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The Function of the Orchestra

in Symphonic Metal Music


Honours Dissertation
Submitted 25 October 2013

Andrew Wrangell
s2743307

Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University

Under the supervision of Donna Weston


Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of:
Bachelor of Music Studies with Honours

Abstract
This dissertation aims to explain the workings of orchestral elements within the genre of
symphonic metal music. This genre mixes the metal band and the orchestra to form a
grandiose style with the powerful, driving characteristics of the former and dramatic and
emotional qualities of the latter, an impression shared by the symphonic metal
community. To explain the way in which these qualities arise, a research methodology
focusing on the use of music analysis is used to determine the function of the orchestra
in symphonic metal. Core idioms shared by each instrumental family across three
representative symphonic metal songs are revealed, as are their interactions with the
metal band to achieve a result capable of great drive and emotional and dramatic
potential.
Currently, academic research into the metal genre is limited and focuses mainly on
cultural aspects with relatively little explanation of the inner workings of the music.
Furthermore, existing research focuses little attention on symphonic metal and this
dissertation contributes to the field both by investigating a subgenre on which little
research has been conducted and by using music analysis as its primary research method.

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Statement of Originality

This work has not previously been submitted for a degree or diploma in any university.
To the best of my knowledge and belief, the thesis contains no material previously
published or written by another person except where due reference is made in the thesis
itself.

(Signed)_____________________________

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Acknowledgements
Thank you to my supervisor, Donna Weston, who has provided extremely valuable
guidance with this project, and to Dan Bendrups who encouraged me to apply honours.
I would not have chosen this topic without being introduced to Nightwish by Natalie
Kitney and Jesse Higginson. I'd also like to thank my friends Samuel Dickenson, Jo
Lagerlow, Anthony Sparks, Samuel Hogan and Joseph Hitzke who encouraged me
during the writing of the dissertation. Finally thank you to my mum and dad, Sophy and
Wayne Wrangell, who have supported me throughout my studies.

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Table of Contents
Abstract ............................................................................................................................. ii
Statement of Originality .................................................................................................. iii
Acknowledgements ......................................................................................................... iv
Table of Contents ............................................................................................................. v
Table of Figures ............................................................................................................. viii
Chapter 1: Introduction ..................................................................................................... 1
The Genre of Symphonic Metal ................................................................................... 1
Chapter 2: History and Development of Symphonic Metal ............................................. 4
Metal History ................................................................................................................ 4
Symphonic Metal Formation ........................................................................................ 5
Symphonic Metal Artists .............................................................................................. 5
Online Discussion ......................................................................................................... 6
Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 10
Chapter 3: Methodology ................................................................................................. 11
Overview .................................................................................................................... 11
Analysis method ......................................................................................................... 11
Case Study 1: Nightwish: Ghost Love Score ............................................................. 12
Section 1 ................................................................................................................. 13
Section 2 ................................................................................................................. 16
Section 3 ................................................................................................................. 18

Section 4 ................................................................................................................. 19
Section 5 ................................................................................................................. 24
Summary of Orchestral Function in Ghost Love Score ......................................... 26
Case Study 2: Within Temptation: The Truth Beneath The Rose .............................. 28
Section 1 ................................................................................................................. 29
Section 2 ................................................................................................................. 34
Section 3 ................................................................................................................. 37
Summary of Orchestral Function in The Truth Beneath the Rose ......................... 40
Case Study 3: Epica: Death of a Dream (The Embrace That Smothers, part VII) ..... 41
Section 1 ................................................................................................................. 42
Section 2 ................................................................................................................. 44
Section 3 ................................................................................................................. 47
Section 4 ................................................................................................................. 49
Section 5 ................................................................................................................. 49
Summary of Orchestral Function in Death of a Dream .......................................... 51
Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 52
Chapter 4: Findings and Conclusion .............................................................................. 53
Findings ...................................................................................................................... 54
Orchestra alone ....................................................................................................... 54
Orchestral/Metal Combination ............................................................................... 56
Relationship to Fan Perception ............................................................................... 57

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Summary................................................................................................................. 57
Appendix 1 ..................................................................................................................... 59
1A List of metal forums ............................................................................................. 59
1B Most popular metal forums ................................................................................... 60
1C Forum statistics ..................................................................................................... 61
Appendix 2 ..................................................................................................................... 62
2A Forum question 1 .................................................................................................. 62
2B Forum question 2 .................................................................................................. 63
2C Links to forum questions ...................................................................................... 64
Appendix 3 ..................................................................................................................... 65
3A Visual outline of sections in Ghost Love Score .................................................... 65
3B Visual outline of sections in The Truth Beneath the Rose .................................... 65
3C Visual outline of sections in Death of a Dream (The Embrace That Smothers, part
VII) ............................................................................................................................. 66
Appendix 4 ..................................................................................................................... 67
4A Lyrics to Ghost Love Score by Nightwish ............................................................ 67
4B Lyrics to The Truth Beneath the Rose by.............................................................. 68
Within Temptation...................................................................................................... 68
4C Lyrics to Death of a Dream (The Embrace That Smothers, part VII) by Epica ... 69
Bibliography ................................................................................................................... 72

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Table of Figures
Figure 1 - Graph of metal forums listed by number of posts ........................................... 7
Figure 2 - Key words from fan responses to the question of orchestral function............. 9
Figure 3 - The three most popular symphonic metal bands decided by fans ................... 9
Figure 4 - Structure of Ghost Love Score section 1 structural diagram ......................... 13
Figure 5 - Ghost Love Score "M1a" excerpt transcription ............................................. 13
Figure 6 - Ghost Love Score "M1b" excerpt transcription ............................................. 15
Figure 7 - Ghost Love Score section 2 structural diagram ............................................. 16
Figure 8 - Ghost Love Score "M3a" excerpt transcription ............................................. 17
Figure 9 - Ghost Love Score section 3 structural diagram ............................................. 18
Figure 10 - Ghost Love Score section 4 structural diagram ........................................... 19
Figure 11 - Ghost Love Score "M5" melody transcription ............................................ 19
Figure 12 - Ghost Love Score "M5b" excerpt transcription ........................................... 20
Figure 13 - Ghost Love Score "M5c" excerpt transcription ........................................... 21
Figure 14 - Ghost Love Score "M6a" excerpt transcription ........................................... 22
Figure 15 - Ghost Love Score "M7" excerpt transcription ............................................. 23
Figure 16 - Ghost Love Score "M5d" excerpt transcription ........................................... 24
Figure 17 - Ghost Love Score section 5 structural diagram ........................................... 24
Figure 18 - Ghost Love Score "M1d" excerpt transcription ........................................... 25
Figure 19 - The Truth Beneath the Rose section 1 structural diagram ........................... 29

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Figure 20 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M1a" excerpt transcription ........................... 30
Figure 21 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M1b" excerpt transcription .......................... 30
Figure 22 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M2a" excerpt transcription ........................... 31
Figure 23 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M3a" excerpt transcription ........................... 32
Figure 24 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M4" excerpt transcription ............................ 33
Figure 25 - The Truth Beneath the Rose section 2 structural diagram ........................... 34
Figure 26 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M1c" excerpt transcription ........................... 34
Figure 27 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M2b" excerpt transcription .......................... 35
Figure 28 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M5" excerpt transcription ............................ 36
Figure 29 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M6" excerpt transcription ............................ 37
Figure 30 - The Truth Beneath the Rose section 3 structural diagram ........................... 37
Figure 31 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M7" excerpt transcription ............................ 39
Figure 32 - Death of a Dream section 1 structural diagram ........................................... 42
Figure 33 - Death of a Dream "M1" excerpt transcription ............................................. 42
Figure 34 - Death of a Dream "M2a" excerpt transcription ........................................... 43
Figure 35 - Death of a Dream "M2c" excerpt transcription ........................................... 44
Figure 36 - Death of a Dream section 2 structural diagram ........................................... 44
Figure 37 - Death of a Dream "M3a" excerpt transcription ........................................... 45
Figure 38 - Death of a Dream "M3b" excerpt transcription ........................................... 45
Figure 39 - Death of a Dream "M5a" excerpt transcription ........................................... 46
Figure 40 - Death of a Dream "M5a" mode ................................................................... 47

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Figure 41 - Death of a Dream section 3 structural diagram ........................................... 47


Figure 42 - Death of a Dream "M7" excerpt transcription ............................................. 48
Figure 43 - Death of a Dream section 4 structural diagram ........................................... 49
Figure 44 - Death of a Dream section 5 structural diagram ........................................... 49
Figure 45 - Death of a Dream "M5b" excerpt transcription ........................................... 50
Figure 46 - Death of a Dream "M8" excerpt transcription ............................................. 51

Chapter 1: Introduction
The Genre of Symphonic Metal
Symphonic metal is a subgenre of heavy metal (commonly described simply as metal)
in which the orchestra and metal band are combined. The role the orchestra plays in this
instance can range from being featured minimally as accompaniment to being featured
prominently and in complete sections of songs alone. Some of the most well known
artists of this genre include Nightwish, Epica, Therion, Within Temptation, Dimmu
Borgir and Kamelot.
Some of the main elements that clearly identify symphonic metal are understandably the
presence of both metal band and orchestra. However not all symphonic metal features a
live orchestra instead, it may feature keyboards using orchestral sounds or the
orchestra may be comprised only of sampled instruments sequenced by a computer.
Many standard metal conventions exist within the style of symphonic metal and it can
be said that the metal band functions in a way that is similar to other metal subgenres.
However the use of the orchestra is varied in this genre. One of the most recognisable
features of many symphonic metal artists is the presence of operatic female vocals, such
as in bands such as Nightwish, Within Temptation and Epica. The style of the music can
vary greatly, including elements of death metal, power metal and any other possible
combination. The songs of bands such as Nightwish tend to be in mostly minor keys
although symphonic metal bands with a more upbeat power metal style, such as Dark
Moor and Dragonland, release comparatively more songs in major keys.
The orchestral elements of symphonic metal music are often adapted by an arranger or
orchestrator, such as Pip Williams in the case of Nightwish, Gaute Storaas in the case of
Dimmu Borgir and Michael Kamen in the case of Metallica. In some cases, metal
elements have been crafted around symphonic elements such as with Nobuo Uematsu's
One-Winged Angel from the soundtrack to the film Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
There is little to no existing research on orchestral accompaniment for symphonic metal
music and this paper intends to identify, extract and propose a summary of the way the

orchestra functions in this genre. This will be achieved by attempting to answer the
following question: what is the function of the orchestra in symphonic metal music?
To answer this question, a number of factors need to be considered concerning the
various aspects of orchestral function to be examined. Firstly, the form of songs
featuring the orchestra as an element along with the band needs to be considered. This is
because depending on the format of the song, the orchestra may take on different roles.
In songs such as Epicas Deep Water Horizon from their album Requiem for the
Indifferent, the orchestra featured plays the main melodic material while being
accompanied rhythmically by guitar and drums. Nightwishs The Poet and the
Pendulum from Dark Passion Play features a number of sections where the orchestra is
featured on its own without the band, while End of an Empire by Turisas alternately
features band and orchestra for effect.
For some songs the orchestra may function as an interlude to other material, and in
others it may be strengthen the melodic and harmonic elements to contribute to an epic
sound. The orchestra's format is also something to be considered and this may vary
considerably. It would be assumed that the standard orchestra featuring strings, brass,
woodwinds and percussion would be used but often in symphonic metal, a choir is also
used and forms a significant part of the symphonic aspect. Structure is yet another
important consideration and the usage of the orchestra can be very dependent this. As
mentioned previously, the orchestra can be used alone to great effect in some sections
and song structure plays an important role in this aspect.
To analyse the function of the orchestra with respect to these considerations, a
methodology must be constructed to outline the approach to be taken. To analyse the
function of the orchestra in symphonic metal, a selection of suitable material must be
made and then this material must be analysed. To select this material, three of the most
popular bands of the genre will be chosen as examples and one song from each band
will be analysed. This number of bands will be chosen so that the analysis can include a
variety of sources but also analyse the material deeply.
The main method in which the function of the orchestra will be examined is through
musical analysis. This will involve transcriptions and structural analysis of songs and
their instrumentations. The way in which the orchestra is combined with specific metal

musical gestures is a key aspect of this research and will form the basis of the idioms
that will be explained. To this aim, three songs by three bands will be analysed in detail
in this manner as case studies.
The key sources to be used in identifying existing research on this topic are the core
books written about heavy metal. This constitutes the writings of Deena Weinstein,
Robert Walser and Keith Kahn-Harris, however these contain little information on the
topic of symphonic metal apart from a few passing mentions.
Additionally, the research in existence on heavy metal appears to focus on the cultural
aspects in much greater detail than the musical aspects. Weinstein, Walser and Harris
provide comparatively little examination of the music itself however this dissertation
aims to contribute to existing metal research through a methodology that focuses on
music analysis within the symphonic metal genre.
Research has often covered metal's cultural aspects, however this dissertation will focus
instead on the musical aspects of symphonic metal. The analysis chapter on its own
represents a valuable contribution to the study of metal in that it is the only, as far as the
author can tell, comprehensive musical analysis of the orchestral sections of symphonic
metal music. The outcome of this research should be of benefit to composers and
arrangers who want to understand the usual ways the orchestra and metal band can be. It
will also be of benefit to academic research about symphonic metal as the literature
currently has little to say on this topic.

