STILL THE ORCHESTRA PLAYS-A Very Brief And Incomplete History Of Symphonic Heavy Metal Albums.

STILL THE ORCHESTRA PLAYS.

A Very Brief And Incomplete History Of Symphonic Heavy Metal Albums.

(Version 1)

by JP

PREFACE

As we hit the 50th anniversary of Heavy Metal this year (2020), as Managing Editor of Metal-Rules.com, one of my goals is to try to add more editorial content and technical information so people can use MR not only as a source of entertainment but reliable information as well.  In our 30,000+ pages of content, we have written almost 14,000 CD reviews, 500+ book reviews, 400+ DVD reviews. Over 25 years we have conducted over 2000 interviews, and our international staff have reviewed over 1700 concerts and festivals world-wide.

We are also celebrating our 25th year as a website so to add even more value for our readers I would like to add a series of articles about various facets of Heavy Metal.   Every year, I am increasingly happy to discover more and more authors, books, on-line publications, scholars and academic studies scouring our massive archives, citing and sharing our work.

Therefore, my modest goal is to continue to make Metal-Rules a resource and repository on a variety of (hopefully!) interesting topics and not just a shallow dumping ground of regurgitated press-releases, click-bait, pop-up ads, political posturing, countless lists and rankings of albums, and endless industry gossip. There are plenty of good sites that already do that well and they are all enjoyable in their own way.

Each feature in this series is named after a Metal band, album, song title or lyric. Feel free to go back and read the other articles in this series.

Mar 2020- Read All About It (Canadian Metal magazines)

April 2020- Gathered In Their Masses (American Supergoups)

May 2020- A Tribute to The Past  (Tribute albums)

June 2020- Reborn In Blasphemy (Re-recorded albums)

As you might have guessed from the title, this month I am going to look at the phenomena of bands that have worked with a symphony orchestra. I was going to name this article ‘Symphonies of Destruction’ after the Megadeth song of course, which is a perfect title but I opted for the title of a Savatage Greatest Hits album being that the band are far more synonymous with orchestral sounds than the straight-up thrash of Megadeth.

If you have any suggestions, comments or ideas for future articles, please let me know. You can reach me at joshuawood@shaw.ca.  Thank you.

If you want to skip the long article, you can just scroll down and look at the list of bands!

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This article is a bit of a continuation of last months article about re-recorded albums.  In Appendix D of that article (May 2020) I listed a few bands that had re-recorded studio albums with a symphony orchestra and noted that it is quite rare for a band to do that.  However, what is much more common are Metal bands that record with an orchestra, either in a studio environment or especially live. It is this scenario that we will be examining this month.

Unlike some of the previous essays in this series this really doesn’t need much of an explanation.  Some bands decided that they want to accentuate their sound with orchestral or symphonic sounds.   By this I mean woodwinds, brass, violins, cellos, pianos, flutes and so on.    For our purpose I use the terms classical, orchestral or symphonic virtually interchangeable with little or no distinction between them.

History and Timeline.

The connection between Metal and Symphonic sounds is well-established.   Some have even cited German composer Richard Wagner as the godfather of Heavy Metal. Manowar certainly seem to think so!   Classical music has been around for hundreds of years. Metal is a relatively new phenomena form of popular or contemporary music.  It was perhaps inevitable that Metal would incorporate classic sounds into their compositions. As soon as proto-Metal was evolving they were incorporating traditional stringed instruments (violins) etc to compliment the newer electrified/distorted stringed instruments (guitars).

From Jimmy Page playing his guitar with a violin bow to Richie Blackmore’s fusion of Blues and classical, it is pretty easy to trace the evolution of this style from the late 60’s into neoclassical Metal in the early 80’s with Yngwie J. Malmsteen and Randy Rhoads.   Synthesizers made it easy to replicate those symphonic sounds at a fraction of a cost of hiring someone to play that instrument or the time spent to become proficient on said instrument.  Before long any Metal band in any genre could and did have access to a digital library of classic sounds.

