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Symphonic metal Stylistic origins Gothic metal Symphonic rock Melodic power metal Progressive metal Film score mid-late 1990s, Continental Europe (mainly Scandinavia and the Netherlands)
(this regards symphonic metal proper; for symphonic variations on other styles of metal, especially extreme metal, the cultural origins are in late 1980s-early to mid 1990s in Switzerland and Scandinavia)
"symphonic" than normal bands of their genre. "Symphonic" can also describe metal with elements resembling non-symphonic classical music, although this definition is not frequently used.
Symphonic metal as a genre takes much of its musical basis from early gothic metal, power metal, and classical music. The guitar and bassline work in the genre often follows the pattern of its originator, gothic metal, by synthesizing other metal styles of guitar. Genres commonly synthesized in this fashion include black metal, death metal, power metal, and progressive metal sometimes with the addition of elements from rock music. The genre typically combines elements of these genres with those of classical music, creating songs with a strong "symphonic" feel. Bands that use elements of rock music typically take a simpler approach to the genre, using simplified and catchy melodies, leading to a more easily accessible and widely accepted version of the music. Another key ingredient to the mixture is the lighter feel of the sounds, typically created by higher, more melodic guitar lines; this characteristic is usually attributed to power metal as well. Keyboards in symphonic metal play the most important role in the music, and are the focal point of the genre around which the rest of the music centers. While most of the instruments play relatively simple parts, the keyboards tend to have the most complex and technically difficult parts. The keyboards alone are used to play the "classical" parts of the music for which the genre is renowned, and covers all forms of classical music. Bands sometimes use orchestras when playing live to play the parts that the keyboardist would play, and at times feature real instruments in recording instead of using digital samples with a keyboard. Atmosphere is commonly tailored to fit the song, although even songs with morbid themes tend to keep an upbeat sense. The atmosphere is particularly denoted by the
Guitar - Bass - Keyboards Piano - Drums - Violin - other acoustic and electronic instruments - occasionally backing choirs Generally low in North America, but a few bands have achieved massive mainstream success in Europe, such as Nightwish and Within Temptation.
Fusion genres Symphonic power metal Symphonic black metal Other topics Timeline of heavy metal
Symphonic metal or opera metal is a term used to describe heavy metal music that has symphonic elements; that is, elements that sound similar to a classical symphony. Symphonic metal is both a genre of metal and a name given to several subgenres of other metal genres, and as such, both forms of usage have slightly varying definitions. The genre refers to bands that combine aspects of varying metal genres, with signature female-lead vocals and operatic/classical themes to give the music a feeling of being a symphony. When referring to bands from other genres, it refers to bands who use minor classical and operatic themes in the bands music similar as to what is found in the symphonic metal genre, to show they are more
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keyboards and the instruments that they mimic, with the other instruments supporting the landscape evoked by the keyboards. The lyrics of symphonic metal are highly expansive and cover a broad range of topics. Lyrics often borrow heavily from power metal, encompassing various forms of fantasy themes, or use themes typical of opera. Lyrics in symphonic metal, like those of gothic metal, often are arranged into concept albums, styled after epics. Bands in the symphonic metal genre are mainly female led in both their images and vocals. The vocalists of symphonic metal bands have consistently been female, and tend to sing mezzo-soprano melodies in the operatic style. Sometimes symphonic metal artists use a male vocalist for backing vocals, similar to gothic metal’s dual vocalists. Other forms of vocals are also sometimes found in songs, but are normally only used as an effect within the song. Symphonic metal bands with male lead singers usually fall into the symphonic power metal category.
music around the abilities of their female singer, Sharon den Adel, and the symphonic nature of their use of keyboards, the band reduced the use of male vocals to sparse backing vocals. Nightwish followed a similar trend, employing a style evocative of power metal and using a female vocalist with heavy use of classically influenced keyboarding. In the early 2000s a surge of symphonic metal occurred, with many bands releasing albums. Rain Fell Within, After Forever, Epica, and Edenbridge all released albums around this time, displaying prominently the characteristic keyboards and female vocals. These bands also emphazised the upbeat nature of the music. This boom of symphonic metal bands also began to take more influence from power metal, borrowing from the lyrical theme of fantasy and the stylized, epic-like keyboards of that genre. Bands that are primarily death metal, doom metal, gothic metal, power metal, or even black metal have also been classified as symphonic metal. While symphonic metal is regarded by many as a separate sub-genre of heavy metal, some argue that it is a style that can be of any heavy metal sub-genre. Regardless, symphonic metal tends to be more popular in areas where the above-mentioned subgenres are better entrenched, such as Europe. Also, the first symphonic metal bands were from Europe and used European orchestras in their music.
Origins and evolution
The first origins of symphonic metal as a genre begins with early bands in the death metal and gothic metal genres, which made some use of symphonic elements in their music. Of such bands, Therion was the first to feature a fully live orchestra and write their music with the symphonic elements of classical music as an essential inclusion into their musical style. Over time Therion grew further away from their death metal roots, and utilized more symphonic elements and based their music around the symphonic aspects for which they became known. Even earlier, Finnish progressive metal band Waltari recorded their album Yeah! Yeah! Die! Die! Death Metal Symphony in Deep C. In the early’s 90, bands like Angra and Blind Guardian introduced symphonic elementes mixed with melodic and power metal, and then the symphonic power metal began, and raised as a influent style among the fresh metal scene. In 1997, Nightwish and Within Temptation released their first albums, and both bands followed heavily in the trend of Therion’s symphonic nature. Within Temptation, using influence from gothic metal’s synthesizing of other genres, used simpler aspects of the genres in their synthesis. Centering their
Symphonic metal subgenres
The term "symphonic metal" is used to denote any metal band that makes use of symphonic or orchestral elements; "symphonic metal" then is not so much a genre as a cross-generic designation. A few bands refer to themselves as "symphonic metal," particularly Aesma Daeva, and the term could probably be applied to generically ambiguous metal bands like Epica and Therion.
