An Exhaustive Study: Melodic Black Metal [1991-Present] Part III – Rituals Obscured by Dawning Suns

Here I present Part III of the latest in a series of a comprehensive sub-genre analysis features that I began with Technical Thrash Metal and Melodic Hardcore in past years. This reforging of the unfinished feature means that I will semi-discontinue my ongoing ‘Melodic Black Metal: An Exhaustive Study’ efforts on Rateyourmusic/Sonemic. The method for this type of feature is straightforward: I procure a chronological list of demos, EPs and full-lengths from various sources. I then listen to every release in order and report my thoughts on each. I then decide if they truly resemble the sub-genre after I’ve experienced everything labeled as such to date. This isn’t about being a genre label elitist it is my personal comprehensive method for understanding musical style, nuance, and the need for distinction between sub-culture movements in underground heavy metal music. This third part lists and comments on the 121st through ~180th releases commonly labeled Melodic Black Metal from 1997 through the start of 1998.

I have long sought the meaning of life through heavy metal sub-genre exhaustion and recently, while sitting and chanting incantations and curses housed within torturous walls of meaningless comfort, bemused myself with the observation that Melodic Black Metal holds the key to the meaning of all things. What more academically inspired vision is there than to spend some my ‘free time’ than to listen to this mysterious sub-sub-genre and reveal the mythos of the Khaos Gnostic universe through my ear-holes and out my slowly crippling fingers.

Of course I can’t call this an exhaustive study unless I address the existence of demo recordings, so they are included. I also can’t blindly accept everything labeled “Melodic Black Metal” on sites like Discogs and Rateyourmusic as ‘gospel’ and as such I will be giving the final, definitive observation on whether or not a band deserves the sub-genre modifier. Some of these, especially the ones from the prime era of Melodic Death Metal  and Symphonic Black Metal are NOT primarily melodic black metal metal at all… but they are labeled as such because the difference can be difficult to distinguish as the subtleties of melodic death, melodic black metal and symphonic black metal blended together at various points in history. I can’t promise a few albums won’t slip through my abyss-stained maw filter, which is gaping, but kindly contact me and let me know if I’ve missed an important release that qualifies as melodic black metal. If you missed Part I (click/tap here) Part II (click/tap here).

 Artist/Album/Artwork  Description/Links

Mustan syvyyden tuulet...

Unhola

Mustan syvyyden tuulet…
(1997)
[Demo]

 Rating: 3.0/5.0

One of the best black metal demos I’ve ever heard. This has incredible cult appeal due to the fact that it’s a Finnish black metal demo from the mid-90’s with a castle on the front and its fucking jam-packed with wondrous melodic black metal riffs. Seriously this is better composed than a lot of melodic black metal full-lengths up to this point. Unhola is a new band to me but this demo has really blown my mind with how smartly melodic it is, sometimes veering carefully into viking metal moments but never bothering with keyboards or obvious or campy melody. Looking forward to hopefully finding their full-length and hope it is in this style because wow I’m impressed.

Link: Listen on YouTube

Tunes of Disconsolation

Autumn Verses

Tunes of Disconsolation
(1997)

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Symphonic black metal with a sort of edge to it, I’d say a lot of this reminds me of Falkenbach or similar, track 3 especially. A nice record but I feel like it takes a lot from Old Man’s Child and that sort of thing. It should be right up my alley but all things considered it is just kind of generic and leans into the symphonic parts in an unflattering way. Would rather jump to Moonsorrow, something more professional and with feeling.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Where Only the Seasons Mark the Paths of Time

Thy Primordial

Where Only the Seasons Mark the Paths of Time
(1997)

Rating: 4.0/5.0

The debut from Thy Primordial is a slightly raw showcase for their high-level underground melodic black metal and hey if this sounds like an incredibly well developed sound that’d be because they scrapped a full album before this and made this one a few years later. That first album was released in 1998 as they realized it was actually worth pumping out. Where only the seasons mark the paths of time is on par with bands like Mork Gryning and Sorhin. Although you’ll likely hear more of an Emperor influence on a few songs, not in the symphonic sense but the riffing. I personally feel like this is a rough gem in a sea of lame late 90’s black metal; as wild and Mayhem-ish as it gets the base of Thy Primordial’s sound is classic and very pure melodic black metal.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Sombre Revelations

Clair Obscur

Sombre Revelations
(1997)

Rating: 4.75/5.0

Croaking vomited sick vocals and quiet guitars make for one oddball French symphonic black metal album. I don’t feel like this qualifies as melodic black metal in the Scandi sense, I suppose it loosely resembles the more Gothic metal influenced Greek black metal scene. It is a really stupid slow-motion goth metal version of black metal and I just don’t like it. The clean vocals are so hilariously godawful.

