Though it's an imperfect designation, symphonic black metal is the most common term for a European-centered style that emerged in the mid- to late '90s. It isn't literally symphonic, of course; that simply refers to the thick-sounding instrumentation and sweeping, dramatic soundscapes. Nor is its connection to black metal always readily audible; although nearly all of its bands started out playing standard-issue black metal, symphonic black metal often bears little surface resemblance to its immediate forebear. The starting point for symphonic black metal was the early-'90s sound of Norwegian black metal, specifically the wing of bands that employed sorrowful, melodic keyboard lines as a counterpoint to their furious assaults. Black metal groups looking to push past the inherent limitations of the form began de-emphasizing the guitar and adding elements of progressive rock (primarily psychedelic space-rock bands like Pink Floyd) and goth metal, with its emphasis on chilling, eerie texture. The resulting sound is usually lush, and much more inviting and accessible than straightforward black metal. After outfits like Tiamat and Samael pioneered the form, a new wave of bands led by the Gathering also began incorporating ethereal female singers, sometimes as the sole vocal focus. The symphonic black metal movement remains somewhat limited, partly because of its epic ambitions and partly because it isn't traditionally metallic, but its fascinating synthesis of influences made it an instantly identifiable alternative in underground metal at the turn of the millennium.