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.

melodic death metal top albums

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EDGE OF SANITY Crimson Album Cover Crimson
EDGE OF SANITY
4.23 | 99 ratings
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AMON AMARTH With Oden on Our Side Album Cover With Oden on Our Side
AMON AMARTH
4.27 | 43 ratings
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AMON AMARTH Surtur Rising Album Cover Surtur Rising
AMON AMARTH
4.29 | 28 ratings
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DARK TRANQUILLITY The Gallery Album Cover The Gallery
DARK TRANQUILLITY
4.29 | 24 ratings
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CARCASS Surgical Steel Album Cover Surgical Steel
CARCASS
4.30 | 21 ratings
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SCAR SYMMETRY Pitch Black Progress Album Cover Pitch Black Progress
SCAR SYMMETRY
4.31 | 15 ratings
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CARCASS Heartwork Album Cover Heartwork
CARCASS
4.15 | 59 ratings
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DISILLUSION Back to Times of Splendor Album Cover Back to Times of Splendor
DISILLUSION
4.27 | 14 ratings
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SCAR SYMMETRY The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity) Album Cover The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity)
SCAR SYMMETRY
4.38 | 8 ratings
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AMON AMARTH Deceiver Of The Gods Album Cover Deceiver Of The Gods
AMON AMARTH
4.23 | 13 ratings
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AT THE GATES Slaughter of the Soul Album Cover Slaughter of the Soul
AT THE GATES
4.13 | 28 ratings
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INSOMNIUM Above the Weeping World Album Cover Above the Weeping World
INSOMNIUM
4.24 | 10 ratings
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melodic death metal Music Reviews

ARCH ENEMY Will to Power

Album · 2017 · Melodic Death Metal
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Nightfly
When Angela Gossow left Arch Enemy in 2014 it could have quite easily been the end of the band but in came Alissa White-Gluz and stamped her mark on the War Eternal album with an impressive and professional performance as if she’d been there all along, such was the seamless transition. War Eternal whilst having a few weaker moments robbing it of greatness was nevertheless a solid melodic death metal album with a plentiful supply of hooks and strong riffs. Shortly after War Eternal was released former Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis joined the band and I was eager to hear what the first studio album to feature him would be like as he never failed to impress me with his incredible playing in Nevermore.

Will To Power will not hold any surprises (well there may be one) for fans of the band as for the most part it’s pretty much business as usual. Loomis as expected proves to be a great addition with plenty of jaw dropping shredding. Musically it’s a similar mix of melodic death/power metal as War Eternal and equally good. After the short intro Set Flame To The Night, The Race comes in firing on all cylinders featuring compelling riffing and a fantastic Loomis solo proving immediately what a great addition he is and is a good omen of great things to come hopefully. Like War Eternal however there are one or two less than stellar moments. I’d already heard The World Is Yours and the first thing that struck me about it was how much better it would have worked with clean melodic vocals on the chorus. A bone of contention I sometimes have with melodic death metal, at least when it really ups the melody quotient is how much better it could sometimes be with clean vocals. Of course some melodic death metal bands already mix it up and do it but I know it could be sacrilege to some fans of the band. Well what do you know, on the semi-ballad Reason To Believe White-Gluz sings cleanly and bugger me, she’s really good too. Maybe they didn’t want to over-do it and risk alienating a sizeable part of their audience but a bit more of this could have raised the bar on a couple of the songs. As a song it’s not one of the best but the vocals save it. The Eagle Flies Alone is merely an ordinary piece of mid-paced melodic metal. If a strong vocal melody had been added it could have been so much more. Now don’t get me wrong, Ms White-Gluz is a perfectly able growler and it works fine on the more balls out stuff and I’m not suggesting that all death metal bands should go and get a more traditional singer, as I said I’m just talking about the particularly melodic stuff.

