2020 – A disappointment for Symphonic Metal?

RockmusicRaider - Symphonic Metal in 2020 - Delain - Diabulus in Musica - Nightwish - Surma

Once the end of 2019 approached, an interesting scenario around Symphonic Metal emerged. Three biggies in the genre – Nightwish, Diabulus in Musica, and Delain – all announced a release of their newest and – hopefully – best ever concoction.

A stellar prospect that stirred up quite some excitement around the RMR deck crew over here. We started to have fever dreams of new grandeur, of a knock-out punch that would catapult this once great genre to new beginnings and old glories revisited.

Maybe it was a bout of insane positive thinking, because – somehow – Within Temptation‘s mediocre 2019 record Resist already left our neurons. But then, this band’s new credo seems to lean into Power Metal with all them vile symphonics gone out the door. So, that should explain it, right?

Now, before we go further, let me state for the record that all those bands delivered high-quality metal. Symphonic Metal for most1), truly aligned to what they already produced earlier. And we would not expect anything else. These guys are all pros. But that also means that this crew will usually not take many prisoners on that front.

RockmusicRaider - Delain - Apocalypse & Chill - Album Cover

Delain went first with their piece Apocalypse & Chill. The band injected enough power into their record to please our cold metal hearts. At first. But – as always – when the filet piece comes first, there is almost no need anymore to check out the rest of the innards. Things will likely decline, and in this record, this was certainly true. Music for the masses I called it and I stand by that. Meaty2) to a point, but so mainstream and without experimentation it almost hurt. But by and large, this is one of the better records.

RockmusicRaider - Diabulus in Musica - Euphonic Entropy - Album Cover

Diabulus in Musica came next. In a way, Euphonic Entropy was a continuation of that new-found power both vocalists so expertly projected on its predecessor. We relished the way they linked the cinematic with sturdy Symphonic Metal. And then, they dropped a ton of amps on top of everything, which really fits their style. But – unfortunately – a lot of loose ends turned up on the tracklist. A dud or two and some classical sins truly pulled the overall rating of the record down. And – in turn – this denied DiM access to those top 10 spots. A true pity for an otherwise great album.

RockmusicRaider - Nightwish - Hvman :||: Natvre - Album Cover

And then, Nightwish‘s newest came along. It contained fake news in musica, and we’re still pissed. The trailer and their previously released video for Noise featured that one and only metal scream. It made you believe in something truly metal, but the record did not deliver that way3). This scream was the sole reason why I picked up Hvman. :||: Natvre. in the first place. I wouldn’t have done so otherwise, my nerves are still raw with its predecessor’s condescending mush. In the end, we got an unchecked and somewhat sugary profusion of cinematic Hollywood OST4) pieces in search of a movie with little metal to show for. And that’s not good, even if the mastery and musicianship are often astounding, I give them that.

So, by the tortured minions of Loki, we had three great potential records in one year that should revise Symphonic Metal5). But none really knocked us out into space with that urge to rant and rave about it. Far from it, actually. Perhaps with the exception of DiM that showed some promise.

RockmusicRaider - Surma - The Light Within - Album Cover

Until Surma rushed onto the scene, that is. With a mighty push from Island Metal, The Light Within kind of unexpectedly appeared on our radar. Finally, some true energy usurped our music machine. With a freshness and vigor that the other three surely did not display in 2020. In a way, this is an almost pragmatic, no-nonsense piece that delivers stellar Symphonic Metal without all those sickeningly sweet accouterments others like to adorn themselves with. That’s metal made by real musicians. Something we would like to see more of.

So, in the end, 2020 showed that there is promise. And it came out of unexpected corners. From a little-known band that just took the bull by the horns and demonstrated how good Symphonic Metal can sound like. With no prisoners taken, in true Viking fashion.

Next stop will be Epica in 2021. Never give up hope, right?

*****

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