Chapter 2: History and Development of


Symphonic Metal
Metal History
Metal has a rich history beginning in the 1960s and remains popular in 2013. It emerged
from rock music, which in turn stemmed from the blues. One important aspect of metal
to note is that it has often taken influence from Western classical music and one
example of this is metal bands emphasis on virtuosity (Walser, 2013). Cook and
Dibben (2001) note that analyses of popular music also sometimes reveal the influence
of 'art traditions' and this is this especially the case with heavy metal music. It has also
been noted that fans of classical music and metal tend to share the personality traits of
introversion and creativity as well as being at ease with themselves (Derbyshire, 2008).
Additionally, according to Derbyshire (2008), fans devotion to their music can be
obsessive.
The rebellious spirit of 1950s rock, according to Mock Him Productions (2004), lead to
bands such as The Doors, who brought a Nietzsche-inspired morbid subconscious
psychedelia to rock music. The hard rock growing from these, according to the same
source, was influential to the style of such heavy metal pioneers as Led Zeppelin, Deep
Purple and Black Sabbath. Through the 1970s, heavy metal was influenced by
progressive rock and these influences gave rise to bands such as Judas Priest,
Motorhead and Iron Maiden. In the 1980s emerged two main metal subgenres known as
speed and thrash, the former taking influence from neoclassical progressive metal
and the latter involving aggression and fast tempo. In this reactionary era, some of the
most well-known bands included Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica. The fall of the
hardcore style gave way to the rise of styles such as emo and punk, and metal was
also combined with jazz, industrial, country and R&B. Later subgenres included death
metal, beginning in the mid 1980s (Dunn, 2005), and black metal, both featuring their
own sub-subgenres. As noted by Walser (1993) in Running with the Devil, heavy metal
is a very eclectic genre spanning countless subgenres and no one song displays every
possible metal element. Harris (2007) notes that a number of extreme metal cultures
exist within their respective global regions and discusses that some of these areas have

become central to particular parts of the extreme metal scene while others are less
central. In particular, he notes that a large number of successful bands originate from
Scandinavian countries however the largest markets for their music lie in foreign
countries (p. 97).

Symphonic Metal Formation


Key to the foundation and solidification of metal styles is the process through which
they undergo metamorphosis and rebirth. Deena Weinstein (2000) refers to this process
as formative and crystallization phases. This involves a metal subgenre being created
through divergence from existing genres of metal in some aspects, and a pattern
emerging from the manner of these divergences. According to Weinstein, these
subcultures are labelled under the same overarching heavy metal genre because they
stem from the heavy metal core without being so different as to be called a separate
genre (2000). One of the metal subgenres that has emerged in this pattern is "symphonic
metal" which is named so due to its fusion of both metal and symphonic elements. This
creates a mix of heavy metal and "classical" elements such as the inclusion of the
orchestra and choir with the electric guitar, bass guitar and drum kit. Walser (1993)
devotes a chapter in his book Running with the Devil to the influence of classical music
on heavy metal, discussing that classical elements included in songs such as Stairway to
Heaven by Led Zeppelin invoke the cultural meanings of classical music and elevate its
status, making it more serious (p. 62). As classical music has had such an influence on
metal, it would seem understandable that a metal subgenre would come to integrate the
orchestra and choir and so form symphonic metal. In this subgenre, the orchestra is
included as a prominent musical element, although the metal band tends to be at the
forefront of the music.

Symphonic Metal Artists


Some bands may not always produce symphonic metal, however some of their work
might be described as such and one example of this is Metallicas S&M album, in which
they collaborated with composer Michael Kamen for a live show with the band and
symphony orchestra (Music Week, 1999). One of the first bands to demonstrate a
symphonic metal style, according to Wagner (2010, pp. 154-157), was Believer, a thrash

metal group whose song Dies Irae was a creative watershed in metal which
combined classical music and metal seamlessly. It can be noted that the title of this
song is a reference itself to the mass setting used by composers such as Mozart, Verdi
and Stravinsky. Wagner asserts that the song foreshadowed the operatic approach used
by the bands Therion and Nightwish (2010).
In Therions biography (Corro & With, 2013), Therions use of a live string orchestra
for the 1998 album Vovin is noted, as is the way the band drew inspiration from
classical composers such as Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss. One of the ways this
classical influence is evident in the album is the inclusion of choral elements and
operatic vocals akin to classical music. The band Nightwish is one of the most well
known examples of the symphonic metal genre. Nightwish composer, Tuomas
Holopainen, describes his passion for film music (Holopainen, 2013); this is evident in
Nightwish songs such as Beauty of the Beast, Ghost Love Score and The Poet and the
Pendulum, all being notable songs on their respective albums for their orchestral
involvement. Additionally, the bands 2011 album Imaginaerum features the orchestra.
This represents only a small selection of symphonic metal artists, and other well known
examples include Epica, Within Temptation, Dimmu Borgir and Kamelot. It can be
asserted that the symphonic metal genre involves a combination of metal band and
orchestra with other classical elements also included such as choir and large song
structures. These elements all contribute to a style that is capable of both power and
sensitivity and this is discussed by fans of the genre within online forums.

Online Discussion
It has been discussed that there are limited sources in academic literature catering to
symphonic metal, however a large amount of discussion about the genre takes place
online due to fans devotion to the music. Weinstein (2000) describes the fans of wellknown metal band Metallica to be "a knowledgeable and devoted bunch" (p. 93), this
being an example of the wider metal audience. As such it stands to reason that metal
fans in general are enthusiastic about the music they enjoy. One of the places this
enthusiasm and knowledge is evident is online forums and given the lack of academic
research pertaining to symphonic metal, these online sources must be relied on for up-

to-date information on the genre. Various websites are devoted to discussion such as
this and some of these are listed in appendix 1A. Additionally, various bands have their
own official forums on their respective websites, such as Nightwish
(http://www.nightwishforum.com/) and Epica (http://forum.epica.nl/). As would be
expected, these forums feature a significant amount of fan discussion pertaining to their
respective bands.
Appendix 1B contains a graph of the combined number of posts, topics and users
forums in the forums contained in appendix 1A, ranked descending by number of posts,
and appendix 1C contains the table from which this data is derived. It can be seen that
Encyclopaedia Metallum is the most popular of these sixteen sites and it also has the
largest number of users. All Metal Forums, Metal Storm, Heart of Metal, Metal Throne
and MRU Metal Forums, as seen from the graph below, are the most-used forums with
the others listed being less utilised according to numbers of posts. However it can be
seen that thousands of fans have registered on these forums and there is a significant
amount discussion about metal taking place online. This graph can also be viewed in
appendix 1B.
1800000
1600000
1400000
1200000
1000000
800000
600000
400000
200000
0

Users
Topics
Posts

Figure 1 - Graph of metal forums listed by number of posts

None of the forums listed in appendix 1C pertain solely to symphonic metal as a


subgenre and although some of these forums feature subcategories for certain metal
subgenres, symphonic metal is not usually one of these and this suggests that

symphonic metal is not a main metal subgenre. However some forums not listed here
discuss symphonic metal specifically and some of these include the symphonic metal
subreddit (http://www.reddit.com/r/symphonicmetal) and the music section of the
Nightwish Official English Board where numerous symphonic metal bands mentioned
by other fans in appendix 2B have topics devoted to discussion about them
(http://www.nightwishforum.com/index.php?/forum/14-music/).
As a fan-driven genre, the opinions of fans are important in establishing a community
agreement regarding genre. When asked about the function of the orchestra in
symphonic metal, fans across various online forums responded similarly and generally
agreed that the orchestra provided a heightened sense of mood and drama. The table
below contains a tabulation of key words obtained from some respondents answers
when asked their opinions on the function of the orchestra in symphonic metal. A
moderator of the tuomas-holopainen.com forums likened the inclusion of the orchestra
in the music of Nightwish to the shading in a picture and other users agreed with this
sentiment (Beastall, 2013). On another forum, users argued that the symphonic aspect of
the genre could be achieved using keyboards (adg211288., & Wyvern_13, 2013). On
another Nightwish forum, a user commented that its all about being able to keep the
right balance and the cadence between the voice, the orchestra and the contemporary
instruments, confirming symphonic metals classical leanings (Gaia88, 2013).

Forum
All Metal
Forums
Ultimate Metal

User
GordOfThunder

Key words
Epic, over the top

SomeGuyDude

Heavy Metal
Haven

Wyvern_13

Sense of grandiose, supporting role, extra


layer, majesty
Classical influence, orchestra highlights
other parts, varying focus between metal
and orchestra
Blend modern and classical sounds,
symphony-like effect
Broadens song's sound, more theatrical,
wider emotional range
Adds atmosphere

Nightwish
Gaia88
Forum
Tuomas*Dandelion*
holopainen.com
forums
Lupine

AmaranthMockingbird Adds elements not achievable by just


metal band, orchestra lays 'blanket' of
sound
Figure 2 - Key words from fan responses to the question of orchestral function

Appendix 2C contains links to the forum topics on which these questions were asked.
The table above shows only a selection of the fifteen responses to this question
collected from various metal forums, all of which were coded according to key words
contained in their responses. The complete table can be seen in appendix 2A. Topics
posing the question of the function of the orchestra were posted on a variety of metal
forums however as can be seen above, fans' responses across various websites shared
common traits. It can be inferred from this example that symphonic metal fans generally
agree that the orchestral elements added to a metal band add an extra element to the
sound, expanding the scope of the sound beyond what would be achievable with the
metal band alone.
Appendix 2B contains a tabulation of fans responses to the question of which bands
were most representative of the symphonic metal genre, however the three most popular
responses are shown below.
Band
Within Temptation
Nightwish
Epica

Mentions
9
8
7

Figure 3 - The three most popular symphonic metal bands decided by fans

This question of the most representative symphonic metal bands was asked in numerous
places online including Reddit, tuomas-holopainen.com forums, nightwishforum.com,
ultimatemetal.com and Heavy Metal Haven and each time a band was included in a
fan's response, it was counted in "mentions". From appendix 2B it can be seen that
Within Temptation, Nightwish and Epica gained the most mentions as being
representative of the genre in the eyes of respondents. Thus it can be assumed that an
analysis of the interaction between metal band and orchestra concerning these three
most popular bands should be fairly revealing for the broader symphonic metal genre.

