What Is Melodic Death Metal?

At The Gates
At The Gates. Century Media Records

Melodic Death Metal:

Melodic death metal emerged in Sweden in the mid-1990s, with the releases of At The Gates’ Slaughter Of The Soul, Dark Traquillity’s The Gallery and In Flames’ The Jester Race. These three albums became the building blocks for the sudden eruption of the Gothenburg metal scene.

Sweden was the epicenter of melodeath, which quickly spread to all corners of the globe. The UK's Carcass were another early melodic death metal band.

Musical Style:

Melodic death metal has characteristics of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), with fast riffing and harmonic guitar work. Death metal plays a big role in the sound as well, with fast double bass drum work and distorted guitars.

However, melodic elements also play a major part in the core sound, with clean vocals, acoustic guitars, and keyboards also maintain a strong presence in many melodic death metal bands.

Vocal Style:

The vocals are a mix of harsh screams and clean, tuneful harmonies. Death metal style growls are also prevalent, usually blended in with the screams.

Melodic Death Metal Pioneers:

At The Gates
The band was already around for half-a-decade when they put out their masterpiece, 1995’s Slaughter Of The Soul. The band took the quick and simple approach, blasting out short bursts of melodic death metal. Experimentation was still a focus point of the band, with subtle acoustic work sprinkled throughout the album.

A year after its release, the band would split up, re-uniting for a few shows in 2008.

1995’s The Gallery was their breakout album, the first with new vocalist Mikael Stanne, who replaced Anders Fridén, who went on to join In Flames. The Gallery is a strong album, one that wasn’t afraid to break the five-minute mark and add classical elements into their guitar work.

Dark Tranquillity would go on to have a long-lasting career, carving out a legacy built on an aggressive metal sound, with subtle keyboard work present.

The Jester Race is a fast-paced album, with the guitar duo of Jesper Strömblad and Glenn Ljungström tearing up the landscape, while Fridén’s barks are easily understandable. The band kept songs near the five-minute mark, with two instrumentals to showcase a progressive side of the quintet. The Jester Race would mark the beginning of a long and successful career for the Swedish band, even garnishing some commercial success for the band in their later years.

The British band Carcass formed in 1985 and were more of a grindcore band in their early days. They made the shift to melodic death with with 1993's Heartwork and also released 1996's Swansong before disbanding. They eventually reunited and made a stunning comeback with 2013's Surgical Steel, which received critical acclaim including being named the best heavy metal album of 2013.

Today's Melodic Death Metal Stars

In addition to the original genre pioneers that are still around today, some of melodic death metal's other successful bands that have carried on and expanded their legacy include Children Of Bodom, The Black Dahlia Murder, Amon Amarth, Soilwork and Insomnium.

Recommended Melodic Death Metal Albums:

At The Gates - Slaughter Of The Soul
Dark Tranquillity - The Gallery
In Flames - The Jester Race
Scar Symmetry - Pitch Black Progress
Soilwork - Natural Born Chaos
Into Eternity - Buried In Oblivion
Hypocrisy - Virus
Edge Of Sanity - Purgatory Afterglow
Amon Amarth - Once Sent From The Golden Hall
Carcass - Heartwork

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Your Citation
Bowar, Chad. "What Is Melodic Death Metal?" ThoughtCo, Jul. 1, 2017, thoughtco.com/what-is-melodic-death-metal-1756186. Bowar, Chad. (2017, July 1). What Is Melodic Death Metal? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-melodic-death-metal-1756186 Bowar, Chad. "What Is Melodic Death Metal?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-melodic-death-metal-1756186 (accessed September 20, 2017).