Bright & Black's self-titled debut: members of Opeth, Meshuggah, Apocalyptica, Entombed AD and Watain unite to make epic orchestral metal

With an all-star line-up of metal musicians serving as composers, Bright & Black's orchestral debut is the first serious contender for the best metal album of 2024

Bright & Black: Bright & Black
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Ever since Eddie Van Halen revolutionised guitar playing with a style derived from his boyhood training as a pianist, metal’s ties to classical music have been evident to anyone paying attention. That’s never more so than in extreme metal, where the various layers of contrasting complexity are the sound of orchestral sections distilled into guitars, drums and bass. 

Bright & Black seek to herald this legacy, asking a stellar array of metal musicians to compose for the Baltic Sea Philharmonic orchestra, with – for obvious reasons – Apocalyptica’s Eicca Toppinen as their soloist. This fierce ensemble is conducted by the innovative Kristjan Järvi, who’s made a career of pushing the limits of what modern classical can be. 

The results are frequently startling. Bloodgrind, composed by Entombed AD’s Nico Elgstrand, is death metal without the distortion, carried on a pumping beat. Even the harsh vocals are emulated through grinding percussion, to surprisingly effective results. Eicca’s Collateral Damage is cinematic in scope, its graceful strings interspersed with the kind of score that usually bolsters epic silver screen confrontations. 

Erik Danielsson offers an emotive lament in the form of Mounts Of Misfortune. Bold and rousing, it highlights the fervent passion that has long fuelled Watain. Meshuggah’s Tomas Haake and Dick Lövgren’s signature rhythmic puzzles are instantly recognisable on Armies Of The Preposterous

Suffice to say, this is a fascinating interpretation of a genre that many in the classical world would disregard as lowbrow, when it has in fact been pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with multi-layered musical composition for decades. Metal took classical music’s torch and ran with it, making this an album more important to classical music than it is metal. We’ve known for ages what this music’s capable of; let’s hope The Album opens more ears and eyes to the possibilities.

Bright & Black is out January 26.