Symphonic metal combines metal and classical orchestral music (often using arrangements that mimic symphonic music). In creating music in this style, female vocals, choirs, symphonic musical instruments, or their imitation using synthesizers are often used, and full symphonic orchestras are frequently used in recordings. Concept albums, duets, and choirs with multiple vocalists are characteristic of the genre.

The evolution of symphonic metal can be traced back to influential bands such as The Gathering and Theatre of Tragedy, who were among the first to incorporate keyboards and female vocals into their music. Other notable contributors to the genre’s development include Rage and Symphony X, who experimented with blending orchestra and metal.

The emergence of symphonic metal as a distinct genre is usually dated to the release of the album “Theli” by the Swedish band Therion in 1996. Therion had used symphonic arrangements in their previous albums, blending them with death metal, but it was on “Theli” that their distinctive style was formed.

The year 1997 marked a significant milestone in the development of symphonic metal. It saw the debut albums of three bands, Nightwish, Rhapsody, and Within Temptation, all of which would go on to have a profound influence on the genre. Nightwish and Rhapsody incorporated symphonic arrangements into power metal, while Within Temptation’s debut album was in a genre close to the gothic metal of Theatre of Tragedy, further diversifying the symphonic metal landscape.

The trend quickly spread, even reaching black metal. Bands like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir, known for their greater melodicism, began emphasizing keyboards, which went against the conventions of “true black metal.” Later, Cradle of Filth even recorded several duets with female vocalists. Around the same time, bands like Bal-Sagoth and Summoning emerged, using keyboards and orchestras as actively as guitars and not adhering to black metal ideology.

In the late 90s and early 00s, several bands developed the “operatic metal” line. These included After Forever, Epica (a spin-off from After Forever), the side project of Theatre of Tragedy vocalist Liv Kristine, Leaves’ Eyes, Edenbridge, and Tristania.

The band Apocalyptica stands apart in the genre, performing thrash metal on cellos. Although their music is often characterized as symphonic metal, it does not trace its origins to any of its subgenres. Still, it is instead an experiment by musicians that began with symphonic cover versions of classic metal bands. “Cello Rock” emerged in English to describe a similar style.

The popularity of symphonic arrangements even spread to old hard rock and heavy metal bands. Metallica, Aria, Scorpions, Deep Purple, Rage, and Manowar were recorded and performed by orchestras. Manowar’s 2007 album, the conceptual “Gods of War,” contains the band’s experiments with symphonic instruments and keyboards.

Symphonic Metal Band 2024
  • Nightwish
  • Within Temptation
  • Epica
  • Therion
  • Beyond the Black
  • Visions of Atlantis
  • Amberian Dawn
  • Ad Infinitum
  • Eleine
  • Rhapsody of Fire
  • Delain
  • Xandria
  • Sirenia
  • Twillight Force
  • Leaves' Eyes
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