Classically Influenced Metal Song?
August 25, 2007 1:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for metal songs with clear classical influences.

I was talking with a friend of mine about music recently. She comes from a classical music/opera background, but is trying to get into rock. I thought that she might like metal, as there are pretty strong classical influences in the genre. So I'd appreciate any suggestions of metal songs that are good examples of the classical influence in metal. I was initially thinking Metallica and other thrash bands, Nightwish, Dimmu Borgir, etc. I'd like to get a mix of sub-genres, though I'm a little hesitant about some of the more extreme strains as she's completely new to this kind of music, and I don't want her being put off by the ferocity/vocals in things like death or black metal that take a little getting used to. If it helps narrow the field, she prefers instrumental tracks, though I'd like to have stuff with vocals to show her also.
posted by Sangermaine to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a real answer for you but you might find this article interesting to pass along.
posted by edgeways at 1:59 AM on August 25, 2007

You could try just about anything by Yngwie Malmsteen or Vinnie Moore for starters. I particularly recommend Vinnie Moore's album Time Odyssey.
posted by Nick Jordan at 2:04 AM on August 25, 2007

Try some post-rock/post-metal favorites:

Explosions in the Sky
Yndi Halda

That's a fairly wide net I've cast within the genre, let me know if any of those strike a chord (literally or figuritively) with her, and I can supplement with additional suggestions.
posted by charmston at 2:56 AM on August 25, 2007

I'm looking more for specific song suggestions, but thanks for the article. It looks interesting, but it seems like you'd need a subscription to read all of it.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:58 AM on August 25, 2007

Symphony X is right up this alley. Start with The Oddyssey and go from there.
posted by knowles at 3:05 AM on August 25, 2007

Pretty much anything from:
Blind Guardian
Dream Theatre
Yngwie Malmsteen (seconded)

However, I think you should also try bands like:
Sigur Ros
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
A Silver Mt. Zion & Tra-la-la Band
Explosions in the Sky (as previously mentioned)
posted by comiddle at 3:06 AM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Classical influence in rock, and especially metal is at times subtle, and at times rather obvious (and so, tends to be quite boring, at least to me), and as rock, "classical" music is an extremely, extremely various universe.

So, if your friend likes Mozart or Rossini, she might not enjoy Puccini as well, and loathe modern composers such as Bartok or Strawinsky. Probably, you yourself are into metal but I think that for a complete neophite, the aggressiveness inherent to the genre could probably put her off. (Though Strawinsky's "The Rite of Spring" is downright mosh pit stuff).

Start easy, plant seeds. I'd say, with 1970s progressive rock, such as Genesis or Yes (records as "Foxtrot" or "Nursery Cryme" for the former, "Fragile" and "Close to the Edge" for the latter).

A more radical approach to the classical style from that same period is in the first years of King Crimson and ELP discography (say, until "Islands" and "Trilogy") - where themes, or music from modern and contemporary composers, such as Holst, Bartok, Ginastera, Mussorgsky are interpreted with rock instruments and style (I'm not sure they could be called "covers"). ELP's "Pictures at an Exhibition", after Mussorgsky, is a cornerstone in that regard.

From there, I think you can go almost anywhere in the general direction of harder sounds, cranking the volume all the way up.
posted by _dario at 3:09 AM on August 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

I like prog, but I think it's classically influenced only in the sense that it's musically sophisticated (for rock) and that some of the musicians had classical training. The music itself, on paper, doesn't always show an obvious link to the classical tradition.

I'd go with Nick Jordan's suggestions above -- there's a whole genre of instrumental "Bach rock" that uses harmonic minor scales, etc., to create a deliberately classical effect. A lot of it features wanky guitarists, unfortunately, but they know what they're doing. I think Malmsteen openly credits Paganini's 24 caprices as an influence.

