Earthen Grave violinist melds classical, metal

by Rob Jones
November 27, 2012 –

Classical music and metal are not as strange bed-fellows as first seems. Both try to take the listener on a journey from A to B via certain key points emphasizing conflict/discovery/victory in a narrative style that’s as old as the hills.

Both rely on a sense of heaviness of life itself in their songwriting, classical from a typically more light perspective, and metal from a darker one. Both are full of references and allusions to literature and ancient history.

As classical violinist Rachel Barton, who plays in doom metal band Earthen Grave in addition to symphony orchestras, points out, metal finds inspiration and even riffs in classical music, but even when it’s going in a different direction it draws from the same well of inspiration.

“When you listen to the great guitar soloists, they’re stealing licks from Vivaldi,” said Pine. She mixes Led Zeppelin, Paganini, AC/DC, Vivaldi and Black Sabbath in some of her live shows, when not creating crashing curtains of doom metal with Earthen Grave.

Classical music is named for its creators’ desire to allude to ancient civilization in form and ethos, specifically but not exclusively the classics – Greece and Rome. What could be more metal than obsessing about the ancient world? In the post-Renaissance world that classical music came out of, studying those older civilizations and reviving their aesthetic values was seen as enlightened and forward-looking, contrary to the “newer is better, always” argument we’re used to hearing about our own times.

Metal and Classical also have in common then that they are both a kind of romanticism: oddly traditional whilst at the same time being futurist and affirming. Through an embrace of the powerful and epic in life, both use an acknowledgement of life’s heaviness to find meaning in its struggle.

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6 comments

  • Othala

    Good article, Earthen Grave have an interesting take on heaviness. In general, the use of violin for Metal isn’t really far-fetched at all. It seems like a more appropriate orchestral instrument for a lot of Death Metal than the often abused “creeeepy” organ. Listening to “The Red In The Sky Is Ours” is a good example. No gimmick, just another layer of narration when called for. That could work for a fair amount of other respectable bands.

  • John S.

    Imagine her covering “Rebel Lands” (MA) or “The Way” (Therion) or “City of Screaming Statues” (AtG) or, or, or…

  • Tralfamadorian

    I play violin; perhaps I’ll record a cover of a simple metal song and post it to metal hall. (simple because I’m rusty)

    Othala, don’t be hating on the creepy organ! Infester, Morbid Angel, and Necrophobic all used it to great effect on their debuts.

  • Ben

    Doom metal needs to put out a little more work to impress, and the subject of metal/classical crossover covers has been ground to death. However, as pointed out, using strings as another layer of music, and especially in counterpoint, is a very good development which can help the genere evolove.
    A good example of this layering is actually found in the use of electronic sounds in Beherit’s Engram.

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