The concept of a Metal band playing with an orchestra has been around since the late 60’s but it really wasn’t until the turn of the century that we started seeing more and more bands put into practice.

Through the 70’s Hard Rock and Metal bands had virtually no collaborations with symphonies, although some Prog rock bands did dabble occasionally. The 80’s and 90’s saw a handful of bands experiment with mostly synthesized sounds but you could probably count them on two hands. As metal fractured into myriad sub-genres and grew exponentially in the late 90’s we saw the rise of the metallic-symphonic collaboration but again few and far between.

Many people point to Metallica’s S&M in late 1999 or Scorpions MOMENT OF GLORY in mid-2000 as a turning point. These two enormous bands gave the idea some more mainstream legitimacy even though a dozen bands had already done it previously, albeit on a much smaller scale.   Approximately 75% of all of these types of albums in existence have been recorded in the past two decades, ie, post 2000.

Why record with an orchestra or symphony?

Why not?  Many Metal artists are musicians first and Metalheads second.  A band may want to enhance their sound and it is purely an artistic choice.

How many orchestral albums are there?

In the grand scheme, there are very few, again far less than 0.1% of albums are recorded with a symphony because it is expensive, time-consuming and many bands just don’t want to.   My best estimate puts it at about 100 maximum.

Types of orchestral/symphonic albums.

There are pretty much only two kinds; studio and live.  You can have a band recording a studio album with an orchestra and a band performing and recording a live album with an orchestra.  The only real distinction is that some bands will record a ‘full-‘on’ Metal album and later play those songs or albums with an orchestra live.  This means the symphonic elements need to be integrated into the existing music.  Alternately in the studio environment the songs can be written in conjunction with the band, simultaneously performing together in collaboration. Some bands have done both, U.D.O. for example.

Exceptions.

Neoclassical Metal or Symphonic Metal has morphed into a sub-genre unto itself with hundreds of bands, too many to list.  I’m not going to list many bands that have used a digital/synthesized representations of an orchestra on a song or two.   If a band uses a tiny bit of piano or a classic piece as the introduction to a song for example, I’m not including those examples. There are countless bands who have done that; tapped into classical motifs and used samples or synthesizers to create those sounds.

I have also excluded artists who do classically inspired, solo albums for example Timo Tolkki’s CLASSICAL VARIATIONS AND THEMES (1994) or Wolf Hoffmann’s CLssical (1997).  Generally these guys are not working with a symphony but just using classical themes and sounds.

I’m generally referring to bands that have actually hired several other professional classical musicians to perform and record.  Real Metal band + real Orchestra.  Easy.   I will make the occasional note of some bands that have a major symphonic/classic element across a notable album even if they used computers and synthesizer to create those sounds.

Design and Layout and general observations.

As with most of these articles in this series, I’m listing the albums in chronological then alphabetically by band to demonstrate the evolution of the phenomena.  I didn’t list all of them there are too many, but this is a pretty good sample size from some of the bigger bands. The idea for this essay is not really original, there are already many good articles and lists on-line but those tend to hit the usual dozen or so bands, we are going to try to dig a bit deeper.

As for live albums with an orchestra I’ve noted quite often they are filmed for  DVD or Blu-Ray. I suppose of you are going to all that effort to hire an orchestra to do a concert you might as well film it and put out a product.  There is any number of cool double or even triple live orchestral albums CD/DVD packages, as we will see.  On occasion these may be only available on DVD or Blu-Ray.

Working with an orchestra seem to be a much more European style. Most of the bands in this article are from Europe. It seems there is a stronger connection to classical music in Europe than in Eurasia or South America where their ancient music traditions are very different, or in the colonies, Australia or America for example.  Accordingly we don’t see too many bands from outside of Europe bands recording with an orchestra.

