Symphonic Metal - a musical style in which metal and symphonic orchestral music are combined.
Symphonic metal often uses high female vocals (stylized as “opera”). Groups in this genre often invite for recording a small symphony orchestra and an academic ("chamber") choir, or use separate symphonic instruments or imitate them with a synthesizer. The genre is characterized by conceptual albums and rock operas, vibrant theater shows and stage costumes at concerts and art clips, sustained in the aesthetics of fantasy, the Middle Ages, steampunk, science fiction and Gothic novels.
The genre was formed in the late 1990s mainly from bands starting with power metal or gothic metal, and survived its heyday in the 2000s thanks to bands such as Nightwish, Therion, Epica and the early work of Within Temptation.
The forerunners of symphonic metal were such gothic metal bands as The Gathering and Theater of Tragedy, who used keyboards and female vocals in their music. Separate experiments to combine the orchestra and metal were performed by the groups Savatage, Rage, Symphony X, Celtic Frost and Believer.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a number of groups appeared with "opera" female vocals. Among them are After Forever, Delain (project of the ex-keyboard player Within Temptation), Edenbridge, Epica (group of former members of After Forever), Leaves' Eyes (project of the former vocalist of the Theater of Tragedy Liv Kristin), as well as Lunatica, Tristania, Sirenia, Xandria, Dark Moor. Many of these artists started in the 1990s with gothic metal (Within Temptation, After Forever, Liv Christine as part of the Theater of Tragedy), but in the 2000s they left this genre in a more popular and melodic symphonic metal.
In the USA, groups of this genre are less numerous. However, there are a number of bands here that combine elements of symphonic metal with power or neoclassical metal. This, in particular, Kamelot, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Symphony X. All of these groups have the main vocals - male.
The fashion for symphonic arrangements also affected black metal. Groups such as Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir and Graveworm bring keyboards to the forefront, which went against the canons of tru-black.
Another popular topic in symphonic metal is nature, ecology, living world. Many songs of Within Temptation and Nightwish, especially the album of the first Mother Earth and the album of the latest Endless Forms Most Beautiful, are devoted to the theme of nature.
Subject themes for lyrics are also drawn from the aesthetics of the Middle Ages, steampunk, the new Middle Ages, transhumanism, fantasy and Gothic (which is why symphonic metal is often confused with the related genre of gothic metal). For example, the first Epica The Phantom Agony album was dedicated to the dangers of a resurgent religion and the upcoming new Dark Ages in the 21st century. The latest album, The Holographic Principle Epica, addresses transhumanism and the coming digital utopia.