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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Genre Seeker: Melodic Death Metal, The New Rock

MELODIC DEATH METAL is the new rock.

Characterized by beautifully brutal melodies, usually played at blazing fast speeds by guitarists whom defy gravity on the fretboards, this is one variation of death metal that is almost like a proper genre by itself already. Other vital ingredients included in this heavy yet intricate mix of tuneful melodies and heart-thumping harmonies (literally if your bass booster is on high) are as follows.

1. Harsh vocals, without it, melodic death metal just ain't no death metal.

2. Speedy, earthshaking drums gawdammit! Without 'em, metal degenerates into pure iron. They are the bedrock of the solid foundation the guitar melodies fall back on dudes and gals.

3. Some metallophones, such as the xylophone, marimba, or even a string ensemble that certain melo-death bands use in certain songs to inject novelty into their music.

As it has a very heavy and somewhat vulgar sound (most probably because of the extensive usage of harsh vocals), it is shunned by the mainstream, but lovingly embraced by metalheads of the underground community. What sets this increasingly popular underground genre apart from its fellow peers, such as metalcore and black metal, is that the bands fronting it never fail to consistently come up with catchy melodies that still retain that powerful, brutal sound we all love. Metalcore does get melodic occasionally, but otherwise it just mostly focus on rhythm structure and the once-in-a-blue-moon usage of clean vocals. Black metal can get melodic too, but that would come under the sub-genre of symphonic black metal, otherwise it mostly focuses on dark themes and evilish-cum-repetitive tunes.

A little history, there were three bands whom were said to have pioneered melodic death metal, and they are At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames. So going by that, they are considered the Fathers of Melo-death. They are a big influence on the newer generation of melo-death bands, for many bands such as the increasingly popular Children Of Bodom have cited at least one or more of the Big Three as their main influences. Since I just mentioned CoB, I might as well mention that they hardly have any filler tracks on their studio albums. They are an excellent melo-death band if you will ever meet one, for every one of their songs chug out mean and obscenely gratifying guitar melodies that are hard to forget. Despite the fact that they have been around for slightly more than 10 years to date, they are still in the spotlight on the melo-death scene due to the fresh melodies they frequently come up with.

Oh yes, melo-death is mainly European metal's turf, and it is not very surprising, really. If anyone had to come up with a revolutionary musical style, it would be the Europeans, because they have a profound musical history that dates back to the ancient Baroque period during the 17th Century. On the other hand, the Americans sound typically more aggressive and "thrashy", and most of them actually stray the path between metalcore and melo-death. Nevertheless, they are still capable of playing heavy, epic music with a seemingly natural inclination towards mercurial rhythm patterns that incorporate sick yet melodious guitar solos. Darkest Hour and The Black Dahlia Murder would be testimony to that.

However, lyrical themes can get mundane at times. This is because they mostly center around depressing themes such as Apocalypse, Misanthropia, Love/Hate et cetera. We don't need music (which is supposed to be enjoyable) to be constantly reminding us how mankind is destroying itself with its harmful acts against the environment, its own people, other species for its own subsistence and what not. Eventually, it even starts to feel a little like anticipating the next Hollywood sci-fi film, for the lyrics hardly leaves the general idea of how we humans all live wretched lives.

Anyway, here are some of the bands in the genre to look out for:

Norther (Finland)

Eternal Tears Of Sorrow (Finland)

Children Of Bodom (Finland)

The Black Dahlia Murder (USA)

Don't they all look sinisterly cool? Personally, I think that is why I find melo-death bands so much more mature and pleasant to look at than their mainstream counterparts.

Alas, descriptive words alone do not do justice to the music, let the music itself do the talking!

The Big Three:

In Flames

Dark Tranquillity

At The Gates (defunct)

... and their subsequent legion of younger peers inspired by them:

Darkest Hour

Threat Signal

Children Of Bodom

Blood Stain Child (this one's Japanese by the way)

Scar Symmetry


There are really, really a tonne more melodic death metal bands out there. The bands seen above are but a mere fraction of the overcrowded melo-death scene. If you are new to metal and like how it is sounding so far, it would be a good idea to try out melo-death for yourself. This immensely popular sub-genre grows more and more popular by the day, and it would be fairly easy to get hooked onto it. Also, if you are aspiring to be a walking version of Encyclopedia Metallum, getting to know about melo-death is vital too.

That's it for this post, try and discover more melo-death bands and their music on your own. It is more rewarding and interesting that way!

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