Melodic Death Metal

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Melodic death metal, also referred to as melodeath, combines elements from death metal with elements from thrash metal, more traditional heavy metal and even hard rock. A typical feature of melodic death metal is the use of Iron Maiden-like twin guitar harmonies, melodic guitar leads and inherently melodic upbeat thrash riffage, and the guitars are often downtuned to B; sometimes synths and electronica elements occur in melodic death metal, too. The vocals are typically growled, shrieked or screamed, but some artists combine these harsh vocals with clean singing. Swedish artists in and around the city of Gothenburg have been especially influential in melodic death metal, leading to the establishment of the Gothenburg sound which has also made its way into metalcore and, more recently, power metal and progressive metal. Here on MMA, metalcore artists who make use of the Gothenburg sound, such as Nothing Divine, are included under metalcore, and power metal artists that make us of the Gothenburg sound, such as Raintime and Amaranthe, are included under power metal, while progressive metal artists that make use of the Gothenburg sound, such as James Labrie, are included under progressive metal. Sometimes a division is made between “melodeath” as a genre term referring specifically to melodic death metal based on the Gothenburg sound and “melodic death metal” as a term referring to more traditional death metal which emphasizes melody, as in the case of Terra Tenebrae, Arkan, and late Bolt Thrower. Carcass’ “Heartwork” is considered to be among the first melodic death metal releases, while artists like At the Gates, In Flames, Dark Tranquility, and Arch Enemy are among the most influential melodic death metal artists, and other examples are late Illdisposed, Deadlock, Amon Amarth, Omnium Gatherum, and Blood Stain Child.

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SOILWORK The Living Infinite Album Cover The Living Infinite
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THE FIFTH SUN The Moment of Truth

Album · 2002 · Melodic Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
One of the few metal bands i’m aware of to emerge from the extreme frigid lands of northern Minnesota, THE FIFTH SUN emerged from the small city of Bemidji in 1991 with the band name Consumed with the three primary members of Bryan Horn (vocals, guitar), Shawn Mattila (guitar) and John Eggers (drums). Although it would take 10 long years to get to this debut album THE MOMENT OF TRUTH, the band moved to Portland, Oregon in order to find exposure to a much more appreciative audience but nothing came of that journey and the band ended up back in Minnesota where after two albums it would disappear completely into the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

In many ways, THE FIFTH SUN is the USA’s answer to Amon Amarth with chugging beastly guitar riffs coalescing with the bass, drums and guttural growls into something rather melodic. AND there’s a reason that Minnesota’s pro American football team is called the Vikings! That’s because the weather and European immigrants from Scandinavia seemed to flock here way back when. THE MOMENT OF TRUTH features nine tracks that clock in over 38 minutes and feature a competent display of melodic death metal with a few technical touches just to give it some spice. Stylistically the album is fairly uniform in presentation without really deviating from the regularly scheduled program but overall not bad in doing so.

This is a fast paced album with rampaging riffs at fast tempos. The guitar tones are heavily distorted and the death metal presented is out of the old school death camps only more fine-tuned to craft an overarching melodic presentation. Influences as cited by vocalist / guitarist Brian Horn include Death, Edge of Sanity, Testament, Entombed, Obituary, Slayer and Sepultura but as already stated, THE FIFTH SUN evokes more of a Swedish melo-death vibe than anything from Tampa or Brazil. The album is consistent in its pummeling attacks and crafts a satisfying rampaging metal stampede with just enough melodic touches to keep the hooks alive. The technical wizardry is actually quite subtle as it mostly revolves around complex key changes, riffs out of place and incessant tempos but nothing crazy in the vein of Death.

While many may consider THE FIFTH SUN very derivative in many ways, the album is actually excellently performed if not in any way original. The musicians deliver a tight-knit set of tracks that doesn’t deviate for a moment throughout the album’s playing time. The guttural growls are wickedly evil sounding and keep this album from sounding too polished and same for the production. A few non-death metal moments emerge to offer some contrast but for the most part it’s a death chug-fest with a few melodic guitar sweeps along the way. For a melo-death album this one is actually quite well executed although THE MOMENT OF TRUTH won’t score high for any groundbreaking moments. Juggling the balance between melo-death and tech death may sound a hard nut to crack, THE FIFTH SUN does a really great job on this even if the overall impression may not blow you away.