In terms of genre, bands that tend toward bombastic sounds use orchestras.  It is fairly rare for a Glam Metal, Thrash, Death or Black Metal band to play with an orchestra. Traditional Metal, Power Metal, Doom and Prog Metal bands seem to be the types of bands that enjoy the synthesis of styles and sounds.  Many stylistically similar bands often with a strong female vocal component such as Nightwish, Epica, Within Temptation, After Forever and Therion tend to perform with orchestras.

There seems to be a roughly even split between the Live albums and Studio albums on the market. In the notes section of each release I’ll make a note if it is a Live album or studio album.

Please enjoy this look at Orchestral Symphonic Metallic music!


 

DEEP PURPLE-Concerto For Group And Orchestra

(1969, Harvest)

 

It is seldom in art or culture where you can trace a movement, style or genre to a singular event but in this case you can. Deep Purple did it first.  Jon Lord composed the music and it was performed live on September 24th, 1969 with the Royal Philharmonic at the Royal Alberta Hall in London, England. Ground Zero.


MANOWAR-Kings Of Metal

(1988, Atlantic)

 

Kings of Metal is one of the earliest and more notable bands to mix the two styles.  The band had always had a bombastic Wagnerian style but on this album they took it to the next level becoming one of the first Metal bands to fully record in digital technology.  Using synthesizer they incorporated symphonic sounds and hired the 100-member Canoldir Male Choir from Birmingham, England for the choral segments.  To top it off Joey DeMaio added a classical music cover one of the first Metal bands to do so.


MEKONG DELTA-The Gnom

(1988, Aaarrg)

While merely a four songs, this EP was the piece that launched a decades long affair/obsession by Ralf Hubert with classical music and Metal, specifically the music of Mussorgsky. Contains two Mussorgsky covers and the band has done countless classical/symphonic mixes over the years.


LIZZY BORDEN-Master Of Disguise

(1989, Metal Blade)

Another thematic rock opera based around classical music, the theater and vampires, this was originally intended to be a Lizzy Borden solo album. Lizzy boasted at the time of incorporating 150 digital tracks to get the symphonic sounds.  That might not sound like much in 2020 but in 1989 it was a big deal.  Predates GUTTER BALLET by a few months.


SAVATAGE-Gutter Ballet

(1989, Atlantic)

The band had dabbled with orchestral sounds but this was the first album that fully incorporated the concept into a theatrical piece. It was followed by the full-blown Rock Opera, STREETS in 1991 that cemented their status as a band known for effectively mixing the two styles.   Savatage of course evolved into the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and the two performed together with a live orchestra at Wacken on July 30th, 2015 that has yet to be released on CD or DVD.


X-Japan- Symphonic Blue Blood

(1991, Invitation)

X Japan – Symphonic Silent Jealousy

(1992, Invitation)

Most Metal fans in the West have little clue how huge this band was. In 1991 and 1992 they re-recorded two of their albums albums with the Tokyo Academy Chamber Orchestra.


EXTREME-III Sides To Every Story

(1992, A&M)

Extreme’s third album had a 28-minute suite of songs broken into three parts, performed by a 70-piece symphony orchestra.  Not a full album but a noteworthy part of this critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful album.


MEKONG DELTA-Vision Fugitives

(1994, Bullet Proof)

MEKONG DELTA-Pictures At An Exhibition

(1997, Bullet Proof)

The vision the band had a few years prior with THE GNOM (see above) became more fully realized with a pair of albums blending Metal and symphonic sounds.


SKYLARK – The Horizon And The Storm

(Indie, 1995)

Multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist, Eddy Antonini composes all the classical music and plays numerous classical instruments for this long-running Italian Power Metal band.


RHAPSODY-Legendary Tales

(1997, Limb)

Rhapsody are perhaps the most well-known band to mix orchestral/symphonic elements together and to spearhead an entire sub-genre. They dubbed themselves ‘Film-Score Metal’ or ‘Hollywood Metal’ and overnight countless Italian Metal kids who grew up listening to classical and opera at home formed dozens of bands like this.

