In the right hands, combining classical music with heavy metal can be a wonderful thing. I’ll admit a soft spot for the “classical with a rock band” versions of Nightwish songs, as well as Triptykon’s recent “live with a full orchestra recording.” Here we have two solo recordings that take the classical-metal marriage in different directions. Both composer/performers are well-versed in these genres and blend them in interesting ways.
Colin Marston was busy in 2020, recording with Behold… The Arctopus and Krallice, as well as engaging in this effort. Symphony is just what the title suggests. Instrumentation consists of strings, percussion, harpsichords, tubas, horns, bassoons, flutes, choir, mellotrons, and the like, but all are actually MIDI-processed tracks performed by Marston on keys. Thus, unlike the vast majority of “solo” albums, this one is deep, rich, and layered. Comprising four long tracks, the first two include a heavy emphasis on overlapped droning textures with mellotron, harpsichords, and strings. The third takes a different approach, with the melody driven by percussion and harpsichord. This comes across as a merger of technical metal and modern classical. The final track is a dense outing that lasts 24 minutes and is centered around strings, keyboards, and voice. While beginning as a tense screed, it evolves into a more introspective offering that is almost ambient in nature.
Cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne has also been busy, both as a member of Musk Ox (their new album Inheritance is more than worthy of attention) and as a solo artist. A bit of backstory is required. In early 2020, Weinroth-Browne released Worlds Within, a solo studio album. In order to get to know the material even better, he decided to recreate the album live. To do so, he uses amplified cello and effects. The latter allows him to add delay, loops, echoes, and percussion, which results in this effort sounding more like a duet or trio rather than a solo performer. Weinroth-Browne is informed by heavy rock music, and this comes across in his writing as cello riffing and rhythmic structures that could easily be transcribed for electric guitar, bass, and drums. These patterns are not overly complex, but provide a grounding for his chamber-inflected cello playing. What makes Worlds Within Live compelling is how Weinroth-Browne manages to make all of this memorable with distinctive and melancholy lines counteracting the underyling raw power.