Melodic Black Metal

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Melodic Black Metal is a sub-genre of black metal music. It features a higher focus on melodic guitar playing and sometimes keyboards than the more traditionally styled black metal acts do. They also tend to have more polished production values and a more direct style of songwriting focusing on riffs over atmosphere. Melodic black metal acts are also more likely to include some clean vocals in addition to growls in their music compared to more traditionally styled black metal acts. There is some crossover with symphonic black metal and artists that have produced releases in both styles, such as Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth, are common.

Some of the most well known melodic black metal acts include Dissection, an early pioneer of the genre, along with Sacramentum. Windir, Kvist and Melechesh are also considered key melodic black metal acts.

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WINTERHORDE Maestro Album Cover Maestro
WINTERHORDE
4.72 | 9 ratings
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MELECHESH Sphynx Album Cover Sphynx
MELECHESH
4.50 | 14 ratings
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DISSECTION Storm of the Light's Bane Album Cover Storm of the Light's Bane
DISSECTION
4.42 | 40 ratings
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WINTERHORDE Underwatermoon Album Cover Underwatermoon
WINTERHORDE
4.49 | 9 ratings
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ROTTING CHRIST The Heretics Album Cover The Heretics
ROTTING CHRIST
4.61 | 5 ratings
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WINDIR 1184 Album Cover 1184
WINDIR
4.44 | 8 ratings
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ASTARTE Quod Superius Sicut Inferius Album Cover Quod Superius Sicut Inferius
ASTARTE
4.50 | 6 ratings
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WINDIR Arntor Album Cover Arntor
WINDIR
4.34 | 15 ratings
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MELECHESH Enki Album Cover Enki
MELECHESH
4.34 | 15 ratings
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BORKNAGAR Quintessence Album Cover Quintessence
BORKNAGAR
4.30 | 16 ratings
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SEAR BLISS Glory and Perdition Album Cover Glory and Perdition
SEAR BLISS
4.38 | 8 ratings
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UADA Cult of a Dying Sun Album Cover Cult of a Dying Sun
UADA
4.42 | 6 ratings
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Age of Excuse
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MGŁA
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Nattarvet
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WORMWOOD
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Transience
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SHYLMAGOGHNAR
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Heaven That Dwells Within
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WORMWITCH
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New World Misanthropia
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THE ELYSIAN FIELDS
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The Heretics
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ROTTING CHRIST
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melodic black metal Music Reviews

MGŁA Age of Excuse

Album · 2019 · Melodic Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Black metal has emerged as one of the most creative and fertile grounds in all the metal universe where countless hybrids of musical genres have cross-pollinated and resulted in some of the most forward-thinking stylistic approaches in the entire metal universe so it always boggles my mind when a rather ordinary run of the mill band seems to emerge from the darkened battlefields and achieve a major victory in terms of commercial success and popularity. The Polish black metal outfit MGŁA is exactly one of those types of bands that i’m talking about and this band ain’t no Behemoth or Batushka.

Having formed in 2000 as the duo of multi-instrumentalist Mikołaj "M." Żentara with the collaboration of drummer Dariusz "Daren" Piper after playing together in Kriegmaschine, Daren moved on in 2006 just as M continued on to create a series of EPs and full-length albums and since then has steadily enamored the black metal world like very few have in recent days once the current drummer / percussionist Darkside (Maciej Kowalski) joined forces and conspired to conquer the world from their dark metal headquarters in Krakow, Poland.

MGŁA found its niche and has stuck to it ever since rarely deviating from its status quo and has been called the Amon Amarth of black metal in the process and that’s not an unthinkable comparison actually. Just like its death metal Swedish counterpart, MGŁA takes a melodic approach on the more extreme examples of the sub-genre and tames the once dissonant rage into more harmonic and accessible chunks of the blackened noise parade. Here in 2019, this duo has released its fourth full-length album AGE OF EXCUSE and not surprisingly continues where the previous “Exercises In Futility” left off.

While i’ve been aware of MGŁA (Polish for “fog”) for many years now, my scant exposure to a few tracks here and there has never prompted me to actually investigate further. Well, after the band releases another album with many fans going gaga, i figured it was probably time to fully digest a complete album in its entirety and AGE OF EXCUSE proved to be the easiest point of reference since it’s the most current album at this moment. Accusations of Nazi sympathies and other vicious rumors aside, MGŁA comes off as a rather generic black metal band that does everything by the books and really adds zilch to the sub-genre of black metal at all and no matter how hard i try to understand what the big whoopty-do is about this band, i remained baffled.

