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.

Inclusive Melodic Black Metal Sub-Genres

Pagan Black Metal is a sub-genre of Black Metal music that musically sits somewhere between the traditional black metal sound as pioneered by the early Norwegian black metal scene and Melodic Black Metal. The atmosphere of the genre is generally raw and primitive sounding yet the guitars tend towards a less abrasive and more melodic tone. In addition, pagan black metal makes use of a degree of folk influences, either played on real instruments or replicated through modern technology. Clean singing will often be featured alongside black metal growling. It shares some similarities to Viking Metal, and due to its folk elements many pagan black metal artists have also produced releases that may be considered fully-fledged Folk Metal.

Viking Metal draws on early black metal ideas and adds anthemic keyboards and influences from Nordic folk music. Powerful clean vocals are common in this genre along with black metal style growling. It is included on MMA under Melodic Black Metal usually except in cases where the folk elements are especially dominant, in which cases such artists are included under Folk Metal. Bathory was a pioneer of the Viking Metal style and remains its best known act.

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Showing only albums and EPs | Based on members ratings & MMA custom algorithm | 60 min. caching

WINDIR Arntor Album Cover Arntor
WINDIR
4.56 | 14 ratings
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WINTERHORDE Maestro Album Cover Maestro
WINTERHORDE
4.69 | 7 ratings
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MELECHESH Emissaries Album Cover Emissaries
MELECHESH
4.60 | 10 ratings
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MELECHESH Sphynx Album Cover Sphynx
MELECHESH
4.56 | 12 ratings
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DISSECTION Storm of the Light's Bane Album Cover Storm of the Light's Bane
DISSECTION
4.44 | 37 ratings
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WINDIR 1184 Album Cover 1184
WINDIR
4.59 | 7 ratings
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SEAR BLISS Glory and Perdition Album Cover Glory and Perdition
SEAR BLISS
4.62 | 6 ratings
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KVIST For kunsten maa vi evig vike Album Cover For kunsten maa vi evig vike
KVIST
4.46 | 14 ratings
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ASTARTE Quod Superius Sicut Inferius Album Cover Quod Superius Sicut Inferius
ASTARTE
4.75 | 4 ratings
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WINTERHORDE Underwatermoon Album Cover Underwatermoon
WINTERHORDE
4.51 | 8 ratings
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MELECHESH The Epigenesis Album Cover The Epigenesis
MELECHESH
4.33 | 18 ratings
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MELECHESH Enki Album Cover Enki
MELECHESH
4.36 | 12 ratings
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melodic black metal Music Reviews

SAILLE Gnosis

Album · 2017 · Melodic Black Metal
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Warthur
Melodic black metal ruminating on the musicians' personal occult interests is hardly new - Dissection were all about that, after all - but on Saille's Gnosis they offer a solid and enjoyable example of the form. Guest performer Dries Gaerdelen's keyboards and other features add some tasteful symphonic touches, but these are neither bombastically prominent enough to drag the album into symphonic black metal territory or clumsily heavy-handed enough to overwhelm what the rest of the band is doing.

With the sort of tributes to Biblical fallen angels, Norse gods, H.P. Lovecraft and Aleister Crowley that have littered innumerable metal albums over the years, you'd think that this would have entered the realm of utter cliche, but whilst there's nothing lyrically new under the sun here, musically there's plenty for melodic black metal fans to sink their teeth into.

BORKNAGAR Quintessence

Album · 2000 · Melodic Black Metal
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adg211288
I've had a long held belief that the Norwegian black/viking/progressive metal act Borknagar peaked with their second album The Olden Domain (1997). It's a view that many of my fellow fans seem to share. Recently though I've been spending a lot of time with the band's fourth album Quintessence (2000) and have had to seriously question whether I still believed The Olden Domain to be their best work, or if this one is. Both are quite different albums from the band and both have many claims to that top spot (while a good portion of fans will also throw the hat of the debut album Borknagar (1996) into the ring). Ultimately I had the question answered for me by my actions rather than any serious thought: whenever I thought I'd play one of my Borknagar albums my eyes always strayed first to Quintessence, which in turn has led to me playing this one more than any other of their releases that I own.