I especially like Vinnie Moore and Tony MacAlpine -- a guitarist who's also a trained pianist and who inserts Chopin preludes among all the shredding.
posted by futility closet at 4:04 AM on August 25, 2007

Seconding all of the second batch in comiddle's post. Also, take a look at Mastodon - they're very heavy, but I could very easily see a number of their songs being re-cast to symphony. Plus, one album is a re-telling of Moby Dick!
posted by notsnot at 6:26 AM on August 25, 2007

Scatterbrain has a cover of Mozart's Sonata #3, but that's probably the only classically-influenced song they have.
posted by puritycontrol at 6:56 AM on August 25, 2007

Try S&M by Metallica. Full symphony overload.
posted by The Carolingian at 7:04 AM on August 25, 2007

Cacophony - Speed Metal Symphony is the first thing that I thought of. I'll also second Vinnie Moore, Yngwie Malmsteen. Also look into Jason Becker - check out Perpetual Burn.
posted by driveler at 7:36 AM on August 25, 2007

How about these guys?
Hall of the Mountain King is an album by the Progressive metal group Savatage, released in 1987 under the direction of Paul O'Neill.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:42 AM on August 25, 2007

At the risk of starting a Metal Fight, I would strongly reccomend not following The Carolingian's suggestion of S&M by Metallica. This recording is the perfect example of how not to mesh classical and rock music. Compose some very bland, string-heavy orchestral backing for a heavy metal band, then keep the band turned up to 11 so the orchestra becomes nothing more than background wallpaper music? That shit even makes Yngwie Malmsteen look subtle and creative in comparison.
posted by Jimbob at 8:23 AM on August 25, 2007

2nding Apocalyptica, but not the Metallica album. Somebody who's never listened to Metallica wouldn't appreciate most of those songs. I say go for one of their newer albums, which are just as metal, but much more interesting IMO.

Also, how about Therion, and 2nding Stratovarius.
posted by gueneverey at 10:19 AM on August 25, 2007

On a different tack, how about having her listen to one of the String Quartet Tribute albums and pairing it with the original songs? The instrumentation can serve as an aural way in, and then she will have something to ground herself when she listens to something that is more radically new to her. (It's worked for me, and I'm classically trained and somewhat- to completely ignorant about most other genres.)
posted by bassjump at 11:16 AM on August 25, 2007

Seconding Jimbob above about that Metallica rubbish. If you want to hear a metal band and an orchestra playing well together, look at the work Rage did on Lingua Mortis (and the subsequent live albums) and of course, the original: Deep Purple's Concerto for Rock Group and Orchestra.
Anything by Therion, as described above, is overtly a blend of metal and classical music. I would recommend the album Theli and Vovin, but i haven't heard the more recent stuff. They have recorded a version of Orff's O Fortuna and much of the rest of their stuff sounds like that anyway.
The Norwegian black metal scene often has a lot classical influences. I would suggest getting Emperor's last album, Prometheus - The Discipline of Fire And Demise. This is very extreme in terms of speed, harshness and complexity, but I suspect the spirit of Mozart was summoned from hell to help them make it. Also look at Satyricon and, as you say, Dimmu Borgir.
Nile's instrumental "Rameses Bringer of War" is of course inspired by Holst. Kirth Gerson has pointed out the Savatage song "Prelude to Madness" which is a Grieg cover, but there is not otherwise a big classical influence on their music. The Rainbow song "Difficult to Cure" is Beethovens 9th, and I would say tha their classic song "Stargazer" might be the kind of thing you are looking for.
posted by nowonmai at 12:07 PM on August 25, 2007

What some people call "post-hardcore," or "post-metal," (or any number of other things) often has longer, varying song structure and more interesting melody; more classical-ish. Some excellent ones include:

Isis, as mentioned.
Pelican, as mentioned.
Red Sparowes.
posted by churl at 2:41 PM on August 25, 2007


Listen to Opeth. Still Life is a great place to start for some of the classical sounds they incorperate.
posted by honeyx at 10:52 PM on August 26, 2007

Dream Theater -- Overture, from Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (as performed on the excellent Score DVD with a full orchestra)
posted by LordSludge at 8:47 AM on August 27, 2007

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