Guest Post: 5 Metal-Orchestral Collaborations that Haven’t Happened (but Should)

In this guest post, freelance writer and friend of the Toilet Sean Barrett talks his ideal orchestral fusions with metal bands. So grab your black ties/dresses and fancy arm candy, because we’re about to get posh.

Much has been made of metal’s penchant for the bombastic and grandiose side of artistic expression, as well as its links to classical music, and rightfully so; one could seamlessly draw a straight line from The Eddas and The Iliad/Odyssey to Bruce Dickinson’s soulful wails and Manowar’s body oil. Unfortunately for us, this connection, up until recently, has been mostly exploited by the false (Epica, Dream Theater, Nightwish, et al.).

Despair ye no longer! There is a stuffy, pretentious light and the end of this cheesy, sappy tunnel! Last year saw Paradise Lost and Satyricon take their grimness to new artist heights with the help of symphonic orchestras, because Europe is a magical realm where this sort of thing can happen. Also in 2015, orchestras have backed the not-at-all-metal-but-still-of-interest-to-some-of-you-probably acts Lacrimosa and VNV Nation (the latter of which was my favorite album of the year), whom I love because, on the inside, I am a deeply unhappy person. As we decay into the future, let us now ponder which acts we’d like to see get the classical treatment next. Here goes:

1. Anaal Nathrakh

Let’s start things off with everyone’s favorite hard-to-spell industro-black-grind maniacs. Within the hellish atmosphere of chaos lies a dramatic intensity which would be made all the more anti-biblically epic with some strings and pretty-lady voices. Also, these cats are from the upturned-nose isle of England, which makes this somewhat more likely.

2. Katatonia

As they’ve most recently put out an acoustic album, this one will probably be the shortest stretch on the list. An orchestra would fit seemlessly into the tragic beauty of songs from their melo-doom albums, and maybe they’d surprise us all by trying this out on “Brave”. Also, while we’re here, let’s briefly welcome the other two Bloodbath-affiliated acts who are not Bloodbath.

3. Xasthur

For all it’s lo-fi, home-made charm, Malefic’s output has always been music of the spirit transcending flesh, albeit through grim means and into unspeakable astral hells. Would his tortured wails make sense over somberly non-distored violins and retain their power through unmuddied production? Well, it’s on this list, so at least one person seems to think so.

4. Slayer

The time has come to address the elephant in the room. Metallica belly-flopped with S&M, setting metal-classical relations back to the stone age. For this reason among others, I propose we send the best and brightest of the big four (or what remains of them) to smooth things over. Other reasons: the intro to Raining Blood done by four basses? Demented King-leads done by clarinets and violins? Are you fucking kidding me?!?!

5. Terra Tenebrosa

Having already raised terror to an art form, what’s to stop them from raising it to a high one? Imagine the feeling of falling you sometimes get while falling asleep, except it’s happening to your soul, and disembodied voices cackle mockery at your descent. My only stipulation here is that every member of the orchestra must wear one of those black klan hoods/dunce caps.

Bonus: D.R.I.

lol

What do you think? Was I way off the mark or too obvious (Messhugah, Earth, Pyrrhon, Agalloch, Skepticism, Portal, Dragged into Sunlight, and Pallbearer were not included for one or both of those reasons)? Did I miss anyone?


Thanks again, Sean, for the fun list.

(Photo VIA)

Written by:

Published on: February 24, 2016

Filled Under: Lists, Opinion

Views: 1511

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  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
  • Drums and a distorted guitar is all I need.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXkP4WS8Y_Y

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      That fucking song. God damn. Of course he is using a 10-string BC Rich, which can enhance the orchestration of this song.

      • It’s truly glorious.

        • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

          I just checked it out…wow. thx

      • CyberneticOrganism
        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          Fuck yes!

        • Rob M

          If youve seen the foot pedal for that thing, it could probably launch a nuclear strike

        • Boss the Ross

          Would love to own one of those. Or one of these

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    Skepticism sort-of went symphonic on their last one. That was not one of the albums failures.
    The very idea of having Xasthur, DiS and Mehchuggah playing with a symphonic orchestra is very much expanding my dong, though I don’t believe for a second it will happen.