Conclusion
Symphonic metal exists as a subgenre within the broader context of heavy metal, a
genre emerging from rock music, which encompasses a large number of subgenres. A
number of core academic writings on heavy metal exist however little research exists on
the topic of symphonic metal. However, there is a large body of informative fan
discussion on the topic via online forums. This provides an opportunity for research into
the fan-driven symphonic metal culture and is key to understanding the background of
the genre. Fans' opinions regarding the function of the orchestra in symphonic metal
indicate that they regard the inclusion of the orchestra as something that enables the
metal band to achieve new emotional and dramatic heights. To demonstrate the way this
is achieved, a methodology must be created to investigate the topic.

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Chapter 3: Methodology
Overview
To determine the function of the orchestra in symphonic metal, material to be analysed
must be chosen as well as a method to analyse this material. Using musical analysis
methods, three symphonic metal songs will be deconstructed and similar symphonic
metal approaches will be considered to show methods of combining the orchestra with
the metal band and so determine the function of the orchestra. Nightwish, Within
Temptation Epica have been chosen due to the survey results detailing fans' responses
when asked their opinions of what the most representative symphonic metal bands were.
The songs Hand of Sorrow by Within Temptation, Ghost Love Score by Nightwish and
Death of a Dream by Epica will be analysed to determine the way the orchestra interacts
with the metal band. These songs have been chosen because they present a variety of
song structures and approaches to orchestral material. They are also good examples of
symphonic metal music according to their utilisation of the genre and their song length
provides an abundance of material to deconstruct in the attempt to ascertain symphonic
metal idioms.

Analysis method
To determine the function of the orchestra in symphonic metal, the chosen songs will be
analysed and compared to each other and comparisons will be made between them to
show similar ways in which the combination of orchestra and metal band has been
approached. Each song will be broken down into major sections and representations of
these sections as well as their subsections will be presented. Major sections will be
referred to with numbers such as "section 1" whereas subsections will be referred to
with an "M", a number and a letter where the "M" refers to musical material, the
number refers to which piece of musical material the subsection utilises, numbered in
chronological order, and the letter denotes variations of each of these musical materials.
An absence of a letter marking a subsection indicates that the subsection is identical in
each of its appearances. Each song will be analysed from beginning to end in order of
sections and subsections and each will be deconstructed to explain instrumental usage

11

and function with particular focus on the interaction between the metal band and the
orchestra as well as choir where necessary. Elements such as instrumentation, texture,
dynamics, harmony, melody and rhythm will be considered during the analysis.
Original transcriptions of song excerpts will be provided where relevant to visually
represent this interaction. By comparing the results of these analyses between songs,
patterns can be drawn to show the general function of the orchestra in symphonic metal.

Case Study 1: Nightwish: Ghost Love Score


One of the foremost bands of the symphonic metal genre is Nightwish. This is
evidenced by the results of the forum question results as given in appendix 2B which
show that Nightwish was regarded as one of the most-mentioned bands by metal fans.
The song Ghost Love Score is one of the last tracks on the 2004 album Once,
Nightwish's last album to feature their iconic singer Tarja Turunen and orchestrations
for this album were created by Pip Williams.
Lasting ten minutes, Ghost Love Score is the longest song on Once. The music serves to
emphasise the effect of the sorrowful lyrics (contained in Appendix 4A), remaining
mainly within minor keys, powerful emotion being communicated through the metal
band and orchestra. The word score in the song title alludes to film score and its
composer Tuomas Holopainen, inspired by composers such as Hans Zimmer, describes
himself as having aspirations of writing film music (Kersantti, 2012). A film music
sound is evident in this song which features the orchestra and choir, and a great deal of
material is given to the strings as is often the case with orchestral and film music. The
metal instruments provide power and drive behind the orchestra and choir, creating a
dramatic synthesis of symphonic and metal elements.
Ghost Love Score consists of five major sections as shown in appendix 3A. Each has a
different character, distinguishing each section, and the function of the orchestra in each,
as it interacts with the metal band, will be analysed.

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Section 1

Figure 4 - Structure
tructure of Ghost Love Score section 1 structural diagram

The first section in Ghost Love Score is characterised by the choir and drums presenting
the main focus of the music while the orchestra plays a supporting role. During the first
half of the section,, M1a, only the drums are used for rhythmic support however in the
second half, "M1b", the guitars enter and powerfully play a repeating rhythmic pattern
supported by countermelodies from the orchestra.
The song opens with a characteristic motif characterised
characterised by a pattern of short "ah" notes
sung by the choir in the M1a subsection.

Figure 5 - Ghost Love Score "M1a" excerpt transcription

13

The choir, doubled by the xylophone, sings on the first three beats of the choir while the
drums rhythmically support the choir by playing in the subdivisions of the beat for first
two beats of each bar. The strings sustain chords underneath the choir until they play a
countermelody instead after sixteen bars. The timpani are used for emphasis at the end
of each four-bar phrase. The trumpets are introduced after eight bars, doubling the
choir's short notes and occasionally playing countermelodies at the end of bars,
continuing this function when the strings begin to play a countermelody. In this
subsection, the focus of the music is provided by the choir, and the orchestra functions
to support this by doubling the choir and offering countermelodies to it as well as
sustaining chords. The drums are the sole metal instrument, driving the beat which
would be otherwise weak.
Further rhythmic support is introduced by the electric and bass guitars in "M1b", the
second half of section 1. At this point, the choir begins to sing long, sustained notes in
the same harmonic pattern as "M1a". The choir at this point sings in a lower octave and
at a quieter dynamic level, allowing the metal band to be the focus of the music, the
electric guitar being the most prominent instrument, playing the bass notes with the bass
guitar whist being rhythmically supported by the drums playing the same rhythm.
Below is a transcription of the first four bars of this subsection.

14

Figure 6 - Ghost Love Score "M1b" excerpt transcription

The strings once again take on a supporting harmonic role as in the first sixteen bars of
"M1a", however the double bass doubles the guitars. The trumpets are also included in
this subsection, beginning with the long notes of the guitar, playing the same chords as
the choir in the second bar. The trumpets also play chords both against and with the
guitars, alternately sustaining notes while the guitars play shorter rhythms and following
the rhythm of the metal band. This functions as a countermelody to the metal band and
adds to the texture.
After the first eight bars of "M1b", the intensity of the music is heightened with a
sudden modulation and the addition of a melody played by the high strings and piccolo
and a countermelody played by the horns. The texture and instrumental functions from
the previous eight bars are continued in the new key.
This shows one way the orchestra can fill out the texture of the metal band. The double
basses can function to fill the texture of the guitars by doubling their notes while the
trumpets can provide countermelody to the metal band and orchestra. As demonstrated,
the metal band is effective in its interaction with the orchestra by providing a powerful
rhythmic and bass backing with which the strings and choir can provide harmony. Over

15

this, a melody in the high-pitched


pitched instruments of the orchestra
orchestra can be played, in this
instance provided by the high strings and piccolo.
Section 2

Figure 7 - Ghost Love Score section 2 structural diagram

The second section of the song introduces the soprano and alternates between light
li
and
heavy subsections, the latter featuring the choir. Orchestral instruments are only used
sparingly and for embellishment in this section which otherwise belongs to the metal
band and choir.
The "M2a" subsection opens with an
a open fifth power chord from
rom the electric guitar and
a turn followed by a diminishing note from the oboe. The drums play a simple rock beat
through this relatively quiet subsection, the soprano entering in the fifth bar while
harmony is provided by the keyboard using a synth pad. The soprano is accompanied by
the bass guitar playing quavers with a repeating long-short
long short articulation. This is an
example of a place in a symphonic metal song where the band alone is featured.
The "M3a" subsection presents a contrast to "M2a" and the following
following "M2b"
subsections, the electric guitar re-entering
re entering and playing a complementary rhythm to
accompany the choir who sing a repeating rhythmic pattern. The electric and bass
guitars and drums play a unified rhythm while the keyboard synth plays sustained
chords and the vocalist sings a drawn-out
drawn out countermelody. This is transcribed below.

16

Figure 8 - Ghost Love Score "M3a" excerpt transcription

In "M3a", the choir, at the forefront of the music, is supported harmonically by the
guitars playing the bass notes of the keyboard synth chords and rhythmically by the
guitars and drums playing semiquavers during their rests. The guitar emphasises the
choir's notes by palm-muting its semiquavers and playing more powerful sustained open
fifths with the choir's rhythm and the kick drums support the guitars' rhythm. This
characteristic subsection demonstrates the way the metal band rhythmically supports a
choir motif, aiding and emphasising its effect.
The following subsection, "M2b", is very similar to "M2a", however the oboe plays a
countermelody to the soprano. This slight variation on "M2a" shows the way an
orchestral instrument can be used for alternate accompaniment to a more sensitive
context of the metal band. Following this subsection is "M3b" which echoes "M3a"
however its texture is again altered from its previous counterpart. This time, the
beginning of the subsection is preceded by a roll on the timpani that introduces tension
before the change of texture. Additionally, the high strings play a countermelody to the
choir and to the soprano when she sings the coda for the subsection that leads into
section 3.
Section 3 demonstrates the way a symphonic metal singer can be alternately
accompanied both sensitively and powerfully by the metal band. She sings a sustained
line while the choir sings short rhythmic patterns supported by the metal band and the
orchestral instruments accompany the soprano with sustained countermelodies.

17

Section 3

Figure 9 - Ghost Love Score


re section 3 structural diagram

This section features the soprano with light accompaniment from the band, the
orchestral contributions limited to subtle, supporting roles. The section grows in
intensity with each subsection, the final one featuring the guitar
guitar solo for this song.
"M4a" acts as a bridge from the powerful end of the previous "M3b" subsection to the
sensitive "M4b", a guitar power chord fading out to leave room for a soft, choir-like
choir
synth pad from the keyboard playing chords, the double basses playing the lowest notes
of these chords and a pianissimo tremolo in the high range of the violins to emerge. In
this subsection, the only band instrument to play is the keyboard and it is supported
minimally by the orchestra.
This texture continues into the next subsection, "M4b", with the violins playing a soft
countermelody to the soprano in their high range. "M4c" reintroduces the drums and
bass guitar, the keyboardist now playing broken chords, as the strings from the previous
subsection cease. The keyboard
yboard synth continues as the soprano sings over the drums
playing a simple pattern and the bass guitar holds one note for most of the duration of
each chord. Midway through "M4c", the cellos begin a soft, ascending countermelody
to the soprano. This demonstrates
demonstrates the use of small number of orchestral instruments
functioning to provide embellishment to the metal band in a sensitive context.
The guitar solo of "M4d" is accompanied a little more energetically by the bass guitar,
drums and keyboard synth. However
However the orchestra does not feature at all in this

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subsection and this allows it to be more effective in the orchestral section 4, which
continues from the end of the guitar solo of "M4d".
The orchestra functions in section 3 to outline the bass in the soft accompaniment and
provide a countermelody to the soprano in the top register. An additional countermelody
is provided by the cellos before the guitar solo which provides a contrast before the
following section.
Section 4

Figure 10 - Ghost Love Score section 4 structural diagram

This climactic section is the longest in Ghost Love Score and utilises the orchestra more
than any other part of the song. It begins very softly with an orchestra-only
orchestra only interlude
and builds to a powerful climactic
imactic section that continues into section 5. The metal band
provides power and drive to an orchestra-focused
orchestra
section.
Tension is gradually built from a very low level in "M5a" until "M5b". Being a
completely orchestral section, "M5a" features a gradual ascent in the strings from their
low to high ranges during the subsection, always playing sustained notes. Various
orchestral instruments such as the double bass, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, horn and piccolo
are used to play short fragments of the motif below that forms the basis of the "M5"
subsections marked above.

