A Brief Tour of Symphonic Metal: A-Z
-Band names link to their albums on Amazon UK-
A is for...
After Forever - A Dutch group who split up in 2009, A.F. were previously a key band in in the symphonic metal genre. They released 5 albums, the most recent being self-titled. Their vocalist, Floor Jansen, is now in a new band named ReVamp.
Apocalyptica - Finnish cellists Apocalyptica's first album of Metallica covers was widely popular. They now play many of their own songs as well as covers. As they do not have a singer, they regularly have guest vocalists, who have included Cristina Scabbia, Till Lindeman and Corey Taylor.
Ayreon - Not a band, but a project by musician Arjen Lucassen. His many albums are mostly 'rock operas' telling a story with many characters. The guest musicians and singers are greats from other metal bands, such as Opeth, Dream Theater, Devin Townsend, Epica and Within Temptation.
(See also: Aina, Amberian Dawn, Angtoria, Atargatis, Autumn, Avantasia)
B is for...
Bal-Sagoth - These exotic-named symphonic black metallers are actually from Yorkshire. Their album and song titles are gloriously OTT, with one of their sagas titled "The Splendour of a Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath the Blazon of the Hyperborean Empire".
The Black Mages - Many Final Fantasy fans will be familiar with the Black Mages, the band formed by infamous FF soundtrack composer Nobuo Uematsu. They perform symphonic rock/metal versions of the themes.
(See also: Battlelore, Beto Vásquez Infinity, Blind Guardian)
C is for...
Chthonic - A Taiwanese black metal band. Despite always keeping the same singer, the rest of the lineup has changed regularly over the years. They have somewhat bizarre nicknames, with their female bass player being known as'Doris Thunder Tears'.
Cradle of Filth - Prolific extreme gothic metal band C.O.F. have been around since 1991, and released over 15 albums. They combine many different styles, with elements of black and symphonic metal. They love the shock factor, and one of their t-shirts (which proclaims 'Jesus is a c**t') has been banned in several countries.
(See also: Catharsis, Coronatus, Crimson Moonlight)
D is for...
Delain - Delain were formed by keyboard player Martijn Westerholt and singer Charlotte Wessels. Martijn is the brother of Robert Westerholt (Within Temptation), and used to be in the band before he was forced to drop out due to illness. Their sound has a lot in common with W.T., being more like heavy rock than metal.
Dimmu Borgir - this corpse-painted band hail from Oslo in Norway, and are one of the best known from Norway's black metal scene. They have released 8 albums since 1994.
(See also: Dark Lunacy, Dragonlord, Dreams of Sanity)
E is for...
Edenbridge - a symphonic prog metal band from Austria. As with many symphonic bands, they have a female vocalist in the form of Sabine Edelsbacher. Their latest album, oddly titled MyEarthDream, featured the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. They are due to release a new album called Solitaire.
Epica - Epica are one of the giants of symphonic metal. The band was formed in 2002 after Mark Jansen left After Forever. They have released 4 studio albums so far, and their impressive mezzo-soprano frontwoman (the beautiful Simone Simons) has provided guest appearances for several other bands including Kamelot and Ayreon. Epica are actually named after a Kamelot album, which is interesting given their current connections (Simone is dating their keyboard player). Simone was apparently inspired to sing after hearing Nightwish's Oceanborn album at the age of 15.
(See also: Emerald Mind, Emperor, Equilibrium, Ensiferum)
F is for...
Forever Slave - an originally all-female gothic metal band from Spain. They have released 2 albums so far, delightfully titled 'Alice's Inferno' and 'Tales For Bad Girls'. Their songs are often controversial and feature a lot of dark themes including AIDS and domestic abuse.
(See also: Fairyland, For My Pain)
G is for...
The Gathering - early work
H is for...
Haggard - this German band combine classical music with doom. They currently have 16 members, who provide a wide range of instruments and vocals.
HolyHell - HolyHell are a power metal band from the USA, again with female vocals provided by opera singer Maria Breon. They have produced 2 albums so far, and several covers including Phantom of the Opera and Dio's Holy Diver. They are playing this year's Metal Female Voices Fest in Belgium.
(See also: Hecate Enthroned, Hevein)
I is for...
K is for...
Kamelot - Formed in 1991, this American band have greatly influenced a lot of current symphonic metal bands. They have released 8 studio albums so far, and a new album is due some time this year, featuring appearances from Simone Simons and (rather attractive) Greek guitarist Gus G (wow, that was alliterative) of Firewind.
Krypteria - This German power metal band originally planned on being a musical project, similar to Ayreon and featuring many different vocalists and guest musicians. However, in 2004, they record a benefit single for the victims of the Tsunami. The singer on this record was the German/Korean Ji-In Cho, and she has remained their lead singer ever since.
(See also: Kingfisher Sky, King Lizzard)
L is for...
Leaves' Eyes - Leaves' Eyes were formed in 2003 after singer Liv Kristine's departure from Theatre of Tragedy. The rest of the band consist of the entire lineup of her husband's group, Atrocity. Their songs often have Viking/Scandinavian themes - some of the band are from Germany and others from Norway. Liv often sings for other bands, and she is well known for providing the vocals on Cradle of Filth's Nymphetamine. No, I don't understand the apostrophe either. :P
Lunatica - A Swiss symphonic metal band. They have released 4 albums - their latest, New Shores, came out in 2009.
(See also Lacrimosa, Lux Occulta)
M is for...
Metallica - On S&M - Ok, so Metallica aren't a symphonic metal band. But if you'd like a classical edge to their songs, you could try their S&M (Symphony & Metallica) album, or even 'Apocalyptica Plays Metallica By Four Cellos'.