The music on Quintessence isn't quite like that of any other Borkngarar album. While many would put the band's transition from black to progressive metal at somewhere during this era of the band, which I think of as the ICS Vortex era after the then lead vocalist (he's since returned alongside his replacement Vintersorg), I find this album to be the band's truest fusion of the two genres, with the actual switch away from black metal only coming with the following Empiricism (2001), making Quintessence their last true black metal release even though they've always kept a blackened edge to their music after this point, notably through growling vocals.

I'd equally make an argument for this to be their most truly progressive metal album as well. Their later work I'd actually describe as an example of prog-lite metal (increasingly true with every new record), because it's not really all that adventurous to my ears despite the progressive label being regularly attached to the band (something I find true of many so called progressive metal acts). Quintessence is a different story, but it's also still a black metal album. To my ears this album is actually more black metal than the prior and first ICS Vortex fronted album The Archaic Course (1998), though it is of a much more melodic kind than that found on either of the band's first two albums, A.K.A. The Garm era.

The guitars of Øystein G. Brun and Jens F. Ryland are semi-raw and black metal based and there is some excellent keyboard work from Lars A. Nedland that absolutely reeks of classic progressive rock influence. It's musically an great sound that Borknagar have hit on for this one album, while ICS Vortex puts on possibly the vocal performance of his entire career here. As a singer mostly known for his clean vocals it's an unusual case to hear him growling, but he does it very well and in quite an epic manner that fits with the music perfectly.

The album's first four tracks are especially a real tour de force. The third of these is Ruins of the Future, which may just be the most epic song Borknagar has ever recorded and is without a doubt my personal favourite of the band (it's actually rare for me to have a favourite song from an artist's whole discography like this). Following straight away is Colossus, which is a great example of something I mentioned being possible (despite popular belief): clean vocal black metal, because growls are only used minimal and for backing purposes in this one, and try denying to yourself that the music in this track is any less melodic black metal based than Ruins of the Future, which is growl dominant. Next track Inner Landscape serves as an interlude a breather after the terrific first half of the album. While the remainder doesn't hit quite the same heights as those first four tracks, it's still very high quality work, with Genesis Torn and the finale Revolt being further tracks of note.

In summary Quintessence is a fantastic album from Borknagar. While I enjoy the works that followed they've never again been able to reach the same level that this is on. It has not only overtaken The Olden Domain as my favourite from the band, but I'd go as far to say that it's also overtaken Iron Maiden's Brave New World as my favourite album of the year 2000. I whole-heartedly recommend it as an essential purchase for both black and progressive metal fans.

You want to know what the real kicker about that finale statement is though? At least here in the UK this is the one Borknagar album not readily available to buy a physical copy of at normal prices. All nine others can be in a range of about £5 to £12 online, but this one will currently set you back about three times that, unless you get lucky. Bloody typical of the metal scene that!

WINTERHORDE Underwatermoon

Album · 2010 · Melodic Black Metal
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Warthur
Underwatermoon is Winterhorde's second album, with the Israeli outfit delivering another generous helping of melodic black metal with significant symphonic touches. In principle it's a concept album, though looking over the lyrics I can't figure out the story beyond that it involves ghosts and the ocean - still, the magnificent, big sound they have here is entertaining enough and makes the album a decent dry run for the rather excellent Maestro, the followup, which I personally found a bit more emotionally engaging than this one. Perhaps I'd rate this one a little higher if I hadn't already heard the masterwork that came after it.

