Classical music has long been recognized for its inspirational qualities in metal. Ranging from classical pieces that are centuries old to more contemporary pieces, classical music can provide inspiration and influence within the world of music in myriad ways.
Death metal musicians have long included classical elements into their music, from classically trained sopranos to bands featuring pianos as part of their setups. Here are a few bands who incorporate these classical influences into their sound.
1. Dimmu Borgir
Dimmu Borgir first formed in 1993 in Jessheim, Norway and are widely revered for their dark yet melodic black metal music. Since then they have released nine studio albums, three live albums, a compilation album and 18 singles.
While their early albums were fairly standard, with the release of Enthrone Darkness Triumphant they made a significant step forward in terms of sound. At this point, they began experimenting with various musical styles – even adding in some symphonic elements into their compositions.
On this album they added choir and string arrangements to further expand their sound, marking an important step for them and cementing their place as one of the most creative and innovative symphonic metal bands available today.
Since their formation, they have continued to push the envelope with each release. Their most ambitious album was 2001’s Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia where they collaborated with a symphonic orchestra; more recently their Eonian release features more defined guitar work than Abrahadabra did.
This record’s music is a blend of different genres, featuring classical guitar parts and synthesized strings to create an overall sweeping, symphonic atmosphere. Additionally, its lyrics address personal and interpersonal demons through vivid imagery and metaphor.
Although some purists of black metal believe symphonic black metal does not constitute true black metal, its popularity has nonetheless become widespread within the genre. While some criticize its symphonic elements as not meeting with true black metal’s essence, I find these bands’ music enjoyable by anyone who appreciates heavy music.
2. Ne Obliviscaris
Ne Obliviscaris are a Melbourne, Australia based progressive metal band who blend death, black and thrash metal elements with classical, jazz, avant garde music and flamenco influences. Their most recent album Exul features violinist Tim Charles’ virtuosity amongst other musical influences.
Ne Obliviscaris first formed in April 2003 as a four-piece. Since then, their lineup has fluctuated numerous times but currently includes vocalist Xenoyr, guitarists Benjamin Baret and Matt Klavins as well as bassist Martino Garattoni. To date they have released one demo CD, two extended plays albums as well as four studio albums.
Ne Obliviscaris initially released melodic death metal releases; however, since their initial releases they have taken an experimental direction. Instead of trying to mimic classical musicians like composers, the band now seeks to combine classical musical styles with death metal rhythms and progressive song structures while still keeping their signature sound intact.
Exul is testament to this. Following their formula from previous albums, Exul takes that success and refines it for something more cohesive and creatively inspiring than some previous works by creating pieces with themes of isolation and departure such as in the titles compositions such as ‘Still Life in Black & White’ or “White Linen Linen Linen White Lines”.
“Equus,” is an outstanding opening track from Ne Obliviscaris’ latest work, boasting simple but direct rhythms to set off this song in a way rarely seen from them in their earlier works. This track provides a solid base upon which to build.
Similar to its predecessors, “Misericorde II” opens with an intriguing percussive passage evoking classical influences before transitioning into an overt assault on your senses. Finally, “Suspyre” stands out as one of the strongest tracks on this release, featuring technical death metal riffs played at blistering speeds while keeping melody at the core of its structure.
3. Fleshgod Apocalypse
Classical music is an integral component of death metal music, with players often spending years honing their craft before performing shows that incorporate operatic interludes or feature an array of orchestral instrumentation.
Fleshgod Apocalypse has had a profound impact on this trend since their formation in 2007 by Francesco Paoli of Hour of Penance fame, having released five full-length albums to critical acclaim since then.
No matter their style has remained consistently high-quality throughout their tenure. Their albums are frequently acclaimed for combining brutal death metal with grandiose musical elements – in particular Bach-inspired overtures – to produce albums that stand the test of time.
Veleno (Italian for “venom”) marks their fifth album and marks a return to their symphonic roots after two years of experimentation with various styles.
Veleno marks an exciting step forward for the band as it signals their change of course and evolution over time. After exploring various styles and lineup disruptions, this marks Veleno as a beginning of an established path forward that they will follow for further evolution of the group.
For this album, the band recorded metal parts with longtime collaborator Marco Mastrobuono in Rome while ensembles were tracked at Musica Teclas Studio in Perugia before being mixed by Grammy-nominated Jacob Hansen – creating an album that both matches and exceeds King in terms of success, while simultaneously marking its progression.
While this album is an improvement on their prior work, it still doesn’t match their past standards. That being said, this band remains capable of creating amazing records as they explore new sounds and ideas.
Greece’s SepticFlesh formed in the early ’90s quickly became an influential act, combining elements of death metal, doom metal and neoclassical influences with doom/death anthems such as Sumerian Demons (2003), The Great Mass (2011) and Codex Omega (2017) to produce one helluva sounding album after another.
SepticFlesh’s theatrical and brutal approach melded tempo and rhythm with dramatic musical payoffs for an intense listening experience. A key characteristic was their use of various keyboards as accompaniment for guitars; sometimes popping out at key moments, and working through independent yet complementary melodies.
SepticFlesh’s distinctive sound combined the powerful sounds of death metal with classical music to produce an unprecedented layered and symphonic style – this was what set them apart from their competitors and gave rise to the genre known today as Symphonic Death Metal.
Though SepticFlesh may not have achieved huge commercial success, their music remains relevant and resonant with audiences worldwide – no surprise then that they continue playing shows around the globe and receive significant praise in the press.
SepticFlesh returned after briefly disbanding in 2003, signing a deal with French label Season of Mist in 2007 and releasing Communion the same year.
SepticFlesh have made an indelible mark on death metal classical music with their distinct sound that stands out from any other band in their genre, drawing from Greek metal influences as well as their cultural past and heritage. Each member takes an active part in creating and recording finished products together – SepticFlesh are highly dedicated musicians who take a serious approach to their craft, taking on different roles within the band to ensure an end product.
5. Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost was one of the pioneering British death metal bands of the 80s and early 90s, creating a revolutionary alternative within death metal with their 1990 debut Lost Paradise that mixed fast-paced death metal with doom metal to form something truly revolutionary in terms of genre norms. Additionally, their album helped pave the way for other English death metal acts such as Anathema and My Dying Bride to follow in its footsteps.
On their subsequent album ‘Shades of God’, the band modified their approach by including melodic guitar licks and catchy choruses, in addition to changing vocalist Nick Holmes’ death grunt into a cleaner growl that was easier for listeners to understand and less muscular in tone. This combination of goth rock and death metal would become a staple throughout their later releases including their last one Obsidian.
Obsidian may no longer be an overt death metal record, but it still features plenty of the rage found on Gothic. No Hope In Sight opens with an intense drum beat and fiery guitar riffs that match one another perfectly.
As the song progresses, its rhythms give way to melodic guitar leads reminiscent of Gothic rock that was so prevalent at that time in their home town of Yorkshire. Additionally, bassist Gregor Mackintosh’s acoustic guitar becomes more prominent here, adding another layer of mellowness.
Obsidian’s success stems from its juxtaposition of genres. From Ghosts’s hypnotic riffs to Serenity’s dark and brooding soundscape, Obsidian offers an exciting listening experience full of variety – making for an amazing achievement worthy of appreciation from any fan of metal music! This album should not be missed.