Figure 11 - Ghost Love Score "M5" melody transcription

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The harp plays occasional arpeggios near the beginning of the subsection while chords
from the strings are accompanied
accompanied by sustained notes without lyrics from the choir in
some places towards the end of the subsection for an emotional effect.
"M5a" is a sensitive, tension-building
tension building subsection unmarked by transients from the metal
band. This demonstrates the way the orchestra
orchestra can be used very effectively in a section
where the powerful metal instruments are silent.
"M5b" contains the realisation of the motif from "M5a" at a high intensity, particularly
effective after the building up of tension in the previous subsection. "M5b" features the
orchestra at the forefront of the music, backed up by the metal band.
The melody is played by the horns, doubled by the violins, flute, piccolo and xylophone
in higher octaves. Rhythmically doubled by the drums, the low strings, timpani and
guitars provide bass notes intermittently, emphasising the beat. The trumpets emphasise
the chords with triads near the ends of bars, often echoing the supporting rhythm of the
metal band, low strings and timpani. Below is a transcription of the first four bars of
"M5b".

Figure 12 - Ghost Love Score "M5b" excerpt transcription

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In this passage, the orchestra functions as the main element of the music, providing
melody while the metal band interjects powerfully with the bass notes in contrasting
rhythm and articulation to the melody.
"M5c" utilises a similar VI-VII-i chord progression to "M5b", outlined by the electric
and bass guitars, and the soprano sings a melody that echoes that of the previous
subsection. Sustained chords are provided by the keyboard synth with the low strings
strengthening the bass at a low dynamic. The metal band, however, is at the forefront of
the music, the electric guitar playing powerful sustained bass notes supporting the
soprano. The metal band plays in unison apart from the guitar's semiquavers,
emphasising the beat. The transcription of the first four bars of this subsection shows
the way the limited number of orchestral instruments are used in this subsection to add
embellishment in a subsection otherwise dominated by the metal band.

Figure 13 - Ghost Love Score "M5c" excerpt transcription

"M6a" features the violins playing an ostinato alone with short notes on the beat from
the other strings before an interjection from the metal band, brass and timpani at the end
of the first and second bars. At this point the choir sings lyrics in a repeating rhythmic
pattern that is supported by the trumpets, timpani, drums, electric and bass guitars and
strings while the string ostinato continues and a countermelody is played by the horns.

21

The rhythmic forces of the instruments playing the pattern supporting the choir combine
powerfully and an excerpt of "M6a" is transcribed below.

Figure 14 - Ghost Love Score "M6a" excerpt transcription

This climactic section demonstrates the way orchestral and metal forces combined with
a unified rhythm can create a very powerful unison effect.
"M6b" returns to the band and the soprano being the main focus of the music. The
guitars dominate the accompaniment in the low range, playing palm-muted notes on
every quaver subdivision of the beat apart from the last two quavers of the bar and the
first of the next, reusing the rhythm of the band interjections from the previous
subsection. These interjections are doubled by the trombones and tuba, the low brass
embellishing the metal band's sound to enhance the ominous tone. In this section, the
orchestra functions to support and aid the metal band by playing in unison with it during
emphasised subdivisions of the beat.
"M7" acts as relief from the intensity of the previous four subsections while continuing
their momentum. Various orchestral instruments take a motif through a number of

22

phrases of the same musical material while accompanied by the electric and bass guitars
and drums. In this subsection, a somewhat similar texture to "M5c" is presented in the
metal band with the electric guitar sustaining bass notes while the bass guitar quavers or
crotchets followed by quavers and the drums mostly play a simple pattern. During the
subsection, the orchestral instruments play melodic material at a mezzo-forte dynamic in
pairs, starting with the bassoon and oboe and octave apart, then the piccolo and harp in
unison, clarinet and harp an octave apart, the bassoon and oboe again and finally the
piccolo and harp. Harmonic support is provided by the strings playing triads.

Figure 15 - Ghost Love Score "M7" excerpt transcription

In this subsection, the orchestra functions to provide the main melodic interest while the
metal band supports the orchestra with rhythmic drive and provides the bass line. The
orchestral focus also acts as a reprieve from the heaviness of the music before moving
into the next heavy section.
"M5d" returns to the melody of "M5b" with slight variation, this subsection being much
heavier in comparison. For the first half of the subsection, the melody is played
prominently by the combination of trumpets with xylophone and horns with xylophone,
alternating each bar for the first phrase while accompanied by a countermelody in the
high strings. The low strings and guitars provide the bass and the timpani plays an

23

anacrusis to each bar. The electric guitar plays mostly sustained notes but occasionally
anticipates
cipates the beat with semiquavers as shown in the transcription below.

Figure 16 - Ghost Love Score "M5d" excerpt transcription

After the first four-bar


bar phrase, the strings play the melody and the trumpets provide a
countermelody with triads while the metal instruments retain a similar texture. In this
subsection, the metal band instruments play differing rhythms, the guitars playing the
bass notes and the drums playing a repeating one-bar
one bar pattern. This underlines the
melody playedd by the orchestra, the metal band providing power and drive.
Section 5

Figure 17 - Ghost Love Score section 5 structural diagram

24

Section 5 consists of a reimagining of the song's opening gesture and ends the song with
a repeating phrase similar to "M3a" and "M3b". The metal band powerfully drives the
rhythm and bass while the orchestra functions as embellishment to the choir.
"M1c" features the choir singing short ah notes similarly to M1a of section 1.
However it is supported rhythmically by the guitars and drums and its orchestral
accompaniment differs from its original appearance. The high strings play staccato
notes with the choirs melody but also play during the choirs rests. The choir is again
doubled by the xylophone and the timpani plays at the beginning of both phrases in this
subsection. The bass is played by the low strings and the more powerful guitars. A short
countermelody is played by the trumpets and horns halfway through this subsection
before the trumpets double the strings' countermelody. The function of the orchestra in
this subsection is to support and provide countermelody to the choir and thicken the
texture provided by the metal band.
"M1d" returns to using the band to convey all of the music and the soprano sings the
melody previously presented by the choir, her voice layered over itself in triads. The
keyboard synth supplies harmony and bass is played by the guitars.

Figure 18 - Ghost Love Score "M1d" excerpt transcription

The absence of the orchestra in this subsection makes it more effective in the following
"M3c" subsection which ends the song.
The texture of "M3c" closely resembles the "M3a" and "M3b" subsections from section
2, however it is presented in F minor instead of the original B flat minor and the choir
sings on different scale degrees. The texture of the metal band remains the same as the
subsection's counterparts from section 2. After the first eight bars, the orchestra enters,

25

the cellos playing a countermelody to the choir and the high strings playing a gradually
ascending countermelody for the next eight bars. Following this, the orchestra plays a
repeating eight-bar countermelody to the choir that slowly fades to silence.
In this section, the orchestra functions to provide extra breadth to the music by
providing countermelody to the choir, which is the focus of the music. The metal
instruments play the bass notes and provide rhythmic support to the choir while the
soprano sings a sustained countermelody.
Summary of Orchestral Function in Ghost Love Score
This analysis of Ghost Love Score has identified a number of recurring ways in which
the orchestra and choir can be combined with the metal band. The choir was featured
very prominently in the song, taking the focus of the music on a number of occasions
such as "M1a", "M3a", "M3b" and "M3c". The choir's usage was marked by rhythmic
sequences of short notes and the choir did not sing sustained notes or phrases as the
soprano did.
The strings were used in a number of versatile ways. One of these was to provide
harmony through sustaining chords, such as in "M1a", or the bass notes, such as in
"M4b". The "M5a" subsection featured the strings playing chords over a G pedal in the
basses, the chords played by the rest of the strings gradually rising and increasing
tension as a sustained countermelody to the numerous short motifs provided by the
other orchestral instruments in the "M5a" subsection. This subsection was not the only
place where the strings provided countermelody - the strings performed this function in
numerous places in the song. Among these were "M1a" "M1b", "M3b", "M4b", "M5d",
"M1c" and "M3c". Additionally, a string ostinato in "M6a" performed a similar function
to a countermelody as the choir and metal band joined to perform the main focus of the
music. Most countermelodies in the strings section were performed by the violins in the
high register however an alternate example is the cello countermelody present near the
end of the "M4c" subsection. This information suggests that providing countermelody
can be a major function of the strings section in symphonic metal. The strings were also
used to provide melodies as the main focus of the music such as at "M5b" and they also
supported the choirs at "M1c".

26

The brass section often functioned to provide support for other elements of the music,
such as the trumpet briefly playing countermelody and chords with the choir's rhythm at
"M1a". The trumpets at "M1b" joined the guitar's notes, giving a fanfare-like impression.
At "M5b" the trumpets supported the strings at the high points of phrases while the
horns doubled the strings. The horns played distinctive fifth leaps at "M6a" prior to the
choir's ascending and descending motif, providing ornamentation. The trumpets and
horns played melodic phrases in the first half "M5d" in a call and response fashion
before the trumpets served to support the strings in the second half of that subsection.
This shows that the brass functioned to support intense and climactic moments of the
music.
The woodwind section was used more sparingly, generally only being used in quieter
moments. One of these was "M2b" where the oboe provided a soft countermelody
against the soprano. During the "M5a" orchestral subsection, short phrases were offered
by the flute, clarinet, oboe and piccolo. The woodwinds were used to play most of the
melodies in "M7", featuring the oboe, bassoon, piccolo and clarinet. This indicates that
the woodwinds section functions mainly melodically, featuring solo instruments.
The harp also quietly doubled some of the woodwind solos of "M7", however it was
also used near the beginning of "M5a", playing arpeggios for the remainder of that
subsection. Lastly, the harp played a downward glissando at the end of the soprano's last
phrase of "M3c" however this was buried under the metal texture. From this it appears
that the harp can be effective when playing arpeggios during quiet orchestral sections.
The orchestral percussion section was also present in this song, the hand bells being
used for a single, soft chime near the beginning of "M5a", the castanets playing a
tremolo twice during "M5c" at the end of the soprano's phrases. The timpani were used
for the emphasis of some transients in the song and were also used to aid crescendos
with rolls.
Throughout the song, the metal band functioned mostly as rhythmic support, although
much harmonic support was provided through chords played by the keyboard synth.
The electric guitar played powerful bass notes mostly in combination with the bass
guitar such as at "M5c", "M6b" and "M7". The guitar supported the choir by playing
sustained open fifths with the choir's rhythms in "M3a" and "M3b" and at "M6a" it also

27

supported the choir's fast figures. The electric guitar was used as a solo instrument
during "M4d" but for most of the song it served as a powerful driver of rhythm.
The bass guitar was occasionally used without the electric guitar at quieter moments of
the song such as "M2a", "M2b" and "M4c". When combined with the electric guitar, the
bass guitar was far less audible.
The drums functioned to provide rhythmic support throughout apart from during
orchestral sections. Often the drums and guitars played rhythms in unison such as at
"M1b", "M3a" and "M3b" and "M3c". The drums supported the orchestra, choir and
drums at "M1c" where these instruments played in rhythmic unison.
Ghost Love Score employed the orchestra very effectively, utilising many of its
possibilities and instrumental families. The strings were featured the most prominently
of all instrumental sections, mostly to provide countermelodies, although the choir was
highlighted in several places and sang as the focus of the music at those points. Brass
were used for emphasis of loud and climactic points, as were the percussion, while
woodwinds were used sparingly as solo instruments. Against the power and drive of the
metal band, the orchestra and choir increased the dramatic possibilities of the music and
demonstrated the potential of their usage in the context of symphonic metal.