    • Edward/Breegrodamus™

      Expanding your man parts?

      • *gorilla parts

        • Edward/Breegrodamus™

          *bear parts young Link

    • Rob M

      “Skepticism sort-of went symphonic on their last one. That was not one of the albums failures.”

      Honestly, I could see a lot of death/doom and funeral doom bands pulling off an orchestra, especially the ones like Draconian or Doom: VS, that fall on the more gothic side of things

  • I wouldn’t mind a Katatonia orchestrated thingy, even when I think the acoustic setting really improved some of their songs.

    What about Enslaved? Mixing those Floydian long jams with real orchestras would be cool, too, I think.

  • Boss the Ross

    Excellent idea for discussion.
    I’m still waiting for the Blind Guardian orchestral album.
    Would also like to hear Melvins. Just because it would be so weird.

  • Dubs

    Although …And Justice for All was the first Metallica album I heard, I’m pretty sure S&M was the first one I owned. I honestly really like the mix of symphony and ‘Tallica songs on those albums, though I wish they would have done more classic tracks like “Orion” instead of, uh, “Fuel”.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNKlXYVcucY

    • Boss the Ross

      Orion would’ve been PERFECT!

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      I always thought this never meshed well.

      • Dubs

        It could be that I heard it early in my career, but I think it worked really well for some of the tracks.

      • I’m with you here, in fact, The Call of Ktulu was probably the only song I think it got benefited by the orchestra.

    • I also own S&M. I feel like the whole thing is pretty good.

      • Boss the Ross

        It’s decent.

    • UHM JUST A FREIGHT TRAIN COMIN’ YOAH WAAAAAAYUUUUGH YEAAAUHHGHHHHH

      • Dubs

        that’s one of the ones that doesn’t work so well

      • CyberneticOrganism

        HYEAH HYEAH, WHHOOOAAAAHHH HEY YEAH HYEAH!

        • Boss the Ross

          OOOOOOO

          • Dubs

            Nahnahnhanhanhnaha

    • Janitor Jim Duggan

      I prefer the orchestral album Scorpions did called Moment Of Glory. I also love their two acoustic albums.

  • Rob M

    Midnight…because the idea of a bunch of people in formal wear playing “Lust, Filth and Sleaze” amuses me greatly

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0axDWrhCs0s

  • Waynecro

    Great article, Mr. Barrett! Thanks! Also, Anaal Nathrakh >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  • You lost me as soon as you called Epica/Nightwish/Dream Theater false.

    Leave the hall, poser

    • Sir Tapir The Based

      Those are terrible bands.

      • Each one has at least one great album

        • Sir Tapir The Based

          Nope.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            I agree.

        • COAL ROLL

          DT’s just happened to be the one before James Labrie joined the band

          • Images and Words features LaBrie

          • COAL ROLL

            you forget about When Dream & Day Unite warrior?

          • I said at least one great album each 😉

          • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom

            And The Astonishing, which is fucking awesome.

        • Crab Nicholson

          This may be true, but, more broadly speaking, fuck ’em.

      • ME GORAK B.C.™

        DREAM THEATER HAVE GUD STUFF!!!!!!!!

    • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom
  • I remember this. Some songs were good, other not so much:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2mRxh5swtU

    • Warheart

      I was about to remark the lack of Therion, since they were the first band that went full on orchestration.

      This, by the way, it’s from their minor albums, but back in the day, Theli and Vovin were THE orchestral metal albums.

      The other great album in this style is Stille by Lacrimosa.

      • Just to remark, Warheart; and sorry, I’m not trying to be a dick 🙁

        From what I remember and think, Theli didn’t used orchestra, just choir.

        I think Vovin was the first Therion album to employ a full orchestra and a full choir.

        From a metal perspective, where they the first band that used full orchestra? I don’t really know that fact.

        • Warheart

          Well, if you mean a REAL orchestra, yes, you’re right, Theli (and live shows) is just synths.

          If you want a full live orchestra, what about haggard? I don’t like them so much, but that is the full package I guess.

          • Yeah, yeah! I forgot about them!!

