An Exhaustive Study: Melodic Black Metal [1991-Present] Part IV – Symphonies of Destruction (’98-’99)

Here I present Part IV 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 180th through ~290th releases commonly labeled Melodic Black Metal from 1998 through the start of 1999.

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.

Album art is missing for parts I, II, and III because I was linked to another site’s database and they decided to block the traffic. The features for this list will become less frequent because I have to source each image myself, resize them, and host them. I’ve also reformatted this list to fit on mobile devices easier and in turn include more items.


1

Artist Satariel
Title [Type/Year] Lady Lust Lilith [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Satariel is a more typical melodeath band from Sweden that took a lot of inspiration from Eucharist and early melodic black metal. This first full-length usually blocked in with other bands that ride the line between melodeath and melodic black metal. I personally consider it more of a melodic death metal record but there are some elements of No Fashion era influences here and there. I really like the drumming here as it reminds me of The Moaning and early Dark Tranquillity at times. It can be hard to find online as I don’t believe it has been reissued for quite some time, but a digital copy shouldn’t be hard to scrounge up.


2

Artist Seth
Title [Type/Year] Les blessures de l’âme [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

This French melodic black metal band’s debut is perhaps their only one that isn’t completely dominated by symphonic black metal keyboards but it is still a clogged drain of those ideas and too-loud keyboards in the mix. It is often regarded as a minor classic but I’ve never found it entertaining beyond being moderately tasteful. Seth are at their best in atmospherics than they are in direct riffing metal and as a result I’ve never loved this recording.


3

Artist Skyforger
Title [Type/Year] Kauja pie Saules [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The debut from this notable pagan/folk metal band is chaotic and aggressive due to double bass drumming and an amateurish overuse of samples. The repeating horse brays and battle noises of the otherwise epic first track do a lot to sully the classy folk metal on display here. It is a very loose interpretation of the sub-genre to classify this as melodic black metal, as pagan black metal would fit better alongside the folk metal tag but I understand that folks cataloging it made an easy mistake. It will still certainly appeal to fans of melodic black metal.


4

Artist Raise Hell
Title [Type/Year] Holy Target [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on Spotify!

I’ve linked a compilation with both of the first two albums from Raise Hell on Spotify, skip to track 10 to start ‘Holy Target’ their debut album. It is a thrash influenced melodic black metal album that also touches upon the growing trend of death/thrash such as The Haunted around that time. The track “Raise the Devil” is probably the best example of what the album is all about and is my personal favorite from the tracklist. It really does combine classic thrash riffs with true melodic black metal for a very powerful sound. Otherwise the album reminds me quite a bit of the second Sacramentum album. A record that most people either can’t find or overlook, but it’s worth tracking down.


5

Artist Twin Obscenity
Title [Type/Year] For Blood, Honour and Soil [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

While I’m much more a fan of Twin Obscenity’s debut ‘Where Light Touches None’ this one travels a bit deeper into viking/black metal territory while still focusing on a melodic black metal core instrumentation. Keyboard driven riffs are somewhat subdued and the double bass drumming is very quiet, it really doesn’t have much life to it until you’ve cranked the volume up. This should appeal much more to old school viking metal fans and symphonic metal folks as the melodies are cheerful and triumphant throughout.


6

Artist God Blood
Title [Type/Year] Those Funeral Times [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

God Blood were a severely unknown black metal band from Cyprus of all places and thier style was a mix of classic doom/heavy metal riffing set to black metal aesthetics. The result isn’t too far from what bands like Varathron and Samael were doing years earlier but God Blood’s riffing consisted of a mix of classic metal, Mediterranean melody, and material faster and perhaps less sloppy in the drum department. It is a thinly recorded album but the songwriting and guitar playing shine through. It is a shame the blackened heavy metal bands of today don’t sound more like this.


7

Artist Darkmoon
Title [Type/Year] Grief [Demo/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Darkmoon is a melodic death/black band from Switzerland and their first demo is quite hard to come across. Instead I’ve linked to a track from their 2003 demo. Nothing to say about this demo until I can find it. The band split up last year, so I might try and message them to see if they have copies of this.


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Artist Enslavement of Beauty
Title [Type/Year] Devilry and Temptation [Demo/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

(the) Enslavement of Beauty was a largely trendy project that combined symphonic black metal with neoclassical elements and some heavy use of melody. Their sense of melody and Gothic metal weirdness are admirably sappy and creative. I’d recommend this demo and their first album if you’re a big fan of Old Man’s Child as this has heavy similarity. There are hints of the silly use of Shakespeare poems and Beethoven ‘riffs’ on this demo that really define their debut full-length. This perhaps belongs more on a symphonic black metal list, but there was a fine line at the time.


9

Artist Soriben
Title [Type/Year] Ancestros de Insania [EP/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

This was just improperly labeled as it is melodic death/doom from Spain. The style is like an amateur take on Dormanth and it is just generally a messy demo quality symphonic metal EP. Irrelevant to melodic black metal, but so many people have tagged this melodic black metal it shows that many folks consider anything symphonic to be ‘melodic’.


10

Artist Liar of Golgotha
Title [Type/Year] Dwell Within the Mysterious Dark [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

More cheaply made symphonic black metal and you’d think these Netherlanders would have improved by the third album but they’ve only managed to dial back some of the keyboard wank. There are plenty of genuine melodic black metal riffs hidden beneath wonky key boards and a scrub-ass guitar tone. The drumming is either programmed or just terrible. If you’re really thrilled by the busted opera that is low budget me-too symphonic black metal done by a melodic black metal band that just wasn’t ready to go full mallgoth, this should be entertaining. I always shut this one off halfway through and I have pretty low standards of quality for this stuff.