Case Study 2: Within Temptation: The Truth Beneath The Rose


Within Temptation is one of the most popular bands of the symphonic metal genre and
was mentioned the most by fans when asked which bands they thought were most
representative of the genre. The song to be analysed, The Truth Beneath the Rose, is one
of the tracks from the 2007 album The Heart of Everything, which topped a number of
charts worldwide (Hung, 2013). The song, according to Within Temptation guitarist and
male vocalist Robert Westerholt, is "based on 'The Da Vinci Code' and is about the idea
that belief is sometimes used to justify sins" (Deming, 2013). Orchestral and choral
elements play an important role in the song, giving it an air of solemnity and importance.
The Truth Beneath the Rose can be divided into three major sections as shown in
appendix 3B. The outline of the song's sections as shown in appendix 3B also marks

28

some places with light grey arches where subsections can be grouped together similarly
in terms of style. The sections and their subsections will now be analysed in detail.
Section 1

Figure 19 - The Truth Beneath the Rose section 1 structural diagram

The first section of The Truth Beneath the Rose introduces much of the song's musical
material, opening with the orchestra and choir alone. Symphonic elements are used in
important points of the song and the metal instruments tend to provide support in these
parts, being more prominent during verses.
The Truth Beneath the Rose opens with an orchestral section marked above as "M1a".
This introduces musical material that is used throughout the song and appears in
numerous forms.
Lasting sixteen bars, the material in this subsection is played mainly by the strings
sustaining long notes at a mezzo-forte dynamic. At the beginning of each four-bar
phrase, the tubular bells play an E flat, the tonic note of the song, presenting a sombre
feeling. The third four-bar phrase begins with a note from the tam-tam and the choir
sustains soft chords with the strings for the phrase's first three bars, giving an aura of
solemnity. The soprano joins the strings as shown below in the fourth four-bar phrase
leading into the second subsection. The orchestra here introduces material for the rest of
the song, played mainly by the strings but also partially accompanied by the percussion,
choir and soprano.

29

Figure 20 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M1a" excerpt transcription

The second subsection of section 1, marked as "M1b", expands on the material


m
from the
opening at a much more intense dynamic. Here, the choir sings a characteristic
ascending three-note
note motif at the start of the first three bars of both of the four-bar
four
phrases in this subsection. The strings accompany the choir however they continue in a
similar pattern throughout the rest of each bar, playing an alternate motif in the fourth
bar of each phrase.

Figure 21 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M1b" excerpt transcription

In the second four-bar


bar phrase, a short
short countermelody is played by the French Horn in
the second half of the second bar to the beginning of the fourth bar in phrase. The four
short notes played by the strings in the last bar of that phrase leading into the next

30

subsection are accompanied by the trumpets and trombones for emphasis. In this
subsection the metal instruments are used for rhythmic support and for the bass element
of the harmony. The guitars play mostly short, palm-muted notes along with the short
articulations in all other instruments apart from the sustained horn countermelody. This
shows that the orchestra and choir function in this section to provide the main musical
focus while the metal instruments function as rhythmic support, providing drive. The
rhythmic unison of the high strings and metal band demonstrates the way the
instruments can complement each other and produce a powerful effect.
The section marked "M2a" begins with a sustained E flat power chord from the guitars
and three chords from the piano on each beat beginning on the second beat of the bar.
At this point the first verse of the song is sung by the soprano. The dynamic level is
brought down significantly from the previous subsection. The electric guitar rests while
the bass guitar softly plays the bass line and the drums play minimally. The strings
softly play chordal notes in the background as shown below.

Figure 22 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M2a" excerpt transcription

Following this, the soprano sings the lyrics in a higher register, now accompanied by
the electric guitar alternately playing palm-muted and sustained notes, however chordal
notes are sustained by the choir. In this subsection, the choir and orchestra provide a
subtle, sustained background while allowing the metal instruments to take on the bass
and rhythmic roles.
In the next subsection, marked "M3a", the guitar and bass guitar play quavers
accompanied by the drums while the soprano sings with a trumpet countermelody that
begins in the subsection's third bar.

31

Figure 23 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M3a" excerpt transcription

The trumpets also crescendo on sustained notes during the last two bars of the
subsection. Three staccato string notes played by the strings as in "M1b", accompanied
by a drum fill, lead into the next subsection. In this subsection, the trumpets function to
provide support to the soprano via a countermelody and a swell at the end of the phrase.
The "M4" subsection is the chorus of the song, "M3a" being the bridge. This subsection
utilises the choir for harmonic support and the strings for countermelody against the
soprano. The drums play a rhythm that outlines the compound time signature and the
electric guitar plays a pattern of three repeated palm-muted notes in its low register
followed by three sustained descending notes in the register an octave higher. The
transcription below shows the most audible elements of each instrument and voice in
the song.

32

Figure 24 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M4" excerpt


exce
transcription

It can be noted that the strings are placed in octaves with the highest notes being above
the soprano. The choir is more subtle than the strings and although it has a less audible
influence, it has the effect of adding depth to the song's overall timbre. With the end of
the chorus, the song moves into section 2 for the second verse.

33

Section 2

Figure 25 - The Truth Beneath the Rose section 2 structural diagram

The second major section of The Truth Beneath the Rose begins with the song's second
verse, presented very similarly but not identically to the first, and finishes with the final
two verses presented with accompanying material that does not appear elsewhere in the
song.
The powerful "M1c" subsection opening section 2 is very similar to "M1b" from section
1. It only difference is the addition of the choir basses singing audible vowels as shown
below.

Figure 26 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M1c" excerpt transcription

This adds interest to the subsection and the timbre of the basses gives this subsection a
sombre mood.

34

The "M2b" subsection contains the second verse of the song. The beginning of the
subsection provides immediate contrast as the soprano is accompanied by only by
chords from the strings. However this is followed by the reintroduction of the metal
band. Here, the electric guitar rhythm is characterised by three short quavers preceding
the beginning of a bar followed by a sustained note on the downbeat. The drums play a
compound-time pattern and the strings hold sustained chords.

Figure 27 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M2b" excerpt transcription

The rest of this subsection corresponds similarly to the "M2b" subsection although its
lyrics differ. Orchestral function in this subsection is to support the soprano
harmonically while leaving rhythmic function to the metal band.
The "M3b" and "M4" subsections in this second verse are almost identical to their
section 1 counterparts however the "M3b" bridge features the vocalist singing "forgive
me my sins" in octaves at a reduced volume instead of the strings playing three staccato
ascending notes. The presentation of the chorus, "M4", is no different to its appearance
in section 1.
The third verse is sung in the "M5" subsection, lasting sixteen bars and characterised by
the syncopated guitar rhythm of six crotchet notes against the compound time signature
supported by the drums. The soprano is accompanied by the choir, which again sings
sustained notes and supports the harmony while the electric and bass guitars provide the

35

bass notes. The strings play staccato quavers along with the electric guitar in patterns of
three ascending notes, reminiscent of the "M1b" and "M1c" subsections.

Figure 28 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M5" excerpt transcription

The trumpets accompany the strings near the end of the first eight-bar phrase with
staccato chords while the choir takes on this role near the end of the subsection. "M5"
continues the pattern of the orchestra and choir playing a supporting role to the vocalist
by providing countermelody and harmonic support, respectively. The metal band
continues to provide rhythmic drive, the guitars playing the bass notes. The choir's notes
near the end of this section are reminiscent of the "M1b" and "M1c" sections with a
similar rhythm of crotchets against the compound rhythm.
Section 2 ends with the "M6" subsection, the fourth verse featuring a scaling back of
intensity. Consisting of two eight-bar phrases, "M6" opens with a sustained chord from
the electric guitar with piano notes on the next three notes as in the beginning of "M2a"
of section 1. The texture that follows is unique as the metal instruments are absent and
the harp outlines the harmony with arpeggios while the choir sustains chords.

36

Figure 29 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M6" excerpt transcription

The cellos play the bass notes at a low volume while the rest of the strings enter only in
the second phrase at the end of the third bar with a countermelody. A soft bass drum hit
marks the beginning of the second phrase. The orchestra is prominent in this subsection,
functioning as the foundation of the music for the soprano to sing the verse.
Section 3

Figure 30 - The Truth Beneath the Rose section 3 structural diagram

Section 3 ends the song, recapping some of the earlier material before a section with
Latin lyrics sung by the choir and an orchestral subsection as the coda, which mirrors
the opening subsection.
"M1d", opening the final major section, features the same choir motif as in "M1b" and
"M1c". However this occurrence is the most powerful as the guitars and drums mirror

37

the choir's signature three-crotchet rhythm for the beginnings of the first three bars of
this eight-bar subsection. On the fourth beats of these bars the guitar "falls" from the
note an octave above its previous note towards its next note on the downbeat. The guitar
plays a brief solo from the fourth to the eighth bar of the "M1d" subsection, the
accompaniment of this subsection remaining the same as the "M1b" and "M1c"
subsections but without the choir. The orchestra continues to play its countermelody for
the remainder of this subsection.
Following the soprano singing "forgive me my sins" as at the end of "M3" in section 2,
the "M4" chorus is sung again and is no different from its previous incarnations in
sections 1 and 2. It is followed by "M1c" in the same pattern as the transition from the
chorus in section 1 to the beginning of section 2.
The "M7" subsection begins the song's coda with material that is fairly dissimilar to
what has come before. The main focus in this subsection is the male choir singing Latin
lyrics in a repeated rhythmic pattern for seven bars before a climax. The guitars and
drums drive the rhythm in this section with a repeating pattern. A constant
countermelody is provided by the strings and doubled by the electric guitar. At the end
of the fourth bar of this subsection, the strings play three crotchet notes before
continuing their countermelody in the next bar an octave higher.

38

Figure 31 - The Truth Beneath the Rose "M7" excerpt transcription

As can be seen from the above transcription, rhythmic drive is provided by the
t lower
electric guitar, bass guitar and drums while the orchestra functions to provide an
unrelenting countermelody, finally doubling the choir at the climax.
The final subsection, "M1e", mirrors the opening "M1a" subsection in terms of material,
being completely
ompletely orchestral, although there is no low-pass
low pass filter and the piano plays
chords with the string melody. The tubular bells play E flat at the beginning of the first
three four-bar
bar phrases, the third of these phrases being extended to last eight bars before
b

39

the final note where the tubular bells chime for the last time and the low strings hold a
low E flat to finish the song.
Summary of Orchestral Function in The Truth Beneath the Rose
This analysis of The Truth Beneath the Rose has revealed certain patterns apparent in
Within Temptation's approach to symphonic metal in this song. Overall, the strings
were the most-used orchestral section and the high strings were the most prominent
when combined with the metal band. The low strings, although utilised outside metal
passages, were either unused or ineffective during metal passages as bass frequencies
were covered by the guitars. However the high strings were utilised very commonly for
providing countermelodies and doubling other instruments, the choir and the vocalist.
The choir was used prominently, recognisably during the "M1b", "M1c", "M1d"
sections where it sang short staccato notes in repeating rhythmic patterns. The choir
was the main focus of the music in the "M7" section. Apart from the "M7" section, the
choir tended to sing vowels instead, usually sustaining chords and providing the
occasional short countermelody such as during the "M4" choruses and the "M2a" and
"M2b" verses. This gave the music an air of solemnity. The brass section was utilised
only infrequently during the song and usually near climaxes, such as the trumpets and
trombones playing four notes with the strings at the end of "M1b" after a short horn
countermelody. The woodwind section was absent from the song and orchestral
percussion was used sparingly, most noticeably during the beginning and ending
orchestral subsections where the tubular bells were used at the starts of phrases to set
the mood.
The metal band functioned mainly to provide rhythmic drive during and the electric and
bass guitar mostly played the bass notes. Commonly the guitars would play rhythmic
figures underneath the chords sustained by the strings or choir. Near the end of the song,
the guitar also doubled the strings' countermelody. The drums functioned as a rhythmic
backbone to the song which remained at the same tempo and time signature for its
entirety. During the "M1b", "M1c" and "M1d" subsections, the guitars and drums
played the same rhythm, creating a unified effect.
In The Truth Beneath the Rose, the function of the orchestra was to provide sustained
harmony in the strings above the bass provided by the metal band. The choir was also

40

used for this effect however the strings were also commonly utilised to provide
countermelody. Outside sections featuring the metal band, the strings were used for
both melody and harmony and provide a characteristic opening and closing to the song.
The orchestra functions to extend the scope of this song beyond what would be possible
with the metal band alone.