Links:
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube

Cryptic Wintermoon

 Cryptic Wintermoon

Cryptic Wintermoon
(1997)
[EP]

Rating: 3.5/5.0

An often riff-pumped black metal album that is from a more aggressive and less ‘pretty melodic’ school of black metal. I liked this EP the first time I heard it as bonus tracks on their 1999 album, and now I’m starting to think I like this EP more than the full-length. Folks say this is generic music but I find it particularly aggressive and heavy with a lot of pleasing variation with very memorable tracks. I think “Shadowland” is incredibly cool as well as “As Angels Die”.

Links:
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube

 Pandemonic Requiem

Noctes

Pandemonic Requiem
(1997)

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Another glorious Swedish melodic extreme metal classic that just kind of sounded ‘generic’ in 1997 and people overlooked it. I think Pandemonic Requiem starts off in a sort of boring way, a floaty riff and Dimmu Borgir keyboards… but as it plays you’ll get a more than just cliche melodies you’d expect (though you do get them…) in the form of some great melodic parts. The reason I don’t go apeshit over this album is that it really isn’t up to par as a symphonic metal release and the melodic black metal part of this album is mostly repetitive. Guitar tone and album art could be better.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Drakensquar

Infernal Beauty

Drakensquar
(1997)

Rating: 3.75/5.0

I really like the clips I have of this band. The first song I’ve linked is maybe a little amateurish but I love the opening riff and its slower variation. Drakensquar sounds like a great demo that could have been amazing with some production. Wish I could find more of their music online.

Link:
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube

The Crystal Palace

Forlorn

The Crystal Palace
(1997)

Rating: 4.0/5.0

I really liked Forlorn’s self-titled EP as it was Viking metal that still had a healthy amount of black metal at it’s core. This album is pretty soft by comparison, I mean the black metal is dialed back just enough that it just feels like a viking metal record. When things are black metal inspired, at least, it never passes for melodic black metal. Not even close.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 The Pagan Prosperity

Old Man’s Child

The Pagan Prosperity
(1997)

Rating: 4.0/5.0

I’ve read thousands of power metal album reviews over the years and I feel like what those people like about power metal (especially the 00’s and beyond stuff) all of the bombastic production and bells-upon-whistles equates to why I like Old Man’s Child. The production sound is big and powerful, the guitars are front and center but the melody and pompous keyboarding never take a back seat to silly testosterone fueled techno-hysterics. When this came out I really felt like it was incredibly unique compared to everything else at the time. On one hand you had Emperor going nuts but staying unique and dark as all hell, then you had Dimmu Borgir/Cradle of Filth barely making music out of their ideas and focusing on aesthetics. This album touched upon the feeling of that era but still brought in ideas from viking metal, twisting in a symphonic melodic black metal album that was accessible yet ambitious and impressive. It creates a perfect mix of symphonic/melodic black metal style. I think this album is arranged incredibly well and flows better than most metal albums.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 The Sun That Never Dies...

Lord Blasphemate

The Sun That Never Dies…
(1997)

Rating: 3.0/5.0

A pagan black metal record that copies the guitar approach from Rotting Christ. Cheaply recorded and jumbled sound. Heavy use of keyboards and synth noises, mid-paced stuff, I really couldn’t stand to finish listening to it. Not especially melodic, outside of sharing some aesthetics with the Greek scene in riff approach. I did not enjoy this experience.