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Artist Goat Prayers
Title [Type/Year] Abyssic Warriors of Dragon [Demo/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A semi-melodic black metal demo from Brazil that features a light use of keyboards. The style is very listenable and sounds very bright considering how low budget it likely was. What I’ve linked here is a compilation of this demo and various other things they did before disbanding. I quite like the demo and it is some of the early higher quality melodic black metal coming from Brazil.


12

Artist Abhor
Title [Type/Year] In Tuo Honori Preparatum [Demo/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The first demo from this long running occult melodic black metal band from Italy is slow and cheaply produced with doom pace and a symphonic lean. It very much sounds like this was the first thing he’d produced on his own and at this point bands from Greece and Italy had beaten this style of black metal to death. He would get much better over time and perfect it, but I would recommend Sear Bliss instead of this anyday.


13

Artist Stormlord
Title [Type/Year] Where My Spirit Forever Shall Be [Single/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

This three song single marks the turning point where this previous death/black band embraced their melodic/symphonic black metal sound and began to incorporate increasing amounts of power metal into their repertoire. The result is of course close to Dimmu Borgir, Aeba, Old Man’s Child style of black metal. The title track reminds me of folk/viking metal quite a bit and I actually enjoy this period of the sounds band despite how obviously formative and experimental it is. If you’ve ever wondered what black/power metal might be like, check this band out and start here.


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Artist Winter Tales
Title [Type/Year] Fantasies in Flesh [Demo/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Winter Tales is a bit of a rarity as it was Norwegian melodic black metal with light symphonic elements that was self-released around 1998. The style is what you’d expect from Norway around 1996, and again it has many similarities to Old Man’s Child. The quality is that of a full-length ready to be released but the record label that was set to put it out ended up shutting down. His ‘Figments of the Imagination’ demo from the year before was similarly lengthy and complete, but lacks a lot of the polish found here and has less of an obvious turns towards melodic black metal as on this album. This is likely something you haven’t heard and should if you like melodic black metal and late 90’s Norwegian stuff.


15

Artist Heresiarh
Title [Type/Year] Dragons of War [Demo/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A very complete 40 minute demo from these Latvian “Romantic Dragon Metal” band that is a mix of melodic fantasy metal with female vocals and relatively aggressive melodic black metal. None of it is typical in relation with Scandinavian black metal, and instead has more in common with (related band) Skyforger and that sort of conceptual and unique folk metal. Very original in some respects but also very unlistenable if you can’t stand the weird ass female power metal-ish vocals. It’s just weird dragon poo.


16

Artist Necromass
Title [Type/Year] Chrysalis’ Gold [EP/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The weirdest final bit of music from Necromass before they took about 15 years off. The songs are Gothic metal with slight glimpses of black metal that seems to be trying to resemble something like Moonspell or Tiamat. It is some of the worst shoegazing gothic music I’ve ever heard in my life. Absolutely no wonder they split up after this release.


17

Artist Covenant
Title [Type/Year] Nexus Polaris [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Covenant (now The Kovenant, or whatever) were perhaps the one band to get the closest to sounding like early Dimmu Borgir after they somewhat failed to sound like Emperor the year previous with ‘In Times Before the Light’. For how incredibly lame this might seem, these guys were talented if totally unoriginal. Their melodic use of synth and choir along with loud rock guitars makes for a dense and occasionally captivating release. Is it melodic black metal? Well, yes actually this isn’t as symphonically dominated as it initially seems and sits right next to ‘Ill-Natured Spiritual Invastion’ in terms of corny keyboard honks and memorable riffs. Remember this was the era of Arch Enemy and the frilly power metal stuff was infesting everything and everyone.


18

Artist Embraced
Title [Type/Year] Amorous Anathema [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Another album that is technically melodic black/death metal but really errs on the end of things like Cradle of Filth and Graveworm’s full-lengths. It isn’t entirely goth metal but it is absolutely still that style of mildly symphonic, barely offensive, dispassionate black metal. If you’re really into folk metal there are some moments that’ll be pretty interesting here in terms of melody and use of keyboard/piano in relation to blackened melodic death metal but I feel like Finnish bands would refine this type of music quickly and Embraced end up feeling unremarkable compared to bigger bands of the time.


19

Artist Opera IX
Title [Type/Year] Sacro Culto [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Female fronted symphonic black metal from Italy that is often lumped in with melodic black metal just for the sake of putting it somewhere. The vocals are so horrible I can’t manage it, the album is occult cheese and fairly experimental but just so fucking terrible, I just can’t.


20

Artist Graveworm
Title [Type/Year] Underneath the Crescent Moon [EP/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Well, 1998 was an experimental time for groups like this because folks all over the world were eating up copious amounts of anything symphonic and black metal. Graveworm’s first album wasn’t half bad but this EP seems to be squirting turds at the wall in the dark and calling it melodic black metal. The worst moments are when the vocalist decides to test his range and screech for as long as he can, it just sounds so amateurish and pathetic it’s a wonder these sorts of musical trends ever lasted. I have to personally file this music under unbearable.


