacklustre. Songs like “Ginnugagap”, “Midgard” and “Asgard” feature some of the best melodies that Johnsson has written up to this point in his career. Some may miss the fact that on Runes Johnsson ended the tradition of writing songs with metal vocals mixed with the opera singing (the whole of Theli was built this way, as well as “The Wild Hunt” and “Flesh of the Gods” on Vovin and Deggial). Personally, I do not find this to be a problem, especially when the operatic vocals are given such quality melodies to sing.

There are many other aspects of the music and concept that contribute to make Runes a special album. The Norse mythology that inspired the concept of the album also influenced the songwriting, which features subtle but decisive folk influences on several tracks. The whole album has almost a Viking metal feel to it, with its icy atmospheres and at time raw choirs (“Nifelheim”). The use of different languages, including Johnsson’s native Swedish, also contributes to the Nordic folk atmosphere of the album. Somewhat incongruently with the album’s theme, Runes also contain two covers as bonus tracks, “Crying Days” by Scorpions and “Summernight City” by Abba. These tracks were recorded in 1999 with former Therion’s drummer and singer Piotr Wawrzeniuk on vocals alongside the opera singers. Some people are disturbed by the fact that the inclusion of the two covers disrupts the concept of the album. I can see where they are coming from, but the two songs are objectively so good that I cannot help but be grateful for their inclusion on the album.

Despite all the great things one can hear on Runes, the album is not perfect. Its middle part tends to plod a little, with songs like “Schwarzalbenheim” and “Ljusalfheim” coming across as a tad too repetitive and uninventive. Part of the problem is that most songs on the album remain firmly in mid-tempo territory, which amplifies the sluggish feeling one has as soon as the quality drops a little. Sometimes I wish Johnsson would make more use of different tempos on his albums, to inject some dynamics and a sense of moving forward to the music which is sometimes lacking on Therion’s records. However, despite the somewhat weaker mid-section, the album is quick to recover, with tracks like “Muspelheim”, “Nifelheim” and “Helheim” providing stunning highlights, together with the opening trio of songs (“Ginnugagap”, “Midgard” and “Asgard”).

In conclusion, Secret of the Runes is one of the best albums in Therion’s catalogue. If you are new to this band, this could be a great place to start (together with the breakthrough album Theli, of course). By the time this album was released, Christofer Johnsson had time to refine and perfect his skills at arranging songs that combine metal, classical music and operatic singing, and this clearly shows on the album. The vocal parts are catchy and memorable. The orchestral arrangements are merged seamlessly with the metal parts. The metal parts themselves are more dynamic than on previous albums, with richer and more accomplished performances by guitar, drums and keyboards. Add a touch of Nordic folk, and you have a nearly perfect album indeed!

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NIGHTWISH Showtime, Storytime

Movie · 2013 · Symphonic Metal
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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


Movie · 1999 · Symphonic Metal
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"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.


Movie · 2005 · Symphonic Metal
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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)


Movie · 1999 · Symphonic Metal
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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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