When one thinks of symphonic metal, what comes to mind are soaring female vocals reminiscent of opera-trained singers – with a secondary vocalist that performs death growls, and lyrics that deal with mythology and fantasy [1]. While Asphodelia, an Italian symphonic metal band, fits into the symphonic metal label, it doesn’t adhere to the convention of the traditional aesthetic. There is something darker happening in Asphodelia’s music, which may be due to both their themes and name.

The group’s moniker, “Asphodelia”, is uncommon; what comes to mind is the flower the act takes their name from. An asphodel is a flower that grows in parts of the Mediterranean and is often associated with death and Persephone, the goddess of spring and wife to Hades, the Greek god of the underworld, who wears a garland of these flowers. In Greek mythology, the Asphodel Meadows were a place where spirits of the dead go after living an average life. Referenced in Homer’s epic poem Odyssey, Western literary history has accepted the notion that the Asphodel Meadows were seen as a pleasant place – almost like a paradise, with beautiful, fragrant flowers that evoke a sense of peace.

However, within the Odyssey, there are descriptions of the Meadows being seen as a mirthless, gloomy place, where the spirits of the dead weep and wail without purpose or dreams [2]. This is brings up an interesting concept about how ancient Greeks grappled with the concept of the afterlife, specifically where a soul would go after death. With Welcome Apocalypse, Asphodelia not only touches upon the death-life dichotomy and the afterlife, but also other aspects of Greek mythology, particularly the myth of Cassandra, a seer who predicted events but no one believed her (“Cassandra”); the life of heroes after their usefulness has ended (“Heroes”); and numerous references to the actual flower (“Flowers of Evil”).

Now, in regards to the music, Asphodelia forgoes the traditional symphonic metal aesthetic for something darker. Traditionally, the aforementioned high vocal range of singers is used to convey an ethereal quality that pairs with the music. Vocalist Samuela Fuiani sings in a lower range, which makes her sound more approachable and down-to-earth. The usage of a lower timbre emphasizes the idea that vocals can be “dark”, that there is something ominous and strange beyond the flamboyant themes the genre usually represents. The higher tones in the soprano and mezzo-soprano ranges are typically used in symphonic metal, so hearing a vocalist sing comfortably in the lower tones of that range takes the image of the ethereal goddess and turns it on its head.

Watch the official “Welcome Apocalypse” lyric video below.

Symphonic metal can also, at times, come off as high-brow and inaccessible, which can easily overwhelm the inexperienced listener. What Fuiani and company have done is take the sound aesthetic and emphasized the heavier parts of the music – the heavy guitars, the dynamic yet precise drumming, the backing keyboards – in order to create something that is both memorable and varied. The album also has a great sense of cohesion and superb musical arrangements that shows off their production value. This is paired with their choruses and their dynamic shifts in sound, which is seen particularly in “Heroes”, “Flowers of Evil”, and their rendition of U2’s “With or Without You”. Seeing U2 in metal is strange – the only band in recent memory to cover U2 prior to this was Disturbed, with their cover of “ISHFWILF”- but Asphodelia makes the song their own. They speed its tempo, and make it even more emotional, resulting in a ballad that shows the extent of the tragedy with living two separate lives.

All in all, while Welcome Apocalypse may not bring anything new to the genre itself, it’s still a good album with a high replay value that sounds different from anything else you may be acquainted with. It’s catchy, melodic, and combines various Mediterranean influences with a clear metal sound. If you are into the dark and somber side of symphonic metal, then this album comes strongly recommended.

Welcome Apocalypse Track Listing:

01. Welcome Apocalypse
02. Cassandra
03. Alive
04. Blackout
05. Heroes
06. Secret War
07. Behind a Smile
08. Dust
09. Mirror Mirror
10. Like Water
11. The Show
12. Flowers of Evil
13. With or Without You (U2 cover)

Run Rime: 62:09
Release Date: April 20, 2018

[1] Camacho, M. B., & del Campo, N. P. (2017). “A twist in the song: Retracing myth and Dante’s poem in heavy metal music”. Revista ICONO14 Revista científica de Comunicación y Tecnologías emergentes, 15(1), 166-185.
[2] Reece, S. (2007). “Homer’s Asphodel Meadow”. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, 47(4), 389-400.