This was Part One of a massive, ten album series called ‘The Chronicles Of Algalord’ broken into two , five albums sections, each featuring dozens and dozens of classical musicians contributing over the 14 years it took to complete.  The band used the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra of the Czech Republic, for about five of the albums. Skylark may have done it first but Rhapsody did it bigger and better.  For sake of space, I opted not to list all 10 albums.  I’m sure you have all of them in your collection anyway!


RATA BLANCA-En Vivo En Buenos Aries

(1996, Polydor)

A lesser-known release, Argentina’s biggest Metal band recorded a live album with the Orquesta de Cámara Solistas Bach in October of 1992 and released it in 1996 on a major label no less!


RAGE-Lingua Mortis

(1996, Gun)

RAGE –XIII

(1998, Gun)

RAGE-Ghosts

(1999, Gun)

RAGE-Metal Meets Classical Live

(2001, Gun)

The Lingua Mortis Trilogy 

(2002, Gun)

This was Rage’s first foray into blending classical and Metal.   LINGUA MORTIS (top) was a re-rerecording of a few old Rage songs with the Prague Symphony Orchestra.  It was very well-received and started the band down that path for the next 25 years with many collaborations with the Lingua Mortis Orchestra.   The bands worked together again in 1998 on the album XIII and again in for the album GHOSTS in 1999 making a trilogy on GUN Records.  It all culminated in 2001 with a Live album.  All three studio albums were released as a box-set in 2002.


THERION-Vovin

(1998, Nuclear Blast)

Considered by some to be a Christofer Johnsson solo album, this is Therion’s first full symphonic album utilizing a real orchestra.  This was a milestone where Therion released several albums in conjunction with an orchestra. This highly productive phase of the bands career culminated a decade later with the release of THE MISKOLC EXPERINCE.


YNGWIE J.  MALMSTEEN-Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra in E flat Minor Op.1  ‘Millenium Suite’

(1998, Dream Catcher)   (Rock mix)

YNGWIE J.  MALMSTEEN-Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra in E flat minor Op.1

(1998, Dream Catcher  Classics)   (Classical mix)

YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN-Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra in E Flat Minor Live with the New Japan Philharmonic.

(2002, Canyon International)

It was perhaps inevitable that Yngwie, the guy who basically invented neo-classical Metal (with all due respect to Blackmore) would eventually record with an orchestra.  Of course never known for doing things by half, this was quite the epic project called The Millennium Suite.  Yngwie actually composed all the music and it was performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. It was released into two versions, a ‘rock mix’ and a ‘classical mix’ each with  different artwork as well.

A few years later, he performed his piece live with the New Japan Philharmonic which was released as a live album and DVD.


METALLICA-S&M

(1999, Elektra)

Symphony & Metallica was so big the DVD actually got a theatrical release.  The bands second live album, a double set, was recorded in California with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in the spring of 1999.


THERION-CROWNING OF ATLANTIS

(1999, Nuclear Blast)

Therion’s second symphonic MCD performed with the Indigo orchestra.


SCORPIONS-Moment Of Glory

(2000, EMI Classics)

SCORPIONS-Moment Of Glory-Live

(2000, Eagle Vision)

 

A monster collaboration, this time with the Berliner Philharmoniker.  The album is a mix of old and new songs recorded in a symphonic style.

On June 22nd, 2000 at the World Expo in Germany, the band and orchestra performed recorded the album live and released the concert on DVD later that year.  To date, it has never been released as a stand-alone Live CD.   The band would revisit the idea again in 2013.


THERION-Deggial

(2000, Nuclear Blast)

Therion’s third symphonic CD performed with a 20-piece orchestra and choir.


VICTOR SMOLSKI-The Heretic

(2000, Drakkar)

Victor Smolski (ex-Mind Odyssey) put out his debut solo album, a conceptual piece about The Inquisition. This album featured the white Russian Symphonic Orchestra of Belarus. It also featured members of the band Rage and it lead to a long and very prolific pairing when Smolski officially joined Rage.  The two were basically doing the same thing (Metal+ Orchestra) so they joined forces.


