Melodic Death Metal: The Point Of Entry To Extreme Metal Music

Arch Enemy's "The World Is Yours" is hitting the charts worldwide. Amon Amarth is one of the most well succeeded bands of all times in Heavy Metal history.

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Melodic Death Metal: The Point Of Entry To Extreme Metal Music
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Arch Enemy's "The World Is Yours" is hitting the charts worldwide. Amon Amarth is one of the most succesful bands in the history of Metal. In Flames change of heart touched many, and attracted a lot of hatred to the band. But what do these three bands have in common?

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They are all labeled as Melodic Death Metal bands, or melodeath, if you will, but I still haven't decided if melodeath is a pejorative term or what.

Back to Arch Enemy. Reading the comments on a FB page, some guy wrote that in his opinion they are "too mainstream." That statement has stuck in my mind, and i's one of the reasons I am writing this. What did he mean by mainstream? I'm pretty sure that Arch Enemy albums don't sell as well as those made by rap or pop artists. Moreover, I guess that they are pretty heavy, and inaudible to the ears of any commercial music listener. But I do get what he meant. To some, extreme metal music must be left to the underground. I agree in terms. Unlike their punk peers, Metal bands have to make money from their music, and that means some kind of commercial activity more or less. But that's not the point.

Arch Enemy is an example I took because it was the first band I recognized as Melodic Death Metal. There were others for sure, but I wasn't able to recognize them as melodeth. Further questions added to the discussion: who buys Arch Enemy or Amon Amarth CDs and who goes to Melodic Death Metal shows? Mostly extreme metal fans, and perhaps, some old school Heavy Metal fans who want to experiment with such a different atmosphere.

The point is: melodic death metal is too noisy even to NWOBHM, hard rock, and old school Heavy Metal fans. And then we get to the point I mentioned on the title, and that's also a personal experience: melodic death metal was my point of entry to extreme metal music. Melodic Death Metal does this link between old school Heavy Metal and extreme metal just because musically speaking it is very near to old school Heavy Metal musical structures. In a nutshell, Melodic Death Metal is traditional Heavy Metal with guttural singing. Of course not that simple, but it helps the analysis.

Listen to Amon Amarth's "Guardians Of Aargard:"

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One must think that Melodic Death Metal directly derived from old school Heavy Metal, but that's not the case. To understand that, we have to fall back to the mid 1980s when thrash/death/black metal bands' quest was to reach the speed of light. Bands were pushing the speed limits in order to get more aggressive and heavier. In 1987, it was reached by the grindcore masters Napalm Death with "Scum." No one has ever played so fast before. Boundaries of aggression, speed, brutality were peaked. With the conquest of the west, there was no reason to search for the speed of light anymore . Thus, death metal bands started to slow down to introduce more melody to their songs. Guitars led the way with more refined and slower riffs, in addition to guitar duos as in old school Heavy Metal songs. Vocals lines added more vibrating choruses besides maintaining the harsh screaming, and death grows. Later on, some bands introduced keyboards to create a darker and hollower atmosphere, and also to maintain, or create, emotional peaks to their songs.

That instrumental change in order to get more melodic was the thing that appealed most to old school Heavy Metal fans. The grunting is something that one get used through time. We, metal fans in its broad term, are all used to some levels of musical aggression, thus Melodic Death Metal was able to attract more fans to extreme metal slowing down the pace, and refining the guitar playing, plus extra creativity on riffing.

Carcass, one of the pioneers of grindgore and death metal, with their 1993 effort, "Heartwork," were one of the first extreme metal bands to slow down, and to mix more melodic tunes in their music. "Heartwork" follows the musical changes in 1991's "Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious." "Heartwork" is a seminal album which featured to the world that the dark, pain and misery can be taken to other levels of aggression. This world is not as simple as one may think. Metal musicians gave life a bad name. The term "evilish beauty" could be first used to a Metal band. Unfortunatelly, Carcass disbanded soon after in 1996, but sowed their black seeds which darkly blossomed in the distant Gothenburg, Sweden where bands like In Flames, Dark Tranquility, and At The Gates got the evilish flame. And it's been more than twenty years that the torch is being passed on.