Midnattsol - is Norwegian for 'Midnight Sun'. The lead singer of the band is the sister of Liv Kristine. Although their sound is symphonic metal, they refer to themselves as 'Nordic folk metal' due to the heavy folk influences in their music.
(See also Manowar [recent], Morgul)
N is for...
Nightwish - Nightwish are probably the most well-known and successful symphonic metal band in the world, having sold over 7 million albums. Their sound was distinctive, featuring the lyrics and classical composition of Tuomas Holopainen and the operatic voice of Tarja Turunen. However, in 2005, Tarja was dismissed from the band, amid claims that she refused to show up to practices and cancelled concerts to spend time with friends. However, her husband alleges that the difficulties were down to Tuomas having feelings for Tarja. Whatever the situation, Tarja was replaced with new singer Anette Olzon for the album Dark Passion Play.
Northern Kings - A covers supergroup, featuring famous musicians from the genre such as Marco Hietala from Nightwish and Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica. They do symphonic metal versions of old songs, often from the 80s.
(See also Necromantia, Nemesea, Nightfall)
O is for...
Old Man's Child (Seriously? They called a band that?)
P is for...
R is for...
Rain Fell Within
Rhapsody of Fire
S is for...
Sirenia - Formed by Morten Veland from Tristania, this similarly-named band combine gothic and symphonic metal with other elements. They have had several previous female vocalists, but their current singer is, oddly, Spanish X Factor contestant Ailyn.
Sonata Arctica - This Finnish band were formed in 1996, and, along with Nightwish, have inspired many more recent bands. They have released 6 albums, the latest being 2009's Days of Grays. Lead singer Tony Kakko has appeared with several other bands, including Nightwish, Epica and Apocalyptica.
Stratovarius - This band are often cited as the pioneers of symphonic and power metal. Formed in Finland in 1984, they have released 12 albums on various record labels, and are still going today.
Aside: I once met a lady from Slovakia (I think) who, upon seeing my Within Temptation t-shirt, ran to get her box of CDs which was labelled with "Warning - Contains Stratovarius". It was awesome. ^_^
Stream of Passion - This somewhat suggestively-named prog band (or is that just me?) were originally formed by Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon and singer Marcela Bovio. Marcela had previously appeared on the Ayreon album The Human Equation. Their latest release was The Flame Within in 2009.
Symphony X - Symphony X were formed in 1994 in New Jersey. They are well known for producing long, epic tracks, like their 24 minute interpretation of Homer's Odyssey.
(That's a lot for S! See also Seraphim, Skyfire, Sons of Seasons)
T is for...
Tarja - Since leaving Nightwish, Tarja Turunen has made 3 solo albums. Her first was a covers album, and she has had another of her own songs. Her next release is called What Lies Beneath, and is due out in August. Her solo material has a lot more in common with rock and classical than the heavier Nightwish songs, but I feel it still belongs with symphonic metal in places.
Theatre of Tragedy - Originally, T.O.T. was fronted by Liv Kristine, now of Leaves' Eyes. Their early work inspired many current bands, especially with their use of 'beauty and the beast vocals' - combining melodic female singing with death growls. Later on, they became more influenced by industrial music. They split up in March 2010, in order to spend more time with their families.
Therion - Therion have regularly been credited with the invention of symphonic metal, occasionally referred to as 'opera metal'. Formed in Sweden in the 80s, they have since released 14 albums, not including live and compilation records. Their songs often reference mythology, magic and history. They are currently recording a new album.
Tristania - This band have many influences, ranging from gothic to death metal and doom. Until 2007, their singer was Norwegian soprano Vibeke Stene. It has been reported that she left to become a singing teacher. Their current singer is Mariangela Demurtas from Italy. The new lineup will be at this year's MFVF.
(See also Tarot, Thy Serpent, Trail of Tears)
Visions of Atlantis
V is for...
Visions of Atlantis - VoA are a power metal band from Austria. They are heavily influenced by Nightwish, although they tend to combine male and female vocals in an equally balanced way, unlike NW themselves. They have had several lineup changes, including 3 new singers and various others being replaced - at one point an ex-guitarist returned to the band. Their current vocalist is 20-year-old soprano Joanna Nieniewska.
(See also Valkyre, Versailles)
W is for...
Wintersun - An extreme metal band from Finland, signed to the Nuclear Blast label: a popular choice for symphonic artists. They have released one self-titled album so far, but are reportedly working on a new one, currently titled 'Time'.
Within Temptation - Although their lead singer, Sharon Den Adel, describes them as 'symphonic rock', it is clear that Within Temptation have a place in symphonic metal. Coming from an odd range of influences (including doom metal and Kate Bush), WT combine dark lyrics and melodies with Sharon's melodic and clean vocals. Their later albums have been widely successful, and a 5th is due in the autumn.
(See also Winds of Plague, Waltari)
X is for...
Xandria - A German band with electronic and rock elements. They too have had issues with singers. Their original singer, Lisa Middelhauve, left in 2008, and was replaced with Lakonia. However, after just a year, Lakonia quit, and Lisa has currently returned to the band for their 2010 tour. They have 4 albums, but have not released a new one since Lisa's departure.
(See also X Japan, Xerath)
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Thanks for reading! Please note that this is my personal guide to the genre and I apologise for any mistakes. If I have missed out any good bands, please recommend them to me so I can listen to them!
I will gladly accept requests to write reviews/stories for people if there is something they would like to see covered. :)
All images belong to the respective bands, DA stamp belongs to Avel on DA.