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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
4.38 | 100 ratings
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DARK TRANQUILLITY The Gallery Album Cover The Gallery
4.47 | 25 ratings
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CARCASS Heartwork Album Cover Heartwork
4.35 | 59 ratings
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AMORPHIS Tales From the Thousand Lakes Album Cover Tales From the Thousand Lakes
4.28 | 59 ratings
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AT THE GATES Slaughter of the Soul Album Cover Slaughter of the Soul
4.24 | 28 ratings
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INSOMNIUM Winter's Gate Album Cover Winter's Gate
4.45 | 7 ratings
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DISILLUSION Back to Times of Splendor Album Cover Back to Times of Splendor
4.26 | 15 ratings
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SOILWORK The Living Infinite Album Cover The Living Infinite
4.32 | 11 ratings
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AMON AMARTH Surtur Rising Album Cover Surtur Rising
4.17 | 29 ratings
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SCAR SYMMETRY The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity) Album Cover The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity)
4.33 | 8 ratings
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DARK TRANQUILLITY Fiction Album Cover Fiction
4.16 | 20 ratings
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IN FLAMES Colony Album Cover Colony
4.12 | 30 ratings
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Inception Of A Dream
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melodic death metal Music Reviews

IN FLAMES Lunar Strain

Album · 1994 · Melodic Death Metal
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"Lunar Strain" is the debut full-length studio album by Swedish melodic death metal act In Flames. The album was released through Wrong Again Records in April 1994. In Flames was formed by guitarist Jesper Strömblad (also drums and keyboards on this release) in 1990 as a side-project where he wanted to explore a more melodic version of death metal. Something he wasn´t able to do in his then main act Ceremonial Oath. After leaving the latter in 1993, he started assembling a lineup for In Flames, but initially wasn´t able to find a suitable vocalist and therefore Mikael Stanne from Dark Tranquillity sung on the 1993 demo. An arrangement which was continued on "Lunar Strain".

The music on the 10 track, 36:43 minutes long album is indeed melodic oriented death metal. Loads of harmony guitar themes, leads, and an overall epic atmosphere. There are also quite a few folk elements featured in the music like the occasional use of violins and acoustic guitars. The vocal style is an aggressive and relatively high pitched growling type of vocals, and they provide the music with just a slight touch of black metal (there are a few female vocals featured on the album too). A track like "Upon an Oaken Throne" even touches thrash metal territory, so In Flames are relatively eclectic on "Lunar Strain". Artists like Necrophobic, Dissection, and Unanimated aren´t completely wrong as references, although In Flames doesn´t embrace blasphemous/anti-Christian lyrics, but instead opt for a fantasy universe.

The quality of the material is very high throughout and "Lunar Strain" overall features a relatively good flow too. The sound production could have been better, but the album is still relatively well sounding, and the sound suits the music pretty well. The band is well playing too, and upon conclusion "Lunar Strain" is not only a promising debut release by In Flames, it´s also a very high quality release in it´s own right. Especially considering that it´s a debut release. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.


Album · 2017 · Melodic Death Metal
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Awaken is the debut album from Norwegian extreme metal band Fleshkiller. New band yes, but not lacking experience as it features guitarist/vocalist Ole Børud of Extol fame and previously Schaliach. Also present is guitarist/vocalist Elisha Mullins who’s also a member of The Burial and ex- A Hill To Die Upon, bassist Ole Vistnes from Tristania, ex- Zerozonic and drummer Andreas Skorpe Sjøen.

Of the past bands these guys have played with above the only one I have any experience of is Extol and Fleshkiller don’t sound too dissimilar playing a blend of prog metal injected with more extreme elements, in this case melodic death metal with a touch of thrash thrown in. It sounds generally heavier and more complex than later day Extol to my ears though I know their earlier work less, at times reminding of technical death thrashers Revocation with added melody. The vocal harmonies are still in place and if anything have an even more melodic edge and integral to the sound alongside the harsher more extreme vocal work. Musically it’s pretty complex stuff with each song rarely sitting still for too long before throwing in another complex series of shapes, licks and intricate riffs. These songs are full of strong hooks with inventive progressions that often go off in unexpected directions. In fact it’s a strong emphasis on melody that really help mark these songs as something special and not just a vehicle for displaying exceptional musical chops. The guitar solos have an equally melodic edge too.