21

Artist Old Man’s Child
Title [Type/Year] Ill-Natured Spiritual Invasion [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Well, again here is the band by which I compare a lot of symphonic black metal to because frankly he did it this way before so many others and his work in Dimmu Borgir was copied for a decade after, even by the band themselves. I actually recieved this as a promo in a cardboard slipcase back in the day and it was one of the first metal albums I ever reviewed (for a print magazine) so it has nostalgia and extreme familiarity for me. It is a brief and aggressive black metal record with a ton of corny riffs and keyboard heavy melodies. He even goes as far as to whip out a few Slayer riffs along the way, made even more obvious by having Gene Hoglan drumming on the record. I still like it, though I think he wrote better songs before and after here and there.


22

Artist Agalloch
Title [Type/Year] Promo 1998 [Demo/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

On this promo circa ’98 you can see why this accessible melodic black metal music landed the band a record deal. It immediately sounds like radio metal a la Katatonia of the time but with the extreme metal edge that people were perhaps more interested in compared to that band’s weird The Cure style vocals. Of course the two extensive songs show more than melodic black metal, the underlying track goes from resembling Sentenced’s Gothic rock to Ulver’s folk/black melodrama and all with the underpinnings of what is essentially modern rock music. If anything this demo promises too much and the album the followed didn’t quite deliver for my tastes.


23

Artist Månegarm
Title [Type/Year] Nordstjärnans Tidsålder [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

To think someone listened to this and considered it anything less than a well-known pagan black metal classic that gave way to a well-regarded folk/viking metal band. The folk metal influences are secondary here while the band churn out heavy and relatively aggressive black metal that is moderately melodic. This would be more worth a mention in terms of viking metal and pagan black metal, but it does technically resemble melodic black metal for many of the same reasons. Not the best album from these guys, and really just the most aggressive of many. I personally enjoy this but wouldn’t have labeled it’s genre this way, but I can’t argue with hundreds of others.


24

Artist …And Oceans
Title [Type/Year] The Dynamic Gallery of Thoughts [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

I remember this band from compilation samplers, their sound is certainly melodic black metal but with very atmospheric layers of keyboards that are unique and almost tasteful compared to just another anything else out at the time. It also just kind of rips shit up in the black metal department, without ever writing any memorable or decent riffing. I’d rather listen to Twin Obscenity, but to each their own.


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Artist Naglfar
Title [Type/Year] Diabolical [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

‘Diabolical’ shows off Naglfar at their most insistent and least nuanced it is a brutal, loud and raging melodic black metal album that hardly has time for obvious melody. Much of the underlying melodic riffing happens across extended tracks that are dominated by incessantly screamed vocals and raw-banging Norwegian style black metal riffs. Their hesitance to resemble Dissection gave the band some kind of aggressive freedom and it makes for an album that is brash and often difficult to sink into. If the vocalist would just shut up a bit I would warm up to it more. The album lacks what I liked about ‘Vittra’ a bit, but I almost find this over the top screaming noisefest even more compelling if not almost unlistenable for 45 straight minutes.


25

Artist Thy Serpent
Title [Type/Year] Christcrusher [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

‘Christcrusher’ finds Thy Serpent more mature and relaxed in their keyboard-driven melodic black metal style. The anti-Christian themes are again mostly on point but this isn’t my favorite album from the band. Despite the amateurishness of their debut, and the unfocused heaviness of ‘Lords of Twilight’ I think they both hold up better for my taste. The ‘Death’ EP that followed is also a bit more to the point.


26

Artist Agathodaimon
Title [Type/Year] Blacken the Angel [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Of course this German black metal band inhaled the keyboardy symphonic black metal sound by their debut and lost the melodic black metal style quickly after. They would trend hop towards Gothic metal as to follow their money-making heroes. This is the last release from the band that I would consider melodic black metal and that is still my own loose interpretation, because it is for all intensive purposes weak symphonic black metal.


27

Artist Ancient Rites
Title [Type/Year] Fatherland [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Uh again, a sort of classic in terms of viking/folk metal ends up labeled as melodic black metal by fans. While all viking metal is typically melodic this still represents a small lean towards black metal in style. They say this album has a human drummer but this band never really got their drum sound right until ‘Rubicon’ at least for my taste. I love the guitar work here as it appears influenced by classic heavy metal and thrash metal alike. For me this was a formative release in discovering folk/viking metal and wouldn’t count it as melodic black metal, but I see why others would.


28

Artist Black Swan
Title [Type/Year] When the Angels of Twilight Dance [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Hey heads up to obscure Finnish record labels seeking to reissue old melo-metal from the 90’s, ‘When the Angels of Twilight Dance’ might be somewhat typical for the time but twenty years removed from the scene gives room to appreciate their unique sound. It isn’t too far from what Moonsorrow have been doing for years, but without quite as long compositions and more understated in keyboard moments. It is melodic black metal in the sense that there are viking and melodic death metal melodies present and features a black metal vocalist. Impossible for me to find the whole thing without pirating it and I’m not particularly moved to do so, even if it is well and long out of print.


29

Artist Diabolical Masquerade
Title [Type/Year] Nightwork [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Mr. Blakkheim, best known for Katatonia spent several years plugging away at this solo project and finally hit gold by diving dipping into the realm of symphonic black metal while retaining the melodic black metal elements of the previous records. He would soon form the well-known Bloodbath and slowly exit from this project while also ducking out of Bewitched as well. This is likely the missing link from many people’s adventures through melodic and symphonic black/death of the late 90’s and it’s a shame because it is better than say, Covenant. ‘Nightwork’ was self-produced but this time Dan Swano actually drums on the album and does a great job that gives the record an death metal feeling with a heavier double-bass presence than before.


