Melodic Death Metal - The Starter Pack
Rise of Modern Melodic Death Metal
Melodic death metal aka "melodeath" is a sub-genre of death metal that started in 1989 by the Swedish band Dark Tranquility and popularised by fellow countrymen In Flames later on; giving birth to the Swedish/"Gothenburg" sound; named after the hometown of the latter. Further on, Finnish bands have added their own style to the sub-genre; starting from Children of Bodom and relayed to more recent bands such as Insomnium, also hailing from Finland; this subtle sonic difference and approach to the music have spawned the Finnish sound which added keyboards to the guitar riffs.
Fast-forward to today when melodeath is a juggernaut with many bands appearing from all over the world where each band has it's own musical identity; be it mixing power metal with melodeath or taking inspirations from classic heavy metal (most notably New Wave of British Heavy Metal/NWOBHM) and West-Coast thrash metal. Amidst the sub-genre's evolution into its' own genre with many bands rending the air with fast, melodic riffage in a free-for-all sonic deathmatch; one may get confused as to where is the starting point is. Fear not, explorer as my compilation will help you get your pull and identify your bearings; assisting you in forming your melodeath alliance.
From Stockholm, this band is currently independent and has released 4 demos, 2 full-lengths and a split album with MondVolland, Eternal Helcaraxe, and Septekh. Their music is varied from slower albeit melancholic compositions to faster and more aggressive; on occasion both on a single track. Vocals are done in a very soothing tone and contrast well with the harsh screams which tie to the lyrical theme of silence, despair, and death. The band knows how to create melodies that comfort the listener who is tired and frustrated by modern norms and his struggle against them.
Eventide - The Final Spin
Voices of Ruin
About classic heavy metal and West-Coast thrash influences, Voices of Ruin includes those alongside the European stylings in their music. The band is currently independent with 2 excellent full-lengths. The raw aggression and speed of thrash provide explosive fire-support to the melodies of the highly technical solos which move from eerie and twisted to adrenaline-pumping, high-energy and intense with powerful hooks that cut deep. Finally, Voices of Ruin maintains the death metal part of the genre with raw aggression in the vocals and dark lyrics on suffering, death, and misanthropy.
Voices of Ruin - The Awakening
Another Swedish band, System Shock has 3 full-lengths under the belt, they employ a wide variety of ways to make their tracks interesting; employing keyboards, a semi-NU metal structure to some songs with an ominous build-up till everything explodes in an aggressive, full-bodied roar-laden chorus and heavy harmonics. Influences of NWOBHM are visible on some tracks such as Tyrranicide below; where speed and screaming take center stage. The band's clean vocals are unique in a way that they are more atmospheric; sounding almost bluesy. Finally, System Shock has a groove-laden approach to the genre akin to Pantera's take on thrash metal with guitar riffs that pulverize in catchy, fun passages that most metal fans would appreciate.
System Shock - Tyrranicide
From Austria, these warriors take Viking metal influences (popularized by Amon Amarth) and melt them into their melodeath sword minus any string of flute instrumentals usually associated with the tag "Viking" or "folk." The band currently has 3 full-lengths and one demo. Heathen Foray, like Voices of Ruin, employs highly technical solos with arpeggios hammering away while vocals sounding like authentic Viking battle cries shake the air. Like Amon Amarth, Heathen Foray draws inspiration from ancient battles throughout European history; most notably the Ottoman siege of Vienna, which are a theme that compliments the band's aggressive musicianship which remains consistent throughout their albums where neo-classical shredding meets death metal; creating a tense feeling of a warrior's last stand.
Heathen Foray - Armored Bards
From the Netherlands, this band has 4 full-lengths where the latest has many thrash influences while the prior ones are classic melodeath which echoes early Soilwork. Each of Detonation's songs has their own identity where the guitar work changes its pattern, giving a new melody and feeling all the time. The lyrical theme is politics and violence, meaning that the thrashier sound alongside sampling from military radio chatters weaves a disturbing yet intriguing story. Solo guitars which are highly prominent in their 2nd album enhance the violence theme by hitting the listener's mind with eerie sweeps that move around the nerves. Finally, the music is highly catchy with lots of hooks to grab and hold your attention akin to a bank robber facing a SWAT team.
