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The New A-Z of Symphonic Metal


Here it is: your complete A-Z guide to symphonic metal is back, and it's bigger and better than before. The guide includes all the major bands in genre and some you may not have heard of, with Wiki links throughout.

Bands in the "see also" section are either less well-known symphonic bands or bands in similar genres that may be of interest.

SYMPHONIC METAL - "is metal music that has symphonic elements; that is, elements that are borrowed from other music genres (i.e., classical music, progressive rock) but usually with more keyboards or acoustic guitars and typically an operatic female lead vocalist." - Wikipedia

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A is for...



After Forever - This Dutch group were formally one of the biggest players in the genre, before their split in 2009. Members of the group have gone on to form such bands as Epica, ReVamp and Trillium. Soprano Floor Jansen is now one of the best-known singers in metal, and has recently joined Nightwish.
Apocalyptica - Originally a Metallica tribute band, these cellists from Finland went on to create their own unique sound. They have no official vocalist and instead many of their songs are instrumental or feature guest singers - in the past these have included Cristina Scabbia, Tony Kakko, Ville Vallo and Corey Taylor.


Amberian Dawn - Another Finnish band, Amberian Dawn are a relatively recent addition to the scene with their first album released in 2008. Originally featuring soprano Heidi Parviainen (who went on to form Dark Sarah) the band now has Päivi "Capri" Virkkunen, a non-lyrical singer on vocals. They re-recorded some of their old material with Capri and are now working on a new album called Magic Forest.




Ayreon - Although not strictly a symphonic metal band, this prog project of metal virtuoso Arjen Lucassen has featured symphonic elements and many of the biggest vocalists (pictured: Anneke Van Giersbergen, Floor Jansen and Simone Simons. Others include Sharon Den Adel, Marco Hietala, Tommy Karevik, Russell Allen and Bruce Dickinson to name but a few). Arjen has also worked with many guest musicians from the genre as well as being a founding member of Stream of Passion.
Avantasia - This is a power metal/rock opera supergroup founded by Edguy's lead singer Tobias Sammet. One of the key members is guitarist and producer Sascha Paeth, who is well known for his work with bands like Epica, After Forever and Kamelot. Like Ayreon, they have featured many guest musicians and singers from across the symphonic and power metal genres.



See also: Aina, Almora, Angtoria, Atargatis, Autumn

B is for...


Bal-Sagoth - A symphonic black metal band from Yorkshire. Yes, you read that right. Formed in 1993, the band are famed for their extravagant fantasy-themed lyrics, inspired by such writers as HP Lovecraft and JRR Tolkien. They also have spectacularly long song titles, such as "The Splendour of a Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath the Blazon of the Hyperborean Empire".



The Black Mages - Formed by Final Fantasy composers Nobuo Uematsu, Kenichiro Fukui and Tsuyoshi Sekito, this band specialised in performing symphonic rock/metal versions of some of the game's most famous themes. The group disbanded in 2010, but Nobuo has said that he will continue to perform the rock arrangements with his band the Earthbound Papas. There is also an orchestral Final Fantasy music tour known as Distant Worlds.




See also: Beto Vásquez Infinity, Blind Guardian

C is for...

Cradle of Filth - This British extreme metal band are well-known for their horror imagery and provocative t-shirts. But they also have a symphonic side, usually working with a choir and orchestra. They borrowed the talents of Liv Kristine for Nymphetamine and also have more frequently collaborated with Sarah Jezebel Deva (solo and of Angtoria) and Lindsay Schoolcraft.


Chthonic - Another extreme band, this time from Taiwan. Formed in 1995, vocalist Freddy Lim has remained constant while the rest of the line-up has been through many changes. They have a strong political message and have recently begun using many traditional Taiwanese instruments in their music.



See also: Cadaveria, Catharsis, Christopher Lee, Coronatus, Crimfall, Crimson Moonlight

D is for...

