Unearthing The Metal Underground: The Synth Metal Scene
Every week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we take a look at three quality bands that haven't gotten as much exposure yet as they should. This week, we will be taking a look at three bands who mix hard rocking sounds with synthesisers. Those of you who have read my posts in the Now Playing threads in our forums will probably be aware by now that I'm a big fan of synthpop and electronic music, particularly the likes of New Order and the Pet Shop Boys. So with this in mind, I went in search of bands that combine these digital sounds with the aggression of heavy metal. As it turns out, there’s quite a few bands out there melding the two, and it’s not a brand new experiment either. In 1998, nu metal outfit, Orgy covered one of the biggest hits by New Order, "Blue Monday" for the second single from their debut album, "Candyass." Make of it what you will.
Orgy aren’t the first band of more modern times to cover a classic synthpop track, most of us have heard Lacuna Coil's rendition of the Depeche Mode staple, "Enjoy The Silence," and even the old guards of heavy metal have taken a stab at paying tribute to their eighties contemporaries. For example, below we can hear German power metal kings Gamma Ray performing a cover of the haunting Pet Shop Boys track, "It’s A Sin."
The Pet Shop Boys themselves have also dabbled a little in the world of metal music, when they remixed the Rammstein song, "Mein Teil."
Covering synthpop songs in a metal style is well and good, but entwining the genres is something much more interesting. British gothic metal kings Paradise Lost had a five year flirtation with the blend, most notably with their 1999 release, "Host," (see example below) but there are many bands today which combine the genres for themselves to achieve their own unique sound, and this week we’ll be looking at three of them.
Paradise Lost - "Permanent Solution"
One of the best examples of metal music meeting synthpop comes from the northern Italian city of Brescia in the form of a band named, Neon Synthesis. The group was formed in 2004 and a year later appeared on the first Italian tribute album to Depeche Mode, performing a cover of the song, "Everything Counts." They then released their first album, the Thomas Stearns Eliot influenced, "Our Empty Rooms" in 2006, which received a positive response from critics and listeners alike. It would be three years before they released their sophomore effort, "Alchemy of Rebirth," which the band considers to be their first official album. Since then, the band has been relatively quiet, but fans of electronic metal will be hoping they make a return very shortly.
Neon Synthesis - "Everything Counts"
Neon Synthesis - "Stolen By the Wind"
Neon Synthesis - "Neon"
Next up in our trilogy is another band from Italy, this time hailing from Emilia-Romagna, one of the richest regions in all of Europe, named Synthphonia Suprema. The band's moniker pretty much says it all, as they combine elements of synth and symphonic music with their take on the power metal genre that continues to remain popular throughout the continent. The group initially formed in 1999 under the name, Nothing Else and released two demos entitled, "Maiden of Tears" and "Synth Metal," before changing their name. They released their first full length, "Synthphony 001" in 2006, which was notable for it's cover of the Warlord song, "Battle Of The Living Dead," in addition to their unique blend of synth music and metal. They then recorded a second album, "The Future Ice-Age," which was released in 2010 to positive reviews. Synthphonia Suprema are currently working on their third record, which is expected to be released next year.
Synthphonia Suprema - "Uncosmic Justice"
Synthphonia Suprema - "Synthetic Aurora"
The last band this week is also the youngest (and the only ones not from Italy,) having formed in 2008 in the south western English city of Bristol. While the band aren't strictly a metal outfit, they create a ballsy hard rock sound, which is able to blend perfectly with the synth work of Bec Jevons, (also one of the group's guitarists.) They have been extremely busy as of late, having recorded and self released a mini album, (which is available for free from their official website,) as well as making radio appearances and touring wherever possible, including a main stage slot at the upcoming Youth For Youth Festival in Bristol.
Natural Tendency - "Far From Home"
Natural Tendency - "Faith"
So what did you make of these attempts to mix metal and rock with synth and electronic music? Is it an interesting mix or one that should be left well alone? Whatever your stance may be, be sure to come back next week as we unearth more bands from the Metal Underground!
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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