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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DISSECTION Storm of the Light's Bane Album Cover Storm of the Light's Bane
DISSECTION
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MELECHESH Sphynx Album Cover Sphynx
MELECHESH
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WINTERHORDE Underwatermoon Album Cover Underwatermoon
WINTERHORDE
4.49 | 9 ratings
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WINDIR Arntor Album Cover Arntor
WINDIR
4.36 | 15 ratings
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WINDIR 1184 Album Cover 1184
WINDIR
4.44 | 8 ratings
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MELECHESH Enki Album Cover Enki
MELECHESH
4.36 | 15 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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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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DISSECTION The Somberlain Album Cover The Somberlain
DISSECTION
4.25 | 38 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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melodic black metal Music Reviews

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.

ASTARTE Quod Superius Sicut Inferius

Album · 2002 · Melodic Black Metal
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Warthur
This is the last hurrah from the original Astarte trio of Kinthia, Tristessa and Nemesis; Tristessa would keep the band going after this for a couple of albums before succumbing to leukemia complications. Whereas those later releases had Tristessa working with a clutch of allies, the early Astarte releases stood out from the black metal pack by having a woman-dominated lineup, which was uncommon in metal in general and just about unheard-of in black metal.

Not content with kicking down gender barriers in black metal, on Quod Superius they also kick down musical barriers, with a melodic black metal sound which deftly works in a few symphonic elements here and there, with pieces like the instrumental Sickness showcasing the band's technical capabilities whilst still remaining emotionally engaging and atmospheric. Black metal bands who shift from a raw style (as Astarte had on their earliest albums) into a more clean style of production are taking a bit of a risk, because that's when their true instrumental capabilities become apparent, but in this case Astarte are unveiled as a more than competent trio. It's something of a shame that Kinthia and Nemesis seem to have dropped out of the scene after this, and we can only hope to hear more from them in the future.

DAWN Promotional Demo 1993

Demo · 1993 · Melodic Black Metal
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UMUR
"Promotional Demo 1993" is the 3rd demo release by Swedish death/black metal act Dawn. The demo was independently released in 1993. The three tracks from the demo are also featured on "The Eternal Forest - Demo Years 91-93" compilation album. Dawn were formed in 1990 and originally played death metal, but later shifted towards a more melodic oriented black metal style.

The music on "Promotional Demo 1993" is still old school Swedish death metal, but something has changed since the release of the "Apparition" demo in December 1992. A blackened touch has crept into the music, and while it´s only an element of the instrumental part of the music, the vocals by Henke Forss are now a blackened aggressive snarl, instead of the deep and largely unintelligible growling vocals featured on the first two demos. The difference is best heard on "In the Depths of My Soul" which is a track that was originally featured on "Apparition" but is included here in a re-recorded version.

The sound production is clear, and semi-professsional, and is actually pretty similar to the sound production on "Apparition". While the production is detailed enough, it´s not the most charming or suiting production for music like this. Especially the drums feature a cold clicky sound, which could have prospered from a more organic tone. When that is said the general quality of the material and the memorability of the tracks are better here than on "Apparition", the new vocal approach is also much more interesting and effectful than the monotone growling vocals on the early demos. Therefore "Promotional Demo 1993" is a good representation of the new more blackened death metal direction Dawn were heading in. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is deserved.

THE ELYSIAN FIELDS We... The Enlightened

Album · 1999 · Melodic Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
THE ELYSIAN FIELDS took an extraordinarily long time to follow up their debut album “Adelain” with a four year gap between their first offering and their sophomore release WE… THE ENLIGHTENED which came out in 1999, but it makes a lot more sense when you realize that this was not a normal type of band in any way whatsoever. This was a band that was initially composed of two music nerds who only wanted to make music in their spare time and never even once performed their creations in a live setting. Mostly this was due to the ambitious nature of the music itself and the unwillingness to collaborate with any sort of label in order to increase the band’s membership required for such live events to suit the sounds heard on the albums.

This was a passion and a hobby that only happened when the music allowed and in this case it took four long years to unleash the next chapter of the band which this time around found the addition of the third member Marinos A. who joined the Greek extreme metal band to add more guitars and keyboard skills to the mix which was an excellent idea because WE… THE ENLIGHTENED took all the signature sounds of the debut album and takes every several levels further. He would also help in the composition department which also saw many positive turns for the better.

