Symphonic Heavy Metal Rock
A special thanks to Rock aficionado, Leonardo Vivi, for his help appreciating Symphonic Heavy Metal Rock
The music of the 60s still communicates loudly today the message that fueled the anti-war and civil rights movements and proclaimed the equality between women and men of every race, skin color, cultural background and belief. “Let’s make love, not war,” was the message on the streets in song, fashion and art. The troubadours of the 60s could be remembered as the prophets of an era, who were not afraid to proclaim their message of freedom and love as the birthright of everyone in the human family.
Five decades later, the fight for equality, freedom, and change in our world still continues, but the style of music in today’s younger generation, the hairstyle, rebellious statements of fashion, and subculture has drastically changed its form of expression, colors, and voice. The new message has not changed much, though, still calling their listeners and fans to wake up and embrace a new vision for our world.
We may ask ourselves today, where are the prophets and songs of freedom and change in our modern age, in this generation of globalization, technology, and scientific breakthroughs that reveal in an ever increasing way the extraordinary latent potential in every human being.
You may be surprised to find the message still lives on — not unlike a prophet of old crying out in the wilderness — in some of the bands of Symphonic Heavy Metal music, a form of musical expression that would seem to past generations an unlikely place for such a voice to exist, a style which for some listeners would appear as erratic, loud, and dissonant. Is the music of a distinct but growing group of bands, really, just about “sex, drugs, and Rock n’ Roll” or does it have a deeper meaning and drive? The fact remains that times have changed and music has also and the compositions of a number of, not all, Symphonic Heavy Metal bands are appealing and galvanizing large groups of our younger generations.
An example of this music trend is the Dutch Symphonic Metal band, Epica, founded by guitarist and vocalist Mark Jansen. They are well known for their symphonic sound, female operatic vocals performed by Simone Simons, and male growls, performed by Mark Jansen. They are also the ones who write most of the lyrics. Their compositions regularly deal with philosophical topics and touch on science, religion, and world events also. Epica has released five studio albums and their most recent one, Requiem for the Indifferent, was released on March 9, 2012.
Here are two pieces of music I selected from Epica to illustrate my point:
Kingdom of Heaven: A New Age Dawns
This song is from the album Design Your Universe, in itself an interesting and revealing concept. Epica’s masterful compositions comprise, in a single piece, the raw energy of Metal together with the finest orchestrations and operatic voices, in perfect balance. “Kingdom of Heaven: A New Age Dawns” is part of a larger concept that is covered in their whole previous album, Design Your Universe. This is the kind of song that has every element that would be considered a pure Metal Epic composition with loud speed distortion guitars and roaring drums in their heaviest expression, apparently "demonic" growling voices, unexpected tempo shifts and complicated lines, which make this piece far from being considered “easy listening.”
Now, the extraordinary genius of this piece is that it is beautifully blended with the "apparent" opposite to Heavy Metal Rock. It has beautiful classical-style orchestration elements with violins, cellos, flutes, and the distinct and uplifting angelic opera voice of the beautiful Simone Simons, together with full choirs in the background.
This is not an evil satanic song as it may sound to some from the growls and desperate voices singing in Latin. Rather, it shows — with the help of the lyrics — the voices of our inner demons, darkness and fears we have created in our lives and must conquer. As the song progresses the angelic voices bring the chaos into peace and harmony, leaving us in the end with its uplifting message.
These are some interesting lines from the lyrics of this song that caught my attention:
“Quantum physics lead us to Answers to the great taboos.
We create the world around us. God is every living soul.
Science, spirituality Will have to meet along the way . . .
“Light creates us all. Pride divides us all
Life is meaningful. The soul survives us all . . .
“We're not alone, we are all one.
We are linked in every way . . .
Every word that we convey
Is an act with consequences . . .
And here are more interesting lyrics from the theme song of the album, “Design Your Universe”:
“Who decides about my time to come?
Who is able to break through the circle of life and doom?
Don't look back
Keep on track to break the curse
Take the chance
Design your universe…”
“The time has come, we have to see
That total wisdom is in reach
The time has come to colour in the lines
We must identify the signs
So many people are full of hate
While love and light are in their reach
So many people will harm themselves
But life can be so beautiful.”
Since these two songs are pretty multifaceted, I should leave the interpretation of the musical language in your hands, and allow you to experience its full impact. I find that these pieces are better experienced and understood if you read the lyrics as the song is playing, as if you were following the script of an opera play at the theater — for they are really similar in a way!
Here are the Links to the full lyrics of the songs and their YouTube music video:
Epica, “Kingdom of Heaven: A New Age Dawns”
Epica, “Design Your Universe”
Multimedia Content – Must Watch Video
This video interview with Mark Jansen, Epica's first guitar and composer, explains in detail the structure and composition of the parts of the song “Kingdom of Heaven: A New Age Dawns,” describes what they mean, and gives us clues as to the depth of the message that inspired such a Symphonic Heavy Metal piece. You will be surprised to hear him speak about the challenge of an open mind needed for scientific discovery to really happen today, the importance of Quantum Physics, the language of the soul, and Near-Death Experiences! How can this be, this is supposed to be mindless heavy metal music!? I say it is not much different from the lowly voices of those old prophets crying out their message — from odd, remote and unusual places — for those who have the ears to hear and the eyes to see!
In the Studio with Epica - Mark Jansen explains “Kingdom of Heaven”
Titles: “Kingdom of Heaven: A New Age Dawns”,
And “Design Your Universe”
Written by: Mark Jansen
Performed by: Epica
Album: Design Your Universe
Genre: Symphonic/Progressive Metal rock
Copyright Label: Nuclear Blast
Producer: Sascha Paeth
About the Author: