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
4.68 | 12 ratings
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UADA Devoid of Light Album Cover Devoid of Light
UADA
4.54 | 11 ratings
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ROTTING CHRIST The Heretics Album Cover The Heretics
ROTTING CHRIST
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MELECHESH Sphynx Album Cover Sphynx
MELECHESH
4.40 | 16 ratings
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WINDIR 1184 Album Cover 1184
WINDIR
4.44 | 9 ratings
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DISSECTION Storm of the Light's Bane Album Cover Storm of the Light's Bane
DISSECTION
4.31 | 51 ratings
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MELECHESH Enki Album Cover Enki
MELECHESH
4.35 | 17 ratings
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UADA Cult of a Dying Sun Album Cover Cult of a Dying Sun
UADA
4.38 | 9 ratings
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WINTERHORDE Underwatermoon Album Cover Underwatermoon
WINTERHORDE
4.35 | 12 ratings
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KVIST For kunsten maa vi evig vike Album Cover For kunsten maa vi evig vike
KVIST
4.31 | 17 ratings
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UADA Djinn Album Cover Djinn
UADA
4.45 | 6 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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melodic black metal Music Reviews

AITVARAS Aitvaras

Album · 2019 · Melodic Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Named after a nature spirit in Lithuanian mythology, AITVARAS is a modern day melodic black metal band from Lienz, Austria which has been around for quite some time but so far has only released one album. The band existed from 2006-2011 and then reformed in 2017 finally delivering its self-titled debut in 2019 on the Anthrazeit Record label.

The band has featured the same lineup under both formations which includes Patrick Reiter (bass), Eugen Klammsteiner (drums), Thomas Pichler (guitar), Johannes Moser (guitar) and Andreas Kaucic (vocals). This album features eight tracks at around 47 minutes. This is basically the standard second wave black metal affair with the usual tremolo guitar picking, blastbeat furor and raspy tortured vocals. Post-metal elements also are mixed into the fabric of the album’s run.

The music delivers both clear arpeggiated guitar moments with melodic guitar licks that offer moments of respite as well as the typical frenetic bombast from the camp of Darkthrone, Satyricon or Immortal. The music delivers a nice mix off tones in its guitar deliveries and the production is fairly decent for a modern black metal release. Everything is audible including the bass lines without sounding too polished. There seems to be distant atmospheres at times in the background but for the most part AITVARAS plays a rather raw style of black metal.

While the atmospheric melodic black metal approach is the status quo here, some tracks like “Pestkammer” are more in the post-black metal camp with a Shining like depressive black metal secondary feature. There post-metal tracks are rather chugging in nature with a twangy guitar lick accompanying choppy power chords and a more relaxed feel which contrast starkly with the more classic second wave moments. Sometimes the two styles mix with varying results.

Well, this really is about as generic as modern black metal can get really. A completely by the books, copy and paste stylistic approach that offers nothing that hasn’t been done a million times before. The black metal paradigm has been pushed into so many directions that a basic style like this is rather tedious and dull especially after you’ve experienced black metal in its vast expansiveness that has evolved into every nook and cranny of hybridization. Nothing wrong with the raw back to basics approach but AITVARAS doesn’t really animate this much into a compelling set of tracks. The musicians are clearly competent but the creativity is lacking. This is an OK release but ultimately doesn’t beckon a return visit.

DISSECTION Storm of the Light's Bane

Album · 1995 · Melodic Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
A landmark in the development of fusing the black metal and death metal genres, DISSECTION’s second release STORM OF THE LIGHT’S BANE is almost ubiquitously regarded as one of the best metal albums of all time but this band certainly didn’t come without generating any controversy to say the least. The album continued what it started on its debut “The Somberlain” which itself was cutting edge as DISSECTION’s location in Strömstad found itself closer to Oslo’s second wave black metal than to the melo-death frenzy rocking Gothenburg to the south in the early to mid-1990s. The band effortlessly melded the two styles together like forging a battle sword for battle. While the debut was competent enough in its own right, STORM OF THE LIGHT’S BANE tied up all the loose ends and polished the gem of a stylistic gem into a shiny sheen where the listener couldn’t distinguish where the black metal ends and the melo-death begins.

Thwarted by the lackadaisical attitude of guitarist John Zwetsloot who failed to appear for rehearsals and finally even didn’t bother to show up to gigs, DISSECTION recruited former Satanized guitarist Johan Norman who was not only able but willing to take the band to the next level. The band spent the next two years honing their unique fusion style of metal until the glistening masterpiece STORM OF THE LIGHT’S BANE emerged in November of 1995 to welcoming fans and critics alike. What the debut had started, this sophomore effort forged into a pearl of perfectly infused black metal furor with the elegant sophistication of folk melody inspired melodic death metal. The disparate elements of softer parts, heavy extreme metal excesses and cold, bleak atmospheres had coalesced into the perfect sum of the parts and a legend in the overall metal universe for time immemorial. The album is nothing less than epic in not only its visionary stylistic developments but also in terms of tight memorable songwriting.

