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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melodic death metal top albums

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EDGE OF SANITY Crimson Album Cover Crimson
EDGE OF SANITY
4.41 | 110 ratings
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DARK TRANQUILLITY The Gallery Album Cover The Gallery
DARK TRANQUILLITY
4.46 | 32 ratings
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CARCASS Heartwork Album Cover Heartwork
CARCASS
4.38 | 74 ratings
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AMORPHIS Tales From the Thousand Lakes Album Cover Tales From the Thousand Lakes
AMORPHIS
4.32 | 67 ratings
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INSOMNIUM Winter's Gate Album Cover Winter's Gate
INSOMNIUM
4.43 | 11 ratings
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DISILLUSION Back to Times of Splendor Album Cover Back to Times of Splendor
DISILLUSION
4.24 | 18 ratings
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AT THE GATES Slaughter of the Soul Album Cover Slaughter of the Soul
AT THE GATES
4.17 | 35 ratings
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OMNIUM GATHERUM Beyond Album Cover Beyond
OMNIUM GATHERUM
4.36 | 9 ratings
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IN FLAMES Colony Album Cover Colony
IN FLAMES
4.15 | 39 ratings
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INSOMNIUM One For Sorrow Album Cover One For Sorrow
INSOMNIUM
4.21 | 17 ratings
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INSOMNIUM Above the Weeping World Album Cover Above the Weeping World
INSOMNIUM
4.23 | 13 ratings
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SOILWORK The Living Infinite Album Cover The Living Infinite
SOILWORK
4.19 | 17 ratings
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melodic death metal Music Reviews

INSOMNIUM In the Halls of Awaiting

Album · 2002 · Melodic Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
It didn’t really take much time at all for the early death metal scene to splinter off in myriad directions with some bands going the technical route and others adopting the melodic guitar riffs and solos of traditional heavy metal. The melodeath scene was pioneered primarily by Swedish bands like Dark Tranquility, In Flames and At The Gates which all formed in the city of Göteburg (Gothenburg) therefore the entire 90s was pretty much about Sweden’s Gothenburg scene as far as melodeath was concerned. Of course it didn’t take long for non-Swedish bands to adopt the style as their own including Britain’s Carcass after abandoning grindcore influences and on that list is the Finnish band INSOMNIUM that formed in Jeonsuu in 1997.

As far as full-length albums are concerned INSOMNIUM didn’t get its start until the 2002 debut IN THE HALLS OF AWAITING which was released a good decade after the whole melodeath thing had taken off but in that time bands like Edge of Sanity, Amorphous, Amon Amarth and the aforementioned bands kept the style running neck in neck with the other offshoots of the world of death metal. As far as direct influences are concerned for INSOMNIUM, it seems that this band’s biggest included In Flames and albums like “Whoracle” or “The Jester Race” as well as Dark Tranquility and early Amorphous with heavy chunky death metal riffing accompanied by melodic hooks culled from Scandinavian folk flavors.

IN THE HALLS OF AWAITING sounds like the typical melodeath of the day with the intensity of death metal including percussive blastbeats and growling guttural vocal angst. Also included are lots of clean guitar arpeggiated moments that allow the melodic influences to lead the way but the band even at this stage was really adept at crafting an album’s worth of material that took in the zeitgeist of the 90s scene which is really the problem with this debut. It was a few years late to the party for simple straight-forward melodeath and even though the band would up its game and remain relevant for the next couple of decades, at this point INSOMNIUM was a competent but just run of the mill melodeath metal band.

It’s amazing that this band has kept three constant members throughout its entire run of albums beginning with this one. Nillo Sevänen (bass, harsh vocals), Ville Friman (guitar, clean vocals) and Markus Hirvonen have remained a trio for all those years with only the fourth member changing guard. While IN THE HALLS OF AWAITING is by no means a bad example of melodeath it doesn’t grasp the complexities of what the band would prove itself capable of and therefore this debut is often regarded as the band’s weakest album. While that may be true, it’s still a decent album if you happen to be craving no nonsense melodeath without too much fuss and bother.

