Monday, August 24, 2015

The Baton and the Pick: in which Rock supposedly meets Classical (Road to Wacken II)

Possibly the oddest spectacle I beheld at last weekend’s “Wack-a-thon”(even more so than one which I shall detail later) was “Rock-meets-Classical”. More of an adjective rather than a name, it was a cover band apparently organized by Matt Sinner, the bass player from Primal Fear among other things, centred around him, a string session, and assorted guest musicians. They covered Rainbow, Purple, Helloween, and a lot of Symphonic-Power stuff I didn’t recognize. It was not disagreeable (despite the appearance of two of the least impressive front-men I’ve seen in a long time), but I had to wonder what the point of it was.

            For one thing, such “cross-overs” are nothing new. Not only are they nothing new, but they’re damn near cliche these days. Classical/Rock crossover has been going on since at least 1969 with Purple’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra. Metal bands have been channelling classical since at least the early eighties, when Manowar played Rossini and Accept Tchaikovsky. Every guitarist from Malmsteen onwards has considered himself the ghost of Paganini, and every Power Metal band from at least the late-nineties onwards have included extensive symphonic arrangements and orchestral elements. Everyone from Metallica to Satyricon has played with an orchestra. Fact is, from its earliest days, Metal has owed more to Classical, structurally, aesthetically and thematically, than to any other form. This sort of collaboration should surprise no one.    

            Considering all this, it’s really strange how little collaboration went on in this project.

            A truly great crossover project would bring out the best of both worlds. Here, we only really see the one. The other is only just hinted at, and at times forgotten altogether. The so-called “classical” segment – not much more than a sexily attired string section – were given almost nothing to do. Their role was largely to provide ambient back-ground noise for the “Rock” section – the guitar, bass and drums – who did most of the work.  They didn’t really add anything to the songs – only “Stargazer” seemed to benefit from their contribution, and the Twisted Sister selection sounded downright ridiculous (despite the ever-entertaining Dee Snider). More importantly, there was no attempt to “to bring the Rock world into the Classical one – no full-length classical pieces were played, the guitar was never subsumed by the needs of the orchestra. The exchange was strictly one way.

            I would have been far more impressed had the strings been brought out for Rhapsody or someone of that ilk: for whom the orchestral bits are integral to the song, and not just garnish. As is, this was not a “Rock Meets Classical” show at all, but a Rock show with strings attached. That alone does not a cross-over make.  

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