            I like them. They are very popular on Latin América 🙂

          • Warheart

            Indeed, they are, but not as Therion, damn, Therion is HUGE in Latin America.

          • ¡Jajajaja! Yes to that too.

            They always have sold-out shows on México, Costa Rica and Chile. Latin América loves the symphonic thingys. It sounds very sophisticated to our ears.

          • Warheart

            I don’t know about the sophistication, to me, they are just heavy metal with symphonic adds. But yeah, they are well loved.

            If you have watched the Mexico live DVD, I Attend the show the day after and it was fucking savage, I don’t remember any other show like that.

          • Sophisticated was just and andjective 😛

            Wow! You were there? My last gig was with Nota Profana, a Venezuelan band with a soprano that played in that Haggard gig.

            I don’t know what happened with Haggard. Their concept albums dealt with interesting topics, too. Their music wasn’t all excellent, but the way they structured their albums was enjoyable to me.

          • Warheart

            No, I meant, the Therion live in Mexico, I forgot Haggard did one there too.

          • Ahhhh! The Celebrators of Becoming DVD! Cool, mate!

          • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom

            Speaking of South Americans doing orchestras……… Lolbuttz (I love the original song, of course), but this was just fucking buttz galore.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyqZ676Sg5U

  • Leif Bearikson

    Crack the Skye and Colored Sands would be the veritable tits with an orchestra.

    • Edward/Breegrodamus™

      Colored Sands kinda had that orchestral thing going on in the middle.

      • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

        Just listened to a pre-released part of Gorguts’ upcoming EP. Super pumped now.

        • Waynecro

          It’s so badass.

    • Boss the Ross

      Mastodon crossed my mind as well

    • Dubs

      Mastodong (RFI)

      • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

        I like dick jokes. No bullshit.

        • Dubs

          We all do.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Good. That’s good to hear.

        • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

          Ok, I’m hung like a baby. 7lbs 10 oz 22′.5″ long.

        • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom

          Me too. You might’ve never guessed that about me.

      • tigeraid

        God dammit.

      • tigeraid

        I can only assume you’ve had this queued up for a MONTH waiting for someone to mention Mastadon.

        You dank genius.

  • Dubs

    I’m trying to think of a good example that would work, but in the meantime, here’s one that IMO does not. Biomechanical just had way too much going on here.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqcNchIX6io&list=PLUDYVpv91v7JLAl4Ug34-cz7uThdCNiT3

  • Edward/Breegrodamus™

    Pyrrhon would work wonders with some classic ish thrown in.

  • Janitor Jim Duggan

    I’d love to hear Megadeth perform with an orchestra for some reason.

    • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom
      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        Damnit.

        • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom

          As far as I can tell, it’s just that one song. I don’t think MD’s done a full concert or album with one.

  • COAL ROLL

    Failing to cite Yngwie’s Concerto Suite is an epic fail, bro

    • Janitor Jim Duggan

      That’s not a fail. Malmsteen is boring.

      • Bruh!

        • Janitor Jim Duggan

          His work bores me.

          • I think that’s ok. But, you have to remember that a lot of artists were influenced by his work.

            Most power metal, for example, uses Malmsteen as a template for their melodic work. And he was a pioneer to adapt classical pieces into the electric guitar.

            I wouldn’t tag him as instrument wankery, given the base he had to gain the fame he have and the influence he have on other artists.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            That’s a good point Link.

          • Yeah, man.

            I don’t like industrial. But, I can’t claim that Fear Factory, Godflesh or Ministry albums are a bummer. I just simply don’t like the genre, but I can’t deny the influence it had to their genre and the subsequent scenes.

            Metal is not one-dimensional on the inner classification. In fact, Metal have a very cross-polinization perspective if you see it. Most of the musicians on metal bands really enjoy different types of music. Very disparate things, like old rock to folkloric music.

          • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom
          • Nope :'(

          • Kim K Butt Pinky Pulls My Plow

            Hopefully this video changes your mind!

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zryvWRWMQb4

          • Kim K Butt Pinky Pulls My Plow

            Or this. The guitar lines might win you over.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3z2LJzTN0I

          • Sir Tapir The Based

            “I don’t like industrial”
            Y u do dis to mi Link?

