Judgement Day - Dark Opus (Cover Artwork)

Judgement Day

Dark Opus (2004)


When metal bands play with symphony orchestras, the results can be more than a little silly. However, as pompous as Metallica's S & M was, I found myself enjoying it. The epic nature of heavy metal lends itself well to the big sound of a huge orchestra. There's a reason all the best metal guitarists are classically trained. Now, what would happen if one were to "punkify" that and strip the whole prospect down to a violin, cello, and drums? If the correct players were chosen, the result would probably come off sounding a lot like Judgement Day.

Judgement Day is made up of two brothers (on the strings) and their friend on drums. There are no vocals, but this is not your average, meandering, jam-filled instrumental album. These songs rock. Hard. The strings are run through guitar stacks and have distortion on them for a large part of the album. The cello, generally, picks up the heavier rhythm guitar/bass sound while the violin plays what could be considered the lead lines or melodies. All of this is played behind some of the more crushing drums I've heard in a while. The result is an incredibly interesting interpretation of the musical grandeur that is heavy metal.

There are classical influences readily apparent, and people will invariably draw comparisons to Apocolyptica and the like. I would think that Godspeed You Black Emperor! is a closer fit to this band's sound, however. Granted, this band plays a much harder and more direct style than Godspeed, but the originality of the songs and the dramatic arc the whole album takes gives it a very Godspeed-like feel. This band does a lot to create emotion with their songs. A friend of mine told me this was the perfect jogging album because "it convinces you that you're running through a post-apocalyptic America with a horde of zombies ready to tear your entrails out." That is one of the best ways I can think of to describe the mental images this music puts in your head.

My main complaint with this album is that sometimes the guitar effects don't work quite so well with the string sound. The distortion sometimes makes the violin sound a little screechy. Although a certain amount of this is surely intentional, it sometimes is a little distracting. Aside from this, the album is generally a great experiment in what classical instruments can do with modern music. This is a definite must for anyone who likes the occasional change of pace from the standard guitar/bass/drums/vocals formula of most popular music today.