THERION-Secret Of The Runes

(2001, Nuclear Blast)

Therion’s fourth symphonic CD, this time a concept album about Norse mythology performed in conjunction with dozens of classical musicians.


KISS- SYMPHONY ALIVE IV

(2003, Sanctuary)

Perhaps forming a ‘big three?’  Kiss joins Scorpions and Metallica as another huge band to do the symphony thing.  Performed in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra it was well executed with the musicians in Kiss corpse paint!


DORO-Classic Diamonds

(2004, AFM)

Re-recorded Warlock, Doro and cover tunes with the ‘Classic Night Orchestra’.   The pair went on tour and a concert filmed and released on DVD but unfortunately has yet has to be issued on CD.


THERION-Lemuria and Sirius-B

(2004, Nuclear Blast)

Utterly massive conceptual double album released simultaneously with over 170 guest musicians including the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.


VICTOR SMOLSKI-Majesty And Passion

(2004, Drakkar)

Smolski’s second stab at a collaboration, this time Smolski’s metallic interpretations of material by J.S. Bach performed again with the Belarus Symphony Orchestra.


CIRCLE OF PAIN-Classic Live Tunes

(2005, ZYX)

Lesser known German progressive band did a bit of a premature but ambitious double live album, (after only one studio album!) with the Südhessen Symphonic Orchestra.


EPICA –The Score: An Epic Journey

(2005, Transmission)

This is the first of three (to date) collaborations by Epica with an orchestra. This one was a bit of an offshoot it is score/soundtrack written and recorded by the band for the film ‘Joyride’.  Basically it is not Metal but a curio for the fans of the band.


DREAM THEATER-Score

(2006, Rhino)

A nice 20thanniversary double Live CD DVD set performed in New York at the Radio City music Hall on  April fool’s Day, 2006.  The 30-piece orchestra were dubbed the Octavarium Orchestra, named for the album the tour was supporting.


THERION-Gothic Kabbalah

(2007, Nuclear Blast)

Theron’s love affair with classic music continues unabated,  this being their seventh and final album in the symphonic era.


WITHIN TEMPTATION-Black Symphony

(2008, GUN)

Within Temptation’s first live symphonic album was a pretty big affair.  A couple of shows were recorded, one in late 2007 and one in early 2008, with the Dutch Metropole Orchestra for a three-disc (2 CD/ 1 DVD) set.


EPICA-The Classical Conspiracy – Live in Miskolc, Hungary

(2009, Nuclear Blast)

Epica returns with their second symphonic collaboration but first real mix of metal and symphony.  The Miskolc International Opera Festival in Hungary is run every year and Epica got to perform on June 14th, 2008.    To date only three Metallic type bands have been invited Therion (2007) Epica (2008) and Tarja (2010).


THERION-The Miskolc Experience

(2009, Nuclear Blast)

The Miskolc International Opera Festival in Hungary is run every year and Therion got to perform on June 16th, 2007.   To date only three Metallic type bands have been invited Therion (2007) Epica (2008) and Tarja (2010).  This live album put an exclamation point on the decade long, seven album, symphonic phase of the bands career.  This came in a nice three-disc set, (2 CD/ 1 DVD).


BLIND GUARDIAN-At The Edge Of time

(2010, Nuclear Blast)

A band prone to work in phases of several albums enters their ‘symphonic’ phase.   They utilized the services of The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.


SHAMAN-One Live – Shaman & Orchestra Live at Masters of Rock

(2010, Scarlet)

I don’t own this (yet) and information is hard to come by but the Brazilian Power Metal band, Shaman performed on July 9th, 2009 at The Masters Of Rock festival in the Czech Republic with an orchestra.  To date this is only available on DVD.