Delain - Originally a side project of Within Temptation keyboardist Martijn Westerholt (who had to leave due to illness), these Dutch symphonic metallers became a fully-fledged band in 2005 after recruiting singer Charlotte Wessels and gaining a record deal with Roadrunner. Now signed to Napalm, Delain are known for their melodic and catchy but heavy music. They often collaborate with Nightwish's Marco Hietala.


Dimmu Borgir - Starting life as a pure Norwegian black metal band, this group began to introduce strong symphonic elements into their music in 1999's Spiritual Black Dimensions. They have had many changes in record label and line-up over the years, with vocalist Shagrath and guitarist Silenoz being the only remaining founding members.



Diablo Swing Orchestra - This experimental band from Sweden have covered many genres in their three albums released since 2003, not only symphonic metal but also progressive, classical, jazz and swing music. They have dedicated musicians for the trumpet, trombone and cello as well as the usual guitars and drums. Daniel Håkansson provides lead male vocals while Annlouice Loegdlund is the female lead.


Diabulus in Musica - A Spanish symphonic metal band with gothic influences, led by Zuberoa Aznárez and signed to Napalm Records. Their first album was mixed by Ad Sluijter (ex-Epica) and mastered by Sascha Paeth (see Avantasia), and their follow-up featured guest vocals from Mark Jansen (Epica). Their new album is due this year.




See also: Damnation Angels, Dark Lunacy, Dark Moor, Dark Sarah, Draconian, Dragonlord, Dragony, Dreams of Sanity, Dreamtale

E is for...

Epica - Now one of the biggest bands in symphonic metal, Dutch superstars Epica were formed in 2002 by Mark Jansen, formerly of After Forever. Featurining the mezzo-soprano vocals of genre favourite Simone Simons, they specialise in technical and strongly orchestral metal that is equally as melodic as it is heavy. The band celebrated their 10th anniversary with the massive Retrospect event in 2013.



Edenbridge - This group, led by guitarist/keyboardist Lanvall and his partner Sabine Edelsbacher, began life in Austria in 1998. Starting with a more power metal sound, they gradually became a pure symphonic metal band. After going on a short hiatus between 2010 and 2012, they returned in 2013 with latest album The Bonding.




See also: Emerald Mind, Emperor, Equilibrium, Ensiferum, Eternal Tears of Sorrow, Evanescence

F is for...

Fleshgod Apocalypse - This technical death metal band from Italy have strong symphonic and classical links (as evidenced by their "undead orchestra conductor" aesthetic). Although at the extreme end of the scale, their orchestration is a big part of their music and they also make use of piano and female operatic vocals. The band formed in 2007 and have released three albums so far.


Forever Slave - A gothic metal band from Spain. Their singer Lady Angellyca was one of those in the running for new Nightwish vocalist back in 2005, before Anette Olzon was recruited. They have joined bands such as Kamelot and Firewind on tour, as well as performing at Wacken. They have been working on various projects since 2009, as well as an upcoming full-length album.



Forest Stream - This Russian band's style combines symphonic elements with doom, black and gothic metal to create an epic and melancholy sound. Despite being active since 1995, they have only produced two demos and two full-length albums, the last being in 2009 after signing to Candlelight Records.




See also: Fairyland, For My Pain, Forgotten Tales

G is for...


The Gathering - Although not a symphonic metal band themselves, The Gathering deserve a place on this list for inspiring some of the biggest groups (Nightwish and Within Temptation to name but two) and for launching the career of Anneke Van Giersbergen, a frequent fixture on genre albums and at concerts and festivals. The band announced a hiatus in early 2014.



Galneryus - This group must be one of the busiest in Japan, having produced 8 studio albums, 5 cover albums and 4 live DVDs since its inception in 2001. Syu is the leader of the band, while Sho provides the main vocals. Their sound has been described as both power metal and neo-classical metal.




See also: Graveworm, Gwyllion

H is for...

Haggard - Another band with many labels, this large group from Germany described themselves as classical and medieval music mixed with death metal. They began as purely death metal but changed their style after the release of their 1992 demo. Unusually for a symphonic band, many of those playing string and wind instruments in the band are permanent members.