Link: Listen on YouTube

Artist/Album/Artwork Description/Links

Together We Summon the Dark

Abyssos

Together We Summon the Dark
(1997)

Rating: 3.75/5.0

The kind of stuff that makes up the bulk of genre lists, a typical Swedish melodic black metal release that takes it’s sound and style from Dissection to the point of near plagiarism. The intro song surely apes The Somberlain riffs but slows them down enough so that you might not notice the rearrangement. I won’t say this is entirely unoriginal musically speaking, it does have some similarity to Ancient as well and the vampire theme is great, right? No, vampire themes are always bad in metal… you saw what happened to Tribulation. This is the only listenable release from this band in my opinion, and for anyone who just needs MOREMOREMORE melodic black metal in this style, these guys do it right.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Blood From Stone

The Moaning

Blood From Stone
(1997)

Rating: 4.0/5.0

A nice alternative to Silence of the World Beyond by A Canorous Quintet, similar production and Swedish meloblack/death sound. Something about this reminds me of Sacrilege, another Swedish melodeath band but minus the In Flames-type maiden riffs. The Moaning went for speed over complexity compared to say, Sacramentum, but achieved an exciting and aggressive melodic death metal record with black metal production and vocals. The quality of the songwriting is consistent and the production itself is just meaty enough to feel like an old Merciless or Kreator record. This is a newer discovery for me so I don’t really have much of an opinion on how it truly compares to other records I’ve had for years upon years. Highly professional and far from a throwaway ‘me too’ release.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Landscape Symphonies

Mephistopheles

Landscape Symphonies
(1997)

Rating: 2.0/5.0

An average at best German symphonic black metal album that parades itself around like it thinks it’s a melodic black metal album. It is certainly melodic black metal, but I wish the symphonic elements weren’t so misplaced and terrible. Many of these songs are tainted by bad gothic female vocals and I mean its every damn track. Sorry to be so anti-goth metal it just really kills my focus on guitars and I never understand what feeling it is supposed to add to fast, melodic music. Her vocals kind of sound chill and apathetic while the rest of the music is intense and whirling abuzz with demonic energy. Bleh.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Nicht um zu sterben

Dornenreich

Nicht um zu sterben
(1997)

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Dornenreich is an interesting band of melodic black and folk metal evolution, the main songwriter Johan Stock’s approach only became more layered and conceptually organic over time so these earliest German melodic black metal records are a product of their time. The style isn’t unlike early Abigor with tight rhythms and subtle tremolo movements, though they never really hit the point of orgasm with their riff progressions. Rather the band revels in its own selfish glory in the way that folk metal often does, creating a celebration of metal rather than a pointed emotional rendering. The result is a good melodic black metal release with folk and symphonic touches (as one did in 1997) and it works pretty well overall. I don’t find any of their work unforgettable but this album is particularly meditative and classy.

Link: Listen on YouTube

The Glorification of the Master of Light

Crimson Moonlight

The Glorification of the Master of Light
(1997)

Rating: 0.5/5.0

A mostly inaudible demo from the somewhat known Swedish christian black metal band. Completely incompetent playing and horrible sound.

Links:
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube

 In the Sign of the Ravens

Mithotyn

In the Sign of the Ravens
(1997)

Rating: 2.75/5.0

A viking metal album with some folk metal elements. Yes, there are some melodic black metal moments here, but I think this band deserves to stay solely in the viking metal conversation as that was always their intention. To call this a melodic black metal album is to entirely miss the point of viking/folk metal variants.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Qliphothic Supremacy

Handful of Hate

Qliphothic Supremacy
(1997)

Rating: 1.5/5.0

A strange and cheap Italian black metal album with a drum machine and poor dual vocals. It treads the line between Immortal style stuff and melodic black metal. I don’t like this band’s stuff in general, and it isn’t so melodic as to label it as such. Just some silly 3rd wave death metal influenced black metal with a few tremolo riffs that barely sound like melodic black metal. Second album would bring some weirder shifts in approach.

Links:
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube

 At the Burning Horizon

Agarthi

At the Burning Horizon
(1997)
[EP]

Rating: 2.0/5.0

This album has more in common with Dimmu Borgir than any melodic black metal. For all of its theatrics and experimentation it does occasionally settle into a melodic black metal groove, but one that is consistently tainted by cheap flowery keyboards that disrupt the emotional resonance of the music just long enough for the hilarious baritone vocals to chip into the disaster. These guys would drop the name, become Fiurach and then drop their name again and become a heavy/doom/trad band after that. It makes sense because they had no business trend-hopping around black metal when they obviously had no sense for it.