Primarily written by lead vocalist and guitarist Jon Nödtveidt, STORM OF THE LIGHT’S BANE delivers eight tracks of metal magnificence beginning with the military march heft of the opening “All The Fathomless Depths” before erupting into one of the most competent displays of blackened melo-death too the entire era. Building on beautifully designed twin guitar harmonies and folk musical scales, STORM OF THE LIGHT’S BANE balanced tender clean guitar arpeggios with thundering power chords, tremolo black metal picking and lightning fast death metal riffing styles that adopted the best aspects of both the second wave black metal scene and merged them with the more technically infused sounds of the Swedish death metal approach. The twin guitar attacks relied less on traditional 80s metal this time around and evolved into a unique cohesion of dueling riffing that occasionally broke out into lead guitar attacks that emphasized the melodic construct in a more virtuosic approach.

Nödtveidt’s demon from hell vocal style had hit full capacity while the compositions were taken to the fusion’s logical conclusion. The drumming style of Ole Öhman featured some of the boldest technical moves in all of the early 90s metal scene with endless variations in drum fills and full-on blastbeat ferocity. The strong melodic developments keep the album from stagnating and each individual track glimmers in its own magnificence thus keeping the album’s 43 minute run completely exhilarating with no filler material bogging down the momentum. To sum it up, the album just rips from beginning to end and then after the pinnacle of the ghoulish deliverance, gently delivers you back into a placid state of mind with the classically inspired piano piece closer “No Dreams Breed in Breathless Sleep” thus signifying the end of an album that breezes by much too soon. The album is and cold and forbidding as the scythed grim reaper on horseback suggests from the cover art.

This would be the end of DISSECTION well at least for another 12 years since after this second offering was released, frontman Jon Nödtveidt was sentenced to prison for the murder of Josef ben Meddour and although DISSECTION would arise from the ashes with a totally new backing band, the momentum had more than been lost and Nödtveidt would soon commit suicide thus ending the once great band forever. What amazes me about some of the early Scandinavian black metal bands is how brilliant and gifted they were musically speaking yet were some of the most troubled souls with unthinkable psychological damage. These guys were as unstable as dynamite at a gun shooting range and yet still found it in them for a brief moment in time to craft some of the most gorgeous musical expressions ever recorded. It’s hard to believe i didn’t even like DISSECTION at first because i just couldn’t accept the two merging metal forces together. It just didn’t sound right but now i listen to this one and am utterly blown away by its sheer perfection. A good example to not let initial experiences taint your possible delayed enthrallment. This one is definitely worthy of all the hype. Now i’m smitten too.

DISSECTION The Somberlain

Album · 1993 · Melodic Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
As one of the earliest extreme metal bands to emerge from Sweden, DISSECTION had a unique vantage point from its point of origin in the city of Strömstad being closer to Oslo, Norway than Gothenburg to the south. This explains why DISSECTION is credited as a pioneer in fusion of the second wave black metal sounds of Norway with the melodic death metal style that was taking the Gothenburg scene by storm. Unfortunately the band is not only legendary for its musical ingenuity but was one of those crazy Satanic cult band of trouble makers which eventually led original vocalist Jon Nödtveldt to kill an Algerian national living in Sweden for which he would be sent to prison and thus breaking up the band after only two albums.

While the band started out as a standard thrash metal band under the moniker of Siren’s Yell in 1988, the members of Jon Nödtveidt, Ole Öhman, Peter Palmdahl, and Mattias "Mäbe" Johansson quickly latched onto the new extreme metal styles quacking evolving in Scandinavia and released a few demos before releasing its debut THE SOMBERLAIN which emerged in 1993. This album coincided with the suicide of Mayhem’s lead vocalist Dead and was dedicated to his to his passing. While the drama was heavy with this band, so too was the talent and the band’s original two releases are now considered classics in the entire metal universe. While THE SOMBERLAIN was the lesser of the two releases with the slightly superior “Storm Of The Light’s Bane” following two years later, the effortless fusion of not only death and black metal but melodic styles from 80s heavy metal catapulted this band into the top ranks of the ugly metal underground.

While blackened death metal has become quite common well into the 21st century, DISSECTION delivered it effortlessly unlike any other thus immediately setting itself apart from the bleak musical simplicity of the early stages of the second wave of black metal while offering a darker Satanic thematic approach absent from the early Gothenburg melo-death. The band distinguished itself from most black metal of the day by crafting memorable melodic approaches that were delivered through the twin guitar attack in a similar style to Iron Maiden or Judas Priest however the atmosphere and raspy growls were straight out of the Darkthrone playbook yet all delivered with the sophisticated bombast of Swedish melo-death bigwigs like Dark Tranquility, Edge of Sanity and At The Gates. All of these elements kept DISSECTION well in its own musical world during its existence although traces of fellow Swedes Bathory permeate the release as well.

