REVIEW: WOLF HOFFMANN – “Headbangers Symphony”
Wolf Hoffmann is back with his second solo offering many years after his first solo record ‘Classical’. And much like the first, he tries to explore the idea of classical arrangements interpreted as metal. It is hard to comprehend such an idea. Not too long ago, Florian Magnus Maier (Non Euclid, Alkaloid, and the Hungry Gods) pointed out that metal and classical have a lot in common in regard to poly-rhythms, poly-tonality and virtuosity. He added that the difference between genres is a matter of instrumentation and that metal is a lot more flexible than say, pop music for example. It sounds great on paper. Nobody also mentioned that it takes a genius like Maier to pull this off with his music. Then what about Hoffmann’s newest endeavor into a world where metal and classical sound great as a marriage between the two. Enter ‘Headbangers Symphony’– a brave album by Hoffmann that is a result of his passion for metal and classical music. Wolf Hoffmann is best known for his lifelong work with Accept.
There was a lot to be excited about this album. The guitar goodness of Hoffmann combined with classical sounded like a great deal. Well, it is a great deal! Yet, stepping into the realm of classical with metal is still a scary idea. This meant that I could not review this record as I would normally do so with others. There really isn’t a case of what might make a better song in a record than the others where anything to do with classical in involved. In this case, it is a hit or a miss. Personally, that finally depends on the listener. Let me present my case from different perspectives in order to present a broad understanding of this fine record. Even if you really aren’t deep into classical and you are more of a casual listener, there are some arrangements that you would have heard somewhere. Some of these include “Night on Bald Mountain” by Mussorgsky, “Symphony No. 40” by Mozart and masterpieces like Tchaikovsky’s ”Swan Lake” and Beethoven’s “Meditation” from the opera ‘Thais’ by composer Jules Massenet and “Madame Butterfly”. The record opens up with Beethoven’s 9th symphony “Scherzo”. This one resembles the opening riff from Accept’s track “Teutonic Terror”. As a casual listener, you will definitely feel like you’ve heard all of this somewhere and it all comes back to you. You would love this record. You would enjoy the textures in the music. It is definitely a headbanger’s delight all the way.
But would this album qualify as a classical narrative? Not quite. Hoffmann’s love for classical is well reflected but really it doesn’t have the strongest vibe of classical. I wasn’t entirely sure if this record is meant to be looked at from a metal perspective or a classical one. It isn’t a narrow perspective. It is merely what the album wants to be- classical as metal. There is a ton of difficulties that one would have to overcome in order to interpret metal as classical but to reduce classical to the limitations of heavy metal is something else. You have to point out that Hoffmann has worked extremely hard over the years for this but the essence of classical for the sake of classical is lost. The album seems to be classical for the sake of metal. Perhaps instead the likes of metal and classical could have explored each other in their high points and not be caught it their limitations. The scope was massive, but the cause for heavy metal has taken a lot away from the classical side of things.
‘Headbangers Symphony’ is a stellar effort that showcases the best in Wolf Hoffmann. Love it or hate it, this album will still give you a kick. Hoffmann’s mastery, passion and prowess are beautifully articulated in this album. Brilliant production does justice to everything that Hoffmann strives to do. It really does pay to work with a live orchestra for an album of such diverse proportion. One might have issues on the classical side of things but you can never hate this album on the metal side of things. What makes this album essential is that it works as a great introduction into classical music for the ones who found classical boring. When do listen to what the album has to offer, you would certainly feel like you’ve heard the music somewhere without finding yourself in uncomfortable territory. Even as a person who’s passionate and conservative about classical music, you ought to give this record a chance and recommend it. Music is meant to give you an open mind. Maybe then, this is a great way to start off!