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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EDGE OF SANITY Crimson Album Cover Crimson
EDGE OF SANITY
4.37 | 104 ratings
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DARK TRANQUILLITY The Gallery Album Cover The Gallery
DARK TRANQUILLITY
4.46 | 27 ratings
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CARCASS Heartwork Album Cover Heartwork
CARCASS
4.33 | 64 ratings
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AMORPHIS Tales From the Thousand Lakes Album Cover Tales From the Thousand Lakes
AMORPHIS
4.26 | 60 ratings
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AMON AMARTH Berserker Album Cover Berserker
AMON AMARTH
4.55 | 7 ratings
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INSOMNIUM Winter's Gate Album Cover Winter's Gate
INSOMNIUM
4.36 | 10 ratings
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AT THE GATES Slaughter of the Soul Album Cover Slaughter of the Soul
AT THE GATES
4.16 | 31 ratings
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DISILLUSION Back to Times of Splendor Album Cover Back to Times of Splendor
DISILLUSION
4.23 | 16 ratings
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OMNIUM GATHERUM Beyond Album Cover Beyond
OMNIUM GATHERUM
4.35 | 8 ratings
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SOILWORK The Living Infinite Album Cover The Living Infinite
SOILWORK
4.20 | 15 ratings
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INSOMNIUM Since the Day It All Came Down Album Cover Since the Day It All Came Down
INSOMNIUM
4.36 | 7 ratings
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IN FLAMES Colony Album Cover Colony
IN FLAMES
4.11 | 34 ratings
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melodic death metal Music Reviews

DISILLUSION Back to Times of Splendor

Album · 2004 · Melodic Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
DISILLUSION got its start in 1994 and was founded by multi-instrumentalist Andy Schmidt (aka Vurtox) along with a bunch of school friends who would all depart before the band cemented its more stable lineup around 2000. This band is a prime example of one of the former Eastern block satellite nations of the Soviet Union quickly finding its own after the collapse of the communist system and bands like DISILLUSION wasted no time crafting their inspirations drawn from the long gestating influences of Western creative fecundity. After a couple demos titled “Subspace Infinity” and “Red,” the band’s unique stylistic approach already proved to be in full power with the debut EP “Three Neuron Kings” but DISILLUSION was holding the best for its full-length album BACK TO TIMES OF SPLENDOR which wouldn’t find a release until 2004.

The EP got the band noticed and was signed with Metal Blade Records and immediately caught the metal underground’s attention for its unique approach of hybridizing the sounds of 90s alternative metal from bands such as System of a Down along with the melodic death metal sounds of bands like At The Gates, In Flames and Soilwork only teased out into more progressive compositions that included an overarching concept contains six tracks that are divided into musical chapters of a larger theme however remains nebulous enough never to grasp one’s hooks around exactly what the point is lyrically speaking. Perhaps it has something to due with the eerie blurred cover art that evokes a sense of some of the neo-prog albums but whatever the case DISILLUSION muster up enough clever hooks, twists and turns to create an album that stood out amongst the crowds back when the metal world was becoming a more crowded place by the day.

What DISILLUSION crafted here was basically a tight-knit inspirational palette of all the music that sallied forth into the new open societies of Eastern Europe. BACK TO TIMES OF SPLENDOR is a virtual smorgasbord of American thrash metal mixed with melodic death metal, alternative 90s and the more demanding complexities of the world of progressive rock and Dream Theater metal with two lengthy labyrinthine composiitons “Back To Times Of Splendor (14:39)” and “The Sleep Of Restless Hours (17:02)” which find catchy bombastic guitar riffs alternating into a sea of ever-changing variations that sprawl on with effective atmospheric accouterments. And despite all the obvious influences on board, DISILLUSION still manages to find its own niche in the expansive world of 2000s prog metal which sounds like the band perfected this one for years as the production and mixing is impeccable.

BACK TO TIMES OF SPLENDOR runs the gamut of excessively brutal death metal rampages to lushly fueled clean guitar passages that are more remnant of symphonic prog bands like Genesis or Marillion but never meander on too long without returning to the metal madness that rules this kingdom. Likewise Vurtox’s vocal diversity is another strength which at times evoke Serj Tankian in full System of a Down glory but also exhibit growly death metal vocals, shouts and tender clean vocals that leave the metal universe altogether. Technically a trio with the guitar heft of Rajk Bartel and the drumming prowess of Jens Malushka, Vurtox performs the lion’s share of instrumental duties by tackling not only the vocals but also guitars, bass, keys and the orchestral arrangements. A few sessions musicians were added for strings and piano as well as extra vocals.