30

Artist Epoch of Unlight
Title [Type/Year] What Will Be Has Been [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on Spotify!

Epoch of Unlight’s stellar debut full-length polishes the sound of their earlier EP and speeds up their approach to nigh-technical levels. Their sound is as if early Absu decided to revisit the approach of At The Gates‘ misunderstood ‘With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness’ album and sever all of the calm and experimentation out. It is one of my favorite more recent discoveries in melodic black/death metal and it is a shame folks overlooked this band simply because they were American and showed similarities to other bands. Few Swedish or Finnish bands did anything as fast and technically sound as this and their approach to melody is almost entirely different. “Burning As One” highlights their brilliant songwriting skills best, and really the whole thing is highly engaging and meaty. The black metal vocal style is absolutely not perfect though, and I see why folks might see that as mediocre at first but it such a non-issue for me especially because that is how a lot of black metal bands actually sound live. Of the 80 or so albums I’m covering on this part of the list, this is one of the better full listens. I only wish they had it for sale on their bandcamp instead of just on Spotify.


31

Artist Black Messiah
Title [Type/Year] Sceptre of Black Knowledge [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Though this band are better known for their contributions to folk/black metal and symphonic black metal, this first album leans far into the realm of melodic black metal. Their subtle sense of melody is rarely overtaken by the keyboards and the album has excellent drumming (with an unfortunate snare sound) that drive things to a darker place than a lot of comparable folk/black bands of the day. Steel yourself for the heavy folk elements, if Skyforger was a bit much for you then get ready for the Finntroll jig at the end of the first song “Old Rites”. There are some hits, some misses and it all feels very 90’s in that respect where pomp and Euro-metal excess got a band noticed. Ultimately this album has held up for my taste but only because I also like the folk metal leanings of it.


32

Artist Eisregen
Title [Type/Year] Krebskolonie [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

German black metal from a band censored by Germany several times over, the cause is said to be their highly gory and violent lyrics. I sort of wonder if it isn’t something more to do with fascism, though, as there are some more obvious leans into RAC influenced melody and that type of punkish songwriting. ‘Krebskolonie’ is a good album though, very aggressive black metal with melodic elements, folk breaks, and a generally interesting take. It was their second album of the year and features lyrics about some very gory situations, all in German. All of the rock influenced melodies and folk rock breaks make for an interesting sound but I’m not sure I’d call it melodic black metal, it seems to have been labeled as such for the sake of explaining what it is rather than deciding on the appropriate niche for the music itself. Reminds me of Peste Noire at some points .


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Artist Throes of Dawn
Title [Type/Year] Dreams of the Black Earth [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

A very different type of black metal from this progressive metal outfit as they’d changed style drastically and incorporated more melodramatic gothic metal elements similar to the newly crowned “dark metal” label that would follow Rotting Christ similarly after their late 90’s goth albums. Elements of melodic death metal, black metal vocals, and some light folksy moments make an interesting Finnish extreme metal album typical of the era. If you liked that Black Swan full length, this does a lot of what that album does but better and quite a bit softer in general. Also of note is that the vocalist here also lends his voice to melodic funeral doom band Shapes of Despair. I particularly like moments on this album because it’s progressive metal touches remind me of Misanthrope (french band) when they were dabbling more and more into melodic death metal.


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Artist Enthral
Title [Type/Year] The Mirror’s Opposite End [Full-length/1998]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Cheap production sound, nods to Dimmi Borgir’s then booming style, and it’s 70+ minute length made this both too obscure and mediocre to really ever get a chance. Enthral are far from the most interesting casualty of the symphonic/melodic boon of the late 90’s but if you like that sort of thing there is a lot of it to dig through on ‘The Mirror’s Opposite End’. The gryim, cheap recording is still very clear despite the completely muddled guitar sound and manages well-hidden layers of decent melodic black metal riffs. The vocals are ultimately what drives me from any enjoyment of this recording, he is simply one of the worst in a sea of terrible black metal croakers from this era.


35

Artist Rotting Christ
Title [Type/Year] Der Perfekte Traum [EP/1998]
Listen on YouTube!

Rotting Christ reak the peak of their gothic metal influenced original style of melodic black metal that was lead by some incredibly catchy and smooth guitar leads and clever hooks. This is exceptional in the realm of black metal bands reaching for the popular music charts and also was a new peak in recording quality for Rotting Christ around this time. It serves as a look at what they’d be doing on ‘Sleep of the Angels’, a style that I personally like if only for the shock of how good Sakis was at writing this style considering their rotten black metal beginnings. This was released to promote their tour with Moonspell and Samael, as well.


36

Artist Uranus
Title [Type/Year] Heathendome 1999 [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Uranus is a strange one man band from Greece that produced this somewhat brilliant symphonic progressive semi-black metal demo back in 1999 and released it independently as a full-length. There are Greek black metal riffs all over it alongside ‘Moontower’ esque keyboard runs and some fun moments as it plays. It really is a messy demo despite being a full-length recording and the ideas aren’t necessarily given any room to breathe with it’s highly symphonic metal style.


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Artist Entirety
Title [Type/Year] The Moth of Hate [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on SoundCloud!

An Italian black metal band that is still around and active to this day. Their debut full-length has elements of thrash, death metal, and some symphonic moments in there for good measure. If anything it sounds a bit like a softened melodic black metal take on Kreator’s 80’s records at times and I enjoyed some of it. It is most certainly a unique album in the realm of melodic black metal, if not completely amateurish and roughly composed. If they could remaster it with the vocals a bit quieter, maybe a touch of reverb on them and it’d be brilliant.