HolyHell - A symphonic power metal band from the USA. They are produced by Joey DeMaio and have toured with his band Manowar, as well as Rhapsody of Fire. Maria Breon provides operatic vocals for the band, who have released 3 albums so far. In concert they have covered several songs including Dio's Holy Diver, and The Phantom of the Opera.




See also: Hanging Doll, HB, Hecate Enthroned, Hevein, Hollenthon

I is for...

Imperia - Norwegian singer Helena Iren Michaelsen formed this band in 2004 after leaving Epica, back when they were under their original name of Sahara Dust. Although often considered a Dutch group, many of the members are from different countries. They have a powerful orchestral sound combined with elements and the aesthetic of gothic metal, and have released three 3 studio albums to date.


Indica - This all-female group from Finland are really in the realms of pop-rock, but have close links to symphonic metal through their record label Nuclear Blast. They supported Nightwish on tour and their international breakthrough album A Way Away was produced by Tuomas Holopainen. Many of their songs are recorded in both English and Finnish.



See also: Icaros, Illuminata, Ilune, Illusoria

J is for...


K is for...

Kamelot - Another of the big players in symphonic power metal, this American band was formed in 1991 and have released 10 albums to date. Following the departure of lead singer Roy Khan in 2010, the group recruited Tommy Karevik from the Swedish band Seventh Wonder. They have collaborated with many others in the genre and even inspired a band name with their album Epica.



Krypteria - This German gothic band originally started as a theatrical 
project that was intended to use many different vocalists, but in 2004 they settled on just one - German-Korean singer and pianist Ji-In Cho, who had formerly been a contestant on Fame Academy. After 4 official albums, Krypteria have been on a break as of 2012 due to the birth of Cho's first child.


Katra - Named after lead singer Katra Solopuro, this group from Finland emerged in 2006. Shortly after they signed with Napalm Records and opened for Theatre of Tragedy. Katra herself also specialises in fire dancing and juggling (as can be seen in the video for One Wish Away) and has recently been touring with the Flamma Fire Group.




See also: Kadenzza, Kingfisher Sky, King Lizzard

L is for...

Leaves' Eyes - Singer-songwriter Liv Kristine formed this band in 2007 after her departure from Theatre of Tragedy. The rest of the members are from German band Atrocity, led by Liv's husband Alexander Krull. The band have an epic symphonic sound filled with gothic and folk metal influences, and they have used lyrics in a wide range of languages, including ancient ones like Old English and Old Norse to fit with their Viking themes.



Luca Turilli - Luca was a founding member of Rhapsody of Fire, before moving onto solo projects, including several self-titled albums, Luca Turilli's Rhapsody and Luca Turilli's Dreamquest. He has collaborated with many famous musicians in the power metal genre and also had albums narrated by Saruman himself, actor Christopher Lee (who then went on to record his own symphonic metal album). 


Lyriel - This German band began as folk metal before acquiring more of a symphonic style, though they described themselves as "dark romantic celtic rock". Their lyrics are often inspired by literature and fantasy novels, and their fourth album was positively compared to Nightwish in some magazine reviews.



Lunatica - Formed in Switzerland in 1998, Lunatica are one of the more established bands in the genre. They have worked with Sascha Paeth (see Avantasia) and signed to Napalm Records in 2009. Since then they have remained quiet, but have recently returned with a new album announcement and a slot opening for Within Temptation.


See also: Lacrimas Profundere, Lacrimosa, Lacuna Coil, Lux Occulta, Lana Lane, Limbonic Art, Liv Moon

M is for...

MaYaN - The brainchild of Epica's Mark Jansen. Mark provides the main harsh vocals and lyrics for this symphonic death side project, which also features singers Laura Macri and Henning Basse. Several members of Epica and After Forever have been involved (including Simone Simons and Floor Jansen) as well as Marcela Bovio from Stream of Passion.

Midnattsol - A symphonic band with strong folk metal influences. The name means Midnight Sun in Norwegian, and they were founded in 2002 by Carmen Elise Espenæs (younger sister to Liv Kristine) and German guitarist Christian Hector. After signing with Napalm in 2005 they have released 3 records to date, and spent all of 2013 working on an upcoming album.

