The Introduction to Symphonic Metal Playlist
So perhaps you’re new to Symphonic Metal, and you’d like to know where to start. Or maybe you have a friend who needs a bit of educating... Well here’s my idea. I’ve made categories out of a bunch of the genres & styles that SM draws from. Pick the genre/style(s) that you like and you will see a list of songs that I personally think you might enjoy.
In this section, the songs are some of the most mainstream in the genre. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though – if you like catchy tunes, straightforward structures and lyrics you can sing along to, this could be the place to start.
1. Amaranth – Nightwish
2. April Rain - Delain
3. One Wish Away - Katra
4. Faster – Within Temptation
5. The Other Side - Sirenia
6. Lacrymosa – Evanescence
7. Ice Queen – Within Temptation
8. Until My Last Breath – Tarja
9. Never Enough - Epica
10. What Have You Done? – Within Temptation
You may be wondering why I’ve included Evanescence in here as they are not an SM band. However, they function as a pretty good ‘gateway drug’ to SM as they are a mainstream band but they feature some of the same elements. The song given here, Lacrymosa, samples Mozart.
The rest of the songs I have listed are the lead singles from various SM bands albums. They are often more commercial and catchy in order to attract new listeners and boost sales. Still awesome tunes though!
Here I have taken songs where the music and/or lyrics are folk inspired.
1. Elegy – Leaves’ Eyes
2. Last of the Wilds [Instrumental] - Nightwish
3. En Natt I Nord - Midnattsol
4. In Perfect Harmony – Within Temptation
5. Lemuria - Therion
This section is short as I didn’t want to stray into bands that are purely Folk Metal with no symphonic elements or influences!
Nightwish’s song Last of the Wilds was released as an instrumental on their Dark Passion Play album. However, they also released a version with Finnish vocals (Erämaan Viimeinen) sung by Jonssu of Indica.
If you like your songs long and with plenty of twists and turns, this is the section for you.
1. Day 2: Isolation – Ayreon ft. James LaBrie [Dream Theater], Mikael Akerfeldt [Opeth], Eric Clayton [Saviour Machine], Irene Jansen, Magnus Ekwall, Heather Findlay [Mostly Autumn].
2. Dreamflight – After Forever
3. Kingdom of Heaven - Epica
4. Isis & Osiris – Ayreon ft. Sharon Den Adel [Within Temptation], Anneke Van Giersbergen [The Gathering/Agua de Annique], Fish, Edwin Balogh.
5. The Odyssey – Symphony X
Again this section is short because I wanted to keep the strong links to SM.
Ayreon is a predominantly Prog Metal project masterminded by Arjen Lucassen. He formed his own SM band, Stream of Passion, but has since left it in the hands of the other members. He also works with many SM singers and instrumentalists.
Symphonic Metal bands sure do love their ballads! These songs are usually slow and beautiful with meaningful lyrics.
1. White Waters – Epica ft. Tony Kakko [Sonata Arctica]
2. SOS (Anything But Love) – Apocalyptica ft. Cristina Scabbia [Lacuna Coil]
3. The Reign - Tarja
4. While Your Lips Are Still Red - Nightwish
5. The Swan Song – Within Temptation
6. Stay Forever - Delain
7. Sweet Curse – ReVamp ft. Russell Allen [Symphony X]
8. The Haunting (Somewhere in Time) – Kamelot ft. Simone Simons [Epica]
9. Sleeping Sun - Nightwish
10. Enchanted - Battlelore
Some of these ballads are very stripped down with few instruments – others are more like rock power ballads. The song While Your Lips Are Still Red is notable as although it is a Nightwish song, it only features two members of the band (Marco and Tuomas).
If you like Within Temptation’s ballads, they have so many beautiful ones: check out Forgiven, All I Need, Our Farewell, Pale, Memories and Somewhere.
If you like your music with a touch of darkness and melancholy, these songs will be a treat.
1. My Lost Lenore - Tristania
2. Nemo - Nightwish
3. Carmilla – Theatres Des Vampires
4. Seven Sirens & A Silver Tear (Instrumental) - Sirenia
5. Cry For The Moon - Epica
6. Kuolema Tekke Taiteilijan (Death Makes An Artist) - Nightwish
7. December Elegy - Tristania
8. Feint - Epica
9. Moonlight Waltz – Theatres Des Vampires
10. Winterborn 77 - Sirenia
Tristania and Sirenia both began as Gothic Metal bands, but have both begun incorporating symphonic elements into their music.
Theatres Des Vampires are an Italian band whose songs are themed around vampires. Their singer, Sonya Scarlet employs an interesting style of sort of angry growls rather than clean singing.
If you like the heavier side of things, whether this is traditional Heavy Metal or Power Metal, you might enjoy some of these.
1. Triumph or Agony – Rhapsody of Fire (formerly Rhapsody)
2. Romanticide - Nightwish
3. Third Immortal - Battlelore
4. March of Mephisto - Kamelot
5. To Mega Therion - Therion
6. Master Passion Greed - Nightwish
7. Patriot Games - Tristania
8. Transitory – After Forever
9. Lost Northern Star - Tarja
10. Martyr of the Free Word - Epica
Kamelot are a great band for those who prefer male vocals.
Therion formed in 1987 and were originally a Death Metal band who began using more and more orchestral elements. Many consider them to be the creators of Symphonic Metal.
Battlelore’s music crosses so many genres that it is hard to pinpoint exactly which genre they are – so let’s just go with Fantasy Folk Symphonic Tolkein Death Metal. ;)
Symphonic Metal really isn’t all operatic singing about princesses, as these bands prove. Here you will find bands from the more extreme metal genres that include orchestral elements in their songs. These songs predominantly use death growls with some clean vocals. (Some of this is not for the faint hearted. :P)
1. Nymphetamine – Cradle of Filth ft. Liv Kristine [Leaves’ Eyes]
2. Progenies of the Great Apocalypse – Dimmu Borgir
3. Lithium & A Lover - Sirenia
4. Hope the Great Betrayal - Abigail Williams
5. I Am the Black Wizards - Emperor
6. Le Grand Guignol - Theatres Des Vampires
7. Lord Abortion- Cradle of Filth
8. Evenfall - Tristania
9. Sister Nightfall - Sirenia
10. Silent Winter – Draconian
Emperor, Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir are usually known as the pioneers of the Symphonic Black Metal genre. Bands like Abigail Williams are a newer addition.
Draconian are an excellent Doom Metal band that incorporate some SM elements.
The early Sirenia and Tristania songs given here are Gothic Metal with Doom and Death influences.
In my opinion, this is the most incredible area of Symphonic Metal – the perfect balance of orchestral music with metal. If you like film scores and/or music by classical composers, these songs might well be for you.
1. The Poet &The Pendulum - Nightwish
2. India - Xandria
3. Pirates of the Carribean Medley - Epica
4. The Heart of Everything – Within Temptation
5. Everlasting Child - Whyzdom
6. Chasing The Dragon - Epica
7. Ragnarok – Leaves’ Eyes
8. Escapist – Nightwish
9. O Fortuna - Therion
10. Ghost Love Score - Nightwish
So that’s how I’d introduce someone to Symphonic Metal. Have you got any suggestions? Send them to me (in the comments or on Twitter) along with which section you think they should go in.