Neoclassical metal is a genre of metal heavily influenced by classical music. It doesn’t refer to just covering tracks by Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, etc.. Its essence lies in the fast arpeggios, the frequent use of the vibrato and instruments as the piano and violin (the latter mostly played a la Paganini), and the composition with a harmony feel that is close to classical pieces. Yet not all classical composers influenced this style. It mainly relied on originators of the Baroque era, such as Antonio Vivaldi, George Handel, and J.S Bach.
Bach – Toccata in D Minor by Ton Koopman:
The one who is the most accredited as the King of Neoclassical metal is the Swedish guitarist Yngwie J. Malmsteen. His achievements in the style are covering classical music pieces alongside the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra (listen to his album Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra) and the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, and releasing instructional DVDs among others.
Many more guitarists followed his path in the 1980s, most notably Vinnie Moore (who played in Lebanon on January 23rd, 2010), Chris Impellitteri, Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, and Marty Friedman. Their techniques greatly influenced a new wave of neoclassical power/orchestral/symphonic metal bands in the past 20 years.
A fresh start to dive into this genre would be to kick off with Rhapsody of Fire, whose front man Luca Turilli is giving an online guitar course, entitled Luca Turilli’s Neoclassical Revelation. His extensive use of sweep picking, tremolo picking, and classically influenced lines have made him a major icon in power metal. He has also released 3 solo albums (part of a trilogy), and formed a second band, Luca Turilli’s Dreamquest. All of his works definitely need to be checked by anyone who appreciates classical music, or even guitar playing.
Solo from Rhapsody of Fire’s “Unholy Warcry”:
I have enlisted some neoclassical metal bands worth checking: Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Concerto Moon, Cacophony, Adagio, Dark Moor, At Vance, Michael Angelo Batio, Artension, Galneyrus. Feel free to post your recommendations below.