Death Metal, Melodic

Written by: ylside
Published: 03.08.2005
1-Brief presentation and examples of Melodic Death Metal
2-Difference between The "Gothenburg" sound and Melodic Death metal
3-The difference between extreme power metal and Melodic Death Metal

First of all this is my point of view and it appears that a lot of people don't agree with me. I mainly give examples of bands and songs, for I am not very good with very long theory description. Metal is music before it is words. You'll understand easily if you check the bands I am talking about.
And don't forget that these are just labels, and most of the time they are worth nothing. Because after all, who cares about labels? Metal is a music before it is a huge amount of classifications.


1-Brief presentation and examples of Melodic Death Metal

Let's begin with the word: Melodic Death Metal, it means Death Metal with a more pronounced sense of melody. That's all.
My entire article is based upon this and nothing more.
And the word "Melodic" doesn't always mean cheesy.

From this you can get that: Melodic Death Metal is no more or less than Death Metal with more complex/melodic song structure (rarely even adding keyboards) than the usual Death Metal sound. And I mean the usual sound that bands like Possessed, CC or Vader have. You can clearly notice the "primitive" (but yet good) composing with bands like Vader (Litany). This is just to give a base. It is fast tremolo picking and palm muted power-chords in general, nothing really mind blowing or astonishing in it.


Well, first of all.Europe was more productive than North America when it comes to cunning melodies.Even if it's very roots varies from both continents.
Most of the sources claim that At the Gates began the Melodic Death Metal wave. Actually this is debatable because at the same time other bands were doing practically the same but weren't as acknowledged as At the Gates was.
What I will try to do now is a little listing of it's first pioneers, pretty hard to decide which band beginned this whole mess actually.I've been digging it down to 1990-1991 at the moment.

It's 1990,an album called "Sumerian Cry" had just been released.Death metal, with a slight melodic approache.It is like the beginning of Tiamat's transformation that will lead to their "The Astral Sleep" one year later. Both albums are quite melodic for a normal Death Metal release, but especially the 1991 release.They really kept creating wonderfully melodic riffs without leaving their brutal origins through both those albums. Something very interesting to check.
And then comes 'The Key' by Nocturnus, keyboards use and exaggerated atmosphere have been added to stout and powerful growls and guitars original usual death metal tend to create, mind blowing. Something quite unbelievable for Death Metal in that time, adding keyboards that is. The combo Synth/Guitar build up the whole melodic surroundings. A must.

The masterpiece "The Karelian Isthmus" (1992) by Amorphis is exactly showing this very sublte sound of Death Metal.Sometimes this album can just pass as a normal Death Metal album. And this is the specific part of Melodic Death Metal I want to attract your attention to, that some Melodic Death Metal bands can pass for Death Metal.

Still in 1992, albums like "The red in the sky is ours" by At the Gates got out as well and for most people this is the principal pillar of Melodic Death Metal. More aggressive than "The Karelian Isthmus" but keeps ounces of bright compositions (songs like "Within", "Windows", "Claws Of Laughter Dead" are good example to base on) Very clever use of melody making this album either super-aggressive or sad and slow by moments. At the Gates did obviously play a big role in making Melodic Death Metal quite famous. (or even notorious, due to some confusions with mDM bands later on)

The major thing for me is that bands just compose their material in a wide-ranged view of what melodies are. For they can bring a more odd/strange feeling to songs than the usual fast palm muted power chords as most think, for example by emphasizing harmony, chromatism, or octave changing and various exotic scales or simply by being melodic without exageration.

But Melodic Death Metal is not dead.
Later on, bands like Amon Amarth, Hypocrisy, Garden of Shadow, Carcariass, Necrophobic, Desultory, Unanimated, Edge of Sanity (just listen to their masterpiece Crimson I) and Arghoslent clearly affirmed their position as a Melodic Death Metal bands.
These bands mainly added a lot more aggressive vocals and sharp guitar riffs to their sound, pushing Melodic Death Metal a little bit further.

You may find this outrageous I guess but actually, even Death's "The sound of perseverance" and "Symbolic" can both easily enter in the Melodic death metal field for me: an intelligent use of the usual fast tremolo picking/catchy palm muting riffs as Death Metal classics do added to a clever and very melodic scale soloing as Chuck uses mostly all the time.

The "modern" sound :

Arghoslent:
Racism, pronounced sence of narrow mindedness and fake-nationalism is perhaps the counter balance to the powerful and melodic sound Arghoslent have. They succeeded in having a very nice mix without ignoring their Death Metal roots (i.e. agressivity) , thus not falling into cheesiness some other bands failed to escape, very smart.This is what makes them a strong actual Melodic Death Metal band. To follow.