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These contrasts between harsh and melodic, aggressive and harmonious, the dark and the bright, are proper to the Heavy Metal fine art of bringing into songs the complexity of life itself. Melodic Death Metal bands refined that fine art in what I call musical dialectic. Life is full of contrasts, or better yet, life is a contrast. Someone said that life loves tragedies, doesn't it? Besides that, all that complexity was brought to the songwriting giving birth to a subgenre that was capable of resuming a myriad of human emotions into songs. That blend of harsh vocals and melodious guitar riffs is not really new in Metal world, Judas Priest have been dong it for a long time, but Melodic Death Metal bands pushed it to its borders transforming it into something really astonishing and breathtaking. Listening to a Melodic Death Metal is a thrilling and daring activity, because one really doesn't know what is going to come: a calm and tranquil tune or a furious and brutal piece of music, or even everything in the middle. That takes a lot of creativity.

And now back again to Arch Enemy just to mention that the band was founded in 1996 by Carcass guitarist Michael Amott. Anything familiar?

46 comments sorted by best / new / date

    FlightofIcarus
    If loving melodeath is wrong, I don't want to be right. It probably makes up a good 90% (along w/folk) of the "extreme" variants of metal that I listen to (if we're excluding 80's thrash).
    TreyR
    The best band from "the old school gang" is, still, Dark Tranquillity. Quite underrated band.
    mungdung
    Absolutely adored Atoma, they're a great band with an utterly fantastic discography.
    SlyDevil13
    Needs more Insomnium, Omnium Gatherum, and Amorphis
    acglee
    Love Insomnium and Amorphis - gonna go check out Omnium Gatherum now... cheers! :-D
    SlyDevil13
    You will love Omnium as well. The lead guitarist of Omnium is also the lead guitarist for Insomnium.
    GR84
    Personally i think we're getting to the point where "genre" is just getting a little to muddy to even use. I cant keep up with the genre names anymore. But I guess that's a good problem to have, so much experimentation and blending going on. I learn a new "genre" name everyday. Guess we have to label everything. I really started to notice it around the early 2000's when we were getting Emo, Emo-core, Screamo, Metal-core, that's when the pool started to get polluted with genre names. But honestly, i don't use the terms anyway. If someone asks, i like Rock and Roll.
    Big Bang
     "Amon Amarth is one of the most well succeeded bands of all times in Heavy Metal history." Jesus Christ, UG...get it the fuck together. 
    ReplicantSix
    Breaking: A type of extreme metal that actually sounds like music and is listenable is a gateway drug to the "heavier" kinds of metal. Unfortunate what's become of In Flames, though.
    drummerboyjosh
    As far as melodic death metal goes, The Black Dahlia Murder are winners in my humble opinion. Deflorate is a goddamn masterpiece.
    jhaneline
    Out of curiosity, who here would consider The Black Dahlia Murder melodeath with some American flavor? They're not straight up going for the Gothenburg sound since a ton of traditional American death metal bands influence their sound but I think they still hold close to the traditional melodeath sound.  
    zwArthurtje
    I always considered them to be blackened melodeath. The stuff they do is just a little more evil both musically and lyrically than most melodeath bands. Eitherway, they're fucking great!!!!
    Sebo
    I love melodic death, i just leave this here as a tip
    jhaneline
    YES! I've thought of Heaven Shall Burn as a German version of Arch Enemy for a while now.  I can see why people label them s part of the German metalcore scene but throw them in a playlist with the Gothenburg bands, Arch Enemy, and Amon Amarth and you can hardly tell.  
    Cazman
    Once upon a time my favorite genre, until all those bands started to suck. The new Arch Enemy single is atrocious. 
    theman6
    Dethklok did the trick for me It's the kind of heavy band that served as an "entry" so I could get used to heavier music from then on, due to their mix of death metal and melodic segments Good times
    PRSguitars87
    Oh come on, melodeath? Do we really need 800 different genres of metal when they mostly sound the same? wouldnt of this just been called "alternative metal" a few years ago?
    Zan595
    Have you guys seriously never heard the term "Melodeath" until right now? At the time of its conception in the early 90's, it was drastically different from anything that preceded it, so yes, it absolutely required its own genre.
    nathandavis87
    I really hate that any tiny variation in structure automatically means some band is a brand new genre. Like triplet triplet scale run versus triplet triplet sextuplet scale run. Big Effin' deal. They are still metal. Facepalm.
    Funnyname99
    We could just call everything "Rock and Roll", or even just "Pop music", for everything that isn't Jazz or classical.... I remember 20 years ago HMV stores used to have a "Rap/R&B" section and a "Pop/Rock" section... Every type of metal and boyband/indie artist was found in there. Slipknot, next to Simon and Garfunkel... Is that what you want? Would it make it easier? How do I tell my friends that I've just heard a record by a band and it's heavy and uses a 5 piece band set up and they use electronic distortion on their guitars, but its still really melodic and interesting...? Can;t I just cut that out and call it melodic death metal/melodeath
    Necroheadbanger
    To give an opinion, I used to like and dig melodeath a lot, but melodeath bands became a fucking joke. Arch Enemy is a joke a long time ago, and that new single is terrible. Amon Amarth is still a decent band until they run out of ideas and start recycling old riffs. In Flames became an alt. rock band, and something similar happened to Soilwork. And other bands like Children of Bodom or Paths of Posession (one of the other bands where Corpsegrinder sings) just suck. Like %80 of melodeath bands are a joke, I've heard hundreds of underground bands of this style and they all want to sound like Arch Enemy, Children of Bodom, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity or any other known melodeath band, and most of them fail miserably, take a look at this bnad called Andhaka, they tried to sound like 10 different bands and did anything, or take a look at Deals Death, those guys were Children of Bodom wannabies. Still, there are GREAT melodeath bands out there that are 100 times better than any of these, like In Mourning or Aeurtum, but nobody cares.  
     