Case Study 3: Epica: Death of a Dream (The Embrace That


Smothers, part VII)
The Dutch band Epica was founded by guitarist Mark Jansen, following his departure
from After Forever (Sharpe-Young, 2013). Utilising classically-trained opera mezzosoprano Simone Simons as lead singer, the band has released five albums. Mark Jansen
also contributes harsh male vocals and this distinguishes the band along with its varied
musical style which includes gothic and symphonic elements (Bowar, 2013). These
elements are apparent in the song to be analysed, Death of a Dream (The Embrace That
Smothers, part VII), on which After Forever vocalist Sander Gommans provides death
grunts (Discogs.com, 2013). The lyrics, contained in Appendix 4C, suggest outrage at
being oppressed and the aggressive nature of the song matches this. The song is from
Epica's 2007 album The Divine Conspiracy.
Appendix 3C contains an outline of the five sections of Death of a Dream. These
sections will now be deconstructed to demonstrate the function of the orchestra within
them.

41

Section 1

Figure 32 - Death of a Dream section 1 structural diagram

The first major section of Death of a Dream is characterised by rapid rhythms from the
metal band and orchestral strings alike. It sets the heavy tone for
for the song and
introduces shout-like
like notes from the soprano and growled male vocals.
The first subsection, marked "M1", lasts for eight bars and begins with twelve
semiquaver notes from the electric guitar, bass guitar, snare drum and violins at the
speed of 174 beats per minute. After one rest beat, this is followed by two groups of
four semiquavers and a quaver rest and then two semiquavers and a quaver rest as
transcribed below.

Figure 33 - Death of a Dream "M1" excerpt transcription


transcr

The soprano sings one syllable of the lyrics each time the instruments begin a sequence
of semiquavers. Her voice is doubled an octave below, giving a choir-like
choir like impression.
The final three bars of this subsection feature the soprano singing sustained
sustain notes in a
motif ascending to G and falling to F sharp. This accompanies the lyrics "branded by
shame" while the kick drum is played on every semiquaver for the last two bars and the

42

violins play semiquavers on the same notes as the soprano. This motif moves towards
the second subsection, "M2a", which continues in a similar texture. The orchestra is
used in "M1" to double the guitars' and drums' notes at a higher octave.
The second subsection, "M2a", continues in the vein of the opening subsection with the
soprano singing with a similar rhythm to the second bar of "M1". The electric guitar
plays single notes with the soprano's lower octave but returns to its lower register to
play semiquavers during the soprano's rests. The snare drum is played on every beat
with the kick drums playing constant semiquavers. The low brass plays short notes in
harmony with the soprano every second bar for emphasis. In the second half of the
eight-bar phrase when the soprano holds a long note, the strings play a short
countermelody. During the second phrase of "M2a", the trumpets play rapid
semiquavers before the low brass play in harmony with the soprano. This is transcribed
below.

Figure 34 - Death of a Dream "M2a" excerpt transcription

This indicates the use of orchestral instruments to add unique flavour to the song. The
figures from the trumpets and the strings in the above transcription are effective in
building tension in the song for dramatic effect.
The "M2b" subsection consists of two four-bar phrases in C sharp minor with growled
male vocals either side of a four-bar phrase very similar to the beginning of "M2a".
These four-bar phrases at the beginning and end of "M2b" are played by the metal band
and male vocalist alone, without any orchestral components. The guitars play
semiquavers using the same melody as sung by the soprano at the beginning of the
previous subsection however this is transposed down a minor third. The drums play

43

semiquavers, alternating the kick drum and snare while playing


playing cymbal crashes each
time the guitars change notes. The middle four bars in this subsection mirror the first
four bars of the previous subsection with the addition of the violins playing staccato
notes accompanying the soprano. The horns also harmonise the
the soprano with the same
rhythm. In this subsection, the orchestra serves only to support the soprano's melody,
utilising the brass and high strings.
During the "M2c" subsection, the guitars play a similar figure to "M2a" however they
vary the lengths of the
he bars to destabilise the beat. This builds on the figure introduced
in "M2a" and this gradual disruption leads to a long note from the guitars before moving
into the next section.

Figure 35 - Death of a Dream "M2c" excerpt transcription


tran

Section 2

Figure 36 - Death of a Dream section 2 structural diagram

The second section of Death of a Dream eases back on the rapid pace introduced in
section 1 while remaining at the same tempo. The metal band continues
continues to provide
constant rhythmic support and drive but with fewer notes to the bar. This creates a
heavier feeling while some exotic instruments are used, creating a somewhat MiddleMiddle
Eastern impression. The heaviest growling vocals of the song are present in this section.

44

The sixteen-bar "M3a" subsection consists of two eight-bar phrases and features a
descending melody played on the instrument known as the duduk, a Middle-Eastern
double reed instrument similar to the oboe. The metal band plays a two-bar rhythmic
pattern that features quavers in the first bar and semiquavers in the second bar shown in
the transcription below. The unison rhythms between the metal instruments is
distinctive.

Figure 37 - Death of a Dream "M3a" excerpt transcription

The strings join the duduk in the second eight-bar phrase of "M3a" and the horns also
play short, sustained countermelodies. Near the end of the subsection, tension is built
towards the "M3b" subsection where growling vocals are featured. The orchestra
performs melodic functions in the "M3a" subsection over the distinctive rhythmic
background provided by the metal band.
The "M3b" subsection utilises the same rhythmic background as "M3a", however the
focal point of the music is now the powerful male vocals which sound alternately
"growling" and "rasping", the latter having the effect of responding to the former.
Notably, the vocals mostly keep to the rhythm of the guitars and drums, presenting a
powerful, unified sound.

Figure 38 - Death of a Dream "M3b" excerpt transcription

45

The orchestra is not used at all in this subsection however this aids the brutal sound of
the vocals by keeping the music purely metal at this point and this demonstrates the
effect of excluding the orchestra from the music.
The "M4a" subsection, lasting for four bars, serves as a link from "M3b" to the "M5a"
subsections. The rapid semiquaver rhythms from "M3b" continue for the first three bars
however the drum fill in the fourth bar contains mainly quavers, smoothing the
transition to "M5a". Quaver rhythms alternately featuring sustained and palm-muted
notes are played by the guitars. The time signature in "M4a" is altered in the second bar,
which consists of three beats, creating a 'compressed' impression. The strings crescendo
on a tremolo in the first bar of this subsection and play eight semiquavers beginning on
the second beat of the second bar before playing a softening tremolo in the third bar.
This 'palindrome' in the strings has the effect of gently softening the music for the
"M5a" subsection which contrasts with the growled vocals that precede and follow it.
This is an example of the orchestra both sustaining notes over the top of the metal band
and playing rhythmic figures faster than the guitars.
"M5a" sees the soprano singing melodically with sustained notes for the first time in the
song. The guitars play mostly sustained notes as well with occasional palm-muted
quavers. The drums play a straightforward pattern and the duduk returns to play a
countermelody against the soprano.

Figure 39 - Death of a Dream "M5a" excerpt transcription

Although this subsection lacks involvement from traditional orchestral instruments, the
inclusion of the exotic duduk lends an Arabian flavour to the timbre and this impression
is aided by the use of the mode shown below.

46

Figure 40 - Death of a Dream "M5a" mode

Following "M5a" is a sequence of subsections utilising almost-identical


almost identical musical
features. "M3c", returning
eturning to 'growling' and 'rasping' male vocals, is very similar in
approach to "M3b" however it features different lyrics and also includes orchestral
countermelodies. These are played by the bassoon before the 'rasping' vocals and by the
strings in an ascending
scending countermelody strings that leads into their note in the "M4b"
subsection, identical to "M4a" apart from the last vocal growl lyric of the previous
subsection. The second "M5a", following this, replicates its former "M5a" counterpart.

Section 3

Figure 41 - Death of a Dream section 3 structural diagram

The relatively short section 3 provides a contrast to the previous sequence of


subsections in "M6" by returning to rapid rhythms from the metal band, however its
second subsection
ection noticeably contrasts with the rest of the song by leaving out the metal
band before transitioning back towards the opening material for section 4.
"M6" features a unified rhythmic texture from the guitars and drums characterised by a
sequence of eight
ht semiquavers followed by a sustained minim and this can be compared

47

to the style of the opening "M1" subsection in that it features many fast notes played in
succession on a single note. The long guitar notes form the pattern of E, F sharp, G and
F sharp while the semiquavers are always on a pedal E. This four-bar sequence is played
four times over the subsection. While this is played by the metal instruments, a
gradually-ascending countermelody is sustained by the strings French horns. In the
second eight-bar phrase of this subsection, the soprano sings an ascending melodic line
that moves towards the F sharp that begins the "M7" subsection. The orchestra functions
in this section to provide a countermelody to the soprano and increase the tension
leading into the next subsection, "M7".
"M7" is unique to the rest of the song in that the metal band does not play at all during
this subsection. Instead, all background is provided by the strings for the soprano to sing
over.

Figure 42 - Death of a Dream "M7" excerpt transcription

The transcription above demonstrates the way the orchestra alternately doubles the
soprano and provides countermelody in both the upper and lower parts of the strings,
functioning to support the vocalist and provide a striking contrast to the rest of the song
with a much gentler timbre. At the end of this subsection, the strings play an ascending
figure with two semiquavers to a note that leads into section 4. Apart from the song's
short coda, "M7" is the last time new musical material is introduced to the song.

48

Section 4

Figure 43 - Death of a Dream section 4 structural diagram

The fourth section of Death of a Dream corresponds almost exactly to section 1. The
only differences are malee vocals being performed slightly differently in "M2b" and
minor variations in the drum fills at the ends of "M1" and "M2c", the latter leading into
a soft texture for the final section.

Section 5

Figure 44 - Death of a Dream section


se
5 structural diagram

Section 5, concluding Death of a Dream,


Dream, revisits material introduced in section 2 while
altering its treatment in terms of texture and lyrics. "M6" appears as it was in section 3,
building tension before the final four notes of "M8"
"
to finish the song.

49

"M5b", beginning this final section, has the soprano sing the same melody as presented
in "M5a" in section 2 with different lyrics. However this time the metal accompaniment
is replaced by a banjo-like instrument playing harmony notes while a wooden flute and
an ethereal choir-like sound likely produced by a keyboard synth sustain fifths as
transcribed below.

Figure 45 - Death of a Dream "M5b" excerpt transcription

Although neither the orchestra nor the metal band are used in this subsection, the
Middle-Eastern sound returns and provides a brief reprieve before the metal band and
orchestra return in the next subsection.
"M5c" sees the return of the texture used in the "M5a" subsections of section 2.
Different lyrics are sung and the high strings double the duduk in the second eight-bar
phrase as a contrast to this subsection's earlier counterparts. The Middle-Eastern
impression is aided by the strings who play a four-quaver turn before they begin to
double the duduk. In this subsection, the orchestra functions to a previously-introduced
countermelody and enhance its sound.
This subsection is followed by "M6" which appears identically to its counterpart in
section 3. Once again the orchestra provides countermelody and builds tension over a
repeating rhythmic cell played by the metal band.
The song finishes with the "M8" subsection which comprises four notes and recalls the
texture of the opening "M1" by featuring sequences of rapid notes played by the guitars
and drums before rests and the soprano singing notes on the beginnings of these
sequences. While the metal band plays, the orchestra is audible only during the strings'
ascending passage during the bar before the last note. However they are heard
prominently as they play the final, the strings holding the final E and the horns playing
an open fifth with the guitars until they die away two after two bars' length. The violins

50

are left as the last instruments, dying away three beats after the rest of the instruments.
This final subsection is transcribed below.