Anyway enough controversy and back to the album. Overall I’d say the second half is the strongest – Murder Scene kicks ass and I always enjoy a galloping kick drum pattern as used on First Day In Hell. In fact there’s no shortage of good songs with strong hooks on side two of my vinyl copy with no weak moments to speak of. My Shadow And I is particularly impressive with drummer Daniel Erlandsson putting in a particularly fine performance. Album closer A Fight I Must Win is another highpoint with its memorable riffing and groove and the brief addition of strings to the intro and outro add some colour.

Hats off to Arch Enemy for not being afraid to use clean vocals then. If I was them I’d expand on this next time as they’re a strong and welcome addition. Not essential then, but nevertheless Will To Power is another very good album that whilst unlikely to be the favourite of most people who’ve followed the band shouldn’t disappoint either. I’m still waiting though for the masterpiece that I know they have in them.

WINTERSUN The Forest Seasons

Album · 2017 · Melodic Death Metal
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Necrotica
The forest is teeming with darkness.

I love the four seasons and the way they can change our understanding of the world. Every time they shift, it’s as if our moods and perceptions are shifting with them. And as such, they can each bring out a beautiful variety of emotions and vivid imagery in their wake. That’s why baroque violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi had such great success with his famous composition The Four Seasons. With every season, certain stylistic deviations were introduced to signify its characteristics; for instance, the sprightly and festive feel of the legendary “Spring” movement of the piece. Now, before I go any further, I’m not against someone in 2017 presenting us with a modern-day update of a timeless classic with a timeless theme. But when I heard that one of metal’s premier musicians and procrastinators Jari Maenpaa was behind the project with his primary project Wintersun, my eyebrow was more than raised… and not in a good way, really. I once loved Wintersun, a band whose first album was among my favorite modern metal debuts and provided a glimpse to a once-promising future for the band. But between the gradual dip in quality and the waiting time between albums, Jari seemed to be an artist who could only answer high expectations with false promises. But I’m always ready to keep my mind open and think positively, so I’m ready to dive into this new piece with open ears. Let’s go season by season, shall we?

Spring - The Season of Genre Cliches

We plunge into Spring, a bright and colorful season. But in the world of Wintersun, the skies remain as gray as ever. The cheap keyboards give a mood of cheap dollar-store melancholy, and the shameful production values seal the deal before the experience gets off the ground. I don’t even want to hear the rest, but I press on. The season of spring is apparently devoid of its usual life, and its generic cookie-cutter riffs are as recycled as they were on the last album. The percussion sounds like the drumset was wrapped in a giant paper bag to siphon it of all its power, then beaten senselessly over and over in the same two or three tempos. There are some “creepy” (I use this word hilariously lightly, hence the quotation marks) spoken word parts, I suppose in an attempt to enhance the atmosphere. But it’s remarkable how little Jari’s evolved as a singer, pretty much using his most familiar cleans and growls in the most predictable ways. The more I dig into the band’s discography, it seems ever more evident that Wintersun are only capable of conveying the season of their namesake (even then, not in very interesting ways). I only hear cold, distant, passionless blandness. If this is the sound of spring, I want to skip the season altogether.

Summer - The Season in Which Experimentation Meets Redundancy

At least there’s a bit more effort as we approach the season of Summer. There’s a decent acoustic guitar buildup in the intro, even though it bears a bit too much resemblance to “Sadness and Hate” in the notation and guitar tone. The tempo is more Opeth-like and the anthemic clean singing is neat, but there’s not enough to differentiate this season from the one preceding it. That is, except for the admittedly nice folk interlude in which folk and sitar sounds are integrated to add some atmosphere. Still, there isn’t nearly enough of a “wow” factor to any of this to excuse a 12-minute running time, and that’s a criticism seems to run through the entire recording. For the record, the lyrics are also a load of garbage. Check this out:

"In the dark ruin the grey mountains sing A sad song of winter and the howling wind Visions of the past in the haunting dreams Under the dead sky, under the withered trees"

If that cliched nonsense is Jari’s idea of high art, then my high school alternative rock band was full of Shakespearian poetry.

Autumn - The Season of Brooding, Brooding, and More Brooding… and Dark Riffs!