Link:
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube

Grotesque Autumnal Weepings

ThirdMoon

Grotesque Autumnal Weepings
(1997)

Rating: 2.5/5.0

Ugh, here come the keyboards already… Oh good, they stopped! Somewhat lacking in emotive quality, though they are capable of Dawn styled melodic black metal without the hiss of necro production. Nothing at all stands out in ThirdMoon’s discography beyond some standard and capable production and musicianship. With the caveat that the drums are very poorly recorded and sound digitized. The real key to this sub-genre’s continued flair is surprising and impressive melody using tremolo picked sections and ‘Grotesque Autumnal Weepings’ is kind of cheap and flat in both.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 De Prufundis Clamavi

From Depths

De Prufundis Clamavi
(1997)

Rating: 1.5/5.0

Cheaply made melodic black metal with a heavy symphonic black metal element. The guitars feel less than ferocious as they follow the pace of the loud and cheesy keyboards, and the dual vocalist approach only works when they’re avoiding the horrible gothic female vocals. Quite the awful shit fest if you ask me. I would consider this symphonic black metal instead of melodic black metal.

Link:
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube

Artist/Album/Artwork Description/Links
Under the Sign of the Sword

Stormlord

Under the Sign of the Sword
(1997)
[Single]

Rating: 1.0/5.0

Very cheap Bathory worship and one of the worst production jobs you’ll heard on this list, surprisingly. I love Bathory from start to finish and even I can’t stomach this awful insipid shit. Worth listening to just for the sake of saying you tried I guess. Not melodic black metal at all, though.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Fata Morgana

Throne of Chaos

Fata Morgana
(1997)
[EP]

Rating: 2.0/5.0

I had confused this band with Throne of Ahaz and sort of laughed at it from afar for a while. This is actually Throne of Chaos and the style of this EP is a crossover of melodic death metal very typical for the era, and quite boring, mixed with symphonic black metal trends. Should be entirely overlooked unless you’re dying to hear everything. Their full-length would come out soon after resembling In Flames ‘Whoracle’ era way too closely, but featuring silly keyboards.

Link: Listen on YouTube “Towards Glory”

 The Mystic Path to the Netherworld

Order of the Ebon Hand

The Mystic Path to the Netherworld
(1997)

Rating: 4.0/5.0

‘The Mystic Path to the Netherworld’ is a hidden gem in that rare space between Greek black metal, second wave Norwegian style, and a fair amount of symphonic (keyboard) experimentation. I prefer this to say, later Septic Flesh and it has a great mix of true black metal and folkish/symphonic stuff that lends itself to a long, epic listen. Always excited to listen to this one.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 

Enter the Moonlight Gate

Lord Belial

Enter the Moonlight Gate
(1997)

Rating: 2.75/5.0

Lord Belial is perhaps my least favorite band to come from No Fashion’s innovative black metal line-up. Their style is a cross between that of Dissection and Emperor without the songwriting ability of either band. “Unholy Spell of Lilith” and a few of their other songs here do resemble an interesting melodicism but none of it really sticks around often enough to leave lasting impact. Not essential but a good band to check out if you need more music in this style that sits between melodic black metal and the orthodoxy of Emperor pre-‘Anthems…’

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Loreia

Siebenbürgen

Loreia
(1997)

Rating: 3.25/5.0

This melodic black metal band from Stockholm would go onto be better known for gothic melodic metal but their earliest efforts were an oddly alluring version of melodic black metal. The female wailing vocals of the first song unfortunately reappear throughout the album and that keeps it from being listenable repeatedly. Her vocals are so dry and lifeless, it pains me. If only her pseudo-new age/celt wailing had a point or direction.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Sturm Und Drang

Forbidden Site

Sturm Und Drang
(1997)

Rating: 1.25/5.0

Another gothic metal/melodic black metal mixture that doesn’t really work. ‘Sturm Und Drang’ is a silly and unpredictable mess of a metal album with awful production and some of the worst french gothic metal vocals I’ve ever heard. Revolting stuff!

