New Opera

I’m not a fan of Opera, but there is a certain grandeur in those thundering chords, over the top string arrangements and some poor soprano trying to hold her own above it all. In the last 10 years there has emerged a marriage of rock and opera styles. Retaining the sound weight of an orchestra and adding drums, bass and metal-style guitars here is the new breed of operatic albums.

After Forever – Prison of Desire (2001)

They are often called ‘gothic metal’ and lumped in with artists like Nightwish and Edenbridge. But this album is different, where the other bands sound like a rock outfit with strings attached, this is the other way around. The compositions have a definite symphonic structure.

Throughout each song the themes and melody can change, often the percussion stops to allow the strings to take over. And on top of this is the voice of Floor Janseen. There are male grunts, characteristic of ‘gothic metal’, but here they are used sparingly and don’t overpower the orchestrations. This is big, bombastic and completely over the top, which is why I like it.


Aesma Daeva – The Eros of Frigid Beauty (2001)

As you can see from the cover, it looks like a CD of medieval music, possibly baroque. The trumpet fanfare that opens the albums confirms expectations, then comes a heavy metal guitar and crashing drums. A clear soprano voice sings among the musical spaces This is definitely not something by J S Bach. Further investigations reveal that John W Prassas II wrote all the songs. With a website named things may be a bit heavier than expected. Instruments include french horn, violin, flute, trombones and what sounds like a harpsichord.

The difference with this album is that not every instrument has to be present in every track at all times. Often things get very quiet and ambient, then slowly the intensity and volume increases. There are wide dynamics in most of the tracks and all of them have female vocals. Because of the wide variations in style, it’s difficult to categorize the album as a whole. Definitely something for the more adventurous listener.

Therion – Vovin (1998)

Therion (Greek for Beast) was first known as a Swedish Metal band when it was formed in 1990. The first albums contained male grunts and offered little different from most metal bands. Then in 1996, with Theli things changed. A string orchestra was added. Male and female choirs probably more acquainted with Handel joined the production.

Symphonic speed metal comes to life on Vovin.

Bandleader Christofer Johnsson fashioned a hybrid that displays how the potent elements of the two divergent genres can be fused. The recording is cohesive and robust, the strings, choral singers, and band merge together perfectly.

The emphasis is mainly on the musical arrangements of the orchestrations and choirs. The impression I get is that the guitars and percussion was added later. Classical music with heavy metal influences never felt so good.

Other surprises include the scarcity of rock vocals throughout and the charming Middle Eastern overtones found on the opening track, “The Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

“Birth Of Venus Illegitima” is a more absorbing musical experience. The shifting between the low voices and the higher soprano/alto voices is a very nice touch.

“Clavicula Nox” has beautiful female lead vocals and acoustic guitar solos.

“Black Sun” and “Draconian Trilogy” uses a foreboding piano-line surrounded by gothic orchestration to create memorable songs.