Classical music and metal have always has a strange sort of kinship. Both explore the outer reaches of human emotion through big, dramatic bombast. When you think about it, metal is sort of like the long haired, torn jeaned cousin to the straightlaced, tuxedoed classical music. They may argue over Thanksgiving dinner, but at the end of the day, they still love eachother.
And on Concerto for Group and Orchestra, we’re in for a family reunion. This is not (as I expected) a collection of Deep Purple songs with orchestral accompaniment, a la Metallica’s S&M. Rather, it is a piece composed specifically for this melding of timbres.
It opens with an extended orchestra section that goes for about five minutes before the band wrests it from them on a heavier version of the same theme. The orchestra and the group fight for control through the first movement, arguing over how the motifs should be interpreted. As the piece continues, they gradually begin to cooperate more and more.
Movement two actually has some vocals. Movement three finds the guitar trading bars with the string section as the drum set joins the timpani in timekeeping. Overall, the piece is much more successful than other projects with the same ambition, most of whom (Emerson Lake and Palmer Vol 1, I’m looking at you) have failed entirely. And it helps that both the band sections and the orchestra sections can stand on their own.