Influence Of Classical Music In Metal Music

In this article, I will briefly attempt to explain the importance and the influence of classical music in metal music, focusing on two metal subgenres: symphonic metal and neoclassical metal.

Ultimate Guitar

If you're reading this article, you might be thinking: "How can classical music influence metal music, since they are two completely different genres?". My answer would be: "Why don't you try to listen to some symphonic or neoclassical metal? If you know at least the basics of music, you'll see how big the classical influence can be in some metal subgenres!".

When you hear the words "symphonic metal" and "neoclassical metal", don't they remind you of classical music? Yes, of course they do.

Let's choose, for example, the band Nigtwish. Everyone knows that Nightwish is a symphonic power metal band. Again, we hear the word "symphonic".

Nightwish is probably the best example of how classical music (especially opera) can be present in metal, giving it an unique, wonderful sound that comes from mixing orchestral, classical sounds with powerful and distorted guitars. Taja Turunen, former singer of the band, has an opera-style singing, and she gave Nightwish that great classical mark that many ones loved. Try to ask some Nightwish fans, most of them will tell you that what made Nightwish unique was Tarja's singing style.

But what about the music? Nightwish creates a perfect union of orchestral instruments and guitars, bass, drums, power making their music clearly symphonic and wonderful to listen to, while keeping that aggressive, powerful sound that we find in metal.

Again, orchestra comes from classical music. It's evident how classical music plays an important role in every symphonic metal band.

Let's go on and analyze neoclassical music. Once again, neo-CLASSICAL.

It's more evident here, isn't it?

Neoclassical metal is the subgenre that is most influenced by classical music. In fact, neoclassical metal musicians are inspired by great composers of the past, such as Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and many others. But how can those classical composers influnce metal musicians? The answer is simple: neoclassical metal musicians compose their own music by adding that classical taste and sound that they take from those composers, making their music full of virtuosism (a feature of many classical composers such as Liszt and Paganini, for example), guitar shredding, fast piano playing, violins, cellos and other instruments. The results of the union of metal and classical music are: great technique, virtuosism, unique sound.

A perfect mix for a perfect sound.

Try to listen to Yngwe Malmsteen, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Cacophony, Symphony X, Adagio, Michael Angelo Batio and many others.

As you can see, these two metal subgenres (symphonic and neoclassical metal) are entirely based on classical music. Here is the great importance and influence of classical music. Listen to those subgenres, and you will get the meaning of this article.

Chad Preti

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Virtuosism is not a word and the article as a whole was very brief and shallow, go deeper next time try looking at the actual musical theory correlations between the genres. And as a side note why do metal fans have to divide their musical genres up into a million sub sections and categories, whats wrong with bagging it all together as Heavy Metal and just calling some stuff good Heavy Metal or bad Heavy Metal, I dont understand.
    DesertEagle wrote: And as a side note why do metal fans have to divide their musical genres up into a million sub sections and categories, whats wrong with bagging it all together as Heavy Metal and just calling some stuff good Heavy Metal or bad Heavy Metal, I dont understand.
    A genre, or sub genre is really just a descriptive word, used to group together similar sounding artists. If you ask me, the more accurate you can be with your description, the the better, and more likely you are to to be able to quickly decide if the band being mentioned will interest you. Lets take for example Nightwish. Its obvious Chad Preti is a fan. Now lets say he wanted to find a similar sounding band. If he looked for just metal, it would turn up all sorts of bands, a large proportion of which wont be what he's after. But if he then narrows it down, to say symphonic metal, your getting closer, but still it could be symphonic black metal, like say Dimmu Borgir, or it could be symphonic Power metal, the likes of which you would be looking for. So you search symphonic power metal, but still it might not be enough. After all, if you want music similar to Nightwish it's a fair assumption to make that you'd be interested in female vocals. So you then search female fronted symphonic power metal, and you get what your looking for a lot quicker, and a lot more accurately. What sense does it make to have make no distinction between a band like Nightwish, and a band like Burzum? Just cause somehting comes under the umbrella of metal doesn't mean its similar. It's like having a multi pack of crisps with no flavour names, whilst you'd find the one you want eventually, its a lot quicker to have them. Moving back to the article, I think there's a distinction to be made between classical music, and symphonic elements of modern music. Could you provide me with a piece of classical music that sounds like nightwish?
    Eh, all I'm reading here is how you think superficially classical music has influenced a few sub-genres of metal, not metal as a whole, which is what your title suggest. Also, all of these are just views and opinion. If you wish to embark on such an article, it would be more useful for you to tell us HOW it influenced metal, rather than just how to sub-genres have similar genre names or how metal music sounds like classical music.