THE SOMBERLAIN is a masterwork of melo-death which features melancholic classical guitar intros that explode into molten metal ferocity that offered a black metal aesthetic that assaulted the senses with technical percussion, dueling melodic lead guitar and a propensity for thick chugging riffs that walked the line perfectly between the detached irreverence of black metal and the more actively engaged wizardry of the more technical adept death metal style. The album offered nearly 46 minutes of playing time with 12 distinct tracks that each stood on their own and offered Luciferian philosophical themes that connect DISSECTION more to the occult magic subject matter of the Norwegian black metal scene, the thematic presence that would prevail throughout the band’s short initial run and one that would ultimately find them at odds with the law. The band seemed to be running a parallel path with Mayhem as it was involved in Satanic rituals that involved animal sacrifices and conjuring up demons.

While considered a classic of both black metal and death metal, THE SOMBERLAIN was marred from total perfection by the noncommittal insouciance of guitarist John Zwetsloot who increasingly failed to show up for rehearsals and eventually even didn’t even make it to gigs. The band would fire him and replace him with Satanized guitarist Johan Norman before recording the more focused second album. Despite all the dramatic events and lack of total band cohesions, DISSECTION’s first album turned out pretty damn good with a nice cohesive flow that melded classic 80s sounds with the extremities that were dominating the early 90s. While i too have always preferred the following “Storm of the Light’s Bane,” i have to admit that THE SOMBERLAIN has grown on me over the years as it certainly yields an intricate display of clever compositional fortitude rightfully ranking high on most revered albums of the era.

DAWN Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy)

Album · 1998 · Melodic Black Metal
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SilentScream213
Probably the purest Melodic Black Metal album ever recorded. Every song is nonstop melodic tremolo riffing over unrelentingly blast beats. Despite the incredible quality of this album, it has almost no experimentation, no outside influences, and very little variety. But that makes it such an iconic triumph of the genre. Anyone want to hear the best and purest example of Meloblack, you slap this baby on.

Right from the album art, there is a certain beauty to this. That perfect shot of a dark sunset encapsulates the catchy, poignant lead guitar melodies that dominate the otherwise morose and oppressive atmosphere. One after another, songs lay down memorable riffs, and the whole thing is filled with great lyrics as well. The near-constant blast beating does get to be a bit much at times, but the drumming performance is so great I can’t really complain.

Two songs definitely steal the show a bit, those being the opener and closer. Both have some of the best lead guitar riffs of all time, and a wonderfully somber atmosphere that is dually triumphant and powerful. Perfect way to open and close the album. This one is a shining star.

WINTERHORDE Neptunian

Album · 2023 · Melodic Black Metal
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adg211288
It's a rare album review where I can still remember certain comments I made about it years after the fact, but that's the case for me with the previous album of Israel's Winterhorde, Maestro (2016). I remember the spiel of excitement I formed my review's introduction around, talking about how getting certain albums in my inbox from labels or promoters would lead to that album being given absolute priority to. Maestro was one such album and naturally Neptunian (2023), generated the same excitement. Make no mistake about Winterhorde: these guys are damn good. I also remember how I ended that review though, lamenting how it had been six years since Underwatermoon (2010) and hoping that it wouldn't take another six years before we heard a follow-up. Turns out it's taken seven. I guess some bands just aren't going to be as productive as others and as they have been releasing albums of such a high standard, it was okay.

It was okay...until Neptunian.

As I listened to the album for the first time, I felt my excitement gradually fading, replaced by shock, confusion and horror. What had happened to the band that made those amazing earlier albums? What had made them deliver THIS as their long awaited fourth studio album?

(Sighs deeply, trying to regain composure)

Okay, so Neptunian isn't a bad sounding release per se. But it's an extremely underwhelming one that seems to contain none of the kind of special character I've come to expect from Winterhorde's compositions that made particularly the Underwatermoon and Maestro albums such a joy to listen to. The progressive flair that defined those albums seemed watered down to the point of being swallowed by the ocean's tides, leaving a melodic/symphonic black metal album behind that, while far from terrible, just isn't that exciting to listen to.

If this album were from a new band releasing their debut and I heard it they might pass me by with a few lukewarm comments about potential, but this is a new album from Winterhorde. They're a band which had previously figuratively put my jaw firmly on the floor with their progressive take on melodic black metal. Twice. The expectations for such a band are higher, as is the standard I hold them to, which also makes the disappointment in this case so much worse. Coupled with the waiting time factor of seven years, this makes Neptunian one of those things that does not seem worth it no matter what angle I try to look at it from.

And my word I hate saying that about this band, I really do. I bloody love these guys. I meant what I said in my opener to this review that they are damn good. I own all three of their prior albums and while I don't give as much playtime to their debut Nebula (2006), both Underwatermoon and Maestro get spun regularly. Unfortunately Neptunian just doesn't hold a candle to them, despite repeated spins in hope that it's one of those albums that may not wow at first but improves with familiarity.

Sadly it was not.

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