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
4.38 | 103 ratings
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DARK TRANQUILLITY The Gallery Album Cover The Gallery
DARK TRANQUILLITY
4.46 | 26 ratings
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CARCASS Heartwork Album Cover Heartwork
CARCASS
4.33 | 60 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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SOILWORK The Living Infinite Album Cover The Living Infinite
SOILWORK
4.32 | 14 ratings
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SCAR SYMMETRY The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity) Album Cover The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity)
SCAR SYMMETRY
4.36 | 10 ratings
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INSOMNIUM Winter's Gate Album Cover Winter's Gate
INSOMNIUM
4.38 | 9 ratings
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DISILLUSION Back to Times of Splendor Album Cover Back to Times of Splendor
DISILLUSION
4.26 | 15 ratings
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AT THE GATES Slaughter of the Soul Album Cover Slaughter of the Soul
AT THE GATES
4.17 | 30 ratings
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AMON AMARTH Surtur Rising Album Cover Surtur Rising
AMON AMARTH
4.16 | 30 ratings
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SOILWORK The Ride Majestic Album Cover The Ride Majestic
SOILWORK
4.32 | 9 ratings
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OMNIUM GATHERUM Beyond Album Cover Beyond
OMNIUM GATHERUM
4.35 | 8 ratings
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melodic death metal Music Reviews

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.

CHILDREN OF BODOM I Worship Chaos

Album · 2015 · Melodic Death Metal
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Kev Rowland
Roope Latvala of Finnish thrash metal band Stone joined Children of Bodom in 2003, after guitarist Alexander Kuoppala decided to leave. This was the only line-up change since the band changed their name from Inearthed back in 1997, but prior to the recording of this album in 2015, Latvala also left. Instead of trying to get someone else into the band in time for the album, it was instead recorded as a quartet for the first time. Given that all these guys were playing together for at least the last 18 years, and drummer Jaska W. Raatikainen and singer/guitarist Alexi "Wildchild" Laiho formed that band back in 1993, the loss of one member doesn’t seem to have phased them too much.

It was back in 2003 when I first came across the band. I had missed out on their first three albums, but ‘Hate Crew Deathroll’ and the opening cut “Needled 24/7” was an immediate hit with me. As for their version of “Oops I Did It Again” (which can be found on their 2009 ‘Skeletons In The Closet’), it is simply awesome and even my kids enjoyed hearing that one in the car. For some reason I don’t think their take on melodic death or melodic black metal has ever really gained the plaudits and attention it should have (although in fairness I do live at the other end of the world and music press is limited, to say the least). This is technical music, incredibly tight with very high note density, and keyboards that may be sat at the back providing a symphonic curtain for the music to be placed against or can be taking the lead in a very metallic manner.

These four guys basically grew up together, firstly in the same small community in Finland, and then on the road together and it shows. This is music which relies totally on everyone knowing their place and combining together to create something special. Laiho may not have another guitarist to play against but he can either trade licks with himself or Janne Warman who is always there when he needs him. I have to smile each time I play “Hold Your Tongue” as it reminds me so much of Slipknot in one sense, and not at all in another.

Melodic, metallic, over the top yet with commerciality, Children of Bodom are still one of the top acts from Finland and this shows why.

SOILWORK Verkligheten

Album · 2019 · Melodic Death Metal
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Kev Rowland
Since the previous album, 2015’s ‘The Ride Majestic’, the band have not only released a collection of rarities in 2016’s ‘Death Resonance’ but have also managed to misplace their rhythm section. Given just how important that backbone has been to the band, and with drummer Dirk Verbeuren having been the incumbent for so many years, it was always going to be a hard job in finding the right replacements, but drummer Bastian Thusgaard and bassist Taylor Nordberg sound as if they are right at home. Part of the reason is that Soilwork are Soilwork, they don’t try to be anything different to what they have been for most of their twenty years, so it is a case of slotting in and finding ways to hone and polish that little bit more.

That polish really comes through on tracks like “Full Moon Shoals” which is a great example of the whole album as there are times when it is complex and incredibly heavy, times when it is rough, and then there are almost poptastic vocals over the top with harmonies which never sound as if they are coming from a band who are happiest in front of a stack of Marshalls prowling the stage. Is that “Ooohs” I hear Strid crooning? Surely not. There are some introductions which make one think that possibly they have morphed into symphonic hard rock, especially with the piano playing such a key part, right up to the point when someone flicks a switch and all hell breaks loose. This band have long since stopped trying to please critics and instead are consistently providing the gigs. “The Nurturing Glance” is an absolute show stopper, and when Thusgaard gets the double bass drums pedals going and locks in with Nordberg while Sylvain Coudret and David Andersson blasting it out, there is a very small gap for keyboard player Sven Karlsson to make his presence felt and it is left for Björn "Speed" Strid to rise above it all. The combination of musicality, metal, hooks and stunning vocals are what make Soilwork what they are, one of the very finest bands to ever come out of Sweden.

“Verkligheten” is the Swedish word for reality, and the band state this album is their attempt to try and go somewhere else, to express all those things that are born in between hypnagogic states and frenzies of hyperrealism. I’m not too sure of the last bit, but I do know that the guys are back with a bang and another amazing album.

SOILWORK Death Resonance

Boxset / Compilation · 2016 · Melodic Death Metal
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Kev Rowland
This 2016 album is a compilation of material stretching back as 2005, so in many ways is a bookend for drummer Dirk Verbeuren as he joined just prior to the beginning of this material and left afterwards as this is the last Soilwork to feature him. This isn’t a straightforward compilation featuring a ”best of”, but instead contains two new songs plus thirteen remastered versions of some which may not be easily obtainable to the fan. This includes the whole of the 2014 ‘Beyond The Infinite’ EP (which rather interestingly is here in exactly the same order as the original release, tracks 4-8), plus others which were released as bonus tracks (often in Japan) from the albums ‘Stabbing the Drama’ (2005), ‘Sworn to a Great Divide’ (2007), ‘The Panic Broadcast’ (2010) and ‘The Ride Majestic’ (2015). Something which is also interesting is that the compilation works in chronological order, so the new tracks are at the beginning, and then it works back in time, so it ends with the oldest. I’ve not seen a compilation put together like this, and it is really refreshing and normally everything is jumbled up, so the listener gets different styles, recording levels and quality all over the place – but here one is taken on a journey back into Soilwork’s past.

The sound is great throughout, and one can understand the desire to release this compilation as it is an incredibly solid album in its own right. It is also interesting to hear how in some ways the band has changed its approach since the early days, yet in others their musical path was already set by the time this collection starts (‘Stabbing The Drama’ was their sixth album after all) and they have continued down the same furrow ever since. Unlike some bands who have moved out of the melodic death genre into something quite unmentionable, and there are a few, Soilwork have doubled down and know what they are going to achieve under that name. If they want to do something different then they form a project instead of changing what this band is about, and the result is a consistency which many others would love to be able to achieve. In many ways this collection is for those who already have the other albums, but unlike many rarities compilations is also worth getting in its own right and fans will do far more than just play this once and put it back on the shelf. Given these were bonus cuts for the most part, so didn’t make it to the original album, that is some achievement.

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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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