Magica - Hailing from Romania, this fantasy-themed band began in 2002 after guitarist Bogdan Costea (formerly of a local gothic metal act) decided to create a musical project that was more to his taste. Ana Mladinovici joined him on lead vocals, and has also sung on the 2007 Hellish rock tour. Magica gained fans around Europe as tour guests for After Forever, Apocalyptica and Leaves' Eyes.



See also: Magic Kingdom, Malice Mizer, Matenrou Opera, Mutum

N is for...

Nightwish - Arguably the biggest band in symphonic metal. Band leader Tuomas Holopainen founded what was originally an acoustic group back in 1996, before changing to symphonic power metal sound to better fit the voice of lyrical soprano Tarja Turunen. After 5 albums that gradually incorporated more influences from orchestral and film music, Tarja was fired from the band in a now infamous open letter. After many auditions, the band recruited Sweden's Anette Olzon who joined the band for 2 albums and their own feature film, Imaginaerum. When circumstances led to parting ways with Anette in the middle of a tour, Floor Jansen of After Forever and ReVamp stepped in. Their first 
album with Floor will be released in 2015.

Nemesea - This Dutch band had symphonic metal origins and have previously been compared to Within Temptation and Delain. However, they have now moved towards more of an alternative rock sound. Singer Manda Ophius had classical training from a young age and lists Anneke Van Giersbergen among her main inspirations.The band are currently working on a new album and a live DVD.



Northern Kings - A Finnish symphonic metal supergroup made up of Marco Hietala from Nightwish, Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica, Jarkko Ahola formerly of Dreamtale and Juha-Pekka Leppäluoto from Charon. They perform covers of popular songs from sources as diverse as Journey, Michael Jackson, Radiohead and Kylie Minogue.




See also: Necromantia, Nightfall

O is for...

Opera IX - This veteran symphonic black metal band first came together all the way back in 1988. For many years their vocals were provided by Cadaveria, who left in 2002 and is now fronting her own band of the same name. Their vocals are heavily themed around paganism and witchcraft. More recent endeavours include a live DVD and signing with a new record label (Agonia Records).



Old Man's Child - Another offering from the extreme end of the symphonic scale. This Norwegian black metal group were formed in 1993 out of the ashes of a Slayer/Metallica cover band by lead musician Galder. Galder is now the only permanent member. As with many bands in this area of the genre, they were originally purely black metal before introducing symphonic elements.



See also: Obsidian Gate, Oblivion Awaits

P is for...

Pythia - Although largely a power metal band, it is Emily Alice Ovenden's vocals that often see this band placed under the symphonic label (she was another of those in the running for the job of Nightwish vocalist).They have also toured with the likes of Leaves' Eyes. The London-based group have released 2 full-length albums so far and are set to release a third some time in 2014. They are named after the chief priestess of the Oracle and Delphi.



See also: Patrizia, Phoenix Rising, Penumbra

Q is for...


R is for...

ReVamp - The Dutch band formed by Floor Jansen (see Nightwish, After Forever) in 2009. Signed to Nuclear Blast, they continue the tradition of Floor's previous band with heavy symphonic music. Despite Floor suffering from a burnout in 2011 and then joining Nightwish, the band returned with a second album in 2013 that was well-received by critics.



Rhapsody of Fire - Formerly known as Rhapsody but changed due to trademark issues. This power metal band is another veteran in the business, put together in 1993 by Luca Turilli (see entry above). Singer Fabio Lione is known for his guest performances with bands such as Ayreon and Kamelot.



See also: Rain Fell Within, ReinXeed, Rotting Christ, Royal Hunt

S is for...

Sirenia - A gothic metal band from Norway. Band leader Morten Veland founded the project in 2001 after his departure from Tristania. The symphonic elements of the band come from the female vocals and frequent use of strings and choirs. The band has been through several lead singers: Fabienne Gondamin, Henriette Bordvik and Monika Pedersen before finally settling with current singer Ailyn from Spain. With 6 albums under their belt, Sirenia are fast becoming a staple of both symphonic and gothic metal.