Personally i prefer the more sophisticated albums that follow so this one doesn’t register on my radar but it’s certainly a competent beginning for a band that managed to break free from its generic origins into something unique and innovative. At 55 1/2 minutes this album is also too long as it gets a little samey after several tracks however at the end are the best including “The Bitter End” and the lengthy 11-minute closer title track which really allows the melodic aspects to develop with nice piano rolls and extended dynamics. The nature of this debut certainly brings the band’s epic and sombre style to light but would require a couple more years of practice to really nail their own distinct sound.

AT THE GATES The Nightmare Of Being

Album · 2021 · Melodic Death Metal
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ssmarcus
While At the Gates' output over the past decade or so since their reunion has undoubtedly been enjoyable, I think all but their die hard fans would agree that it has fallen short of the expectations one would have set for one of the most enduringly influential death metal bands of the 90's. But hey, there are death metal acts far less competent and important that have managed to string together a several decades-long career churning out the same recycled noise. If At the Gates wanted to spend the rest of their career riding the trends that, at the start of it all, were largely of their own making anyway, it would do nothing to tarnish their legacy.

And yet, with the release of The Nightmare of Being, At the Gates have announced to the world that they have no interest in sitting on their laurels and letting the opportunity to keep making worthwhile music this late into their careers slip away.

The Nightmare of Being starts off unassumingly with track 3, the title track, only beginning to tease what would follow. But from the tracks "Garden of Cyrus" through "The Fall into Time," the band strings together arguably the most unique and forward thinking stretch of music of their entire careers with instrumentation and chord progressions you would hardly ever expect to find on a record like this. The progressive ambition caked into these tracks belies a band both confident in their abilities and rife with inspiration. As front man and co-songwriter Tomas Lindberg told Loudwire, bringing in Jonas Stålhammar, a guitarist with a strong prog-rock foundation, to replace founding member Anders Björler enabled the group stretch their wings in ways they would not have previously dared to try.

The album's weakness is that it just doesn't commit enough to this new direction. The record is bookended by fairly standard melo-death fare. Its mesial section stands out, like a juicy and tender piece of meat between coarser cuts - edible but inferior. Still, The Nightmare of Being has succeeded in stoking my excitement for whatever At the Gates has in store for us going forward. How many veteran metal bands can we actually say that about?

ORBIT CULTURE Nija

Album · 2020 · Melodic Death Metal
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ssmarcus
In the mid-aughts, Trivium, a metalcore/melo-death band that quickly rose to prominence during the New Wave of American Heavy Metal, at some point began to catch flack for sounding "too much like Metallica." While the group's music was obviously inspired by Metallica, it was vocalist Matt Heafy's clean singing voice's uncanny resemblance to James Hetfield's voice that seems to have invited these comparisons. Why these comparisons invited disdain is anyone's guess. Artists wearing their influences on their sleeves is, in an of itself, not sufficient reason to ridicule them.

This brings us to Orbit Culture, and their latest record Nija, a record that all but spells out its influences on the album sleeve. Metallica, Gojira, and At the Gates sounds are all front and center. And if we're being honest, in somewhat serendipitous fashion, vocalist Niklas Karlsson, kind of sounds a lot like Matt Heafy from Trivium. But by competently and reverently tying these influences together, influences that no modern metal band can really claim to have escaped, Orbit Culture has crafted a near definitive "snapshot" of the state of modern heavy metal. Nija IS the state of heavy metal in 2021 and the state is doing fine... but perhaps a little short on inspiration.

As infectious as some of the riffs can be, the album falls short in those big moments that are supposed to carry a bit more emotional heft. I suppose this is where it would indeed be fair to criticize an artist for being overly dependent on their influences. An authentic emotional response from the audience requires some more authenticity on the part of the artist.

On Nija, Orbit Culture establish themselves as promising young act. Will their next record catapult them to greatness? If they hone in on their unique voice within the framework of their influences, then the answer is a resounding yes!