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Artist Agmen
Title [Type/Year] Damnation [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A lesser known Czech black metal band that I would consider a pagan black metal band that also qualifies for melodic black metal. The melodic black metal influences are particularly strong on this first recording with excellent drum presence and hollow vocal sound that reminds me of A Canorous Quintet at times. This album is hugely refreshing for it’s original riffing, and it is devoid of symphonic black metal nonsense. Their sound pulls from death metal and thrash metal like other Czech bands of the time and ‘Damnation’ was incredibly heavy in a sea of prancing keyboard boys of the time.


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Artist ThirdMoon
Title [Type/Year] Aquis Submersus [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A trashy ‘dark metal’ band that seemed to be trying to emulate Rotting Christ but with cheap production and a horrendous approach to riffing that amounts to chuggy  groove metal with gothic metal influences. This is the true garbage of this era that I can’t stand. It barely qualifies for being melodic black metal if not for just being melodic extreme metal with a growling vocalist.


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Artist Atanatos
Title [Type/Year] Devastation – The Third Attack [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Atanatos were a true metal themed melodic black metal band originally and they eventually return in the mid 00’s as a black/thrash metal band. They are refreshingly riffy and capture the sound of melodic black metal guitar playing well, though the drumming is largely terrible. This second album is somehow more muddy sounding than the first but I generally got a kick out of it’s death/thrash take on melodic black metal.


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Artist Mephistopheles
Title [Type/Year] Songs of the Desolate Ones [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A hugely underrated release from this German melodic black/death metal band. Their approach is everything melodic black metal’s orthodox movements should embody: Technical high speed riffing that circle around complex melodies, aggressive drumming, and hissed out vocals. They’ve added a bit of keyboards here for the sake of it, but otherwise this release is sort of what I’d imagined Dissection might have made post-‘Storm of the Light’s Bane’ if they’d continued without Jon. I don’t mean to gush on this too much, but it does embody the sort of lesser known gem I sought when initially taking the journey through melodic black metal.


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Artist Your Shapeless Beauty
Title [Type/Year] Sycamore Grove [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Gothic metal influenced black metal that also took from melodic death metal for some of it’s guitar playing and style. An obscure band that were certainly unique and improved a bit on this release. Recommended for fans of Gothic black metal style but honestly not really my personal ‘thing’. Absolutely qualifies as melodic black metal, though again not for niche representation rather than lack of a better descriptor.


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Artist Voices of Decay
Title [Type/Year] Nocturnal Domain [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Though they are known better for their symphonic black metal content, this earlier album from Italian band Voices of Decay featured a heavy influence from melodic black metal. I don’t like how much they resemble Cradle of Filth on this album and it all feels incredibly derivative.


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Artist Dimmu Borgir / Old Man’s Child
Title [Type/Year] Sons of Satan Gather for Attack [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Imagine you’d heard of cool church burnings and murders and you ended up with this stupid ass Casio keyboard dork metal from Norway as your gateway to ‘black metal’. This split album features early EPs from Dimmu Borgir with ‘Devil’s Path’ and Old Man’s Child and their excellent ‘In the Shades of Life’. These were released well before each band had already release about three album each and the EPs really show how Galder changed the sound of Dimmu Borgir after joining them and ultimately was responsible for their popularity.


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Artist Mystic Circle
Title [Type/Year] Infernal Satanic Verses [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

While this is a nice step up from the cheap and garbage sound of ‘Drachenblut’ I’m still just never going to be a fan of Dimmu Borgir styled me-too bands that too closely ape their sound because I don’t like Dimmu Borgir to begin with. I simply don’t love symphonic black metal and that’ll become more of an issue as I dig through more of these symphonic albums that are inherently melodic black metal. For all of the fiddling they do with keyboards and programmed sounding beats the band never manages any truly impressive guitar work on this album. Trendy trash that might be exhilarating if you’re really into symphony black metal, and there are some parts that totally resemble heavier power metal (minus the vocals) here.


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Artist Obscurity
Title [Type/Year] Christian Decay [Demo/1999]
No Links Yet

This has been on my Wish List for a while now. Folk/melodeath/black metal band from Germany. I’m guessing their first album that came out a year later represents the style of this demo but I’d still like to hear it at some point. Please upload it to YouTube or send me a copy if you own it!


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Artist In Thy Dreams
Title [Type/Year] The Gate of Pleasure [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Despite the giant nippled naked women on the cover of this album, In Thy Dreams wasn’t a cheesy shock value symphonic black metal band. In fact they were melodic death metal inspired by black metal that took many cues from the early Swedish scene and turn out one of the more solid examples of that style. Does it lean enough into the black metal side of things to be included here? Yes, for my taste it does just as much as many others. The school of Eucharist and A Canorous Quintet should include these guys if you’re looking for that style. I’ve included it here because it not only offers a typical snapshot of melodic death metal of the time, it also has just enough rasping hiss to it that it qualifies for melodic black/death tags.


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Artist Saxorior
Title [Type/Year] Portent of Eternity [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

An excellent example of German engineering of black metal style with the spirit of true metal still intact. Saxorior play a traditional heavy metal influenced style of black metal on ‘Portent of Eternity’ while still dabbling in symphonic trends a bit. The result is a listenable and reasonably solid melodic black metal album that shows rough viking metal edges at times. It is an album that slowly grew on me over time because I initially hated the keyboards and the flat, dull drumming style. Rare and hard to find but worth listening to for its somewhat non-Scandinavian approach to black metal’s melodic side.