Link: Listen on YouTube

 The Phantom Lodge

Diabolical Masquerade

The Phantom Lodge
(1997)

Rating: 2.5/5.0

This was more or less a solo project that featured different collaborations with Anders  from Katatonia solo project. Dan Swano is featured throughout most of this record  as vocalist and drum programmer. It is an interesting enough black metal album with some light melodic black metal motifs. Not essential listening in my opinion but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. The song “Ravenclaw” has such a nice Bathory lead up, but like most of the album the vocals ruin everything.

Listen on YouTube

 A Journey Into Melancholy

Embraced

A Journey Into Melancholy
(1997)
[Demo]

Rating: 2.0/5.0

This is a briefly popularized symphonic metal band at thier beginnings. It is often labeled as melodic black metal but that is always a mistake. There are elements of melodic death metal in their music but it is largely keyboard lead melody and hissed vocals that don’t really amount to actual guitar riffs or the melodic black metal style. I would suggest listening to Old Man’s Child or Eucharist instead.

Links:
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube

 From Which of This Oak

Agalloch

From Which of This Oak
(1997)
[Demo]

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Agalloch’s first demo shows the band incorporating Dark Tranquillity style melodic death metal into Ulver‘s frosty winter folk/black metal sound successfully. They’ve got the grandiose mess of influence that is early Opeth with a bit more conviction and a terrible drum sound that kind of has to be a drum machine? Probably not but it isn’t successful on the slower/mid-paced sections. I’m not the biggest fan of this band but this is totally listenable stuff.

Link:
Listen on YouTube

 Pakkasherra

Throes of Dawn

Pakkasherra
(1997)

Rating: 1.0/5.0

Garbage melodeath with garbage can black metal vocals and faux prog metal fiddling. Sorry to be so reductive but I really hate this one and can’t bring myself to listen to the whole thing. Never understood why people considered this melodic black metal. An aspiring prog metal band that would eventually get there with a few Tiamat style detours.

Link:
Listen on YouTube

Artist/Album/Artwork Description/Links
Chasma Pelorion

Azeroth

Chasma Pelorion
(1997)

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Demo quality Casio keyboard symphonic black metal. This was definitely spawned from wanna be Dimmu Borgir aspirations and ended up being loosely considered melodic black metal because the synth stuff didn’t really work out in the same way. Once you’ve settled into it’s sound quality it isn’t a terrible thing, if you don’t mind bedroom black metal projects with drum machines.

Links:
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube
Listen on YouTube

 Endless Darkened Saga

Diabolism

Endless Darkened Saga
(1997)

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Slow, symphonic pagan/melodic black metal tape from Bulgaria. I have to admit I’ve listened to this album about ten times and found deeper enjoyment with it every time. Sure the sound is painfully lo-fi and you can’t hear much beyond the guitars and some keyboard tapping but it has this weird otherworldly charm I haven’t felt since those early Behemoth albums that were kinda folky. This also features many dips into death metal riff territory, which is surprising and typically semi-melodic. A weird little gem that I enjoy.

Links:
Listen on YouTube

 Sóknardalr

Windir

Sóknardalr
(1997)

 Rating: 3.0/5.0

I should not need to say a ton about Windir. This band were made legendary by majestic guitar lead riffs and a spirit that was a true reincarnation of Bathory‘s legacy. Though they might have been more famous after the lead singer’s death, it doesn’t change that this album is a true standout in the earlier years of melodic black metal and its influence was incredibly widespread for decades after. Granted the next album ‘Arntor’ would be a much better version of this sound, and a bigger source of their popularity.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 At the Sight of the Apocalypse Dragon

Midvinter

At the Sight of the Apocalypse Dragon
(1997)

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Worst band logo ever. Midvinter’s sound on this album is full and layered a bit too much for it’s own good. The screech of black metal is there, almost too much to be considered melodic outside of atmospheric keyboards and a chugging guitar army. Once the songs really kick in it is a meaty beast and a companion piece to early albums from Mork Gryning and Dissection. The sound is huge but the compositions are so long winded you might get worn out by the end of this hour long album. An essential listen for melodic black metal.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Light the Black Flame

Vergelmer

Light the Black Flame
(1997)

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Very obscure Swedish stuff, this is a pure example of Swedish melodic black metal that would be easy to overlook. It isn’t flashy or anything, just a great and somewhat standard example of melodic black metal. Digging through so many albums in this style sort of distorts the perspective that this band was actually incredibly talented and their melodies and riffing were brilliant and deserve mention alongside bigger names folks gloss over.

