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.

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ROTTING CHRIST The Heretics Album Cover The Heretics
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WINDIR 1184 Album Cover 1184
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UADA Cult of a Dying Sun Album Cover Cult of a Dying Sun
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melodic black metal Music Reviews

TYRMFAR Renewal Through Purification

Album · 2019 · Melodic Black Metal
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Kev Rowland
This is the second full-length release from Swiss metal act Trymfar, following on from 2017’s ‘Human Abomination’. Since then they have replaced their singer Alex with Robin (they only use first names, and real ones as opposed to something weird), but as I haven’t heard the debut I’m not sure what, if any, impact that has on their overall sound. I’ve seen Trymfar indicated in a few places as melodic black metal, but to my ears they are more like blackened death, as they contain quite large elements of both. For the most part it is an interesting mix, although I do wonder if this is self-produced as there are times when they continue a riff for just a few bars too long, so I found my interest waning here and there. But when the band are really firing, they become something really interesting indeed, as they manage to evoke the atmosphere of a black metal act with some of the power of a death metal band.

The sound can be a little muddied at time, but there is a spark within this release which makes me keep returning to it. Apparently they have been making quite a name for themselves on the festival circuit, and there is a lot of power within this release which certainly makes me think that might be the place to best see what this band is really about. Interesting and enjoyable as opposed to indispensable, but probably worth checking out.

ROTTING CHRIST The Heretics

Album · 2019 · Melodic Black Metal
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Kev Rowland
I was fairly late hearing Rotting Christ for the first time, but even I have been a fan for twenty years now. It is incredible to think that Sakis Tolis (vocals, guitars, keyboards) and his brother Themis (drums) formed this band as long ago as 1987, and now in their thirty-second year they have surely produced an album which is going to make the metal world sit up and take notice. The Greeks have brought in a couple of guests to help out and have then somehow produced one of the most incredible melodic black metal albums I have ever had the privilege to hear. The album opens with monks in their cloisters, a voice describes heretics, and then suddenly the band are crunching into “In The Name of God”. This is one of the most blistering, melodic and heavy black metal numbers I have come across as the riffs blast through in perfect unison, crunching everything into mush beneath the sheer power.

It is an incredibly brutal album, yet it is wrapped in symphonic majestic black metal power, a real iron fist inside a silk glove as it is incredibly commercial yet totally uncompromising all at the same time. That this has been picked up by music buyers and has catapulted it into charts all over the world is not a surprise to me, as any metalhead who hears this (no matter what subgenre they normally listen to) will just be blown away. Irina Zybina makes her presence felt on “Vetry Zlye” with some delicate additional vocals, adding yet another touch of class to what to my ears in a faultless album. I have been playing this a great deal, and I just can’t tire of it, each and every time I listen to it I am blown away by the sheer scale as this is something that feels to be far more than just music. This is a real force, an artistic creation which is monstrously beautiful. Now if only they could tour down here so I can hear this in the live environment then it would feel complete. This is one of the most important albums within this genre ever released, as it cuts through and across so many areas and is an amazing achievement.

EIKENSKADEN The Black Laments Symphony

Album · 2001 · Melodic Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
EIKENSKADEN is one of the many projects of Stefan Kozak of Metz, France. Other bands he has been involved with are Azerlath, Bolverk and Mystic Forest, the latter of which is what began this project in 1998 after that one ended. Mystic Forest only really got to the demo phase of band projects by the time this one was formed but continued in conjunct with this one. EIKENSKADEN has released four albums to date before truncated the moniker to simply SKADEN. This debut album THE BLACK LAMENTS SYMPHONIE came out in 2001.

Kozak’s interest in EIKENSKADEN was to create a more theatrical classical take on the black metal sound. The usual black metal elements are found in abundance such as tremolo picked guitar riffs, heavy buzzsaw distortion and raspy unintelligible lyrics screamed from under the din along with energetic deliveries that offer blastbeats and raging fury however the chaos is channeled with the order of neoclassical underpinnings which offer a much more melodic black metal experience than the average pissed off second waver.

The project consists of only two members. Kozak plays all the usual instruments which includes guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and piano and Gabriel “Gaabh” Palmieri plays only the lead guitar solos which there are plenty of. In addition to the relentless black metal bombast are soaring atmospheric melodies and introspective moments were classical piano rolls are left in solitude to conjure up a lugubrious melancholy. There are also doomy slower riffs that allow power chords to sustain while a lazy percussive backbeat allows the atmospheric wailing of the lead guitar to slink up and down spaced out musical scales.