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Artist Cryptic Wintermoon
Title [Type/Year] The Age of Cataclysm [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

On their first full-length Crypic Wintermoon strut their stuff as a mediocre symphonic metal band with some generic but decent melodic black metal guitar riffing. They never really cut it as a symphonic metal band but they had the general idea of what melodic black metal sounded like. For a full hour of music this is incredibly misguided in it’s sense of grandiose melody and exhausting vocal patterns. The keyboard work is massively repetitive and about memorable as the background music in a PC RPG from the time period.


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Artist Soulgrind
Title [Type/Year] Kalma [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Soulgrind’s fourth full-length sounds like it was still their first demo. Their style is shitty amateurish pit metal riffing with growling/barked vocals that are absolutely terrible. It sounds like a hardcore band made of teenagers trying to sound like prog metal, without ever having heard prog metal. Some of the worst extreme metal ever recorded came from this time period.


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Artist Mystic Forest
Title [Type/Year] Green Hell… [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

If you thought early Xasthur was hard to listen to, and perhaps too cleanly recorded, here’s some of the chilliest and misguided lo-fi bedroom black metal ever recorded. From the cheap Fruity Loops drum sound to the messy 90’s album art and emo-Beavis vocal whisper and shriek style of vocals ‘Green Hell…’ is a weird experience. It is a shame his vision was made so cheaply because there are some really cool ideas that never got the editing they deserved.


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Artist Lord Belial
Title [Type/Year] Unholy Crusade [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Lord Belial have put out a long and uninteresting string of standard second wave black metal albums since this one and not a ton has changed. They’re the spitting image of Swedish black metal that is semi-melodic and otherwise resembles bands like Satyricon’s early work or Emperor when they decide to toss in symphonic elements. ‘Unholy Crusade’ is a relentless attack. Though I preferred their first two albums I think this one still held some of their initial ferocity and some tinges of melodic black metal were still active despite their sort of obvious nods to classic second wave bands guitar work. I wouldn’t describe this as melodic black metal personally, it is just aggressive 2nd wave terror with a few melodic moments. They whip out thrash and death metal riffs more than they ever get melodic.


52

Artist Wallachia
Title [Type/Year] From Behind the Light [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

I always found this first Wallachia album hilarious for it’s weird pop-punk riffing that belongs on a Slapshot record and the Casio keyboards and overdone death metal vocals. It is essentially ham-fisted symphonic black/death metal music. The drum machine sounds like pure trash, particularly the double bass parts. The band would improve on their next two releases but overall this belongs in the symphonic metal dumpster rather than labeled wrongly as melodic black metal. Strongly disagree with it being tagged meloblack. Maybe dungeon synth influenced symphonic death metal?


53

Artist Grievance
Title [Type/Year] The Phantom Novels [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on Spotify!

Another trendy symphonic black metal band with gothic metal elements trying to be Dimmu Borgir/Cradle of Filth tour support and end up with a generic sympho-mess. Should be a nice gem for folks who love that era of symphonic metal but I find it incredibly generic and devoid of all personality.


54

Artist Fiurach
Title [Type/Year] Chaospawner [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A sort of warm up for what the band would eventually become, Doomsword. It sounds very much like an ambitious set of young musicians doing their best to make extreme metal but the result is an odd rock/thrash influenced symphonic black metal record that doesn’t really inspire me. There are moments on the album that remind me of Nocturnus but that could just be messy vocal runs and keyboards, plus those comparisons die with the generic riffing and neoclassical weirdness of this record. A strange experience for it’s entirety.


55

Artist Gorbalrog
Title [Type/Year] Untergang [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

More excellent underground melodic black metal from Germany, who seemed to have avoided a lot of the bad cheese of Norway and Finland while taking inspiration from classic Swedish releases in the sub-genre. ‘Untergang’ doesn’t have the flowing riffs of typical melodic black metal and instead touches upon death/doom and lead guitar driven melodic metal for their style. It is a varied and interesting release that might have some overly familiar melodies but works as a full listen.


56

Artist Kyprian’s Circle
Title [Type/Year] Noitatulen Vartija [EP/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Oh, this band again. They play atmospheric symphonic black metal on this EP. IWhen things speed up it resembles melodic black metal briefly. The band is overrated by demo traders and I don’t particularly like this EP.


57

Artist Sanity
Title [Type/Year] Nocturnal Poems [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on Their Website!

Terrible amateur symphonic black metal. Always mislabeled as melodic black metal. One man project that has been revived recently. Demo quality, drum machine, loud keyboards. Should not be considered for any legacy or underground conversation!


58

Artist The Heretic
Title [Type/Year] Fallen from Heaven [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Yet another silly symphonic black metal album. At some point I will have vetted these from my master lists but it would discount the melodic black metal content of the releases. It does qualify, I suppose. There is nothing notable or exceptional about ‘Fallen From Heaven’ and their compositions seem conflicted and messy with a still-searching vocal crapfest and some really bad synth/keyboard work. I know Spanish gothic rock is an acquired taste but hearing it mixed with black metal makes it even more awkward and unfitting.


Rituales de Sangre

Artist Crying Blood
Title [Type/Year] Rituales de Sangre [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Fast, lo-fi, symphonic demo quality black metal. Chiming cheap keyboard sounds, attempts at Scriabin scales. Easily the most low budget release featured on this list. It is here for completionist tendencies and not for quality.