Link:
Listen on YouTube

 Lupine Essence

Suidakra

Lupine Essence
(1997)

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Suidakra rose to popularity as a melodic death/black band with a heavy folk metal bent and theme. This album features some of their best riffing and songs, but hey uh… It has some pretty hilarious goblin vocals that make it so, so, so difficult to sit through initially. I like the style of the guitars enough that I can stick through to the end. A weird introduction to the band but for it’s flaws it shows a band that was worthy of their years of hype.

Link: Listen on YouTube

Die ewigen Steine

Menhir

Die ewigen Steine
(1997)

Rating: 3.75/5.0

A lesser known viking/black/folk album that is often mislabeled as melodic black metal. It is very similar to Falkenbach if you’re interested in that sort of thing, but very bad clean vocals.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 A Dead Poem

Rotting Christ

A Dead Poem
(1997)

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Well this is probably going to be the most accessible mainstream album on this list for a while. Odd that this gets labeled as gothic metal because of the whispering, even though the lyrics aren’t necessarily in line with that genre nor is the melodic black metal style found within. I always enjoyed this record as a more rock influenced follow-up to ‘Triarchy of the Lost Lovers’ and it established the main songwriter/guitarist’s style as distinct and memorable. Rotting Christ are boring as a live band, but I still get a kick out of their records.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Autumnal

Legenda

Autumnal
(1997)

Rating: 2.75/5.0

Another gothic black metal record that uses gothic rock instrumentation along with black metal aesthetics. This one is actually pretty good, it captures the true insanity of Finnish black metal vocals alongside Sentenced style suicide rock that isn’t too sappy. They get the mix of styles just decently aligned enough to be listenable. This does carry some of the elements you’d find in melodic black metal but I think this is too often mislabeled for lack of a better descriptor.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Angeldemon

Hermh

Angeldemon
(1997)

Rating: 1.5/5.0

A somewhat avant-garde symphonic black metal album with melodic black metal elements. Guitar riffs are underwhelming and follow keyboards most of the time without much flow or power. Overall most of this band’s stuff is a circus-assed mess of nonsense and this second album is no different. Doesn’t really warrant a mention for its melodic black metal content.

Link: Listen on YouTube

Artist/Album/Artwork Description/Links
Eternal Winds

Graveworm

Eternal Winds
(1997)
[EP]

Rating: 2.5/5.0

A cheap EP that comes across as a demo for the album they’d release that same year. Melodic/symphonic black metal with death metal vocals. Majestic and flowing guitar riffs and an ever-present keyboard melody happening that works most of the time. Of the two songs the title track is probably the better. Both songs are on the full-length in better form so I’d suggest listening to that instead, same sound more or less.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 The Coming of Chaos

Sacramentum

The Coming of Chaos
(1997)

Rating: 4.5/5.0

A lot of folks were heartily disappointed by this album after the brilliance of the debut and I fully understand that. This album picks up right where the last let off instead of recreating it. Dan Swano‘s rumbling production is replaced by Andy LaRocque (Mercyful Fate) and the sound is warmer and less blurred. The guitarists are now using some melodic death metal alternate picking and making the style their own in a brilliant way. The ‘chaos’ of the opener is felt and I think that puts off many listeners. It will grow on you slowly, and ‘The Coming of Chaos’ is still a huge classic of the sub-genre as well as melodic death metal.