We kick off Autumn with some dark tremolo riffs to give an evil, black metal-oriented sound… spooky! Too bad the thin production makes the blast beats sound like trash. Beyond that, the mixing is so horrible that the drums overpower any of the riffing or other guitar licks we’re supposed to make out. I’m glad we’re finally listening to a song that comes a little closer to representing the weather and feel of its chosen season, but I’d like to actually hear the songwriting too! Granted, it’s nothing special. The keyboards are still bland and gimmicky, and the melodic death metal-inspired riffs are just as meandering and unengaging as ever. Somewhere around the middle, Jari uses a deep spoken word vocal style that makes him sound like Dani Filth… it’s somewhat interesting, but mostly seems like a means of distracting us from the boring 6/8-time riff and its directionless lead guitar work. The solo that follows is just some generic shredding too, so it’s really not very interesting. Just trust me: Autumn may try to sound sinister, but Jari’s not inspired enough to convey this properly.

Winter - The Season Wintersun Knows

We finally come to our final season, the season of Winter. And, lo and behold, this is actually the best piece in the collection. There’s some nice buildup in the icy synths, generating a mood both eerie and depressing. The actual title of the track is “Loneliness,” and the doomy tempo is a fine demonstration of such an emotion. The vocals are a bit melodramatic at times, but at least I’m hearing something other than the bland growls that have dominated the other seasons. Jari sounds more anguished and desperate here, fitting the theme of the composition and its blustery vibe like a glove. Alas, not everything is perfect here either. The tune seems to stick to the same tempo for most of its duration, making it a slog to sit through to the end. As usual, there’s not enough experimentation or new instrumental perspective on this season to justify a 13-minute closer to an already-overlong mess of an album. Also, the production is still pretty atrocious, but now I’m sounding like a broken record.

The forest is teeming with dread.

The four seasons can be open to such fruitful depictions and fantastic musical avenues, but Wintersun manages only to produce a small handful of these. Whenever I hear The Forest Seasons, I don’t hear the sound of fresh ground being broken. I don’t hear an exciting new aural adventure of both aggression and beauty. I don’t hear a band displaying a new or interesting take on a promising concept. I hear the sound of dread. I hear a project that has long passed its expiration date even after just three albums.

Most distressingly, I hear thousands of loyal Indiegogo funders being fucked by one egotistical Finn.

DIVINE ELEMENT Thaurachs of Borsu

Album · 2017 · Melodic Death Metal
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adg211288
Greek musician Ayloss is of course best known for his atmospheric black metal project Spectral Lore, being particularly well regarded for the double album III (2014). Perhaps less known is the fact that aside from Spectral Lore he was a member of the melodic death metal act Divine Element. The band released their self-titled debut album in 2010 and at some point presumably disbanded. Now reformed with a condensed line-up of Ayloss on instruments and Antonis on vocals, their second album Thaurachs of Borsu (2017) has finally been unleashed. Prolific death metal drummer Hannes Grossmann (ex-Necrophagist, ex-Obscura, Alkaloid et al) has also been brought in as a guest musician for this release.

One thing that will be clear to anyone familiar with Ayloss' work with Spectral Lore is that this isn't one of those cases where a musician operates in multiple acts that are ultimately very similar in style, as there isn't all that much to do with black metal in Divine Element's music. Fans are sure to recognise the tasteful atmospheric guitar work of the Spectral Lore mastermind during some of the lighters parts, but on Thaurachs of Borsu they're mixed in with speedy and direct melodic death metal riffs. The difference in core genre also means that there are much more forceful growls from Antonis than those of Ayloss on Spectral Lore's albums. There's enough here in the music to recognise it as the work of the same musician, but it's also very much a different side to him. And that's great, since we already have one Spectral Lore.