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Artist Usva
Title [Type/Year] Seitsemät siivet [Demo/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A short mid-paced black metal record with melodic black metal elements throughout. Owes some of it’s edge to melodic death metal of Finland at the time. The atmospheric approach to keyboards is interesting and the music isn’t bad but the tape quality is terrible. Nothing about this was so compelling at the time, so I can see why they never got picked up for a full-length, despite some nice melodic moments here, especially on “Vaults of Sin”.


61

Artist Noctes
Title [Type/Year] Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A decent album from this obscure Swedish melodic death/black metal band. Their sound was generic and predictable but fit into melodic death metal style well. They really contributed nothing that hadn’t been previously created in the mid-90’s and that likely why they’re unheard of now. There are many better bands in this style but hey at least it wasn’t just another symphonic/melodic black metal band instead!


62

Artist Sacramentum
Title [Type/Year] Thy Black Destiny [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on Spotify!

The third and final Sacramentum album veers off even more into the melodic death metal territory and in turn creates one of the best melodeath albums of all time. At this point much of the real work had been done in terms of establishing melodic death metal as a framework for modernizing bands to work off of and yet Sacramentum came back after their barn-burning second album with a truly inspired heavy metal record that fused the hissing majesty of their melodic black metal innovation with the complex death metal riffing of the day. It wasn’t simply Iron Maiden riffs set to mid-paced death metal aesthetics like so many cheap, idiotic Swedish bands of the day. There are few blends of black metal and melodic death metal out there that transcend the obvious so well, and that includes Dissection‘s second album. An absolutely essential album, along with everything else this band recorded.


64

Artist The Elysian Fields
Title [Type/Year] We… The Enlightened [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Earlier in their career The Elysian Fields created some solid, if not predictable, melodic black/death metal that was distinct from their other Greek scenesters. This one also touched upon Gothic doom, some folk metal, and was generally reaching out into other genres as much as their first album. There are many terrible tracks here that lean into a style that bands like Septic Flesh and others would do much better in the long run but the melodic black metal riffs do end up highlighting this albums unique style throughout and it deserves mention.


65

Artist Varathron
Title [Type/Year] The Lament of Gods [EP/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

This EP shows a fair amount of change for Varathron after they’d been largely silent for a few years. Their new found use of keyboards is actually tasteful and esoteric in creating doom metal influenced melodic black metal. Their heavy metal riffing was in full swing here though the keyboards take over a couple of the songs on the EP. The cover of Mercyful Fate’s ‘Nuns Have No Fun’ is entirely stupid.


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Artist Rotting Christ
Title [Type/Year] Sleep of the Angels [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on Spotify!

If you felt like ‘A Dead Poem’ was too far into melodic Gothic metal for a black metal band, wait until you hear this Gothic black metal record. I actually like this album in moderation as it shows how accessible extreme metal bands can be in writing what are essentially rock songs. The sound is unique, the guitar work is impeccable and the hooks are undeniable. Yes, it is Gothic metal though and that really isn’t what I’m looking for (ever) but it is quite good music considering these guys were playing obscure grindcore ten years earlier. The guitar work on ‘After Dark I Feel’, ‘Cold Colours’ and others here are infectious and worth listening to.


66

Artist Korozy
Title [Type/Year] Long Road to the Land of Black [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Cheaply made symphonic black metal from Bulgaria that offers poor mixing and generic black metal ideas. Doesn’t qualify for melodic black metal for me as the inherent melody is lacking from most tracks and the writing quality is very weak. I do not recommend this release unless you are a symphonic black metal fan who must hear everything. Their next album from 2000 ‘From the Cradle to the Grave’ would improve upon every poor aspect of this album.


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Artist Dismal Euphony
Title [Type/Year] All Little Devils [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A terrible symphonic metal band from Norway that was like Carach Arngren before that band was even a thing. Their pompous, terrible Gothic metal cliches had been done for years before and done by a thousand bands in 1999. Their heavy use of melody doesn’t save the record from mediocrity and it barely begins to sound like black metal in general beyond the vocals and loud, poorly produced female vocals that never shut up.


68

Artist Wolfheart
Title [Type/Year] Cold Breath [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A short and somewhat aggressive melodic black/death metal record from Finland’s late 90’s underground. The style is closer to melodic death metal with black metal vocals. Guitar riffs are tight, highly melodic, and seem like the hobby-grade metal from a guy who wanted to be a shredder. ‘Cold Breath’ is an interesting take on the style and while it flows more like a rock-centric melodeath album the style is pretty sound.


69

Artist Abyssos
Title [Type/Year] Fhinsthanian Nightbreed [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

On Abyssos second full-length they fully embrace their true vampire heritage and descend upon the bloody wieners of their victims with full abandon. The whole thing literally starts with a riff stolen fucking directly from the second Dissection record and the whole garbage assed affair is just a hilarious mess from there. Once I’ve stopped steaming over the plagiarism, it isn’t a terrible record. It embodies that romantic, gothy edge of early melodic black metal and turns out a great example of the old school sound mixed with terrible moaning, keybord mistakes, and female caterwauling. It is a shame the Dissection riffs wear off and the Cradle of Filth dearth bulges up quick. I’d say just jam the first song and drop this turd.


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Artist Catamenia
Title [Type/Year] Morning Crimson [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Catamenia whip out an unexpectedly sincere melodic black metal record here despite the silly Dimmu Borgir keyboard moments that pop up. The drumming and keyboards recall Norwegian trends of the day but the actual sound of the band is closer to Graveworm or other Finnish bands of the time. I kind of glossed over this band’s first album for 1998 because I felt this more than sums up the sound of both records. Not essential, but also not just smarmy symphonic garbage either.