AXXEN CONNERS Nowhere To Escape Sins

EP · 2016 · Melodic Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
AXXEN CORNERS is an indie melodic death / groove metal band from Antalya, Turkey that has been around since 2008 but since then has only released this tiny EP titled NOWHERE TO ESCAPE SINS that features only three tracks.

This band is actually the duo of Bilge Ozce aka Serpent who handles bass and vocal duties along with Serdar Evren known as Croc who performs guitar, synthesizers and backing vocals. The band displays an interesting mix of melodic death metal with some groove metal heft as well as a bit of black metal especially in the raspy vocals.

While only reaching the twelve minute mark, this full band sounding duo cranks out a seriously high octane dose of extreme metal with a few progressive time signature outbursts finding their way into the mix which most likely qualifies them as on the borderline of progressive metal.

Rhythmically AXXEN CORNERS is straight forward metal bombast with rampaging guitar riffs and pummeling drumming prowess. The tones and timbres are all selected quite brilliantly and the overall effect is fairly unique as this duo stands out amongst the legions of extreme metal bands around these days.

Synthesizers add a subdued yet effective atmospheric darkness however the star of the show is the incessant display of guitar riffs whizzing up and down the scale. Two vocal styles trade off, deathened guttural growls and more blackened raspy screams. While only a short display of deviant madness, i actually love this! It’s fun and to the point. I truly look forward to something new and much longer from this devilish Turkish delight.

CHILDREN OF BODOM Follow the Reaper

Album · 2000 · Melodic Death Metal
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After two albums with producer Anssi Kippo at the helm, CHILDREN OF BODOM adopted a completely new approach for their third album FOLLOW THE REAPER after choosing Hypocrisy lead singer Peter Tägtgrten to be the next producer after touring with his band in 1998. The band headed to Sweden’s Abyss Studios where Tägtgrten steered the band in a more polished direction. Firstly the band who had already forged a unique blend of neoclassical infused power metal along with death metal and other extreme metal genera focused more on the power metal side of the equation which allowed the once subordinate keyboard runs of Janne Wirman to become an integral part of the band’s overall sound.

FOLLOW THE REAPER focused on harder driving neoclassical melodies still inspired by Mozart but less in your face and sharpened with the instruments playing more independent roles making this third album a much more focused offering in comparison to the previous two albums. Likewise Tägtgrten trained Alexi Laiho to make better use of his raspy guttural growls thus giving him a more controlled style that could span out in a greater range. The album is notorious for various mixing jobs due to the band’s dissatisfaction but the overall effect is an extremely professional sounding extreme metal album that continues the band’s stylistic approach laid out on the debut album “Something Wild.”

CHILDREN OF BODOM came of age with FOLLOW THE REAPER and not only did the album soar to the top of the Finnish charts but also found a positive reception outside of the band’s homeland. Some critics even referred to the album as black metal with the happiest keyboards ever but still uncompromisingly brutal and to be honest that does sort of sum it up. The album is relentless with wickedly brutal guitar, bass and drum performances crafting power metal melodies only infused with neoclassical shredding tradeoffs between the guitar and keyboards only much more refined than the previous offerings. Likewise the keyboard acts as a fourth instrument with independent riffing roles that craft creative counterpoints whereas on the first two albums it remained somewhat in the background for atmospheric effects with occasional soloing outbursts.

With FOLLOW THE REAPER, the band toured the world extensively and experienced a warm welcome due to the album’s extremely strong melodic hooks augmented with a power metal bombast that was contrasted by death, black and metal elements that no other band had really put together in such a way before. As well as the aforementioned changes that solidified the band’s established sound, the compositions on FOLLOW THE REAPER are simply stronger and more varied than before however the neoclassical elements had been tamped down a bit in favor of stronger power metal displays that showcased the guitar and keyboard shredding in completely new ways. To give the album a darker feel, the instruments were set down to D tuning and Laiho’s vocals seem as strong as ever.