While nothing on AGE OF EXCUSE (or any other MGŁA release) is bad by any stretch of the imagination, neither does this band add any creative interpretations nor does it excel in any technical wizardry that sets it apart from the legions of imitators out there. The one thing they do exhibit quite well is the fact that the melodic constructs are instantly catchy much like Amon Amarth, Rotting Christ, Dimmu Borgir or a whole host of others however unlike all of THOSE bands, MGŁA just seems insincere to me and going through the motions. My first impression is that the band is basically copping a melodic take on the Deathspell Omega sound. Miikko Aspa styled raspy vocals drenched in evil, slightly off tune guitar on dissonance light and rather monotonous drumming techniques dominate AGE OF EXCUSE from beginning to end.

Another complaint about this album (and band) is that it begins to sound quite monotonous halfway through. Now it’s quite common for many to claim that a black metal album is monotonous and that is quite true for the untrained ear but the genre is all about detecting the subtleties beneath the carpet bombing of din that assaults the senses from every perceived angle. MGŁA delivers the same tritone laced chord progressions and monotonous groove with impunity. Yeah, there are some drumming outbursts from time to time and as i’ve stated, the album is perfectly listenable but as someone who has spanned the entire spectrum of black metal from its nascent origins with bands like Celtic Frost and Bathory to the more avant-garde experiments that range from Ukraine’s Graal to Norway’s Dødheimsgard, i just do not detect anything spectacular here.

Repeated listens do offer that magical ear hook experience for sure but at the end of the day i just can’t shake that this band is just playing the melodic alter ego of the much superior Deathspell Omega. Yeah, i do understand to a point. As metal ages and artists develop bolder and more avant-garde styles of musical expression, some of it is a little alienating for newbies trying to latch onto the relevance of the sub-genre but personally i would always recommend going back to the earliest examples of melodic black metal over this been-there-dont-that-before retro metal any day. Excluding bands like Emperor or Dimmu Borgir that implemented synthesizers to nurture a more melodic approach, bands like Dissection, Kvist, Nagelfar, Melechesh, Windir or Sacramentum just to name a few were much more creative in their delivery. As open minded as i am about music, once in a while a certain band makes me hit a brick wall and i just have an immediate reaction and in the case of MGŁA i am perplexed why it has become so revered while i just get a meh ho hum reaction. Oh well.

ROTTING CHRIST The Heretics

Album · 2019 · Melodic Black Metal
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Kev Rowland
I was fairly late hearing Rotting Christ for the first time, but even I have been a fan for twenty years now. It is incredible to think that Sakis Tolis (vocals, guitars, keyboards) and his brother Themis (drums) formed this band as long ago as 1987, and now in their thirty-second year they have surely produced an album which is going to make the metal world sit up and take notice. The Greeks have brought in a couple of guests to help out and have then somehow produced one of the most incredible melodic black metal albums I have ever had the privilege to hear. The album opens with monks in their cloisters, a voice describes heretics, and then suddenly the band are crunching into “In The Name of God”. This is one of the most blistering, melodic and heavy black metal numbers I have come across as the riffs blast through in perfect unison, crunching everything into mush beneath the sheer power.

It is an incredibly brutal album, yet it is wrapped in symphonic majestic black metal power, a real iron fist inside a silk glove as it is incredibly commercial yet totally uncompromising all at the same time. That this has been picked up by music buyers and has catapulted it into charts all over the world is not a surprise to me, as any metalhead who hears this (no matter what subgenre they normally listen to) will just be blown away. Irina Zybina makes her presence felt on “Vetry Zlye” with some delicate additional vocals, adding yet another touch of class to what to my ears in a faultless album. I have been playing this a great deal, and I just can’t tire of it, each and every time I listen to it I am blown away by the sheer scale as this is something that feels to be far more than just music. This is a real force, an artistic creation which is monstrously beautiful. Now if only they could tour down here so I can hear this in the live environment then it would feel complete. This is one of the most important albums within this genre ever released, as it cuts through and across so many areas and is an amazing achievement.

EIKENSKADEN The Black Laments Symphony

Album · 2001 · Melodic Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
EIKENSKADEN is one of the many projects of Stefan Kozak of Metz, France. Other bands he has been involved with are Azerlath, Bolverk and Mystic Forest, the latter of which is what began this project in 1998 after that one ended. Mystic Forest only really got to the demo phase of band projects by the time this one was formed but continued in conjunct with this one. EIKENSKADEN has released four albums to date before truncated the moniker to simply SKADEN. This debut album THE BLACK LAMENTS SYMPHONIE came out in 2001.

Kozak’s interest in EIKENSKADEN was to create a more theatrical classical take on the black metal sound. The usual black metal elements are found in abundance such as tremolo picked guitar riffs, heavy buzzsaw distortion and raspy unintelligible lyrics screamed from under the din along with energetic deliveries that offer blastbeats and raging fury however the chaos is channeled with the order of neoclassical underpinnings which offer a much more melodic black metal experience than the average pissed off second waver.