While touted as one of the great metal masterpieces of all time, i can’t say i’d quite go that far when describing BACK TO TIMES OF SPLENDOR as it seems rather unfocused in how it jumps around from one track to the next. The story is neither compelling nor does the band truly deliver a unique metal sound all of its own despite effortlessly creating an interesting hybrid album that works quite well. Add to that the album is a bit too long for its own good but despite these minor quips, it’s obvious from a single listen why this band was so revered from the moment this album was released. It easily stands on its own as one of those projects that was fueled by the pent up repression of living in a part of the world that was literally cut off from the free market developments of the West. While not perfect, DISILLUSION created a compelling debut which unfortunately were never able to follow.

INSOMNIUM Heart Like A Grave

Album · 2019 · Melodic Death Metal
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Nightfly
How do you follow an album like Winter’s Gate? Insomnium’s masterpiece in my opinion – one continuous forty minute long piece of music, unless you bought the vinyl version then of course it was split in two. Unless you’re a prog band, not with an album of the same format.

Heart Like A Grave see’s the band returning to the shorter song structure of previous albums though some of them are quite long, Pale Morning Star almost hitting nine minutes for example. The sound is unmistakably Insomnium though they’ve gone and done an Iron Maiden and brought in a third guitarist, Jani Liimatainen. He hasn’t made any noticeable difference to their studio sound but I can imagine how live he could be a benefit for the layered guitar sounds, something he has already been doing for some time I believe. Heart Like A Grave delivers exactly what you’d expect from Insomnium. First rate melodic death metal with powerful melodic riffs overlaid by lead runs and interspersed with acoustic lulls and atmospheric sections. The vocals are largely growled of course courtesy of bassist Niilo Sevänen as usual but clean vocals are occasionally brought in which work well and should be used more often. Insomnium have always released strong albums so while Heart Like a Grave is up against some pretty stiff competition they’ve done well to equal and sometimes better their past work here. The band is obviously very comfortable in their style and sound and it shows through a strong sympathetic production. Best of all they maintain the quality level for the whole album.

Once again Insomnium have produced a winner. This is not going to turn heads the way Winter’s Gate did but musically it’s just as good and any fan of the band will not be disappointed. In fact those who felt the single piece of music format of the last album didn’t work will probably prefer the return to individual songs.

EDGE OF SANITY Evolution

Boxset / Compilation · 1999 · Melodic Death Metal
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UMUR
"Evolution" is a compilation album release by Swedish death metal act Edge of Sanity. The compilation was released through Black Mark Productions in November 1999. It was originally a two-disc release and predominantly features remaster and remix versions of tracks from the band´s pre-1999 releases. Lead vocalist Dan Swanö is credited for mixing and matering of the tracks. In addition to the remastered and remixed album tracks on the compilation, "Evolution" also features a new track ("Epidemic Reign"), and a couple of cover tracks (which have also been remastered and remixed).

I´m a fan of keeping things as they are (warts and all) and the necessity of remaster and remix albums have always eluded me. "Evolution" is not a remaster/remix compilation album which is gonna convince me otherwise. In many cases a remaster/remix version of a song lessens the impact of said song instead of enhancing the listening experience, and the original version is always preferable, even though some of the early material by Edge of Sanity did feature rough around the edges sound productions, which on the original releases certainly could have been better sounding. But that´s sometimes the charm of raw and unpolished releases and you often learn to live with and even appreciate the rough edged productions of releases like that. It becomes part of their identity and the history of the recording artist, and meddling with history like that often ends badly. To make a comparison (I know...it´s a completely ridiculous one, but my point should come across), think of how fans of Donald Duck would react, if Disney went back and changed the color or Donalds clothes from blue to red in all the old cartoons...there would be heads rollin´.

Enough of my ranting though, and let´s talk a little more about "Evolution". The compilation features 24 tracks and most Edge of Sanity albums (minus Crimson (1996)") and the "Until Eternity Ends (1994)" EP are represented by a couple of tracks, and as mentioned above there are also a couple of cover tracks and a new tracks featured on the album. A good part of the studio album picks are among the lesser remarkable tracks in the band´s discography though, and it´s what I would call odd tracklist choices for a compilation album. I understand the need to include some cover tracks and a new song to pull people in (although most of those tracks aren´t particularly remarkable either), but releasing a compilation, which does not feature the band´s best work is beyond me. I´d recommend purchasing the 2006 "When All is Said" compilation instead, if you want a taste of what Edge of Sanity is about and don´t want to purchase all their albums up front. "Evolution" is not a good way to get aquainted with the output of Edge of Sanity and is purely a release for the hardcore fans, who need to own everything the band have ever released. A 2.5 star (50%) rating is warranted.