CARCASS Heartwork

Album · 1993 · Melodic Death Metal
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ssmarcus
Carcass is one of the greatest and most important death metal bands in history. And this reputation could reasonably rest entirely on this specific record alone!

Death metal started in the 80s in Tampa Bay Florida as a form of thrash with harsher vocals and lyrics with gory imagery. There was also the related grindcore scene which took its main inspiration from hardcore but also indulged the gory grotesque imagery and brutal growling characteristic of death metal. The music emerging from these scenes was all about shock value: violence, gore, and aggression for its own sake (musically and lyrically).Artistic merit came, in my opinion, at a premium.

In the 90s, death metal spawned two offshoots: technical death metal, primarily in North America, and melodic death metal, primarily in Sweden. Melodic death metal is characterized by the same brutal vocals and down-tuned or extended range guitars of death metal but the riffs actually take inspiring from classic metal like Iron Maiden and Sabbath. As a genre, it transcended the mere shock value of death and grindcore and actually focused on songcraft.

Carcass, who actually happen to be from the UK, started off making grotesque grindcore music but eventually "sold out" and created one of the first, best, and most important melodic death metal records of all time. Obviously, Carcass' old school grindcore fans hated Heartwork, at least initially. But it is indeed what catapulted Carcass to their current metal god status. It is not exaggeration to point out that the sound on this record is basically the standard for extreme but "accessible" metal till today.

As far as songs go, "This Mortal Coil" has the strongest Maiden influence. "Embodiment " was the first song I heard from the record and is absolutely one of its best. The best track has to be "Arbeit Meicht Fleisch". Its an unapologetically ambitious song that combines everything about Carcass that makes them great.

Personally, this was the first extreme metal record I ever listened to and I was more or less hooked right away. The mix of groove, technicality, melody, and, of course, anger and brutality were like a drug for an angsty 14 year old teenager. I have not been the same person ever since...

ANTAGONIST Вечность Смерти

Album · 2019 · Melodic Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
One of the many modern extreme metal bands to emerge from the vastness of the Russian Federation, this band ANTAGONIST comes from the far eastern city of Vladivostok and formed in 2017 with the members of Dmitry Strobykin (bass), Roman Kim (drums), Tatiana Markova (guitar), Andrey Primachenko (guitar) and Roman Kayukov (vocals). This seems to be a popular name for metal bands as there is a tech trash band from Wisconsin, USA, a California based metalcore band and yet another thrash metal band from Germany. While this was forgivable before the advent of the search engine, all i can ask myself is why would a band take a name that has been used in such abundance?

This ANTAGONIST for some reason uses an English moniker but has released its debut album Вечность Смерти (BYESH-na-ya SMYER-tee) which means “Eternity of Death” in the Russian language with all the track titles and lyrics in Russian. Whatever the case, ANTAGONIST is a ferocious band that performs a thrash metal infused mix of death metal and does a fairly decent job in cranking out ten strong tracks which hover around the 43 minute mark. This is pretty much by the books thrashy death metal with the emphasis on melodic hooks but done so bombastically with twin guitar ferocity and slower breakdowns between the rampaging riff monster attacks.

In fact the breakdowns are out of the metalcore playbook but for the most part the thrash metal riffing made more intense with blastbeats and other death metal elements dominates Вечность Смерти. The band is quite competent and performs this style of music like a champ but in the creativity department this is pretty mediocre as it sounds like a generic blueprint rather than a band that has found its own voice however ANTAGONIST doesn’t really sound like any other band particularly either. To my ears the rampaging metal style is more akin to tech thrash giants Vektor with some deathcore elements thrown in. Some thrash guitar solos also join in.

The guttural growling vocal style of Roman Kayukov is perfectly done but becomes a little monotonous as does the compositional one-dimensionality of this album. Not a bad listening experience when you just want to zone out to some kick ass death metal with thrash and core elements but there really isn’t anything on Вечность Смерти that invites a return visit. Perhaps a welcome live band for a remote setting such as Vladivostok but if ANTAGONIST wants to compete on the now global market, these guys need to step up their game a bit. The musicianship is certainly there.

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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