While “Adelain” introduced the burgeoning 90s extreme metal scene to a totally new way of hybridizing not only metal genres but disparate influences ranging from new wave, classical and electronica (well, for those who were paying attention), WE… THE ENLIGHTENED further expands all those boundary crossing adventures and expands its tentacles even further all the while creating more sophisticated compositions, more intricate melodic developments and a much broader range of dynamic shifts, expansive soundscape horizons and metal hybridization possibilities. As with the debut THE ELYSIAN FIELDS deliver melodic based tracks that generally speaking utilize the melodic hook of a Pagan folk based keyboard riff as the main anchoring and then infinitely expand the dynamics and textures of the music around it.

The other constants making a reprise is the mix of death and black metal influences with other meanderings into thrash, doom and gothic metal territories. While the band did a great job at expanding the typical role of keyboards in an extreme metal band on “Adelain,” some of the antics on this one were just plain unprecedented at the time. The closest comparison would probably be early Emperor with biting caustic metal riffing accompanied by the pacifying effect of melodic keyboards however THE ELYSIAN FIELDS make the keyboards much more of an acrobatic player in their sound with key riffing so intense that it makes Keith Emerson wankery seem obsolete.

I’ll explain in detail the progressions of my two favorite tracks in order to demonstrate how sophisticated the band’s sound has become at this point. “Until The Cries Rise In The Heart” begins with a rather doomy sludge riffing pattern with a melancholic keyboard riff as a counterpoint but quickly picks up the tempo with the raspy vocals ushering in the black metal riffing and blastbeats. The keys increasingly display a more classical feel but drop out as the tremolo guitars, bantering bass and blastbeats are joined by Bill A.’s frantic angry vocals. After a couple of minutes the metal drops and the track morphs into a melodic yet high tempo piano run with thrash metal guitar riffs. The vocals exhibit a wide range of semi-spoken and shouted lyrics before the keys go fuckin’ crazy and sound like they’re ready for take off on a Philip Glass field trip before being joined in by the extreme metal riffing and vocal bantering. The interchange between melodic counterpoints is quite sophisticated as well as addictive.

“Arcana Caelestia” begins with howling wolves and then a thrash metal guitar attack with black metal vocals before morphing into a tremolo picked power metal type of riff that alternates with a more black metal oriented sequence. The vocals remain wickedly raspy and evil as the metal bounces back and forth between the stylistic shifts. The real surprise comes in as the metal turns into an epic soundtrack theme with military march style drumming and then finally a slow and melancholic organ and acoustic guitar passage. The interplay of tremolo guitar picking and keys returns and goes through a series of melodic repetitions before the earlier thrash metal riffs make a reprise but the track picks up speed on the last minutes with the intensity ratcheted up with the guitar, bass and drums and the keys go insane all the while Bill A. is coughing blood.

While those 2 are the most extreme and varied tracks, the others are carefully crafted and exhibit many stylistic shifts as well like a restless chameleon parading down a psychedelic street fair. While speed and aggression often rule the roost, they never usurp the throne of the melodic development but on the other hand always keep it intense and edgy. Add with that plenty of tempo drifting into doom, goth and even what sounds like early porto-metal chord changing domination and you’re in for one brilliantly composed album. While the comparisons to other Hellenic black metal acts such as Rotting Christ are valid in certain areas especially in the vocals, at this point THE ELYSIAN FIELDS delivered some of the most unique sounding metal in all of Europe.

Needless to say, this band has been woefully underrated, tearfully under the radar and utterly forgotten as time has marched on throughout the ensuing decades. While this lack of recognition is somewhat understandable since this is a band that has never played live and existed in a small European country far away from where most of the action was taking place, it is still dismaying that it has never seen the just dessert of its fruitful labor and quite sad that in this modern era that this unique band hasn’t seen some sort of resurrection in popularity for its most unique contributions that could possibly give it the subgenre tag of “chameleon metal.” Personally, THE ELYSIAN FIELDS has become an unexpected favorite band in my world with WE… THE ENLIGHTENED finding its way to not only the top of their four album canon but also ranks fairly high on my absolute favorite melodic extreme metal album list. This is one that should not be missed. Don’t let the melodic tag fool you. This is brutal and gentle at the same time in ways you’d never expect.

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