IN FLAMES The Jester Race

Album · 1996 · Melodic Death Metal
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UMUR
"The Jester Race" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Swedish melodic death metal act In Flames. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in February 1996 (Licensed from Wrong Again Records, who In Flames were contractually obligated to). There were quite a few lineup changes between the band´s debut full-length studio album "Lunar Strain (1994)" and the "Subterranean (1995)" EP, and there have been quite a few changes again on "The Jester Race". In Flames finally settled with Anders Fridén as their permanent lead vocalist. Fridén had worked with artists like Septic Broiler, Ceremonial Oath, and Dark Tranquillity before joining In Flames. The band didn´t have a permanent drummer on the previous releases either, but that was fixed here too as Björn Gelotte joined the lineup. The usual suspects are Glenn Ljungström (guitars), Jesper Strömblad (guitars), and Johan Larsson (bass).

Stylistically the music on "The Jester Race" continues the melodic death metal style with ethnic Scandinavian folk leanings which the band also played on the two previous releases. The band´s sound is a bit more developed here and the songwriting slightly more memorable too, but you´ll find few surprises on the album if you´re already familiar with "Lunar Strain (1994)" and "Subterranean (1995)". In Flames were on to something special with those releases though, so there are probably very few (if any) complaints about the musical direction on "The Jester Race". Anders Fridén continues the trend of high pitched screaming/growling vocalists, and you´ll be exposed to fast-paced and very melodic harmony guitar riffs and solos, fast- and mid-paced heavy beats, and acoustic sections too. The folk influence is mostly heard in the acoustic parts, but many of the epic guitar themes also reek traditional Scandinavian folk melodies.

"The Jester Race" is a consistent release both in terms of the musical style and in regards to the quality of the compositions. From the opening notes of "Moonshield" to the closing notes of "Dead God in Me", the 10 track, 40:27 minutes long album features high quality melodic death metal played by skilled musicians. The album is well produced too, featuring a powerful and raw sound production, which suits the material well. Upon conclusion there´s been a positive development of sound since "Subterranean (1995)", and paired with a better sounding production, and a band who have honed their playing skills too, "The Jester Race" is a high quality sophomore studio album by In Flames. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

CHILDREN OF BODOM Hexed

Album · 2019 · Melodic Death Metal
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Kev Rowland
The band couldn’t stay as a quartet outside the studio as their sound needs that double hit of guitars, so in 2016 they brought in Daniel Freyberg (ex-Naildown and ex-Norther). It must be a hard job settling in with a group of guys who have been together longer than many marriages, but certainly when it comes to the sound, he seems right at home having spent the last three years on the road with them. Straight from the off on this this record, one thing that is immediately noticeable is the seeming higher presence of keyboard player Janne Warman. Laiho agrees, “Yes, he’s played a big part of every single album, but this time this might seem even more prominent only because of the sounds that he uses. Because the funny thing is that on, let’s say, ‘I Worship Chaos’ or ‘Halo of Blood’, the keyboards were there all the time, but you might not even know that they’re there because he’s doubling my guitars with some insane, super-low octave sound that doesn’t really stick out. So maybe he pops out more on this album, and I guess he has more of a main role in a lot of parts of the songs.”

This album feels more melodic, more commercial in many places, than some of their previous albums and it is hard to know if this is down to the larger emphasis on keyboards, the production, or the new member of the band. Certainly, Raatikainen is hitting the drums as hard as he has for more than quarter of the century, and his double bass blastbeats are there in evidence, but one has to really listen to them as he has been pushed more into the background. The band have used Mikko Karmilla to mix their sound for years, but here it feels muddier and not as clean – it is really noticeable when playing this album straight after the last one, as the sound is quite different indeed. Interestingly the band have also gone back in time and have revisited a song they had recorded before, 2002’s “Knuckleduster”, as it was felt it wasn’t treated correctly first time around. Unfortunately, Laiho didn’t have the lyrics for the verse, so had to write new ones. This is the last song on the album and shows the band with some of their heaviest elements, which contrast well with the keyboards. When Children of Bodom get it right there are few in the world to match them, and even when slightly under par they are one of the best bands in the metallic universe.

Although I would have liked to have heard this with slightly different production, yet again Children of Bodom have produced the goods.

melodic death metal movie reviews

AMON AMARTH Wrath of the Norsemen

Movie · 2006 · Melodic Death Metal
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Kingcrimsonprog
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.

Artists with Melodic Death Metal release(s)

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