An Exhaustive Study: Melodic Black Metal [1991-Present] Part V – Ancient Thrones Conquered (’00-’01)

Here I present Part V 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 290th through ~370th releases commonly labeled Melodic Black Metal from 2000 through 2001.

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 blocked the traffic, I will re-host all 280+ images before the sixth entry. The features for this list won’t be on a schedule because each one requires upwards of 80 full album/demo/EP listens and I can only work through them one album at a time. It won’t be long though! I’ve also reformatted this ongoing list to fit on mobile devices easier and in turn include more items.


Artist Cromlech
Title [Type/Year] The Vulture Tones [EP/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A recently reformed Swedish melodic death/black band that most closely resembles Ablaze My Sorrow on their earlier work. For good reason, too, as this band originally featured members of that band as well as Eucharist. It was a bit dated for it’s time but should appeal to folks who like the pre-‘Slaughter of the Soul’ sound of At the Gates. Also notable for featuring Meshuggah‘s current bassist, four years before he’d join that band. I think this EP has excellent complex riffing and that old Swedish blackened death spirit of the early 90’s.


Artist Dawn of Dreams
Title [Type/Year] Darklight Awakening [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The sole full-length from this exceptional melodic death/black band from Germany. The balance of death and black metal influences here leans towards death metal most of the time largely due to the vocalists death growls. This is essentially the fourth Apophis album with the band under another name, largely due to the shift towards melodic black metal and light use of keyboards. Apophis had definitely dabbled in some melodic black/death metal ideas on ‘Heliopolis’ but not to the extent found in Dawn of Dreams. Really great forgotten underground extreme metal here, and worth it for the riffs and the Doom samples on the intro for “Hell Beneath”.


Artist Obscurity
Title [Type/Year] Bergisch Land [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The debut from this notable pagan/viking metal band is aggressive melodic black metal with some odd choices in the production of the drums. Ultimately this is their most ‘black metal’ release with a style that reminds me of Mörk Gryning‘s first two albums. This was an independent release that the band shy away from and never bothered to reissue as far as I know. I’ve got a copy but I generally don’t feel it is my right to upload other people’s music online. The song I’ve linked on YouTube “Mortal Sin” gives a good idea of the sound of the album, though it is one of their more regal, mid-paced songs by comparison. A lot of incredible German melodic black metal albums are seemingly lost to time and it’s a shame this one seems headed that way too, it is a very solid full-length.


Artist Heresiarh
Title [Type/Year] Mythical Beasts & Mediaeval Warfare [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

It takes ages to get shoulder deep into Heresiarh’s butt and once you’re there it is just a mush of tremolo riffing, croaky vocals, viking metal melody, and odd female vocals. It isn’t symphonic black metal or fantasy power metal, but rather a growling, operatic mess buried even deeper into obscurity by a terrible production sound. The crazy thing is that some of this album is really good and I appreciate the guitarist’s approach to melodic black metal riffing as it echoes Swedish melodic black metal riffs better than most where still capable of in 2000. I highly recommend this to fans of early viking and folk metal as this might be the weird sort of gem that you’re always on the hunt for.


Artist Sanctifica
Title [Type/Year] Spirit of Purity [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Rote imitation of Cradle of Filth/Dimmu Borgir style black metal from a Christian black metal band formed by members of Crimson Moonlight and Pantokrator. The sound is incredibly average for Swedish black metal of the time and the keyboards are poorly mixed. Their second album would switch to ‘avant-garde death metal’ in style and not the fun kind like Carbonized.


Artist Obtained Enslavement
Title [Type/Year] The Shepherd and the Hounds of Hell [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Well if the Old Man’s Child demo riffs and drum machine don’t drive you away, and they likely will, this isn’t a terrible record. It does have some already dated sounding digital mix issues and the programmed drums do not help at all. It really doesn’t compare well with the rest of their discography, as patchy and low quality as the band already had been. It -does- have some cool guitar work to follow but there is a storm of shit sound surrounding those moments that it might not be work revisiting again.


Artist Akhkharu
Title [Type/Year] Thy Haunted Impiety [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Akhkharu were a USBM that got a lot of shit for not being very good on this album, though they weren’t pure black metal to begin with. ‘Thy Haunted Impiety’ ranges from Dimmu Borgir-isms to death/doom and gothic metal throughout the album. The bandcamp song available for preview shows their almost symphonic black metal sound but you can find a song on YouTube that shows their melodic/gothic doom side as well. A strange rarity for collectors.


Artist Thy Serpent
Title [Type/Year] Death [EP/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

On this final release Thy Serpent incorporated a style of riffing that resembled black/death metal more indicative of second wave Norwegian black metal and the symphonic elements were minimal. The style seems to aim more for viking metal than anything else and features heavy metal guitar leads running through most songs, the result has more in common with Windir than previous Thy Serpent albums. It might have been interesting to see what the band would do with this sound, and apparently they’ve remained somewhat active according to most sites but without a release for almost 20 years.


Artist Cthulhus Scorn
Title [Type/Year] Demo [Demo/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A two song side-project of Månegarm that more or less reflects the style of their second full-length released that year. This wasn’t released until it was included as bonus tracks on the reissue of their third album ‘Dödsfärd’ in 2015. It definitely leans further into the melodic black metal side of things than the band was willing to at the time and seems to have been a brief outlet for those ideas. Excellent couple of songs but unfortunately they put all their effort into Månegarm from that point on.