Link: Listen on YouTube

In the Shadow of Your Black Wings

Bloodthorn

In the Shadow of Your Black Wings
(1997)

Rating: 2.0/5.0

I never saw this as a melodic black metal release as it follows the trends of symphonic black metal subtley while also taking from their more true Norwegian brethren. Sort of Old Man’s Child-lite in a lot of ways. It is so often classified as melodic because of its slower pacing but I refuse to agree.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Northern Supremacy

Bethel

Northern Supremacy
(1997)
[Demo]

Rating: 4.75/5.0

Some very saccharine melodies to be found here and the clean vocals never really work. Of course it is a demo so whatever they were intending to sound like doesn’t fully come across. It is indisputably melodic black metal though, despite a heavy symphonic element. This is a very cult release and apparently they put out a follow up ‘Northern Despondency’ in 2017.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Darkside

Necrophobic

Darkside
(1997)

Rating: 4.5/5.0

A great melodic black metal record with some melodic death metal elements. It has a razor sharp sound and brilliant moments throughout. It is at once accessible and completely kvlt at the same time. Necrophobic put out a couple boring records after this and lost a lot of the world’s attention. This is an absolute classic and one of the best album cover artworks of all time. Note that you’ll find a lot of demo-era songs from Necrophobic’s early days on this album, enhancing the evil Slayer feel of several tracks.

Link: Listen on Bandcamp!

 Riding Into the Funeral Paths

Ouija

Riding Into the Funeral Paths
(1997)

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Excellent high speed melodic black metal from Spain that takes most of it’s musical personality from Swedish bands like Marduk, Sacramentum and ends up being pretty amazing as a full experience. A bit of an overlooked gem perhaps because they didn’t follow up with a second album for many years. I love how they’ve layered the keyboards and chanted vocals to add atmosphere rather than cheapen the music. Definitely worth tracking down and listening to at least once or twice.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Diabolos Rebellion

Septic Cemetery

Diabolos Rebellion
(1997)
[EP]

Rating: 2.75/5.0

A noisy and bland symphonic/melodic black metal record with a layered hissing vocals and death metal growls. An oddly progressive take that doesn’t really end up working across the lengthy EP. It has a grandiose feeling and might be worth trying out if you like Norwegian symphonic/epic Greek mixtures.

Link: Listen on Spotify

 The Trollish Mirror

Amsvartner

The Trollish Mirror 
(1997)
[EP]

Rating: 3.0/5.0

A band better known for their prog-metal ‘Dreams’ semi-melodic death album. This EP is not at all similar in that style but still focuses a lot on melodic black metal tropes and ideas. The result is something closer to Unanimated and death metal than it is to black metal. The fluid riffing and skippy drumming is powerful but again somewhat ‘demo’ quality in sound. Worth a listen if you like melodic black/death variants.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 The Eyes Tremendous Sorrow

Oathean

The Eyes Tremendous Sorrow
(1998)

Rating: 2.5/5.0

South Korean melodic black/death metal that heavily features a flute for the first like 10 minutes. The awkward tremolo picking and flute mix is really bad. Most of the album is imprecise and odd sounding. The lead guitars follow odd melodies that are unpleasant for this type of music. While it might be historically important if you’re into obscurities, wow is it boring and totally rote.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Sorores Nocte Genitae

Count De Nocte

Sorores Nocte Genitae
(1998)
[EP]

Rating: 1.5/5.0

A mild irritant, keep it out of your eyes, may cause deafness. A strange folkish black metal mess that is more symphonic black metal than melodic black metal. I’d really like to avoid this band altogether for the same reasons I dislike Cradle of Filth or whatever other trendy garbage folks liked in the late 90’s.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 

 

Artist/Album/Artwork Description/Links
Blade of the Sword [demo]

Blade of the Sword

Blade of the Sword [demo]
(1998)

Rating: 0.0/5.0

A release that has a certain reputation but that I do not have access to. Please let me know if you find it. Thanks.

Link: n/a

 Dominion

Ophthalamia

Dominion
(1998)

Rating: 4.0/5.0

If you follow Ophthalamia from start to finish you’ll quickly find a band that was trend-setting and generally exploratory beyond what limits melodic metal had felt within the confining sounds of black and death metal. ‘Dominion’ is another extreme metal take on epic heavy metal and this one is. A lot of the rock and doom metal influences collide here, making short work of the catchy moments feigned on a lot of popular melodeath records and concentrating those ideas into an album that reduces a decade of extreme metal to dog piss. Essential listening!