Figure 46 - Death of a Dream "M8" excerpt transcription

Summary of Orchestral Function in Death of a Dream


This deconstruction of Death of a Dream has unearthed an approach to symphonic
metal that appears to utilise a number of particular combinations of instruments in
certain contexts. Strings were used prominently in the song as the most prevalent
orchestral group and were often used to emphasise figures played by the guitar and
drums such as in the "M1" subsections. In places such as "M2a" where soprano held
notes at the ends of phrases, the strings would play short motifs to provide interest.
Strings were also used for doubling the soprano in places such as the "M2b" subsections.
While the metal band played fast rhythmic figures at "M3a", the strings doubled the
duduk to provide melodic interest and at "M4a" and "M4b" they were also used for
melodic interest during the transition to a lighter texture. During section 3, the strings
featured prominently, firstly providing countermelody to the soprano and then providing
the entirety of the musical background in addition to countermelody support. Rapid
notes from the strings also smoothed the transition from the subdued "M7" of section 3
back into the rapid notes of section 4. Finally, the strings held the very last note of the
song and were the final instruments to die away. The brass section was also present in

51

this song however it was not used as prominently as the strings. The trumpets were used
during the "M2a" subsection playing rapid notes to increase tension and dramatic effect
while the horns were used in the same subsection to emphasis the short, 'shouted' notes
from the soprano, continuing this effect in the following "M2b" subsection. The horns
were also used to provide countermelody along with the strings in "M6" where their
timbre aided in building tension. Lastly, the horns held the final note of the song with
the strings, bringing power to the last open fifth chord with the guitars. Traditional
orchestral woodwinds were not used however the inclusion of the duduk added exotic
taste.
The metal band played many distinctive rhythms in this song, particularly presenting
sequences of rapid semiquavers on the same note followed by short rests. The guitars
also provided countermelodies and melodic interest in sections both including and
excluding the soprano. The drums supported the rhythms of the guitars most of the time,
such as playing rapid semiquavers with the guitars during subsections such as "M2b"
and "M6" and alternately playing quavers and semiquavers along with the guitars during
the "M3a", "M3b" and "M3c" subsections. Apart from during the "M1", "M2a" and
"M2b" subsections where the soprano sang short, 'shouting' notes in a unified rhythm
with the metal band and orchestra, she tended to sing melodic phrases over the metal
band which played faster rhythms. However the male vocals tended to line up more
squarely with the metal band such as during the "M3b " and "M3c" subsections.
Overall, the orchestra was most commonly utilised to provide countermelody to the
soprano and for melodic interest that increased tension, occasionally playing in unison
with the metal band for a unified effect, leaving most rhythmic and bass functions to the
metal band. The dramatic effect of this song was enhanced by the inclusion of the
orchestra.

Conclusion
The analysis conducted on the three chosen songs has revealed a variety of ways in
which the orchestra and metal band can be combined, analysing each song by section.
The following chapter will summarise these findings.

52

Chapter 4: Findings and Conclusion


This dissertation has focused on ascertaining the function of the orchestra in symphonic
metal. Metal music was discussed as having roots in the 1960s, emerging from rock.
Metal musicians played with virtuosity and took influence from classical music,
integrating elements of compositions used by classical composers into metal songs. As
such, it would seem understandable that taking further influence from classical music,
such as integrating the classical orchestra and choir into metal, would not be
uncharacteristic for this genre. This is known as "symphonic metal" where the orchestra
and metal band are combined. It was described that the symphonic component of this
subgenre features not only the orchestral instruments but the choir and such bands often
feature an operatic female vocalist. Since the orchestra can be combined with many
metal subgenres, symphonic metal can exist within a wide variety of styles.
Existing literature was shown to mainly discuss metal culture, its origins and stylistic
characteristics across a range of subgenres, however symphonic metal received little
attention and this left a gap in the area of academic symphonic metal research. Due to
the scarcity of such research, it was necessary to rely on the online community for
information pertaining to the topic. As a fan-driven genre, metal enjoys a wide
following of enthusiastic and devoted fans and this community was helpful in
responding to questions on the function of the orchestra in symphonic metal. Responses
showed that fans regard the inclusion of the orchestra as an element that heightens the
drama and emotional heights of the music. Due to core existing metal research focusing
on cultural rather than musical aspects, a methodology relying on music analysis was
developed. This approach analysed songs by the three bands determined by fans to be
the most representative of the genre. The method of this analysis was to break each song
into sections and subsections, analysing each in terms of orchestral function and
interaction between the orchestra and metal band. The analysis revealed idioms in
which the orchestra achieves drama and emotional effect as well as the way the it is
woven into song structure. The chosen songs made effective use of passages involving
the orchestra alone, orchestra with metal band and metal band alone.

53

Findings
While all three songs analysed were unique in their own right, they shared various core
elements of symphonic metal. The format of the band is similar between Nightwish,
Within Temptation and Epica in that they all feature a female soprano vocalist, an
electric guitarist, bass guitarist and drummer, and all feature the orchestra significantly.
Orchestra alone
One of the advantages of the orchestra in symphonic metal is that it can provide a very
effective contrast to the metal band when used alone. When used this way, the orchestra
is very effective at creating a feeling of sensitivity, seriousness and emotion, such as in
section 4 of Ghost Love Score and The Truth Beneath the Rose. Death of a Dream did
not feature the orchestra alone at all however in one passage, the strings alone
accompanied the soprano in a sensitive interlude. Orchestral components consisting of
the harp, low strings and choir accompanied the soprano in passage of similar character
in The Truth Beneath the Rose and Ghost Love Score utilised the highest and lowest
strings to outline harmony and countermelody in a sensitive passage in section 3. This
shows the way the orchestra was used to accompany the soprano without the metal band
at a point near the middle of each song. This served to provide contrast to the
surrounding sections featuring the heavy drive of the metal instruments.
Strings
During the analysis, some common occurrences appeared and one of these was that the
strings section was the most-utilised family of the orchestra. During The Truth Beneath
the Rose, the strings were almost the sole orchestral component. Of the strings section,
the violins tended to be the most prominent and tended to be used extensively for
playing countermelodies although the cellos were also used for this purpose. The strings
tended to play sustained notes in countermelodies to the soprano in all three songs and
provided countermelodies to parts featuring the choir or choral effects. Choral passages
were often accompanied by string countermelodies and strings were present during the
guitar solos of two songs. Strings also doubled the melodies of other instruments and
voices, notably being used in all three songs to accompany sequences of short vocal
notes sung either by a choir or by a soprano singing with their voice layered to create a

54

choir-like effect. Occasionally, the strings would function to double the soprano's
melody but countermelodies to the soprano were more common. Common to all three
songs was the use of the strings to play long, sustained notes to support the soprano in
quieter interlude sections near the middle of the song. When combined with the metal
band, the strings would often provide a contrast to the guitars and drums by holding
sustained notes while the metal band would play faster notes. The low strings often
were used to support the texture of the electric and bass guitars which usually played the
bass notes, the low strings, being less powerful, double the guitars and contributing to
the timbre. In some places, the high strings doubled the electric guitar in higher octaves
and this heightened the dramatic effect. The harp was used most effectively during quiet
or orchestral sections, becoming less effective in passages featuring the metal band due
to being overpowered.
Choir
Dramatic effect was also provided very effectively by choral components, often
characterised by sequences of short, 'shouted' notes at points of high dynamic intensity.
The choir would also sustain chords underneath the soprano and when singing with
lyrics, it would repeat short rhythmic patterns. Accompanying the choir, the metal band
would always play more rapid notes than the choir, supporting it with the bass notes. In
this manner, the choir timbre was effective in providing dramatic atmosphere.
Brass
The brass section was used by all three bands with the most prominent instruments
being the trumpets and French horns. The trumpets were often used for crescendos
leading up to climax points or were used for countermelodies, the French horns
commonly performing the latter. Being not as widely used as the strings, the brass
tended to be used only in passages of high dynamic intensity. The low brass were
generally used mainly with staccato articulation, emphasising figures from the guitars.
Woodwind
The woodwind section, by contrast, was not usually combined in passages with the fullforce metal band. Rather, woodwind instruments were featured as solo instruments, the

55

double reed instruments providing countermelodies in the Nightwish and Epica songs.
Ghost Love Score featured various woodwind instruments in a passage containing
excerpts of a motif being played on the oboe and bassoon, clarinet, flute and piccolo. In
this context the metal band provided bass and rhythmic drive, allowing the woodwind
instruments to carry the melody.
Percussion
Most percussive elements were understandably provided by the drum kit. However in
some places, orchestral percussion was used to effect. Ghost Love Score utilised the
timpani and castanets to emphasise dramatic moments, particularly in orchestradominated sections. Tubular bells were used in The Truth Beneath the Rose to
emphasise strings in the opening and closing sections, however no orchestral percussion
was used in Death of a Dream. This indicates orchestral percussion is most effective
when used in orchestral sections and less common while the metal band is playing.
Orchestral/Metal Combination
The orchestra acted within all songs to both strengthen and provide contrast to the metal
band. Often, the orchestra would sustain long notes while the guitars and drums would
play faster rhythms underneath. Additionally, all three songs featured a section where
the drums, guitars, strings and vocalists (either soprano or choir) would unite in
rhythmic unison somewhere towards the end of the song, such as "M1c" in Ghost Love
Score, "M1d" in The Truth Beneath the Rose and "M1" in Death of a Dream. In all
cases, the metal band was the driving rhythmic force and the guitars provided the bass
notes of the harmony while the orchestral and choral components were more sustained
in their nature. The strings were used for countermelody and harmonic support, the
choir for drama and atmosphere and the brass for emphasis at high-intensity points. The
woodwind section was generally used for solos and countermelodies and the orchestral
percussion provided emphasis at dramatic moments. Appendix 5 contains an abridged
summary of functions for all orchestral sections as discussed here. Overall it can be said
that the addition of the orchestra to the metal band provides for a heightened sense of
atmosphere, mood and drama.

56

Relationship to Fan Perception


The addition of the orchestra to the metal band has been shown to be regarded by fans
as the provider of a sense of grandiose mood, atmosphere and drama, contrasting to the
hard-edged nature of metal. This has been demonstrated by the results of the three
symphonic metal songs. In Nightwish's Ghost Love Score, one example where tension
and mood were heightened by the orchestra was during a long orchestral section leading
to a powerful climax involving the orchestral instruments playing the melody with
interjections from the metal band before moving to a driving, metal-focused passage.
Within Temptation's The Truth Beneath the Rose used orchestral sections at its
beginning and end to provide an air of solemnity while its powerful chorus passages
were driven by the metal band while harmony was provided by sustained singing by the
choir and countermelodies were provided by the strings. All of this was supportive of
the operatic soprano, presenting an epic, grandiose sound. Epica's Death of a Dream
was driven relentlessly by the metal band for most of its duration, the orchestra acting to
support and strengthen the band, increasing the scope of the song's sound. In these ways
among many others, the orchestral components of symphonic metal were shown to
allow the metal band to achieve dramatic and emotional heights not otherwise possible.
This supported the fans' perceptions of the function of the orchestra in symphonic metal.
Summary
Most academic literature on the subject of metal has focused on its cultural aspects and
has not examined the musical aspects in great detail, however this dissertation has
utilised music analysis to achieve its means, explaining each element of the symphonic
language and its relation to the metal aspects within this subgenre. This dissertation has
proposed the question of the function of the orchestra in symphonic metal music,
considering songs from the three most representational bands of the genre as decided by
fans. Subsequently, new ground has been covered in the area of metal research in
exploring a genre that has received comparatively little attention in the field. The music
analysis research method, so far having been under-utilised in this area of research, has
been shown to be effective in determining orchestral function in symphonic metal.
However this represents only a starting point in demonstrating some of the core idioms
of the limitless possibilities of the combination of metal and symphonic elements.

57

Further research into symphonic metal would undoubtedly reveal many additional ways
these two elements can be combined to great effect.