Not surprisingly, these guys play really well – a pre-requisite for this sort of complex material. I’ve already mentioned the vocal harmonies but it’s worth emphasising their importance to the overall sound and certainly makes them stand out in extreme metal circles. Like Extol the songs have a Christian leaning. I’ve always felt that Christianity and death metal make unlikely bedfellows but then again why not and it doesn’t come across as incongruous. The production is powerful and with everyone cutting through clearly in the mix displaying the intricacies of the songs effectively. Not a single moment is wasted with every song earning its place making it compelling listening from start to finish, but it doesn’t get any better than the first two tracks, Parallel Kingdom and Salt Of The Earth being perhaps my pick of the bunch for the interplay between vocal melodies and inventive guitar hooks.

2017 has been a great year for death metal and Awaken can now be added to the list of best albums for this year, it really is that good. It also comes recommended to Prog metal fans who don’t normally venture into extreme metal territory who may also find much to enjoy.

ARCH ENEMY Will to Power

Album · 2017 · Melodic Death Metal
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Sweden's Arch Enemy are the kind of band who I have always enjoyed but not necessarily found to be the most remarkable act around. Very hit and miss in terms of how interesting I find their albums, I was actually blown away by how much I enjoyed their last offering War Eternal (2014). Though the last ten years have resulted in a real up and down listening experience in terms of quality, I had high hopes resting on their eleventh album Will to Power (2017), which sees Jeff Loomis of Nevermore fame joining their ranks.

This is not just because of War Eternal being a new career high point for them, but because everything leading up to Will to Power seems to have being putting all the pieces in place for Arch Enemy to break their mould and deliver something that, at long last, brings their music to the next level. They have a vocalist in Alissa White-Gluz whose dual style of growls/clean singing was only lightly scratched on War Eternal (in a real blink and you'll miss it kind of way). They were showing tendencies of experimentation with symphonic elements on the last album, which were integrated well. And now they also have Jeff Loomis, one of the main writers of major (and very different to Arch Enemy) metal band Nevermore, whose new blood is surely going to influence their sound right?

Wrong. Loomis didn't contribute a single thing to Will to Power. The album feels so typically Arch Enemy that Michael Amott may as well just have played all the guitars himself and hired a session player for the second guitarist role when playing live. Such a noted player like Loomis feels wasted here as is. As for the other things I spoke of in the previous paragraph, the symphonic elements do make an appearance on a single track, the closer A Fight I Must Win, but mostly outside of a metal context. Otherwise they've evaporated into thin air. Alissa White-Gluz does use her clean singing voice on one song, Reason to Believe, which feels very much like a testing the waters kind of track to see how well fans receive it, while playing it completely safe with the rest of the release. And that's exactly how Will to Power comes across by and large. Safe and phoned in. The songs aren't bad in themselves, but it's nothing we haven't heard before from this band and many others in their genre.

In all fairness this isn't anything new with Arch Enemy, but unlike their best albums such as War Eternal and Rise of the Tyrant (2007) most songs aren't memorable individually after the event. That makes all the difference with a band like this. But as has always been the case in the past, Will to Power is not a terrible record by any means. I don't think Arch Enemy have ever made one of those. But it is very average and only made at all noteworthy by that one song Reason to Believe that uses clean vocals. That works really well, as I expected it would given the bands polished production sound. If only they'd been brave enough to use more of the clean singing.

Will to Power is the kind of record that makes one think whether Arch Enemy knows how much potential they have right now (I can't be the only one to hear it) or are content to just keep doing the same thing over and over, occasionally producing a War Eternal or Rise of the Tyrant quality album. I'm sure there's someone out there reading this and thinking 'but that's what they play, why should they change it?' and it's a valid point. And it would be fine if every album was as good as War Eternal. But as I see it when you're turning out more albums like Will to Power and the earlier Khaos Legions (2011) and Doomsday Machine (2005), where the term 'uninspired' springs to mind surely it's time for a bit of bravery with your writing and to use every weapon at your disposal? A band doesn't have to leave their established genre behind to make a record that sounds different from their others. This one just sounds over 90% recycled.

ARCH ENEMY Will to Power

Album · 2017 · Melodic Death Metal
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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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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.

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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