DEVIN TOWNSEND-Deconstruction

(2011, InsideOut)

Hevy Devy’s first true foray into the symphonic realms sees him working with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.  Not unlike blind Guardian this sort of launched Devin’s symphonic era, followed by a few more albums in this style.


NIGHTWISH-Imaginaerum: The Score

(2012, Nuclear Blast)

This was a big album for the band with no less than four versions; the original, an instrumental version, an orchestral version and a film-score version to tie in the with feature length film based on the album. This film score version was performed with the London Philharmonic, temporarily dubbed ‘The Looking Glass Orchestra’ for the project.


ANATHEMA-Untouchable

(2013, Kscope)

On September 22ndof 2012, Anathema combined with the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra at the Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis in Bulgaria. This was the bands live stand alone live album. Oddly enough this has not been released on home video yet.


EPICA-Retrospect

(2013, Nuclear Blast)

Epica go back to the well a third time for the their 10thanniversary.  This huge set was Recorded live at the Klokgebouw, Eindhoven in Holland on the 23rd of March 2013.


LMO-LMO

(2013, Nuclear Blast)

The LMO/Rage pairing comes to a full realization with a debut album. It is a concept album about the Inquisition that very much mirrors Smolski’s debut solo album.  The whole Rage/Refuge/Smolski/LMO/Almanac  collective is quite the incestuous situation, in good way.


SCORPIONS-MTV Unplugged In Athens

(2013, Universal)

Having had so much success the first time around, the band revisit the concept for an intimate, acoustical/classic show recorded over a couple of nights in September of 2012 at the Lycabettus Theatre in Athens, Greece.


ULVER-Messe I.X-VI.X

(2013, Jester)

Another typically ambitious and avante-garde project from Ulver, this piece was done in conjunction with the Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra based out of Norway.  It was recorded ‘live’ but it was not a live concert in the strictest sense.


DEVIN TOWNSEND-Z2/SKYBLUE

(2014, InsideOut)

It seems to be a natural trifecta; Metal and Orchestra and a concept album.  This time Devin revisits the Ziltoid saga and again works with his old buddies in the Prague Philharmomic.  This was also issued later as ZILTOID:DARK MATTERS.


SKALMOLD-Skálmöld & Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands

(2014, Sena)

This Icelandic Black Metal band debut live album was recorded with the ISO (Iceland Symphony Orchestra)


TARJA-Beauty And The Beat

(2014, EarMusic)

In April of 2013,  Tarja Turunen, (ex-Nightwish) and Mike Terrana (ex-Rage) recorded a concert with the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra.  It was performed at Kongresové Centrum Zlín, in the Czech Republic and consisted of classical covers.  The title is a clever play on words implying that Tarja is the ‘Beauty’ and drummer Terrana is the ‘beast and the beat’.


BLIND GUARDIAN-Beyond The Red Mirror

(2015, Nuclear Blast)

The band presents the second album in their symphonic phase. Once again they work with The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hungarian Studio choir.


PARADISE LOST-Symphony For The Lost

(2015, Century Media)

By now the Plovdiv Philharmonic is one of the top orchestras for Metal bands.  This time they performed with Paradise Lost on September 20th, 2014 in Bulgaria.  This was the resulting live album, the band’s fourth.


U.D.O.-Navy Metal Night

(2015, AFM)

The first of two U.D.O. orchestral albums to date.  This one was a concert performed on February 20th, 2014 at the Stadhalle in Tuttlingen, Germany, where  U.D.O. combined forces with the Germany Navy Orchestra (The MarineMusikKorps Nordsee) to perform a symphonic concert.


DREAM THEATER-The Astonishing

(2016, Roadrunner)

Dream Theater always wanted to do their own version of 2112 and this is it.   Epic in scope and scale this was tied in with a book as well and they employed the ever reliable Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.


DIMMU BORGIR-Forces Of The Northern Light

(2017, Nuclear Blast)

This one felt like a bit of a stop-gap for arguably the world’s biggest ‘Black’ Metal band.  After seven years of inactivity we got a live album recorded in Olso with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra And Choir.