Detonation - Deserving Death
Made of Hate
The Polish metal scene was known for thrash metal in the 1980s (e.g Turbo) and more recently technical death metal (e.g Decapitated) but as for melodic death; make way for Made of Hate; shredding warriors of Warsaw. According to fans from Russia and their (the band's) colleagues; Markus Wosgien (A&R Manager), their inspiration was to make music which was a contrast and a counter-attack to the more popular Finnish style of melodeath; playing in a more aggressive, raw style with pierce-tuned solos with a purpose to get the hate out, as said by the band leader Michal Kostrzynski. The band has 3 full-length albums with crunchy guitar work and memorable tandem leads which burn throughout; making every riff intense. Vocals have that semi-clean roar which makes for raw, aggressive music.
Made of Hate - Bullet in Your Head
Another melodeath band with thrash influences, The Fading won the 2008 Wacken Metal Battle and released 2 full-length albums. I came across their music on YouTube; seeing a strange yet fun animated music video featuring cyborgs being assembled into band members, dismembered limbs and a dark aesthetic. The music complimented the cyber nightmare with non-stop aggression with monstrous clean roar-singing and high-speed guitars and mortar ordnance drums. Speed and impact is the focus of the music here; pure melodic aggression.
The Fading - Till Life Do Us Part
About mixing power metal with melodeath, I think Crimson Shadows is the only band to do it and do it very well; from what I heard in my long path as a metalhead. The band has 2 full-lengths and 2 EPs. These guys start the action right away from the first second of a song; immediately kicking into high octane blast beats, tandem leads and heavy grinding guitar breakdowns. Ever track goes from one extremity to the next; extremely heavy and aggressive to extremely melodic and soulful with clean vocals going for all the high notes. Fans of battle metal akin to Amon Amarth would really dig this band for their mix of extremities and eccentricities.
Crimson Shadows - Heroes Among Us
Now we go really dark with very grim-sounding and hateful songs that if they were a person, they would be the guy who sits in the dark, spitting venom and clutching an AK-47 while scanning passing crowds for his next victim. From Austria, Lost Dreams have 5 full-lengths. Mixing doom and black metal with melodeath is a winning combination with heavier and slower parts and faster chainsaw guitar riffs that won't be out of place on a black metal album. The mixture is joined by some of the eeriest yet expressively melodic and technical solos with some of the deepest, guttural vocals in a melodeath band.
Lost Dreams - I Curse You
An interesting band with Greek origins and Swedish line-up changes; this band incorporates traditional Gothenburg sounds into their music with heavier guitars and a focus on a faster rhythm. The band has a relatively long career with 7 full lengths of varied albums where each member adds his own touch to the sonic force. Having worked with big names of the Swedish melodeath scene, most notably Tomas Lindberg of At The Gates fame. Nightrage is a combination of all the best elements of the Swedish sound with catchy choruses, soaring guitar work and a double-bass percussion that gives the music a stronger punch. Like brass knuckles on an already strong fist.
Nightrage - The Venomous
What Style of Melodeath do You like Best?
Choose your Alliance
Overall, the modern melodic death metal scene is very varied and always has new bands appearing and showcasing their ever-expanding talent in our age of musical diversity. Melodeath is a hybrid of different musical ideas thrown together to form something heavy and soulful which carries much deeper lyrical themes that we are yet to hear in metal; keeping us guessing on how the genre would progress. Finally, my point here is that the genre is broadening as we speak and the bands above come from different extremes which would allow a new listener to discover his path through it; going for the thrashier sound or the blackened-death sound; there exist lots of choices in the world of melodeath.
© 2017 Jake Clawson