    I would stick to any of those two last ones, or classic melodeath like At the Gates, 90s Carcass, very early Arch Enemy (when they had Liiva on vocals), Dark Tranquillity, ect.
    metalhead983877
    Liiva was a terrible vocalist
    Necroheadbanger
    Maybe for you, but I liked his style
    Second Rate
    Ehh, he may have sounded like he was in the midst of passing a brick when he cut his vocal tracks, but the music was better when Johan was in the group. Arch Enemy are a classic example of a band who started streamlining and didn't know when to stop. I often find it hard to believe that the band currently being fronted by that blue haired try hard are the same band that recorded "Stigmata." 
    RisingForce1990
    What are you guys talking about?! Angela put them on the map and made them listenable. They found and refined their sound like any band does after a couple albums. Wages of Sin, Anthems of Rebellion, and Doomsday Machine is the trifecta of perfection within Arch Enemy. That's when they had the perfect mix of the heaviest riffs, the craziest solos, perfected their songwriting, and actually had GOOD vocals. I'll agree that as of late, it's been starting to sound a little more mainstream, but so what? The music still rips, the vocals are as good as they've ever been, and I'm personally wetting myself thinking about Jeff Loomis' leads on this album. The thing about Arch Enemy is, their lead single is usually not even close to their strongest song.
    MrKRB64
    Are users here allowed to write articles now about whatever? It would take a while but melodic death metal is my favourite kind of music to play and would be happy to try and write an article (or co-write) about it instead of just 3 bands like this article. I was expecting a bit more from this after the recent great and detailed thrash articles.  
    Anjohl
    Needs more actual singing.