AMN Reviews: DeathOrchestra – Symphony of Death (2020; Bandcamp)

I’ll admit to having a soft spot for orchestral heavy metal when done right. Earlier this year, we had a notable release from Triptykon with the Metropole Orkest, as just one example. I’ll also confess to a fondness for Nightwish’s instrumental variations that incorporate an orchestra. But not all such pairings are as successful.

DeathOrchestra is Russian metal band Buicide (two guitars, bass, and drums) with the Olympic Symphony Orchestra. Symphony of Death is a set of reimagined covers of the pioneering U.S. band Death that were recorded live in May 2019. Death was a thrash metal band that arguably hit its peak in the early 1990’s with Human and Individual Thought Patterns. Both albums exhibit rhythmically-sophisticated songwriting and are best thought of as progressive or technical metal rather than any other category. But Symphony of Death‘s selection of seven tracks spans the band’s career.

In any event, DeathOrchestra slows these pieces down a bit, eliminates the vocals, and rearranges them for metal band plus orchestra. Thus, the heavy riffing, speed picking, and disciplined soloing of Buicide are at the forefront. The Olympic Symphony Orchestra is mostly in the background, with string and horn sections either doubling or accentuating the guitars. High points include the ponderous main theme of Spirit Crusher along with its rapid-fire runs. Zero Tolerance is also strangely compelling with majestic violin sawing that borders on the bombastic (but in the best possible way).

Admittedly, this release is not particularly avant, but it is an example of two musical styles being blended in a creative and satisfying fashion. Thus, it gets two thumbs way up.