The band's use of melody also provides a very slightly folksy sound to their music, notable in a track like Beyond This Sea. Their overall style is less catchy compared to the work of more mainstream melodic death metal acts like Arch Enemy or Scar Symmetry, but no less epic in its delivery. The production is polished and the riffs are punchy. An early standout is the title track, but there's little letting up beyond that point, Traitor's Last Stand at the other end of the album being another key track. The band do throw in a trio of shorter instrumentals that serve the roles of intro, interlude and outro as well though, meaning that if there's a disappointment to be had with Thaurachs of Borsu it's that there are only actually five fully developed melodic death metal tracks, leaving the total running time shy of the forty minute mark. The band haven't lost any of their creative energy by its conclusion, so another track or two would have been nice to pad it out into a more substantial slab of metal.

For the material that is here though to my ears it's melodic death metal done right. This is a genre that I often find stale and uninteresting, but Divine Element have been able to avoid the usual pitfalls with their creative writing and commanding vocals. While I am currently hoping for a new Spectral Lore album to be released I hope it's not another seven years since we get more Divine Element as well.

DISILLUSION Back to Times of Splendor

Album · 2004 · Melodic Death Metal
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voila_la_scorie
This is the only album I have by Disillusion (they only ever released two) but my opinion of it and the band it really high thanks to this release. This is a band that combines many of the elements I enjoy in heavy metal and progressive rock. We have longer songs with complex and varied song structure, fast technical playing, an excellent rhythm section with a great drummer, awesome riffs and a good variety between high speed playing and slower riffs with melodic riffs as well, and softer parts with piano or strings added in as a welcome mood changer but without sounding superfluous. In the two longer tracks, "Back to Times of Splendor" and "The Sleep of Restless Hours" there are parts that stray from the heavier death metal side and wander determined into more progressive territory. There are no flambouyant instrumental sections of blatant exhibitionism. Instrumental passages can be technical but used with a purpose within the song structure.

As has been mentioned in other reviews, the album does an excellent job of combining the technical side of prog metal with the brutal side of death metal. I listened to the album again for the first time in a year or so and once again found myself impressed with the skill and song writing. In particular, the guitar sound is a winner for me. The production quality is also great and only in two parts where the music intentionally becomes chaotic and noisy does the clarity of the sound disappear.

There is only one thing that doesn't totally impress me and that is the clean vocals of Andy Schmidt (Vurtox). There's nothing wrong with them and they affect a certain theatrical sense that suits the music very well. But they make me think of a hardcore punk singer who has decided to sing cleanly with a hint of an operetic tone. The two-part harmoney vocals reduce this effect and the brutal vocals are just fine as they are. Those clean vocals are the only thing that doesn't sit exactly right with me. A minor detail really.

That being stated, once again I will emphasize what a terrific album this is musically. I'm not sure where Disillusion went after this. I think I listened a bit to their sophomore album when I considered which album to get but at the time was more impressed with this one. An easy four and a half stars!

AMON AMARTH Twilight of the Thunder God

Album · 2008 · Melodic Death Metal
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voila_la_scorie
About a year ago or so, a friend showed me some Amon Amarth videos. Man, were they cool. Really big productions like small movies. I was to learn that one video was actually scenes from a movie starring lead vocalist, Johan Hegg. I finally got around to bringing an album home, this first purchase being recommended by my friend who assured me that this was a great album.

What first struck me about the music was how melodic it often was. It was sometimes like a faster version of Iron Maiden but included riffs like Judas Priest and Accept. Labeled melodic death metal, I personally feel that the music here is more traditional metal with the Cookie Monster-style of deeply growled vocals. Tracks like “Free Will Sacrifice” and “No Fear for the Setting Sun” remind me of Judas Priest and “Live for the Kill” makes me think of Accept.

Another observation is the regular use of very strong battle-song melodies. “Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags” and “Live for the Kill” may conjure up images of Vikings standing in their ship and swinging pumped fists as they sing these songs.

This feels like an album done by a very experienced band who are comfortable where they are. They have reached their comfort zone and are producing a string of above avergae albums. Looking as the ratings on MMA, I see other albums are rated higher and this one. Some songs are really good and the main riff for “Guardians of Asgaard” is an awesome one to easily be hooked on.

Probably not their most groundbreaking album, but “Twilight of the Thunder God” is still a solid piece of work in my opinion.

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.

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