Serenity - Another band formed in 2001, this time from Austria. The band is known for its strong use of orchestration and its historical themed lyrics. Originally Georg Neuhauser was the only singer in the band and female vocals were provided by guests such as Ailyn from Sirenia and Charlotte Wessels from Delain, but they have now recruited Clémentine Delauney as a full time vocalist.


Sonata Arctica - These Finnish power metal stars are more of an honourary member of the genre, though they have occasionally incorporated symphonic elements into their works. Singer Tony Kakko has not only provided vocals on all 8 of the band's albums but also for Nightwish, Northern Kings, Epica, Apocalyptica and more.


Stratovarius - A Finnish band that have inspired many others since their inception in 1984. They are considered one of the leading groups in power and symphonic metal. Having gone through many line-up changes including the departure of Timo Tolkki (of Timo Tolkki's Avalon), there are no founders left and singer Timo Kotipelto is now the longest standing member.

Stream of Passion - A Dutch-Mexican group originally put together by Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon and vocalist/violinist Marcela Bovio, formerly of Elfonía. Bovio was selected by Lucassen via an internet singing contest. He then left the band to their own devices, and they have achieved success and acclaim among the symphonic community with their first 3 records. A fourth album has been recorded by the band after being crowdfunded last year.


Symphony X - These US prog-power metallers came together in 1994 for their self-titled début album and have since produced 7 further records. Although similar in style to bands like Dream Theater, they also incorporate a lot of symphonic elements and orchestration and are well-known for their epic tracks, including a 24 minute musical interpretation of Homer's The Odyssey.



Sons of Seasons - This band are a side project of Oliver Palotai, keyboardist to Kamelot and Doro, and husband to Simone Simons of Epica. Henning Basse was the lead singer until leaving the group to become a full-time vocalist of MaYaN. They have released 2 albums so far and are signed to Napalm Records.



See also: Sarah Jezebel Deva, Savatage, Septicflesh, Seraphim, Skyfire, Star One, Susperia, Symphonia

T is for...

Tarja - The former Nightwish singer kickstarted her solo career in 2007 with My Winter Storm, an album that topped the Finnish charts and proved that she could have success on her own. Two albums later and she is still going strong. Her backing band features well-known drummer Mike Terrana who she has also toured with alone as part of Beauty and the Beat. In 2013 she hit metal headlines by collaborating with Within Temptation and singing a duet with Nightwish's new recruit Floor Jansen.

Therion - This extravagant band from Sweden are often credited with inventing the genre. Formed back in 1987, they gradually changed their style from death metal to symphonic, with their music firmly rooted in classical and opera. The band have not only released 15 albums in their time but also several DVDs, an art project and even a board game. Thomas Vikström is now their full-time lead vocalist.



Theatre of Tragedy - A Norwegian gothic metal band, now disbanded. They are best known for their earlier albums with original singer Liv Kristine, inspiring many others in the genre. After Liv was fired from the band, Nell Sigland became the lead vocalist from 2004-2010. In 2011 the band released a final farewell in the form a live CD/DVD, entitled Last Curtain Call.


Tristania - Another gothic metal act that have been adopted into the symphonic metal genre. Morten Veland was one of the founding members before leaving to create Sirenia. They were originally known for their melodic and melancholy sound with the soprano vocals of Vibeke Stene (currently working on her solo album) but have been through a complete line-up change and are now led by Mariangela Demurtas and Kjetil Nordhus.


Trillium - This group are notable for being made up of symphonic metal royalty. Vocalist Amanda Somerville has coached Floor Jansen and Simone Simons as well as providing choir vocals and lyrical editing to their respective bands and others. She is also known for singing with Kamelot, Avantasia and Serenity. Joining her is Sander Gommans from After Forever and Sascha Paeth (see Avantasia).