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Elysium

From the Depths

Elysium
(1998)

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Was never willing to buy this CD despite it being relatively easy to track down if you know where to look. It is melodic death/black metal with gothy lyrics from a few guys who moonlighted in certain versions of Nunslaughter. The track I’ve linked is more or less representative of what the record sounds like, not all songs have such grandiose keyboard work.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Legions of Ganon

Gargamel

Legions of Ganon
(1998)
[EP]

Rating: 0.5/5.0

Their band was named after the villain of the Smurfs and the album was named after the minions that fight in the name of the villain from The Legend of Zelda. It is symphonic black metal that derives a lot from Emperor. Should I really keep going? Ugh. Spoof metal from an unfunny idiot.

Link: Listen on YouTube

Listen on YouTube

 

 Inanna Unveiled

Inanna Unveiled

Inanna Unveiled
(1998)

Rating: 0.0/5.0

Symphonic/melodic black doom metal from Germany apparently. Can’t find it yet.

Link: n/a

 Sad Legend

Sad Legend

Sad Legend
(1998)

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Even though this only sort of qualifies as melodic black metal, as it takes heavily from gothic death/doom and melodic metal and South Korean rock music at times… It does convey a unique and compelling form of black metal that is evocative of 1998’s strange burst of worldwide inspiration towards the popularity of melodic extreme metal. Some members would go on to play in the melodeath band Holymarsh and this share some very slight similarities when it gets going. It also reminds me of the second Samael album occasionally.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Black Silhouette Enfolded In Sunrise

Castrum

Black Silhouette Enfolded In Sunrise
(1998)

Rating: 3.0/5.0

A very good melodic black/death album with symphonic elements. This is the type of symphonic metal that I personally like where the keyboards an synth are cheap and heavy metal is the center of attention. This is full of crazy skill and outsider melodies thanks to their Croatian descent. It really stands out in an amazing way even if it has a sort of demo quality to it at times. A very cool oddity with great melodic ideas. Try it if you like old Ancient Rites.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Malicious Triumph

Ulcus Molle

Malicious Triumph
(1998)
[EP]

Rating: 2.5/5.0

Symphonic black metal with some influences from death metal and viking metal. This EP was before the band changed their name to Ulcus. These guys would make up a big part of Windir and Vreid afterwards. I can’t ever seem to find the EP online, so I have linked a playlist for the Ulcus full-length. Not really relevant to melodic black metal but maybe symphonic black metal elements in some Windir.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Eternal Emperor

Crimson Moonlight

Eternal Emperor
(1998)
[EP]

Rating: 3.0/5.0

This is one of the hardest bands to search for their music streaming online, not sure why. As much hype as this band got for being Christian black metal (‘white metal’) they really just sounded like Dimmu Borgir with their overblown Norwegian black metal style and tons of keyboard cheese. Now I’m a sucker for this crap, being a huge OMC fan and hating myself for it. This is their first professional sounding release and it is mediocre cheese, but just melty cheesy goodness. Only the first 5 tracks on the playlist are from this EP, beyond that its a different release.

Link: Listen on YouTube

 Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy)

Dawn

Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy)
(1998)

Rating: 5.0/5.0

This album is incredibly long and the compositions are self-circling and complex. The melodic themes aren’t so much arching together as they blend together in outward ripples. I have a deep connection to this album seeing it as the apex of Dissection‘s regal prowess and At the Gates‘ fraught anxiety colliding into a masterwork of melodic black/death metal. Dawn imploded afterwards unfortunately. I’m not sure why but this record resonates with me more and more after twenty years of listening. It is just huge! Every song is over 8 minutes long and there are fucking 6 of them. Sure, it’ll take some patience at first but if you ever got lost in a Sacramentum album this should be a shimmering Elysian field of melodic extreme metal to get lost in.

Link: Listen on Spotify

Part IV will see a great boost in melodic death metal and symphonic metal integration. 1998 saw increasing popularity for melodic black metal releases while At the Gates and Dimmu Borgir were marketed to similar crowds. The core of melodic black metal will be slightly lost in the shroud of those other genres for a few years and it won’t return with much orthodoxy until other trends begin to wear thin. The style became more accessible and lead to many shamefully poor and ‘me too!’ bandwagon melodic death metal releases with black metal vocals, I might leave out the tasteless ones with no real interest, but not many.

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