I am a big fan of metal music and decided to do some music theory research on a theory I've had for a long time.
Metal vs. Classical
“The classical realm is dying because nobody cares about new classical composers. My concerto suite was an injection of something new,” says the pioneer of Neoclassic Music, Yngwie Malmsteen. Malmsteen has a point; modern classical music tends to only appear in films. Older classical composers are more popular like Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart. So how is Classical Music still alive and influencing to modern music? Composers like Yngwie Malmsteen and Arjen Lucassen are putting classical tones and techniques into their metal music. Both composers use the flowing and choppy sounds of classical music to put into their metal power ballads and songs of freedom. Both composers have said the romanticism and power that classical music shows directly influences how they play metal and influenced them to use more contemporary styles. These facts help prove the thesis to my essay. I believe that Metal is directly influenced by Classical and basically derived from it.
There is also audible the evidence that Metal is derived from Classical Music. You can hear that both genres have multiple drummers and incredibly powerful percussion sections. Metal bands like Slipknot, Combichrist, and Ayreon have multiple drummers playing custom drums. Both genres tend to have powerful and intimidating sounds, yet have slow and flowing romantic ballads, using acoustics. Famous and brilliant classical composers like Beethoven, Chopin, and Vivaldi are known to have incredibly fast symphonic compositions, yet beautiful and slow piano ballads that influence metal bands Pantera, Evanescence, and Metallica to write similarly bipolar music. You can also hear the complicated layers of instrumentation in both genres of music, having instruments playing different harmonies and parts. If you critically listen to music from both genres you can truly hear the similarities.
Metal and Classical have a lot of intriguing and surprising similarities, but they clearly have their differences. Obviously, not everyone who enjoys classical also enjoys metal nor do they hear the similarities in both genres. Classical Music is popular because of its easy listening qualities and incredibly powerful sounds, whereas Metal is projected a lot as loud, gut wrenching, and sometimes unpleasant on the ears. Classical and Metal are also different on paper as well. Classical music is composed by using musical notation, so the music can be read by entire orchestras and symphonies. Instead of using the traditional way of composing, Metal bands use tabs or play by ear to learn or write original songs. Another difference between the two genres is that Classical Music composers typically expect more than four instrumentation sections and find musical notation the best way to get every section playing their part. This is so the sections can keep track of the melody while playing at different times. Metal bands typically have three main sections; vocals, rhythm, and lead guitar or solo guitar. Each section in metal typically plays in harmony all at once, sometimes even without a definite melody and just playing rhythm.
Classical Ensembles and Metal Bands also have a largely diverse way of recording and presenting sound. Classical music, before the times of amplifiers and microphones, used natural acoustics of the instruments and of the areas that the music was played in. You can go to old opera houses and theatres where they have the old acoustic walls and platforms that help maximize the sound naturally. In modern music, including metal, powerful amplifiers and microphones are used to project powerful sound even in outdoor amphitheaters. The techniques of acoustics are still used in certain theatres and certain bands also use them instead of amplifiers to play softer and “unplugged”. Classical Music, disregarding it’s diversity to all other genres of music, has influenced music greatly and the way modern music is presented to the listeners in the world.
Despite all the large and known differences of Classical and Metal music, there are also more intriguing similarities. A professor named Adrian North dug deeper into finding similarities. In fact, he is one of the few professors I’ve found during my research to discuss the similarities of both genres. One of his studies discovered the similarities between the fans of Classical and Metal music. His research showed that Metal and Classical fans have similar reasons for listening to their choice of genre, both fans enjoying the powerful and complicated sounds of both Metal and Classical. They like the soft and loud changes of the music and the complex rhythms that both genres contain. The fans also both talked about the themes that the music is composed on, like Romanticism. He also found both stereotypes are open to many different kinds of music and like diversity in their lives. I found it interesting that not only does the music have similarities, but the fans of the music also have similarities.
In this essay, I listed many reasons why Metal is similar to Classical music and why it is highly influenced from it, and I agree with all the reasons and examples. It is clear to me that all music truly began when Classical Music became popular and the composers became like royalty. Ever since then, music has been an important part of the World’s culture. I truly believe that the music we have now would not exist without Classical music and that most people do not realize how much of an influence it can be to modernism. I hear the influence of Classical music in Metal more than any other genre, because of its true power, the changes in the music, and its incredible complexity in the compositions. Metal composers have a different way of writing and seeing music, much like the Classical composers changed music in history. Composers in both genres write music that clearly celebrates individualism, freedom, and self-expression. These reasons are why I believe Metal Music would truly not be as complex and popular as it now without Classical influence. I think the complexity and beautiful tones of certain metal, especially symphonic, is often looked over and underrated in the world of listeners.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my thesis? What are other bands that are influenced by Classical Music?