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Symphonic metal

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Symphonic metal

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Symphonic metal is a term used to describe 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-led 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 "symphonic" than normal bands of their genre.

"Symphonic" can also describe metal with elements resembling non-symphonic classical music, although this usage is not frequently used.


The genre

Musical characteristics

Symphonic metal as a genre (sometimes called orchestral metal/opera metal) is generally the same in the way it sounds between bands, because the genre is pretty typical of itself and the features it uses and easily depicts between itself and other genres. It takes a lot 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 way include black metal, death metal and power 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 genre. Another key ingredient to the mixture is the lighter feel of the music, typically created by higher, more melodic guitar lines; this characteristic is usually attributed to power metal as well.

Keyboards in symphonic metal as a genre play the most important role in the music, and are the focal point of the genre that the rest of the music centers around. 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 which the genre is renowned for, 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 keyboards and the instruments that it mimics, 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 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.

Origins and evolution

The first origins of Symphonic metal as a genre begins with early bands in the Gothic metal genre, which heavily made use of orchestral 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 the Gothic metal genre utilising more orchestral elements and becoming more based around the symphony aspects they were fast growing known for.

In 1997, Nightwish and Within Temptation released their first albums. Both bands followed heavily in the trend of Therion's orchestrally 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 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, following a style similar to power metal and using a female vocalist with heavy use of classically influenced keyboarding. Considered by many to be a power metal band, they contributed heavily to the genre, introducing variety into the genre with their keyboards and female vocals.

In the early 2000s a surge of symphonic metal occurred, with many bands seemingly releasing albums from nowhere. 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 boon 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.

Symphonic metal currently doesn't have a centralized scene in any particular part of the world, as its fan base is wide-spread and numerous. However, symphonic metal is more prolific where power metal and Gothic metal are commonly found due to the similarities between itself and these similar genres.

List of symphonic-metal bands

Aesma Daeva
After Forever
Autumn (Netherlands)
Rain Fell Within
Within Temptation

Symphonic subgenres


Symphonic metal, in regard to other genres of metal, encompasses any band that makes use of orchestral, classical, or keyboarding akin to symphonic metal or Gothic metal. The use of symphonic aspects in varying forms of metal has been around for many years; however, symphonic metal is centered around the usage of symphonic elements, where bands in other genres use them as backing themes and thus are usually listed under other genres.

Symphonic black metal

Symphonic black metal has the same components as melodic black metal but makes extensive usage of keyboarding, or instruments normally found in classical music similar to symphonic metal. It also features black metal bands that use atmospheric keyboarding in the music akin to doom metal or Gothic metal. These additional elements are often used as backing parts in the music when compared to the more prominent black metal elements. The symphonic aspects of symphonic black metal are normally integral parts of a band, and as such are commonly used throughout the whole duration of a song.

Sometimes symphonic black metal is confused with Gothic metal due to heavy similarities between the two. Cradle of Filth and Summoning have both been subjects of this claim.

Bands of this subgenre include:

Anorexia Nervosa
Arcturus (Earlier Works)
Cradle of Filth
Dimmu Borgir
Hecate Enthroned
Limbonic Art
Lux Occulta
Satyricon (Earlier Works)

Symphonic power metal

Symphonic power 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.

Sometimes symphonic power metal is considered to be both symphonic metal and power metal, due to some debate about the usage of the term "symphonic power metal" by fans. For example, Nightwish features more symphonic metal elements, while Sonata Arctica features more power metal elements.

Bands of this subgenre include:

At The Lake
Blind Guardian (later albums only)
Bride Adorned
Control Denied
Enslavement of Beauty
Freedom Call
Luca Turilli
Sonata Arctica
Visions of Atlantis

Other symphonic subgenres

Symphonic death metal, is a small but rising form, most commonly with bands located in the Gothenburg region. Symphonic thrash metal is almost unheard of, consisting only of bands who have done single performances with orchestras. Most bands within the doom metal scene can be considered symphonic.

Some bands that play symphonic variations of their genres include:

Dark Lunacy
Eternal Tears of Sorrow
Rotting Christ
Symphony X
Virgin Steele

Indirect symphonic variations

These artists and bands do not typically play symphonic variations of their genre, but have indirectly done so on specific occasions.

Deep Purple (Concerto For Group and Orchestra album only)
KISS (KISS Symphony: Alive 4 album only)
Metallica (S&M album only)
Rage ("classic trilogy" only)
Xandria (India album only)

See also

External links

Heavy metal
Black metal - Death metal - Doom metal - Folk metal - Glam metal - Gothic metal - Grindcore - Industrial metal - Neo-classical metal - Power metal - Progressive metal - Symphonic metal - Thrash metal
Other topics
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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.