58

Appendix 1
1A List of metal forums
Adelaide Metal Forums: http://adelaidemetal.com/smf/
All Metal Forums: http://www.allmetalforums.com/forums/
Atlanta Metal Forums: http://forum.atlantametal.net/
Doom-metal.com Forums: http://www.doom-metal.com/phpbb2/
Encyclopaedia Metallum: http://www.metal-archives.com/board/
Heart of Metal: http://www.heartofmetal.net/
Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/index.php
Heavy Metal Rarities: http://heavymetalrarities.com/forum/index.php
Masters of Metal: http://www.mastersofmetal.us/
Metal Storm.net: http://www.metalstorm.net/forum/
Metal Forum: http://metalforum.com/
Metal From Finland Discussion: http://forum.metalfromfinland.com/
Metal Hammer: http://www.metalhammer.co.uk/forum/
Metal Throne: http://www.metalthrone.net/forum/
Metal Underground: http://www.metalunderground.com/
Metalship Forum: http://en.forum-metal.com/
MRU Metal Forums: http://www.mruforums.com/
Spirit of Metal: http://www.spirit-of-metal.com/forum/index-l-en.html
Ultimate Metal Forum: http://www.ultimatemetal.com/forum/
World Metal Alliance.org: http://worldmetalalliance.com/forum/

59

1B Most popular metal forums


1800000
1600000
1400000
1200000
1000000
800000
600000

Users

400000

Topics

200000

Posts

60

1C Forum statistics
Forum
Encyclopaedia Metallum
All Metal Forums
Metal Storm
Heart of Metal
Metal Throne
MRU Metal Forums
Doom-metal.com
Metal Hammer
Masters of Metal
Heavy Metal Rarities
Atlanta Metal Forums
World Metal Alliance.org
Metal Forum
Heavy Metal Haven
Adelaide Metal Forums
Metal From Finland Discussion

URL
http://www.metal-archives.com/board/
http://www.allmetalforums.com/forums/
http://www.metalstorm.net/forum/
http://www.heartofmetal.net/
http://www.metalthrone.net/forum/
http://www.mruforums.com/
http://www.doom-metal.com/phpbb2/
http://www.metalhammer.co.uk/forum/
http://www.mastersofmetal.us/
http://heavymetalrarities.com/forum/index.php
http://forum.atlantametal.net/
http://worldmetalalliance.com/forum/
http://metalforum.com/
http://metaltube.freeforums.org/index.php
http://adelaidemetal.com/smf/
http://forum.metalfromfinland.com/

Posts
1336474
765558
586190
535997
388055
246514
108283
91003
88953
85117
82562
63721
62533
44508
29316
1951

Topics
54499
33589
37718
16494
13738
13294
7528
5228
2938
10052
4718
4672
3322
2874
1358
187

Users
241347
57653
46179
1320
27937
1850
3709
10474
267
7791
1076
4397
2394
522
766
74

61

Appendix 2
2A Forum question 1
How would you describe the function of the orchestra in symphonic metal?
Forum
All Metal
Forums
Ultimate Metal

User
GordOfThunder

Key words
Epic, over the top

SomeGuyDude

Sense of grandiose, supporting role, extra


layer, majesty
Baroque
Fills chords, timbre variety, contrast to
metal, extra effect
Heavy Metal
adg211288
Keyboards can take orchestra's place,
Haven
cross genres, classical influence
Wyvern_13
Classical influence, orchestra highlights
other parts, varying focus between metal
and orchestra
666Sharon666
Orchestra is defining element, metal
makes way for it, guitar secondary,
keyboards have orchestral effect
Nightwish
Baki
Shows band can afford orchestra,
Forum
dramatic effect
Gaia88
Blend modern and classical sounds,
symphony-like effect, narrative,
Tuomasdragonprincess
Adds to music, can be essential for some
holopainen.com
songs, changes mood
forums
*Dandelion*
Broadens song's sound, more theatrical,
wider emotional range
Lupine
Adds atmosphere
swatata
Adds drama
Evil_Wench
Compares orchestral element to shading
in a drawing
NyjahAtaru
Adds film music atmosphere, softens
metal's hard edge, widens appeal
AmaranthMockingbird Adds elements not achievable by just
metal band, orchestra lays 'blanket' of
sound

62

2B Forum question 2
What are the most representative symphonic metal bands?
Band
Within Temptation
Nightwish
Epica
Kamelot
Therion
Delain
After Forever
Septicflesh
Sonata Arctica
Xandria
Fleshgod Apocolypse
Rhapsody
Blind Guardian
Diablo Swing Orchestra
Symphony X
Tvangeste
Epica
Apocalyptica
Xystus
Theatre of Tragedy
Haggard
Edenbridge
Tristania
Versailles
Visions of Atlantis
Edenbridge
Wintersun
Amaranthe
Eihwaz
Elis
X Japan
Sigh
Stream of Passion

Mentions
9
8
7
4
3
3
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1

63

2C Links to forum questions


http://www.allmetalforums.com/forums/showthread.php?204406-How-do-you-thinkorchestra-can-be-combined-with-metal&p=1079894#post1079894
http://www.ultimatemetal.com/forum/general-metal-discussion/879754-functionorchestra-when-combined-metal.html#post10633049
http://metaltube.freeforums.org/function-of-orchestra-in-symphonic-metalt2996.html
http://www.nightwishforum.com/index.php?/topic/1161-nightwish-off-topic/page-15
http://www.nightwishforum.com/index.php?/topic/1161-nightwish-off-topic/page-17
http://www.tuomas-holopainen.com/en/forum/56-nightwish-discussion/99940function-of-the-orchestra-in-nightwish#99940
http://www.reddit.com/r/symphonicmetal/comments/1kceyf/what_are_the_best_repr
esentative_symphonic_metal/

64

Appendix 3

3A Visual outline of sections in Ghost Love Score

3B Visual outline of sections in The Truth Beneath the Rose

65

3C Visual outline of sections in Death of a Dream (The Embrace That Smothers, part VII)

66

Appendix 4
4A Lyrics to Ghost Love Score by Nightwish
We used to swim the same moonlight
waters
Oceans away from the wakeful day

Every day
Just another loop in the hangman's
noose

My fall will be for you


My love will be in you
If you be the one to cut me
I'll bleed forever

Take me, cure me, kill me, bring me


home
Every way, every day
I keep on watching us sleep
Relive the old sin of
Adam and Eve
Of you and me
Forgive the adoring beast

Scent of the sea before waking


afterwards
Brings me to thee
Into the blue memory
My fall will be for you
My love will be in you
If you be the one to cut me
I'll bleed forever
Into the blue memory
A siren from the deep came to me
Sang my name my longing
Still I write my songs about that dream
of mine
Worth everything I may ever be

Redeem me into childhood


Show me myself without the shell
Like the advent of May
I'll be there when you say
Time to never hold our love
My fall will be for you
My love will be in you
You were the one to cut me
So I'll bleed forever

The Child will be born again


That siren carried him to me
First of them true lovers
Singing on the shoulders of an angel
Without care for love n' loss
Bring me home or leave me be
My love in the dark heart of the night
I have lost the path before me
the one behind will lead me
Take me
Cure me
Kill me
Bring me home
Every way

67

4B Lyrics to The Truth Beneath the Rose by


Within Temptation
Give me strength to face the truth, the
doubt within my soul
No longer I can justify the bloodshed
in his name
Is it a sin to seek the truth, the truth
beneath the rose?
Pray with me so I will find the gate to
Heaven's door
I believed it would justify the means
It had a hold over me
Blinded to see the cruelty of the beast
It is the darker side of me
The veil of my dreams deceived all I
have seen
Forgive me for what I have been
Forgive me my sins
Pray for me 'cause I have lost my faith
in holy wars
Is paradise denied to me cause I can
take no more
Has darkness taken over me,
consumed my mortal soul
All my virtues sacrificed, can Heaven
be so cruel?

How can blood be our salvation


And justify the pain that we have
caused throughout the times
Will I learn what's truly sacred?
Will I redeem my soul, will truth set
me free?
Blinded to see the cruelty of the beast
It is the darker side of me
The veil of my dreams deceived all I
have seen
Forgive me for what I have been
Forgive me my sins
LATIN:
Et est signum
dies datus
et tenebris
mea culpa acta est fabula pereo
(Latin: This is the sign given to the
darkness.
It's my fault - the art is dutifully over)

I believed it would justify the means


It had a hold over me
Blinded to see the cruelty of the beast
It is the darker side of me
The veil of my dreams deceived all I
have seen
Forgive me for what I have been
Forgive me my sins
I'm hoping, I'm praying
I won't get lost between two worlds
For all I have seen the truth lies in
between
Give me the strength to face the wrong
that I have done
Now that I know the darkest side of
me

68

4C Lyrics to Death of a Dream (The Embrace That Smothers,


part VII) by Epica
I followed your rules
A willing fool
Branded by shame
My soul suffers from your hostile
ways
I bear so many scars, hit me hard
Time to change we have to rearrange
For this has gone too far, way too far
Creating new laws and living by
unwritten rules
Restricting us
My soul suffers from your hostile
ways
I can't let go
Creating new spins on ancient creed to
fit your views
Denying us
You created this world
Where honesty is not allowed
You created this world
Where ignorance is being taught
You created this world
While I am all you'll never be
You've been drilling these
Such falsely-based philosophies
...in me
The curtain has fallen
There's no one behind
Corrected one mistake
But I am still around

You created yourself


While I am all you'll never be
You're deceiving me
Now I am forcing you to see
...this
The curtain has fallen
There's no one behind
Corrected one mistake
But I am still around
Our fight is over
My scars will leave a stain
You thought that it was all easy
But I will still remain
Take my hand
I'm sinking
I'm reaching out for you
Can't you see what you've done to all
of us?
Torturing me has no use here anymore
I followed your rules
A willing fool
Branded by shame
My soul suffers from your hostile
ways
I bear so many scars, hit me hard
Time to change we have to rearrange
For this has gone too far, way too far
Creating new laws and living by
unwritten rules
Restricting us

Our fight is over


My scars will leave a stain
You thought that it was all easy
But I will still remain

My soul suffers from your hostile


ways
I can't let go

You created yourself


Based on nothing else but lies
You created yourself
Where all your aspiration died

Creating new spins on ancient creed to


fit
your views
Denying us

69

The curtain has fallen


There's no one behind
Corrected one mistake
But I am still around

Your time is over


I'm taking back what's mine
You thought that you could keep me
Under your thumb and mind

Our fight is over


My scars will leave a stain
You thought that it was all easy
But I will still remain

Take my hand
I'm sinking
I'm reaching out for you
In my dying dream

70

Appendix 5
Summary of Orchestral Functions
Orchestral Section

Function

Orchestra alone

Used sensitively, creates seriousness and emotion


Harp, low strings and choir provide accompaniment
to the soprano
Violins most prominent
Used for playing countermelodies with sustained
notes, noticeably during choral passages
Cellos provide countermelodies in their higher
register
Doubles melodies of soprano and other instruments
and voices
Supports texture of and contributes to timbre of
guitars
Harp used during quiet or orchestral sections
Provides dramatic atmosphere and effect with
short, 'shouted' notes at high dynamic intensity
Sustains chords underneath soprano
Repeats short rhythmic patterns when singing with
lyrics
Accompanies metal band's faster rhythms with
long, sustained notes
Prominently features trumpets and horns
Trumpets used for crescendos leading to climax
points and for countermelodies
Used in passages of high dynamic intensity
Low brass used mainly with staccato articulation,
emphasising guitar figures
Not generally used in high intensity metal passages
Woodwind instruments used as solo features with
melodic function
Double reed instruments provide countermelodies
Most effective during orchestral passages
Not used often during metal passages
Timpani and castanets can emphasise dramatic
moments
Tubular bells emphasise strings
Strengthens and provides contrast to metal
Sustains long notes while metal plays faster
rhythms
Rhythmic unison of all elements a feature
Softens metal's hard edge
Heightens dramatic and emotional heights

Strings

Choir

Brass

Woodwind

Percussion

Orchestral/Metal Combination

71

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74