Symphonic black metal
Symphonic black metal has similar components as melodic black metal, but uses keyboarding or instruments normally found in symphonic or classical music. It can also include black metal bands that make heavy
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usage of atmospheric keyboarding in the music, akin to symphonic metal or gothic metal. The symphonic aspects of this genre are normally integral parts of a band, and as such are commonly used throughout the whole duration of a song. Many black metal purists discount this genre as having nothing to do with ’black metal,’ due to the heavy similarities some of its bigger bands hold with gothic metal. Claims that keyboards, female vocals and other gothic metal characteristics are inconsistent with the essence of "true" black metal have often resulted in confusion between symphonic black metal and gothic metal bands. Emperor, Thy Serpent, Cradle of Filth, Anorexia Nervosa, and Dimmu Borgir have all been subjects of this claim.
After Forever is another band strongly influenced by the symphonic power metal genre, and specifically by Nightwish and Kamelot. Therion is another band that frequently makes use of symphonic elements and is influenced by power metal; however, the band probably should not be considered an example of the symphonic power metal genre because of their very strong influence from death metal, which is most obvious in the band’s early years. Another example include Visions of Atlantis. The power metal band Grave Digger has released an album named Rheingold with strong symphonic elements quoted from Richard Wagner’s Ring des Niblungen, but Grave Digger is not considered a symphonic power metal band because these symphonic elements are atypical for them.
Symphonic power metal
Symphonic power metal, also called epic symphonic metal, refers to power metal bands that make extensive usage of keyboards, or instruments normally found in classical music similar to symphonic metal. These additional elements are often used as key elements of the music when compared to normal power metal, contributing not only an extra layer to the music, but a greater variety of sound. The prototypical symphonic power metal band is Nightwish. Songs by Nightwish that illustrate the genre well are "Ghost Love Score" from the album Once and "The Poet and the Pendulum" on the album Dark Passion Play. These songs follow the epic scope and extended formal structures characteristic of power metal while making extensive use of orchestral elements. Another band fitting this description is Rhapsody of Fire. With a blend of heavily distorted guitar, aggressive drums and extremely large soundscapes including, in their later years, a full choir and a symphonic orchestra. They have a heavy influence from the early classical music and especially the baroque music, and all of their albums a part of some epic saga set in high fantasy worlds. Where as Nightwish might be the most popular power metal band, they are a bit more rock oriented in their way of building up their songs than Rhapsody of Fire, who relies more heavily on making albums with some sort of line to it, and songs that sound more like a classical piece of music than a rock track.
Symphonic gothic metal
Influenced by the Peaceville trio of Paradise Lost, Anathema and My Dying Bride, the Dutch band Within Temptation was founded in 1996. A debut album Enter was unveiled in the following year, followed shortly by an EP The Dance. Both releases made use of the beauty and beast approach delivered by vocalists Sharon den Adel and Robert Westerholt. Their second full length Mother Earth was released in 2000 and dispensed entirely with the death metal vocals, instead "relying solely on den Adel’s majestic vocal ability". The album was a commercial success with their lead single "Ice Queen" topping the charts in Belgium and their native Netherlands. Their third album The Silent Force arrived in 2004 as an "ambitious project featuring a full orchestra and 80-voice choir accompanying the band". The result was another commercial success across Europe and introduced "the world of heavy guitars and female vocals" to "a mainstream audience". Within Temptation’s brand of gothic metal combines "the guitar-driven force of hard rock with the sweep and grandeur of symphonic music". The critic Chad Bowar of About.com describes their style as "the optimum balance" between "the melody and hooks of mainstream rock, the depth and complexity of classical music and the dark edge of gothic metal". The commercial success of Within Temptation has since resulted in the emergence of a large number of other
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female-fronted gothic metal bands, particularly in the Netherlands. Another Dutch band in the symphonic gothic metal strain is After Forever. Their debut album Prison of Desire in 2000 was "a courageous, albeit flawed first study into an admittedly daunting undertaking: to wed heavy metal with progressive rock arrangements and classical music orchestration - then top it all of with equal parts gruesome cookie-monster vocals and a fully qualified opera singer". A second album Decipher followed in 2001 with music that was described by guitarist Sander Gommans as being in the style of Within Temptation. Founding member, guitarist and vocalist Mark Jansen departed After Forever only a few months after the release of this album. Jansen would go on to form Epica, another band that performs a blend of gothic and symphonic metal. A debut album The Phantom Agony emerged in 2003 with music that combines Jansen’s death grunts with the "angelic tones of a classically trained mezzo-soprano named Simone Simons, over a lush foundation of symphonic power metal". The music of Epica has been described as combination of "a dark, haunting gothic atmosphere with bombastic and symphonic music". Like Within Temptation and After Forever, Epica has been known to make use of an orchestra. Their 2007 album The Divine Conspiracy was a chart success in their home country. This blend of symphonic and gothic metal has also been arrived at from the opposite direction. The band Nightwish from Finland began as a symphonic power metal act and introduced gothic elements on their 2004 album Once, particularly on the single "Wish I Had an Angel". They continued to mix their style of "bombastic, symphonic and cinematic" metal with a gothic atmosphere on their next album Dark Passion Play in 2007. The Swedish group Therion also introduced gothic elements to their brand of symphonic metal on their 2007 album Gothic Kabbalah.
• • • • • • List of symphonic metal bands Symphonic rock Melodic death metal Neo-classical metal Avant-garde metal Progressive metal
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