The project consists of only two members. Kozak plays all the usual instruments which includes guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and piano and Gabriel “Gaabh” Palmieri plays only the lead guitar solos which there are plenty of. In addition to the relentless black metal bombast are soaring atmospheric melodies and introspective moments were classical piano rolls are left in solitude to conjure up a lugubrious melancholy. There are also doomy slower riffs that allow power chords to sustain while a lazy percussive backbeat allows the atmospheric wailing of the lead guitar to slink up and down spaced out musical scales.

While Kozak’s other band Mystic Forest was focused more on atmospheric constructs complete with female vocal parts, EIKENSKADEN is completely dedicated to thick noisy black metal that is married with neoclassical melodic compositional approaches which proves that the black metal aisle of the metal supermarket is the most adaptable to almost anything thrown at it. It almost always sticks and the infusion of Chopin piano chops and progressively infused guitar wails work quite well despite stealing a little thunder from the scary aspects that the genre can muster up.

Second wave black metal purists only interested in Satanic ritual music or evil as fuck bombast will probably hate this as much as Dimmu Borgir gets trashed but if you don’t mind an interesting mix of something that may resemble Symphony X more than Darkthrone at least in melodic flow then this isn’t a bad album at all. There’s enough black metal darkness to keep this from being too cheery but at the same time this style of music will never come close to be tagged depressive black metal either. A very cool hybrid but in the end not really enough variations in the album overall to make it absolutely essential either. This is an interesting album indeed that sits somewhere in between.

WORMWITCH Heaven That Dwells Within

Album · 2019 · Melodic Black Metal
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Nightfly
Black metal is a genre I dip in and out of. I have my favourites like Watain, Immortal, Melechesh and Dissection to name a few but I’m far more likely to be listening to death or thrash when it comes to the more extreme side of things. Now and again though something comes along in the black metal field that really grabs my attention. One such album is Heaven That Dwells Within, the second full length release from Canadians Wormwitch.

I’d heard they were a mix of black metal and crust punk. I’ve only had a brief listen to their debut after hearing this but that certainly seems a fair description of Strike Mortal Soil as far as I can recall. Heaven That Dwells Within seems to have reduced the crust quota though that D beat synonymous with crust rears its head from time to time, this being more of a melodic black metal affair with touches of melodic death metal at times. As opener Disciple Of The Serpent Star kicks in Tribulation immediately comes to mind. As the album progresses it’s not a one off either as they share that bands ear for a catchy riff loaded with melancholia. DOTSS happens to be my favourite song on the album but there’s no shortage of other great moments with plenty of variation with drums shifting through blasts, double kicks, D-beats and more. Whilst the vocals are of a fairly standard black metal style they’re well done but the strength of this album lies in its musicality. There’s no shortage of hook laden riffs, tremolo picking, searing licks and melodic solos – something else that reminds me of Tribulation. There’s enough variation to keep things interesting throughout and Lord Of Chains throws in a dose of dissonance which I always like.

I really love this album, probably my most played new release of the last month or so. I can’t see that changing any time soon and this one will certainly make my end of year list, somewhere near the top I suspect. To add to the appeal it has a great cover - a section of the John William Waterhouse painting “The Lady Of Shalott” which looks even better on the vinyl version . If you’re a black metal fan you really need to check this band out if you haven’t already.

CRAFTEON Cosmic Reawakening

Album · 2017 · Melodic Black Metal
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Kev Rowland
I have no idea where this 2017 album came from, but somehow it has made its way from Denver, Colorado all the way to Oxford, New Zealand. From what I have been able to discover, this is the only release to date, although according to their FB site they have been working on the next album. Their music is based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, while the name ‘Crafteon’ itself is a play on words of "Lovecraftian" and "aeon”. The band have a suitably unusual logo, interesting artwork, all wear corpse paint and have given themselves suitable names, so we have Lord Mordiggian (vocals, guitar), Fthaggua (lead guitar, backing vocals), Ithaqua (bass, backing vocals) and Rhagorthua (drums). It all adds up to one thing, right? Black metal. Well, yeah, but…

Although their music is based within the black metal genre, it is way more melodic than one would normally expect and incorporates elements of power metal and bring in early Metallica and even Amon Amarth. Some of the guitar solos are straight out of the “normal” heavy metal area, while the bass is deep and raw enough to sound as if Ithaqua has been studying the works of Chris Squire. Lyrically, Mordiggian (or Josh Mortensen to his mum) has an interesting approach that initially he wanted to write lyrics based on Lovecraft, but felt he was unable to do this justice. So he used what was in the public domain and turned Lovecraft’s words into lyrics, amending where there was no other choice. Overall this is an incredibly accessible album, and one I can imagine people coming to even if they are not normally interested in the genre. Melodic at all times, yet still keeping true to certain elements of black metal, with vocals which have been influenced by Darkthone, and plenty of riffing, it is certainly interesting. I do think the drumming could have been more powerful and provide more balance and dynamics instead of relying so much on double bass drum pedals, but I am somewhat surprised they have yet to be signed as they have a powerful image to go with the music so it will be interesting to see how they progress with the next one.

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