71

Artist Nagelfar
Title [Type/Year] Srontgorrth [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

I am a huge, huge fan of Nagelfar’s music from demos to split-up and this might be my favorite album of them all. Weird right? Because the band hated this record and overlooks it as a release because it is a re-recording of previous released tracks, demo tracks and such. But they’ve woven those ideas into a hypnotic and original sounding melodic black metal record. Each of the five tracks is over 9 minutes and some touch upon their punkish raw black metal, electronic music integration, and circle back to high speed melodic black metal. It is as forward thinking and brutal as Alexander’s work in The Ruins of Beverast. I am such a huge fanboy of this band that it is hard to say anything other than “Woo! woo! I love it! woo!” and it really is a cool trip to go on for an hour and change.


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Artist Kampfar
Title [Type/Year] Fra Underverdenen [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Orthodox melodic black metal with folkish elements is basically a description of pagan black metal and here we have what I consider a classic in that genre, the second album from Norwegian band Kampfar. The style of this album is close to a more restrained and calculated vision of the first Borknagar record with similar themes. I particularly love the guitar work on this album, and it amazes me the journey a rhythm focused guitar player can go on with subtle leads above their playing. Highly recommended with the caveat that this is perhaps more iconic and essential for an exploration of pagan black metal.


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Artist Dornenreich
Title [Type/Year] Bitter ist’s dem Tod zu Dienen [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

For my tastes this is the best Dornenreich album as they mix melodic black metal with folk metal elements and some odd keyboard ideas. Their attempts at progressive black metal make for very extensive compositions with most songs lasting well past nine minutes when they only needed five to get the point across. Perhaps it is their Austrian heritage but the music and even the art of the cover seems so ‘outsider art’ compared to the status quo of the day that it is an exciting listen. The keyboard lead melodies at first seem to stumble upon the guitar ideas but when they blend correctly it really works. Definitely an oddball release for melodic black metal, and thankfully the minimal keyboard sound has kept it from being labeled symphonic metal as it rightly isn’t. If you need weird ass extreme metal meditation for an hour, this is highly highly recommended.


76

Artist Windir
Title [Type/Year] Arntor [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Hmm, I’m not even sure I need to explain ‘Arntor’ to the world because I feel like this album was such a nuclear bomb upon the black metal world. Windir’s second album of melodic black/viking metal cleans up the messy production of the first album and jettisons his world class talent into an album that achieves its perfection in hindsight. Valfar was clearly a brilliant polyglot inspired by the achievements of Bathory‘s Quorton and the viking/folk metal achievements of the black metal scene. His lead guitar patterns inspire shredders and black metal nerds alike to this day and make for some of the most memorable black metal music ever recorded. Well, enough grandstanding. You really have got to listen to this record if you’ve never heard Windir.


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Artist Ancient
Title [Type/Year] The Halls of Eternity [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

After their terrible mistake of a symphonic mess that was ‘Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends’ Ancient turn back towards fantasy themed melodic black metal. I personally can’t make it through the full hour of the album in one sitting but I fully appreciate that they turned around and put out a strong, flowing black metal album that is both atmospheric, melodic and heavy without relying on symphonic trendy bullshit to get noticed. Of course, I wish they’d have cut about 15 minutes from the record. The melodic black metal guitar work here is very old school meloblack and a satisfying warm place to thaw the bones.


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Artist Vesperian Sorrow
Title [Type/Year] Beyond the Cursed Eclipse [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Some of the worst produced symphonic black metal ever recorded. Sounds like a tape played through a garbage can into a late 90’s PC microphone then pumped into L and R channels at too high a decibel. It doesn’t help that the music is additionally generic Dimmu Borgir shit, either.


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Artist Agathodaimon
Title [Type/Year] Higher Art of Rebellion [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Tragically boring symphonic metal with Gothic metal elements throughout. The first song seems quite heavy and doom influenced but the whole of the album is cheap trash music that barely qualifies as black metal though it is certainly melodic extreme metal that will please someone out there. At this point I have officially started to hate symphonic black metal and the sheer amount of crap it’s invention spawned.


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Artist Infernal Dreams
Title [Type/Year] And I Dream… [Full-length/1999]
LISTEN on YouTube!

This strange one-off Portuguese melodic black metal album sure has a ton of bad symphonic metal cliches sewn into it’s core, but it doesn’t sound like every other record of the day. I think because the band were younger their guitar riffs are closer to the kind of stuff you’d come up with after going from your Iron Maiden records straight to Dissection or something. Their use of the whammy bar is particularly hilarious at times where they’ll wonk out of tremolo riffing like some kind of junior shred-guitar rangers showing off on an 80’s tv program for kids. ‘And I Dream…’ is both hilariously green and cheap with it’s terrible 90’s CG cover art made in MS Paint and weird mash-up of popular extreme metal cliches.


 

Part V will see an even greater boost in symphonic black/melodic black hybrids. 2000-2003 saw increasing popularity for melodic black metal releases while Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir were crowd-pleasing cash cows that appealed to similar crowds. The core of melodic black metal will be almost forever lost in the shroud of symphonic metal influence for a few years and it won’t return with much orthodoxy until other trends begin to wear out. The style will become more accessible but the genre trend will wear out soon enough before orthodox melodic black metal will return after a few years hiatus. It won’t be a complete dark ages for melodic black metal, but you’d best start liking keyboards even more on the next installment.

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