Classical Music and Heavy Metal

How could Black Metal sound in the 1800s? 
Of course, we are perhaps taking things to extreme levels here, but are we really that convinced that certain dark and evil atmospheres evoked by classical compositions are not nearly as disturbing as listening to "De Mysteriis Dom Satanas" on a winter night?!

In my opinion, this is one of those passages that penetrate you deeply and that is capable of recalling the most macabre rituals. So let's talk about it.

The symphonic work in question was born in the second half of the 19th century, inspired by the story "The evening of St. John's Eve" by Gogol and some legends of Ukrainian folklore, with the intention of representing the ritual of a Sabbath in music. There are two hypothesis on the correct location of the mountain, the real protagonist of the work: there are those who argue that it is the Ukrainian Lysa Hora and those who instead lean towards Montecalvo Irpino, in the Benevento area (in Italy), which would be linked to the legend of Benevento as a meeting place of all the witches in the world (and hence the name of the famous liqueur - as well as the award of the same name - produced in those areas).

The composition was successful with the general public in 1940 thanks to the orchestration of Leopold Stokowski for the Disney classic "Fantasia" (although it seems that it was not the original score but an arrangement by Korsakov) and is characterized by a gloomy opening and solemn, worthy representation of the extras of the demon, the protagonist: the rest of the piece shows itself - with an increasingly sustained and frantic pace - the gathering and the dance of the diabolical creatures evoked, while the demon conducts the games; all of this until the dawn that dissolves the darkness and drives everyone back into the darkness. This is the story, well represented by the animated transposition of Disney, something that perhaps today would not be projected so lightly.

I started this post by mentioning Black Metal, and not surprisingly since it is one of the ensemble bands of the movement to have made one of the few metal transpositions of this song: it is the Swedish Marduk who in their album "Heaven Shall Burn... when we are Gathered" they use it as the basis for the track "Glorification of the Black God" (intentions more than clear, I would say).
Instead, we owe to the Trans Siberian Orchestra the choice to present a twisted version, more slowed down and similar to a traditional Russian dance, with "Mountain Labyrinth", included in the latest studio album "Letters from the Labyrinth"; I tell you that, for a moment, I almost struggled to associate the two pieces.

I want to add that the song has also been taken up by some progressive rock bands, including one of the various reincarnations of the Italian band New Trolls, but these two remain for me two perfect examples of how a classic song of more than a century ago can influence so distant fringes of metal music.
In the meantime, I leave you with the link to the best video clip that can be made for this song, directly from Fantasia, 1940.

Musical references
Marduk: "Glorification of the Black God" ("Heaven Shall Burn ... When We Are Gathered" 1996)
Trans Siberian Orchestra "Mountain Labyrinth" ("Letters From The Labyrinth" 2015)

Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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