Have you ever come across a genre that makes you sad about human existence? Josh Rotchelle stumbles across symphonic metal (metal opera) in his latest musical quest.
[dropcap size=small]H[/dropcap]ave you ever wondered what Tyrion Lannister of Game of Thrones has on his iPod? Me neither, but if I had to guess at the point of a dubious cardboard hollywood-prop sword, I might go for something a little bit like opera metal (also called “symphonic metal”).
Rising in the mid ’90s, opera metal is the proud son of its two eponymous parents. From its mother opera, it inherits (often) classically-trained soprano female vocalists, dramatic classical instrumentals, and generally sounding a bit like a film soundtrack. Grumpy old dad on the other hand hands down a love for electric guitars, a fast-paced and heavy sound, and a rather dubious fashion sense.
With a fair cult following, certain acts have risen to prominence in the opera metal scene: Finnish quintet Nightwish is a good entry point with tunes like Weak Fantasy and the mostly-instrumental Alpenglow (which sounds like it should be on a Soul Calibur soundtrack). Other prominent sounds include Epica’s Cry for the Moon, which has a few more metal features, including some death-growling.
Like most hybrid genres, opera metal can also swing to either side of its two influences. Inevitably, there exists that crowd that takes any given situation and thinks how can we make this moar metull? Enter black symphonic metal. Crews such as Carach Angren bring a much darker sound to the genre with such cheery tunes as Funerary Dirge for a Violinist, while Dimmu Borgir sport Progenies of the Great Apocalypse.
On the (sort-of) opposite end of the scale, opera metal does sometimes dye its wardrobe a more elegant black and come over all gothic. The result is unapologetically grandiose and epic: Hell to the Heavens from Leaves’ Eyes is a personal favourite, while Angels from Within Temptation is also worth a listen.
No matter where a given band sits on the scale however, it can’t be denied that opera metal is firmly rooted in the metal subculture, which can be tough on newcomers. However, far too many people avoid metal with cries of “too heavy” (pussies), and ignoring a genre so enormous, influential and varying is doing yourself a musical disservice.
Opera metal is not a bad starting point for getting in touch with rock’s heavier cousin, so dig in. Give it time, and you’ll come to love it, even with the extravagant face paint, noisy growling and enough shredding to cover up a university Vice Chancellor’s expenses claims.
Josh Rotchelle, Lifestyle Editor