With another cover of the Grim Reaper designed by Canadian artists Graham French, the band had also established a visual continuity much like Iron Maiden did with its Eddie album covers with this one’s primary backing color set to stark blue something unusual for metal album covers of the day. For my money, FOLLOW THE REAPER is my pick for favorite CHILDREN OF BODOM album although each album shares the same extraordinary musicianship led by the guitar wizard Alexi Laiho with strong melodic hooks and rampaging metal orotundity. Personally i just find the dynamics to be better mixed and the compositions are nearly perfect with only a few moments of tedium seeping in. When i have the hankering to get my deathened power metal fix, this album is usually the one i head to.

CHILDREN OF BODOM Hatebreeder

Album · 1999 · Melodic Death Metal
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CHILDREN OF BODOM caught the metal off guard by doing the unthinkable of mixing neoclassical power metal with elements of death metal, thrash metal and even atmospheric black metal with its debut “Something Wild.” The band found its own distinct sound right out of the gate and one that would launch the band as one of Finland’s greatest metal sensations having topped the charts with four albums in a row but that would come later. At this stage in 1999, bandleader / guitarist / lead vocalist Alexi Laiho was still nurturing that perfect stylistic fusion that wouldn’t totally gel until the band’s third album “Follow The Reaper,” however this sophomore effort HATEBREEDER ramped up the energetic level a bit as well as brought he Mozart inspired neoclassical shredding closer to the forefront.

Originally this album was supposed to be titled “Toward Dead End” but midway through the recording process that began in 1998, the band members decided the title should be changed and the winner was HATEBREEDER which continued the band’s career long tradition of featuring the Grim Reaper on the album cover with a different primary color schematic in this case the distinct green background. The band released the single “Downfall” two weeks before the album’s release which hit #1 on the Finnish charts and propelled the album to gold status in the band’s homeland but at this point CHILDREN OF BODOM hadn’t quite become the international sensation that it would become despite touring with bands like Dimmu Borgir in support of the debut.

HATEBREEDER pretty much followed in the footsteps of “Something Wild” only with more attention to the neoclassical Mozart inspired melodies along with faster tempos, heavier metal rampage and an increased focus on the technical shredding tradeoffs of Laiho’s guitar and Janne Wirman’s keyboard heft. The album was also praised for the unique vocal style that could be described as existing somewhere between the guttural growls of death metal and the raspiness of black metal. The vocals in tandem with the primary power metal style infused with elements form many metal subgenera continued CHILDREN OF BODOM’s unique format that would bring them into the international limelight as the millennial odometer geared closer to a new century.

While CHILDREN OF BODOM’s style is pretty much present on all their releases, it’s all about the subtleties that differentiate them. HATEBREEDER provides a transition where the neoclassical elements would become more prominent although not as in your face as they would become starting with “Follow The Reaper.” The beauty of CHILDREN OF BODOM is that the band caught the melodic vitality of 80s heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest only with the power metal heft of bands like Helloween and Iced Earth along with the darker elements of the more extreme corner of the metal world in both atmosphere and thematic presentation. Overall HATEBREEDER is an excellent consistent flow of one satisfying energetic track after another that features some of WIrman’s most unique keyboard contributions, a trait that would only amplify on subsequent releases.

CHILDREN OF BODOM Something Wild

Album · 1997 · Melodic Death Metal
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Starting out as Inearthed in Espoo, Finland, CHILDREN OF BODOM formed by guitarist ALex Laiho (R.I.P.) and drummer Jaska Raatikainen would go on to become one of Finland’s most successful metal bands with a string of gold albums. Starting out in 1993, the fledgling Inearthed existed for five years influenced by death metal bands such as Entombed, Cannibal Corpse and Obituary but with the arrival of Janne Warmann on keyboards, the band reinvented itself and emerged as one of the first examples of death metal and power metal fusion. The world would never be the same!