WINDIR 1184

Album · 2001 · Melodic Black Metal
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adg211288
As far as household names of melodic black metal go, then Norway's Windir is right up there with Sweden's Dissection, arguable the style's pioneer. They were the brainchild of one Terje Bakken, known as Valfar, who started the band in 1994. Windir's is one of the genre's tragic tales though, as in 2004, while journeying to his family's cabin in Fagereggi, Norway, Valfar was caught in a snow storm and never made it. His body was discovered three days later in the Sogndal Valley near the town of Reppastolen, where he had died of hypothermia. He was just 25 years old at the time of his death. Although Windir was only able to exist for a decade, four well regarded full-length albums were produced. The third of these was 1184 (2001), where for the first time Valfar had expanded his project into a full six strong group and switched primarily to English lyrics instead of the Sognamål Norwegian dialect.

Compared to all the other Windir full-length albums, 1184 is also the most unique and experimental one among them. Windir, with their choice of lyrical themes and cover artwork, had the air of Viking/Pagan styling about them but that didn't stop Valfar and company from trying some new things on 1184 that weren't really in context with that, such the use of electronic elements, most notably on the final track Journey to the End. This may somewhat explain why fans are said to have been a bit divided by the album at the time of its release, as compared to the prior Sóknardalr (1997) and Arntor (1999) this one also features some departures, featuring less developed folk ideas and being more in line with the so called Viking metal sound, with some really rich sounding ambient synths being used, which you can hear right away in the opening track Todeswalzer. At its heart though, 1184 remains very much a melodic black metal album, guitar based and lively and even a bit thrashy in some places. I struggle to really follow the vocals of Valfar himself but they're delivered with an infectious sort of energy that makes me instantly dig what the band are doing. I also find that their choice of guest clean vocalist to be an improvement on the first two albums, with Cosmocrator replacing Steinarson.

With albums like 1184 to his name, Valfar left a small but amazing legacy that few melodic black metal acts will ever hope to match. The key tracks on this one for me have to be the epic Destroy, which instantly strikes as an absolute beast of a track, and also Dance of Mortal Lust which is made of the same stuff. The closing Journey to the End is also deserving of another mention as it's the most surprising track, initially starting as a typical Windir song but then at about a third of the way through it changes into ambient/electronic music, which actually displays some really good melodies. It's the kind of moment that makes you sit up and wonder if you really just heard the band do that. It's surprises like this that make, for my money at least, 1184 the best of Windir's four albums. I'd consider this one an absolute essential for anyone with even a small interest in black metal to purchase.

SAILLE Gnosis

Album · 2017 · Melodic Black Metal
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Kev Rowland
Belgian act Saille are back with their fourth album, and it is the first one I’ve come across. Having heard this, I am seriously thinking that I need to go back and listen to the others. This is melodic Black Metal with some symphonic influences, punishing and brutal yet also with a lot of care, and even delicacy. This isn’t a simple full-on assault of the senses, but rather something that has been carefully created, and I was not surprised to see that it was mixed and mastered at Hertz Studio in Bialystok, Poland by the Wieslawscy brothers (Behemoth, Decapitated, Vader). It is the production that allows every single guitar note to stand on their own, for the bass to be the driving force, and for the drums to provide the necessary backbone while Dennie Grondelaers is in in commanding form.

As to the lyrics, Donnie says “With 'Gnosis' (Greek for 'knowledge') we venture into the world of the Promethean ideal and its Luciferian counterpart. This album explores a multitude of historical, mythological and fictional sources that tell us about the strife for knowledge and its (potentially devastating) consequences. We also visit several creation myths and scratch the surface of Aleister Crowley's Thelema. The concept was born during research into Russian composer Alexander Scriabin and his works. His 'Prometheus: The Poem of Fire' didn't serve as a direct source for the lyrics, but it lit the fire that made us venture into above topics." Now you know.

The band themselves feel that this is more in keeping with their second album, ‘Ritu’, yet they knew it had to be harder so they deliberately did that with the music and amended their logo, to show the slight change in approach. Unless you enjoy Black Metal then this isn’t for you, but if you are, then you need to seek this out as this is powerful stuff.

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