A collaboration between Russian death metal band BUICIDE and the Olympic Symphony Orchestra, "Symphony of Death" presents cherished gems from the DEATH back catalogue, embellished with gung-ho orchestral oomph. There are, of course, countless examples of metal bands jamming with violinists and tuba players, but not every such project resounds with the passion and musical eloquence that these relative unknowns display here. Every sensible metalhead knows that Chuck Schuldiner was, particularly towards the end of his tragically short career, an authentic composer, every bit as much as he was a world-class shredder and metal icon. As a result, as the mellifluous, orchestra-augmented strains of elegiac instrumental "Voice of the Soul" ring out, the whole DEATHORCHESTRA project makes immediate and perfect sense. The album comprises seven beautifully recreated instrumental versions of DEATH classics, each boasting an orchestral arrangement that adds innumerable extra layers of depth and intrigue to these already fascinating songs.
In truth, it's the progressive hues of later DEATH material that lend themselves most readily to an orchestra's limitless sound-making abilities. Here, "Scavenger Of Human Sorrow" and "Spirit Crusher" (both originally from 1998's "The Sound Of Perseverance") are rendered as grandiose, ornamental tributes to Schuldiner's brilliance. More importantly, unlike many more high-profile metal-with-strings affairs, the arrangements brought to bear on these songs are uniformly inspired, never robbing the riffs or aggression of their bite, but somehow heightening the emotional power of every last bombastic moment. Full-bore, bona-fide opener "Crystal Mountain" is utterly familiar in any form, but here it sounds refreshed. The decision to keep these tunes vocal-free is another masterstroke: nobody wants some plucky soul doing a bad Chuck impression, and something as intricate and intense as "Destiny" (from "Individual Thought Patterns", 1993) has more than enough musicality and texture to justify a screamless run-through.
Full credit to BUICIDE here. Paying tribute to music as a sacred and beloved as this is always a risky business, but the Russians have simultaneously allowed their own creativity to run wild and demonstrated a profound respect for and understanding of Chuck Schuldiner's legacy. The band themselves are note-perfect and tighter than a weasel's shitpipe, but the love these musicians have for DEATH shines through every virtuoso second.