Amon Amarth :
Amon Amarth is perhaps THE example of pure and actual Melodic Death metal WITHOUT any external influence in their musicality, downtuned and strong melodic guitar riffs holds it all. "VS the world" may be an interesting recommendation


2-The difference between The "Gothenburg" sound and Melodic Death Metal

As you might know, Gothenburg is the cradle of a lot of talented Swedish metal bands, most people just put it as Melodic Death Metal but it is breaking the rule I put before "Melodic Death Metal means Death Metal with a more pronounced sense of melody".
Gothenburg metal, or Metal Melting-pot so to speak, is perhaps from metal genres that include lots of other genres in it, especially Heavy Metal (or should I say especially Iron Maiden) and Thrash Metal.

The most obvious case (but yet excellent and very creative) is In Flames: their heavy/thrash riffs (double guitar system) or "harmonised guitar", main song feeling, drums, aka Clayman or Colony mainly , are too obvious and have nothing to do with Death Metal riffs.

Same for Ceremonial Oath and Dimension Zero: the same musicians were at least once in those 3 bands.So it's kinda the same influence, with Ceremonial Oath being more aggressive somehow.

I didn't forget Dark Tranquillity, but their case is hard to describe, for they sometimes really get aggressive (A Moonclad Reflection (1992)) and so can be labelled as Melodic Death Metal, but this was their first EP and they slightly changed paths nowadays. So they remain in the Gothenburg field to me.

3-The difference between extreme power metal and Melodic Death Metal

Okay, to me this is one of the biggest errors I've heard concerning metal classifications.
And this error comes from the vocals. Growling/shrieking doesn't mean directly Death Metal.
And here I am especially talking about Children of Bodom, Norther and Kalmah for they have absolutely nothing to do with Death Metal riffs, nothing. Just try to imagine one Children of Bodom (or Norther or Kalmah) song without vocals: it can be close to what Sonata Arctica do. But only vocals make a lot of people think it is a sub-genre of Death Metal. And this is a big mistake.


This article may be updated many other times, for I am still gathering informations.


 




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Ag Fox - 26.07.2009 at 13:34  
Did not realise there is this one here. silly me indeed
Death Pickle - 17.09.2009 at 15:32  
Written by Guest on 13.01.2007 at 00:46

Not that i disagree, this article brings light to unbelievers , but i would like to mention some of albums that represents MDM, and that aren't mentioned (read: listen to them when you have some time):
Gardenian - Sindustries
Ebony Tears - Tortura Insomniae, A Handful of Nothing
Dark Tranquillity - Gallery
Arch Enemy - Black Earth, Burning Bridges
First two bands are dead (R.I.P.), and other two are widely known, but I like that albums


Good to see someone else who is into Ebony tears . Ive put a recommendation to add them to Metal Storm.

Great article. There are so many bands taking ideas from this style nowadays, i think many people don't really understand the origins of
the sub-genre (or genre...). I kinda pisses me off how much metalcore borrows from this style...
GamlaSonn - 17.09.2009 at 23:13  
Man after reading this I can't help thinking this "spot-on genre classification" is a bit picky, and I cba analyzing and researching that, I just go with my gut feeling. But hey, knock yourself out.

Any who, just gonna throw some thoughts out there. Say Edge of Sanity's melodic death metal ala "Twilight" and "Darkday", extremely disorted guitars (typical of old school swedish DM) and other pure DM effects, but also very melodic! Now compare this to old In Flames / Dark Tranq. etc etc and it seems they're more influenced by Black Metal with the high-pitch shrieks, but of course with the very Guthenberg trademarked riffs. Then we have the power metal influenced CoB, Norther and Kalmah.

Up to three "substyles" already. Hell, I don't know where I'm going with this.. Melodeath is such a debatable genre o_O. I'd say that Amon Amarth sounds very guthenberg-ish though, only more epic.
ylside - 18.09.2009 at 01:21  
Written by GamlaSonn on 17.09.2009 at 23:13

Man after reading this I can't help thinking this "spot-on genre classification" is a bit picky, and I cba analyzing and researching that, I just go with my gut feeling. But hey, knock yourself out.

Any who, just gonna throw some thoughts out there. Say Edge of Sanity's melodic death metal ala "Twilight" and "Darkday", extremely disorted guitars (typical of old school swedish DM) and other pure DM effects, but also very melodic! Now compare this to old In Flames / Dark Tranq. etc etc and it seems they're more influenced by Black Metal with the high-pitch shrieks, but of course with the very Guthenberg trademarked riffs. Then we have the power metal influenced CoB, Norther and Kalmah.

