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The Dutch: Masters at symphonic metal

The Dutch: Masters at symphonic metal

The Dutch: Masters at symphonic metal

The Dutch are pretty good at cycling, water management, making cheese, speed skating and supplying the world with pretty tulips. Everybody knows this. But did you know the Netherlands is also home to some of the world’s best symphonic metal bands?

What is symphonic metal?

Copyright: Manja van KesterenFirst things first. What is symphonic metal exactly? Well, symphonic metal is a subgenre of metal music. There are many subgenres of heavy metal: you’ve got black metal, power metal, Viking metal, pirate metal etc… The list is long. The Dutch happen to be metal gods when it comes to symphonic metal!

How does symphonic metal differ from the other subgenres? Typically, symphonic metal combines typical heavy metal instruments like the drums and guitars with elements of orchestral classical music: classically trained singers, symphonic instruments, choirs and orchestras. Therefore, it is often nicknamed “opera metal” or “operatic metal”.

The following musicians are considered some of the best when it comes to symphonic metal, and they are all Dutch!

Within Temptation

Founded in April 1996 by singer Sharon den Adel and her partner Robert Westerholt, Within Temptation got its first national breakthrough with the second single from their second album (Mother Earth) “Ice Queen”. The single climbed to the number two spot in the Netherlands and even became number one in Belgium.

Since then, the band has also been quite successful internationally, it has won the Buma ROCKS! Export Award five times: in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2016. This award is given to the Dutch artists who sell the most records abroad.

If you would like to see them live (highly recommended), I have good news for you! You can see them for free at festival Appelpop in Tiel on September 14.

Song tips

In total, Within Temptation has released 7 studio albums, 5 live albums / DVDs and 1 cover album.

  • New to metal? Try the following songs: Ice Queen (Mother Earth), Angels (The Silent Force), Memories (The Silent Force), All I Need (The Heart Of Everything), and Faster (The Unforgiving).
  • Like the heavier stuff? Try the following songs: Stand My Ground (The Silent Force), The Howling (The Heart Of Everything), Our Solemn Hour (The Heart Of Everything), and The Reckoning (Resist).

Epica

If you want to listen to something epic, Epica is your band. I mean, it’s in the name and everything! Epica was founded in 2002 by Mark Jansen from symphonic metal band After Forever. Initially, the band was called Sahara Dust, but later changed its name to Epica, after power metal band Kamelot’s album of the same name.

Epica combines the heavenly mezzo-soprano singing voice of Simone Simons with the death growls of Mark Jansen. Add a choir and an orchestra, lyrics with a message and you have got something epic indeed.

The band is touring Europe and South America in October and November of this year, so get your tickets while you can. A North American tour is planned for 2020.

Song tips

Epica has released 7 studio albums, 2 EPs, 3 live albums, 1 soundtrack and 2 compilation albums.

  • New to metal? Try the following songs: Cry for the Moon (The Phantom Agony), Quietus (Consign To Oblivion), Chasing The Dragon (The Divine Conspiracy), Never Enough (The Divine Conspiracy), Tides of Time (Design Your Universe) and Storm The Sorrow (Requiem For The Indifferent).
  • Like the heavier stuff? Try the following songs: The Obsessive Devotion (The Divine Conspiracy), Unleashed (Design Your Universe), Design Your Universe (Design Your Universe) and Monopoly on Truth (Requiem For The Indifferent).

Oh, and if it turns out you like Epica, be sure to check out Mark Jansen’s symphonic death metal band MaYaN, which features the vocals of Laura Macri and Marcela Bovio, former singer of symphonic metal band Stream of Passion.

Delain

Named after the Kingdom of Delain in Stephen King’s The Eyes of the Dragon, Delain was founded in 2002 by former Within Temptation keyboardist Martijn Westerholt and vocalist Charlotte Wessels. At first, the band was supposed to be a musical project, featuring different guest musicians from the metal scene each time, and not a kick-ass live band as well, like they are now. However, because of the success of their first album Lucidity, the band was able to go on tour.

Delain will be touring Europe again in November 2019. A new studio album, their sixth one, is also in the works.

Song tips

Since 2006, Delain has released 5 studio albums, 1 live album and 3 EPs.

  • New to metal? Try the following songs: April Rain (April Rain), We Are The Others (We Are The Others), The Gathering (Lucidity) and Hit Me With Your Best Shot (We Are The Others).
  • Like the heavier stuff? Try the following songs: A Day For Ghosts (Lucidity), Go Away (April Rain), Where Is The Blood (We Are The Others), Here Come The Vultures (The Human Contradiction), Your Body Is A Battleground (The Human Contradiction), Fire With Fire (Moonbathers) and Masters Of Destiny (Hunter’s Moon).

Floor Jansen (After Forever, ReVamp, Nightwish)

Okay, not a band, but a person. Nah. Person is not the right term here… Perhaps vocal-force-to-be-reckoned-with is better? If you are into metal, chances are high you have heard of Floor Jansen.

Floor started out studying music at the Dutch Rock Academy in 1999. Three years later, she studied musical theatre and opera at Conservatorium Tilburg. Currently, she is the lead vocalist of mostly Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish, but she first became known as the singer of After Forever. She joined this band when she was only 16!

After this group disbanded, Floor founded a new band called ReVamp. However, after Anette Olzon, then-singer of Nightwish, quit Nightwish, Floor was asked to replace her. In September 2016, Floor announced that ReVamp was no more, as she wanted to focus solely on Nightwish.

Jansen is known for her incredible vocal range. From classical soprano to belting death growls, Floor can do it all. Listening to Floor will have you floored. I know, I know. Bad pun.

If you want to see her perform live, you will have to wait until Nightwish tours again. At the moment, the band is recording a new album. However, you can catch Floor doing her thing on Dutch TV programme Beste Zangers, which will start airing Saturday, August 24.

Song tips 

Floor Jansen has had a pretty long career as a singer. To experience her complete vocal range, I recommend the following songs:

  • After Forever: Energize Me (After Forever), Monolith of Doubt (Decipher) and Follow In The Cry (Prison of Desire).
  • ReVamp: Precibus (Wild Card), Distorted Lullabies (Wild Card), Misery’s No Crime (Wild Card), Here’s My Hell (ReVamp), Sweet Curse (ReVamp) and Million (ReVamp).
  • Nightwish: Élan (Endless Forms Most Beautiful), My Walden (Endless Forms Most Beautiful), AplenGlow (Endless Forms Most Beautiful) and The Greatest Show on Earth (Endless Forms Most Beautiful).
  • Live: Just watch the entire Wacken 2013 concert, you will not regret it! Here is a little teaser:

So, having watched some of the videos, hopefully, what do you think? Are the Dutch masters of symphonic metal? And who is your favourite Dutch symphonic metal band? Let us know and leave a comment!

Manja van Kesteren

Author

Manja van Kesteren

Manja studied English and Creative & Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton. She has worked as a professional writer for a number of international companies in the Netherlands. A...

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Marc Willemse 19:28 | 2 September 2019

Did you also know that the Dutch media are the most disrespectful towards these bands and artists. They hardly ever play symphonic metal songs on the radio. The listeners have to beg for it. If you are lucky, WT, but Delain Nightwish, they just don't (want to) know about their existing. Only playing songs of second and third grade artist. Symphonic metal fans from outside the Netherlands scratch theirselves behind the ears if they hear this. Sad but true, you don't know what you got until it's gone.