While Kozak’s other band Mystic Forest was focused more on atmospheric constructs complete with female vocal parts, EIKENSKADEN is completely dedicated to thick noisy black metal that is married with neoclassical melodic compositional approaches which proves that the black metal aisle of the metal supermarket is the most adaptable to almost anything thrown at it. It almost always sticks and the infusion of Chopin piano chops and progressively infused guitar wails work quite well despite stealing a little thunder from the scary aspects that the genre can muster up.

Second wave black metal purists only interested in Satanic ritual music or evil as fuck bombast will probably hate this as much as Dimmu Borgir gets trashed but if you don’t mind an interesting mix of something that may resemble Symphony X more than Darkthrone at least in melodic flow then this isn’t a bad album at all. There’s enough black metal darkness to keep this from being too cheery but at the same time this style of music will never come close to be tagged depressive black metal either. A very cool hybrid but in the end not really enough variations in the album overall to make it absolutely essential either. This is an interesting album indeed that sits somewhere in between.

WORMWITCH Heaven That Dwells Within

Album · 2019 · Melodic Black Metal
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Nightfly
Black metal is a genre I dip in and out of. I have my favourites like Watain, Immortal, Melechesh and Dissection to name a few but I’m far more likely to be listening to death or thrash when it comes to the more extreme side of things. Now and again though something comes along in the black metal field that really grabs my attention. One such album is Heaven That Dwells Within, the second full length release from Canadians Wormwitch.

I’d heard they were a mix of black metal and crust punk. I’ve only had a brief listen to their debut after hearing this but that certainly seems a fair description of Strike Mortal Soil as far as I can recall. Heaven That Dwells Within seems to have reduced the crust quota though that D beat synonymous with crust rears its head from time to time, this being more of a melodic black metal affair with touches of melodic death metal at times. As opener Disciple Of The Serpent Star kicks in Tribulation immediately comes to mind. As the album progresses it’s not a one off either as they share that bands ear for a catchy riff loaded with melancholia. DOTSS happens to be my favourite song on the album but there’s no shortage of other great moments with plenty of variation with drums shifting through blasts, double kicks, D-beats and more. Whilst the vocals are of a fairly standard black metal style they’re well done but the strength of this album lies in its musicality. There’s no shortage of hook laden riffs, tremolo picking, searing licks and melodic solos – something else that reminds me of Tribulation. There’s enough variation to keep things interesting throughout and Lord Of Chains throws in a dose of dissonance which I always like.

I really love this album, probably my most played new release of the last month or so. I can’t see that changing any time soon and this one will certainly make my end of year list, somewhere near the top I suspect. To add to the appeal it has a great cover - a section of the John William Waterhouse painting “The Lady Of Shalott” which looks even better on the vinyl version . If you’re a black metal fan you really need to check this band out if you haven’t already.

CRAFTEON Cosmic Reawakening

Album · 2017 · Melodic Black Metal
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Kev Rowland
I have no idea where this 2017 album came from, but somehow it has made its way from Denver, Colorado all the way to Oxford, New Zealand. From what I have been able to discover, this is the only release to date, although according to their FB site they have been working on the next album. Their music is based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, while the name ‘Crafteon’ itself is a play on words of "Lovecraftian" and "aeon”. The band have a suitably unusual logo, interesting artwork, all wear corpse paint and have given themselves suitable names, so we have Lord Mordiggian (vocals, guitar), Fthaggua (lead guitar, backing vocals), Ithaqua (bass, backing vocals) and Rhagorthua (drums). It all adds up to one thing, right? Black metal. Well, yeah, but…

Although their music is based within the black metal genre, it is way more melodic than one would normally expect and incorporates elements of power metal and bring in early Metallica and even Amon Amarth. Some of the guitar solos are straight out of the “normal” heavy metal area, while the bass is deep and raw enough to sound as if Ithaqua has been studying the works of Chris Squire. Lyrically, Mordiggian (or Josh Mortensen to his mum) has an interesting approach that initially he wanted to write lyrics based on Lovecraft, but felt he was unable to do this justice. So he used what was in the public domain and turned Lovecraft’s words into lyrics, amending where there was no other choice. Overall this is an incredibly accessible album, and one I can imagine people coming to even if they are not normally interested in the genre. Melodic at all times, yet still keeping true to certain elements of black metal, with vocals which have been influenced by Darkthone, and plenty of riffing, it is certainly interesting. I do think the drumming could have been more powerful and provide more balance and dynamics instead of relying so much on double bass drum pedals, but I am somewhat surprised they have yet to be signed as they have a powerful image to go with the music so it will be interesting to see how they progress with the next one.

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