When Symphony Meets Metal
Orchestral Symphonies and heavy metal are unquestionably on opposite sides of the scale. On one hand an upper class pastime dominated by the rich and revered by the public as a high class of art, the other a dark and misunderstood breed of noise played in small clubs and enjoyed mainly by wayward youth – or so it would seem. With their crowds on polar opposites and their ideals seemingly on similarly opposite scales it makes little sense that the two styles could collide so wonderfully time after time. Strings and percussion instruments have been around for centuries but electric guitars especially the ones used today are an entirely modern invention, yet combined they can create an incredibly rich sound that is captivating to both audiences. As music evolves and new styles emerge, fusions like this do occur with mixed results but these are examples where symphonies and metal have worked wonders.
Metallica – S&M
Keeping in line with their rockstar status the title nods at the taboo practice of harm becoming pleasure but actually just stands for Symphony and Metallica. This heavy metal quartet are some of the biggest and longest running rockers in the industry and were indeed at the top of their game when they recorded and dropped this release just before the millennium. Joined by the San Francisco symphony and composed by superstar conductor Michael Kamen this combination of their most famous hits as well as some classical greats makes for an unforgettable album. Opening to Morricone’s epic the Ecstasy Of Gold made famous in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, the tone is set for this show and of course the mix of people on stage is reflected. From here the guitars and intense drums accompany the strings to show just how powerful the mix of sounds can be. Adding an extra intensity to the classical numbers the metal adds sheer force on the low end, meanwhile the Metallica hits are given an extra layer of emotion and intricacy when the strings up in to amplify melodies or add builds. It’s an unbelievably satisfying push and pull of styles and sounds that anyone should visit.
This group of Finnish string players have expanded what was once a Quartet into a slightly larger outfit including some drums to add a punch behind them. This group actually shot into the public eye after they created string renditions of Metallica songs, it seems S&M really inspired other musicians elsewhere. Expanding their covers to re-imagine tracks by Faith No More, Pantera and more. Now backed with guitars they have the extra weight that ‘metal heads’ come to expect as they continue creating original music as well as collaborating with metal royalty such as Slayer’s Dave Lombardo and Rammstein’s Til Lindemann (who sings a unique rendition of David Bowie’s Heroes). With strings at their core the sounds here carry the emotional tones and long stressed notes symphony lovers will know well, meanwhile their increasing heaviness shows a progression towards making classical strings a permanent addition to a metal line-up.