ENTOMBED-Clandestine

(2017, Threeman)

The very poorly named CLANDESTINE (they already have an album from 1991 called Clandestine) was recorded live in Malmö, Sweden at the Live Concert Hall on November 12th, 2016.  Can you guess which album they performed live in it’s entirety?  Would it have killed them to call it CLANDESTINE-LIVE! or something similar?  This is a very rare example of a Death Metal band recording with an orchestra in this case with Malmo Symphony Orchestra.


KATATONIA-The Great Cold Distance (Live in Bulgaria with the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra)

(2017, Peaceville)

Another fairly predictable candidate/band that we would expect would one day work with an orchestra, presents us their fourth live album. It has a pretty wordy, but fully explanatory title.  Recorded on September 22, 2016.


ACCEPT-Symphonic Terror

(2018, Nuclear Blast)

With Wolf Hoffmann’s proclivity for classical music (two solo albums worth) it was perhaps inevitable that Accept would perform with an orchestra  This time it was on the biggest of stages, at Wacken Open Air in August of 2017.  The three-phase show had the band, just the orchestra and then both performing.


BLIND GUARDIAN-Twilight Orchestra: Legacy of the Dark Lands

(2019, Nuclear Blast)

Blind Guardian had been threatening (I mean promising) to do a fully orchestral album for almost two-decades and now the ancient prophecy has been fulfilled. With a high-fantasy, multi-character concept album that would make Rhapsody proud, this epic, non-metallic piece clocks in at almost 2.5 hours.  The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra gets called up to the big leagues to work with the band.


SONS OF APOLLO-Live with the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony

(2019, InsideOut)

It was perhaps a bit premature for an American, melodic Hard Rock, super-group with only one album under their belt, to release a huge Double Live album with an orchestra that runs almost three hours, but you cannot accuse them of not being ambitious!   Like many albums before this was recorded live at the Ancient Roman Amphitheater in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, on September 22th, 2018. It’s wonderful but lots of filler with at least 15 cover tunes and instrumental solo spots.


VISIONS OF ATLANTIS-Wanderers

(2019, Napalm)

A busy year for the band saw a live album and a new studio album. I’m surprised it took this symphonic Metal band this long to work with an orchestra.   Some versions of this (their seventh album) came with a bonus CD of orchestral versions of songs from the album.


SEPTIC FLESH-Infernus Sinfonica MMXIX

(2020, Season Of Mist)

The bands first proper live album was a symphonic event recorded on February 2nd, 2019 at the Metropolitan Theater in Mexico City.  Another rare example of a Death/Black Metal band going symphonic.


U.D.O.-We Are 1

(2020, AFM)

The bands second foray into symphonic realms, this time a true song-writing collaboration of all new studio tracks with the German Military Concert Band aka Musikkorps der Bundeswehr.  As of time of writing there is no live version but I can almost guarantee a live CD/DVD of some sort will be coming soon.  He did a live album with the Navy orchestra, (2015) now the Army, (2020) so logically next he has to do an album with the German Air Force orchestra to complete the trilogy.


Appendices.

There are really only a few symphony orchestras that consistently work with Metal bands.  The two top dogs are listed here for your convenience.


APPENDIX  A:  THE CITY OF PRAGUE PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA

Founded in 1947 and based in the Czech Republic this group has recorded with the following Metal bands, among others.

After Forever

Blind Guardian

Devin Townsend Project

Dimmu Borgir

Dream Theater

Iced Earth

Mayan

Septicflesh

Therion

Within Temptation

Yngwie Malmsteen


APPENDIX B  PLOVDIV PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA

Founded in 1945 and based in Bulgaria this group has recorded with the following Metal bands, among others.

Anathema

Devin Townsend Project

Katatonia

Opeth

Paradise Lost

Sons of Apollo


 

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