Having developed a unique sound that took several competing metal styles and forcing them to play together, Inearthed was forced to change its name before a recording contract for Spineform Records and after a random perusal through the phone book settled on Lake Bodom which was the scene of some murders. After some reworking, CHILDREN OF BODOM had arrived and released the debut album SOMETHING WILD In 1997 which at the time sounded like nothing else. Death metal didn’t take long to splinter off into a million categories but once thrash metal split into death metal and power metal, the two sort of became the antithesis of each other until CHILDREN OF BODOM changed all that.

Mostly tagged as melodic death metal, SOMETHING WILD comes across more of a power metal album with death metal elements therefore a deathened power metal album that showcases neoclassical wizardry, fast tempos, Iron Maiden inspired gallops and highly melodic tunes leaving only the growly vocals and blastbeats to really bring any death metal attributes to the table. The album showcased the guitar virtuosity of Laiho who has been labeled as one of Finland’s all time greatest guitarists however Warmann’s keyboard wizardry is also of an equal caliber with frenetic soloing tradeoffs that are highlighted on the Slayer cover “Silent Scream” that is included as a bonus track on some CDs.

Added to the aggressive mix of melodic power metal and death metal grit, SOMETHING WILD also features an interesting black metal atmosphere which possibly was gleaned from touring with Dimmu Borgir. There are also moments of thrash metal attacks and many moments of good old fashioned 80s heavy metal coming through in the mix. The music is really quite unclassifiable as it wriggles around through various stylistic moments but its’ perhaps the neoclassical underpinnings most apparent by the Mozart inspired intro of “Red Light In My Eyes Pt 2” that defines the CHILDREN OF BODOM sound.

This is one of the bands that seems to get a lot a hate. Purists of both death metal and power metal find CHILDREN OF BODOM to be an unthinkable bastardization of two classic metal styles but for those of us who aren’t so hung up on genre purities, i personally find this music to be quite fascinating in how it manages to juggle all these disparate stylistic effects and fuse them together to proficiently. CHILDREN OF BODOM truly hit the ground running and propelled themselves to the top fo the melo-death tiers with this eclectic and energetic mix of extreme metal styles. While i can’t say CHILDREN OF BODOM has ever topped my list of favorite all-time metal bands, i am always in awe of the musicianship on display and the maturity of the compositions. Excellent debut.

melodic death metal movie reviews

AMON AMARTH Wrath of the Norsemen

Movie · 2006 · Melodic Death Metal
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Talk about value for money, from a band like Amon Amarth you wouldn’t expect them to be able to afford such a crazily generous and in depth DVD package when some of the bigger bands can’t afford anything even half this good.

The Set comes in a glorious 3 DVD digipak with detailed artwork, a full booklet and an awesome little viking crown that keeps it closed. Then you get Five full concerts (with 22, 16,13, 11 and 9 tracks respectively) and a documentary.

The main feature; a 22 track concert from Cologne in 2005 is an incredible affair with crystal clear sound, Huge guitar tones, amazingly heavy drums and nice clunky bass. The camera work is of a higher quality than even some of the biggest metal bands’ DVDs and again the sound is immense.

Then theres the performance, the band are absolutely electric delivering furious renditions of material from all eras a their career from the massive ‘Amon Amarth,’ and ‘Fate of Norns,’ to catchy closer ‘Death In Fire,’ and the crowd just lap it up.

Vocalist Johan Hegg absolutely commands the stage, engaging the crowd at every opportunity and singing his heart out while the band hammer through their classics like ‘heavy,’ is going out of style.

On top of all that you have a great light show, huge Amon Amath banners, more pyro than a kiss concert and an interlude with about thirty Viking reenactors sword fighting on stage! That feature is worth the money alone, the show is probably one of the best metal concerts on the market and I can’t stress how good the sound and picture are; then on top of all that you get the rest of the set, featuring virtually ever Amon Amarth song ever written, and performances from ‘Waken Open Air festival,’ ‘Summer Breeze Festival,’ and two more indoor concerts in Europe.

If you like Amon Amarth Buy this right now. If you don’t, you will within thirty seconds of watching this.

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