Tuomas Holopainen - Nightwish's "maestro" is set to release his first solo album next month. The record is an orchestral soundtrack to his favourite comic book - The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. Although it is mainly instrumental and more symphonic than metal, Tuomas has said that it will appeal to fans of Nightwish. It features guest vocals from Tony Kakko and Johanna Kurkela.


See also: Theatres Des Vampires, Theocracy, Tiamat, Timo Tolkki's Avalon, Trail of Tears, Turisas

U is for...

Unshine - A gothic symphonic metal act from Finland. The band formed in 2000 when singer Susanna Vesilahti first joined in their rehearsals. They describe themselves as "druid metal" with pagan and Celtic themes, and have been compared to bands like Nightwish and Lacuna Coil, though they are considered to have more of a pop orientation. They have released 3 albums so far, the most recent being 2013's Dark Half Rising.


See also: Ufych Sormeer, Ultimate Fate, Under Sanity's Bane, UnSun

V is for...

Visions of Atlantis - This Austrian band formed in 2000 and have since been through many line-up changes. They have 6 former vocalists including Melissa Ferlaak, Maxi Nil and Nicole Bogner who sadly passed away in 2012. The band recently announced their intention to go back to their original style and rehired three of the old members as well as Clémentine Delauney from Serenity and Siegfried Samer from Dragony. They are working on the a sixth album.



Versailles - Also known as Versailles -Philharmonic Quintet- in America. They were a Japanese visual kei band who dressed in Rococo fashions and played elaborate symphonic metal. Although not hugely well-known elsewhere in the world, they had 5 successful albums in Japan. Their bassist Jasmine You sadly died in 2009 and the band finally split up in 2012, with members moving onto other projects.



Van Canto - Although not technically symphonic metal and perhaps not technically even a band (bear with me), they are a capella geniuses. Formed in 2006, the band have 5 singers and a drummer, with the singers playing the part of all the instruments. They are largely inspired by symphonic and melodic metal. Van Canto are notable in the scene for their covers of songs like Wishmaster by Nightwish, and also for their guest appearances on Tarja's second album, and singer Inga Scharf on Heidi Parviainen's Dark Sarah project.


See also: Valyre, Veni Domine, Vesania, Vesperian Sorrow, Virgin Black

W is for...

Within Temptation - Now described as Europe's biggest symphonic rock band, this Dutch group began life in 1996 as a gothic doom act formed by partners Sharon Den Adel and Robert Westerholt. They are certainly one of the biggest and most influential bands in the genre, largely thanks to their breakthrough album Mother Earth in 2000. The band have often performed with an orchestra, and did so at their 15th anniversary celebration Elements in 2012. The band's latest, Hydra, was a worldwide success and has seen them collaborating with Tarja and headlining Wembley Arena.

Wintersun -  A Finnish band led by Jari Mäenpää, formerly of Ensiferum. The band could fit into many different genres and have been labelled melodic death, power, folk and black metal over the years. But one thing's for certain - their long-awaited, two part album Time has a definite symphonic feel, with epic choirs and haunting Japanese-style melodies.


See also: Waltari, Waiting Silence, Whispers of Fate

X is for...

Xandria - This band from Germany have had quite the journey, starting off as a lighter symphonic/gothic band with electronic elements and becoming a full-on epic orchestral act á la Nightwish. Original singer Lisa Middelhauve (now working on solo projects) departed in 2008 and had a short-lived replacement in the form of Kerstin Bischof. Finally Manuela Kraller joined for Neverworld's End, an album which propelled them to new heights. Dianne Van Giersbergen from Ex Libris (no relation of Anneke) is their current singer.

See also: X Japan, Xerath

Y is for...


Z is for...


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I hope you enjoyed this A-Z tour of symphonic metal! If you did, please do share with your friends and comment below if you have any suggestions for bands that have been missed. 
Please note: this is my personal guide and I apologise for any mistakes or omissions. Thanks for reading.

2 comments:

This is really cool! I have a few suggestions: Angra, Diabulus in Musica, and Diablo Swing Orchestra

 

Thank you Phil! I actually add Diabulus in Musica on my list, not sure how I missed them out, haha. I'll add your suggestions.

 

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