          • :'( sorry!!!

          • COAL ROLL

            many tech death bands would not exist if he did make the weedlies popular

          • So you’re telling me that there would be less tech death and power metal if Malmsteen hadn’t been born.
            /Changes dials on time machine from “Kill Hitler” to “Kill Malmsteen”

          • COAL ROLL

            Tech death in particular. I kinda feel like Maiden pioneered PM

          • Boss the Ross

            Maiden and Rainbow/everything Dio touched

          • if somebody actually went back in time and killed Hitler before he did all that stupid shit, he/she would be known as “that jerk who murdered some regular German dude”, not a world hero.
            #timetravelmusings

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            *Austrian dude.
            His nationality wouldn’t get mixed up so much either, if he hadn’t become famous as the leader of Germany.

          • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom

            He’d simply be known as that angry crazy guy who can’t sell his shitty paintings. Oh, how different the world would be if they only let Hitler into art school.

          • JWEG

            Better that than baby-killer, though.

            Apparently Hitler is the exception to speculative infanticide.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Fuck, you’ve got a time machine?

      • Uh….oh….

      • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

        But don’t you like Mushroomhead?

        • Janitor Jim Duggan

          Is that a bad thing? They do a great live show. The studio stuff may not be as good as their live stuff but it’s better than endless noodling or stuff that tries too hard to be kvlt.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            It’s my opinion. Music that is endless instrument wankery or edgy religion bashing just isn’t fun to listen to. That’s why I like what I like.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Wow.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            Am I the only person who believes that trying too hard to be kvlt is the reason that a lot of people don’t like metal? I think that there should be at least some fun in music. Not everything should be deadly serious.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Who brought up that stupid word?

          • Probably Jesus.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Good point. Jesus is aware of all sorts of shits.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            If somebody looked like that wanted to talk about Jesus, I might actually do it. Better than some random lifelovers in navy business slacks.

          • Touché

          • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom

            I could imagine someone knocking on your door, asking if you have time for Jesus, and it ending up like this:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiUwkws3NPk

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Man, just like whatever you like and listen whatever you wanna listen to. No need to get all worked up over this.

          • ME GORAK B.C.™

            MRH ALSO HAVE SOME SONG MIGHT CALL RELIGION BASHING TOO THOUGH!!!!!!!

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            Damnit.

          • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom
          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            Did you think before typing this?
            Edgy is the word best describing Mushroomhead and their kind, hell the word might as well have been invented to describe their kind. AND they’ve written religion bashing songs!

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Wow.

          • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom
          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            No it isn’t. I’m listening to Jerry Garcia’s solo band and it’s mellowing me out man.

          • Matt Pike’s Sweaty Left Nipple

            I got some love for the early days (i.e. the first two albums) of Mushroomhead, mostly for nostalgic reasons. I wouldn’t mind seeing them live at least once. I’ve always heard that they’re really fun in concert, even from people who aren’t fans of the band.

          • Matt Pike’s Sweaty Left Nipple

            The song “Xeroxed” off of their first album (‘XX’) was always my go-to track way back when I was listening to them in high school. It was probably one of the first pseudo-death-metal songs (deep, growling vocals, heavy chug riffing) that I listened to on a regular basis, before I even knew what “death metal” was. Sure it’s just simplistic nü-metal chugging with growls, but to 14-year-old me it was heavy as fuck.
            https://youtu.be/PsWqiVASx1c

      • Sir Tapir The Based

        This really hurts, but I agree.

      • COAL ROLL

        Rising Force, Trilogy and this are not. The rest I agree are boring AF.

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Great article idea. The progression from about 0:50 to 1:25 on this is so goddamned good it doesn’t need orchestration, but I bet it would sound ace regardless.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9TE5CkPyCM

  • Janitor Jim Duggan

    Also, I’d like to see more metal bands do unplugged shows and albums. I think it would be cool to see Megadeth or Slayer do unplugged albums. Same with Sepultura and Judas Priest.

    • BLACK WITCHERY UNPLUGGED!