Up to three "substyles" already. Hell, I don't know where I'm going with this.. Melodeath is such a debatable genre o_O. I'd say that Amon Amarth sounds very guthenberg-ish though, only more epic.


To answer you first, yes, classifying such things is definitly picky ( or arrogant, stupid, etc you name it lol ) but you know, my motivation to write such thing back then was my disappointment at checking what was supposed to be "melodic" or "atmospheric" death metal and it turned out to be some happy happy thing or something quite far from what I was waiting for.

Yes actually you could be right about old In Flames / Dark Tranqulity being influenced by BM more.

But like I wrote in the beginning And don't forget that these are just labels, and most of the time they are worth nothing. Because after all, who cares about labels? Metal is a music before it is a huge amount of classifications.
This article is quite old now and well.. that is just my point of view back then, i dont really try to impose my opinion on people.

I understand that saying "melodic speed/power with harsh vocals" is quite... stupid although it's as a closest thing I could come up to "describe" the sound.
Cheers!
GamlaSonn - 18.09.2009 at 12:38  
Written by ylside on 18.09.2009 at 01:21

Written by GamlaSonn on 17.09.2009 at 23:13

Man after reading this I can't help thinking this "spot-on genre classification" is a bit picky, and I cba analyzing and researching that, I just go with my gut feeling. But hey, knock yourself out.

Any who, just gonna throw some thoughts out there. Say Edge of Sanity's melodic death metal ala "Twilight" and "Darkday", extremely disorted guitars (typical of old school swedish DM) and other pure DM effects, but also very melodic! Now compare this to old In Flames / Dark Tranq. etc etc and it seems they're more influenced by Black Metal with the high-pitch shrieks, but of course with the very Guthenberg trademarked riffs. Then we have the power metal influenced CoB, Norther and Kalmah.

Up to three "substyles" already. Hell, I don't know where I'm going with this.. Melodeath is such a debatable genre o_O. I'd say that Amon Amarth sounds very guthenberg-ish though, only more epic.


To answer you first, yes, classifying such things is definitly picky ( or arrogant, stupid, etc you name it lol ) but you know, my motivation to write such thing back then was my disappointment at checking what was supposed to be "melodic" or "atmospheric" death metal and it turned out to be some happy happy thing or something quite far from what I was waiting for.

Yes actually you could be right about old In Flames / Dark Tranqulity being influenced by BM more.

But like I wrote in the beginning And don't forget that these are just labels, and most of the time they are worth nothing. Because after all, who cares about labels? Metal is a music before it is a huge amount of classifications.
This article is quite old now and well.. that is just my point of view back then, i dont really try to impose my opinion on people.

I understand that saying "melodic speed/power with harsh vocals" is quite... stupid although it's as a closest thing I could come up to "describe" the sound.
Cheers!


Heh, I'm not contradicting you or anything, just throwing out thoughts

I agree that many of these "melodeath/power" bands are simply (extreme?) power metal with harsh vocals. Thing is, sometimes they sound very similar to old guthenberg with the high pitched growls and melodic riffs. It's very hard to distinguish the styles at times, except for the power metal influences. It's a pain in the ass to classify them..

Still, what do you think of Edge of Sanity's melodic stuff ("Darkday", "Of Darksome Origin")? Totally non-guthenberg, pure melodic death metal. They're the only band I know that sounds like that. All though listening to Twilight made me think of Carcass Heartwork for some reason
ylside - 20.09.2009 at 19:43  
Written by GamlaSonn on 18.09.2009 at 12:38

Heh, I'm not contradicting you or anything, just throwing out thoughts

I agree that many of these "melodeath/power" bands are simply (extreme?) power metal with harsh vocals. Thing is, sometimes they sound very similar to old guthenberg with the high pitched growls and melodic riffs. It's very hard to distinguish the styles at times, except for the power metal influences. It's a pain in the ass to classify them..

Still, what do you think of Edge of Sanity's melodic stuff ("Darkday", "Of Darksome Origin")? Totally non-guthenberg, pure melodic death metal. They're the only band I know that sounds like that. All though listening to Twilight made me think of Carcass Heartwork for some reason

oh i just answered the question you asked and gave you more explanation as to why my view is what it is!, of course you can criticize what I wrote, its only normal

Darkday is actually a fine song indeed! Edge of Sanity is quite special, their sound is as much influenced by death metal as gothic and progressive rock.

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