Symphonic metal doesn't do much for me. Even at Emperor and Dimmu Borgir's best, their fussy keyboards and strings keep them from the top of the black metal heap, and bands like Nightwish embody the bombast that most people hate about metal. Give me a good Danny Elfman score any time I need moody orchestration and Rust in Peace whenever I need to thrash, but keep the two separate.
However, if symphonic metal actually were as enthralling as most Scandinavian metalheads pretend it is, it would probably sound like Megadeth's "Use the Man."
At the end of the '90s, Megadeth started taking artistic risks again, most of which didn't work, but here's one that did. Starting with a sample of the Searchers' "Needles and Pins" and employing the simplest chorus in Megadethstory, Dave Mustaine played a glassy-eyed junkie so convincingly that he could include one of his most electrifying solos and still sound strung out. The violins drift in and out with sun-dried haziness until the 3:22 mark, when they lurch up in the mix. This is the only symphonic metal song that reminds me more of "A Day in the Life" than "A Fifth of Beethoven."