      • Rob M

        No drum kit for blastbeats…just a set of bongos

        • CyberneticOrganism

          Bongoblasts or GTFO

          • COAL ROLL

            gravitybongoblasts

          • Desecration of the Holy Bongo.

          • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom

            Oingo Boingo = lords of the bongoblast.

            And don’t forget the xylophone blasts!

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      Wow.

  • COAL ROLL

    Also, that new Megadeth album shreds circles around Kerry King’s current Slayer cover band

    • Janitor Jim Duggan

      This I agree with. I like Dystopia quite a bit.

  • Boss the Ross

    CALADAN BROOD

  • Owlswald

    Leprous would be a potentially cool match. Especially this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OXSmM2zBwU

    • Mmmm Leprous would be really cool.

      • Owlswald

        Let’s pitch them the idea.

        • Dubs

          They’re doing a Kickstarter for a live album/dvd. You could ask them to do a follow-up kickstarter.

  • BobLoblaw

    Its hard for my brain to not already add an orchestra to this.
    https://youtu.be/_QPFbclRrY8

    • BobLoblaw

      *I know I’m replying to my own post but…. I was once told by someone (who played guitar) that they could pick out no melodies on this record. Flabbergasted I tell you.

      • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

        Were they stupid or just dumb?

        • BobLoblaw

          Little column A, little column B.

  • Dubs

    Godflesh.

    • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

      Funny you mention Godflesh. This song showed up in some dream of mine last night. Forgot what the dream was about, but I know this song was there. Weird shit.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WArKv5ZKLIw

      • Dubs

        Spoopy

        • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

          Yeah, anyway…suddenly got the urge to spin Streetcleaner and Pure again.

    • Sir Tapir The Based

      Yes.

      • Dubs

        You’ve been on my good side too much lately.

        • Sir Tapir The Based

          Enjoy it while it lasts.

  • JWEG

    I think that pairing metal bands with jazz orchestras definitely hasn’t been done as often as I’d like. Given the numerous examples of prog, avant-garde or tech death bands with clear (free) jazz influences that should seem rather surprising. And that’s to say nothing of the ones whose influences owe a lot more to John Zorn than they do metal.

    This might definitely just be my own opinion though.

  • Max

    Though there are always exceptions, I generally tend to reject the idea of rock bands and symphony orchestras collaborating. It’s an awkward collision of two distinct worlds that are based not just on differing customs, consumer cultures and musicological modes of expression, but also on a distinction of purpose.

    The whole point of an amplified rock band is that massed sections of acoustic instruments aren’t required. And the conductor leading his learned musicians doesn’t really gel that well with the mythology of four untrained but charismatic hacks producing their electrified magic as equals. Put them on a stage together and the conductor always comes off looking like some sort of penguin-suited artistic butler to a scruffy nouveau-riche pop star.

    In my town, the symphony orchestra is always doing these sorts of collaborations to generate public interest. Sometimes, as in the music of Pink Floyd, it can work. And it always helps A LOT if the rock guy actually does have some formal training and can really utilize the orchestra’s capability when he scores his music for them. But generally, I’ve found, it just sounds like a band accompanied by a giant keyboard.

  • JWEG

    Nile could work, too, though it might have to be a Middle Eastern style orchestra.

    NYAO for instance:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kdLNbmLVko

    • Boss the Ross

      That would be wicked cool.

  • Crab Nicholson

    Goddamnit, I thought of Neurosis the day after hitting send!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCGctuclgTs

  • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom

    Steel Panther should do a whole CD with an orchestra! Who wouldn’t want to hear Glory Hole or Fat Girl (Thar She Blows) done by highly trained musicians wondering how the fuck they ended up covering that.

  • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom

    Always wished Atrocity and Das Ich would’ve done more than just a couple of songs together. Badass plodding metal with a Wagnerian opera twist, and sinister sounding as fuck (which is to be expected from Das Ich)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnvrrJ5YhoU

  • Eliza

    Slayer + orchestra = a whole new level of epic.

  • Matt Pike’s Sweaty Left Nipple

    Vader’s “The Book” already has an epic faux-orchestral intro and I think the song could be even more massive (it’s already huge, being Vader and all) with an actual orchestra.
    https://youtu.be/N-AXyZXvt4E