Artist Castrum
Title [Type/Year] In The Horizons Of The Dying Theatre [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The second and final album from this Croatian melodic/symphonic black metal band. They weren’t anything special on this record due to the programmed drumming and less interesting symphonic/keyboard elements. The rock guitars solos and ‘dark metal’ elements don’t do much for me here as there is a lack of black metal riffing and it just goes off into weird circus music too often. A worthy rarity for symphonic black metal fans, though a die-hard meloblack fan could easily skip this due to the awful industrial metal elements found throughout.


Artist As It Burns
Title [Type/Year] Inferno [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Good luck finding anything pertaining to this Netherlands based melodic black/death band despite the band releasing four albums. I had digital copies of this band’s stuff ages ago and just wrote it off as mediocre and deleted it all, it’s a shame because now your own chance to hear their music streaming is MySpace or some live videos on YouTube. You know even though this band was mediocre it is still a tragedy to not have a document of their history online outside of databases.


Artist Goat Prayers
Title [Type/Year] Heretic Mountain God [Demo/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Goat Prayers’ second demo was actually worse sounding overall but still captures a talented melodic/atmospheric black metal guitar performance that was unusual coming from the black metal underground. There are some weird power metal influences here as well that don’t really work. I actually like the compilation I’ve linked here that has both demos, they’re a little rough but they convey the style and substance of the band well enough.


Artist Diachronia
Title [Type/Year] XX’s Decline [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Polish symphonic dark/black metal band that would become ex-pats and move to London. Cheap production, bad drum machine drums, all the usual worst parts of early 00’s me-too black metal finds it’s way onto ‘XX’s Decline’. I would recommend this to a symphonic black metal completionist as it is only about 30% melodic black metal and not very good at that.


Artist Darkmoon
Title [Type/Year] Remains [Demo/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

You know how idiots are always describing death metal vocals as “cookie monster” vocals? Well for this Darkmoon demo it actually applies and well, cookie monster is horny for pussy. The barfed out gothic metal grunts and whispering do not deserve to be called melodic black metal, but that won’t stop anyone. Easily one of the most hilarious things I’ve come across in a while. The guitars aren’t terrible, though, just a bit half-baked and less than extreme for what this Swiss band would do later on in their career. Must have been labeled meloblack due to their later stuff.


Artist Thromdarr
Title [Type/Year] NorthStorm Arrives [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

An excruciating listen due to the drum machine, barfed ogre vocals and weird wannabe Rotting Christ style. I’m not sure if this is meant to resemble Viking metal era Bathory or Greek black metal but it falls flat either way. The vocals are grunted out as if there were a group of angry trolls barking out angry orders. Their later stuff resembles groove metal more than it does black metal and I just can’t stand listening to any of it. As if that Darkmoon demo was bad enough, this is like that but with more vocalists and a keyboardist.


Artist Siebenbürgen
Title [Type/Year] Delictum [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

An unoriginal album for it’s time with less than exceptional guitar work. This Swedish band were vampire themed much like Abyssos and this album had them dipping their toes further into symphonic elements. I’m not sure if they’d switched drummers but this one is just so unimaginative that I can’t stand to finish the 70 minute album in a single sitting. I would recommend this if you want some B-grade melodic black metal from this era of riffless CoF/Dimmu supremacy.


Artist Dorotha
Title [Type/Year] Carnal Souls Entwine [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Dorotha were a decent mix of emerging atmospheric black metal trends and melodic black metal. The sound is overall kind of predictable but the riffs borrow more from Rotting Christ ‘Triarchy of Two Lovers’ era than they do from Swedish or Finnish black metal. Where the band falls flat are the symphonic black metal elements. It was all completely mediocre for ’00 standards in black metal and for whatever reason the band didn’t continue on after one recording.


Artist Nazgul
Title [Type/Year] When the Wolves Return to the Forest [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

This is an oddity as a rare and lo-fi Spanish pagan black metal album with a healthy influence from melodic black metal. Members would go on to form Uruk-Hai, who played a similarly pagan themed raw black metal. Here the riffing leans far more towards the thoughtful and somber than it does furious rawness. As sloppy and KVLT as this album can be, it is a really nice listen if you’re able to look past the obscured sound of it. Dated for pagan black metal even by ’00 standards, it is nonetheless a solid entry in that style with a ton of effective and majestic melodic ideas.


Artist Dawn of Dreams
Title [Type/Year] Garage Days in Hell [EP/2000]
No Links Available

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.


Artist Lilith
Title [Type/Year] The Conquering of the Eternal Wisdom [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

One of the few metal bands I’ve heard to come from Bolivia. The style here is symphonic black/death metal with a sound all it’s own. The links from the band on bandcamp have a huge, loud sound that obliterates the old rips that float around on YouTube. I believe this fits a bit better under the pagan black metal tag personally, or at the very least symphonic black metal. Bands like this without labels need to add their releases to databases like RYM/Discogs, most people have no idea this group has released several things post-2007.


Artist Miasthenia
Title [Type/Year] XVI [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The debut full-length from this Brazilian melodic/pagan black metal band long active before the release they’d developed their sound well enough. The keyboards aren’t very well done though they at least use different synth and sound than most symphonic metal influence bands of the time. I like this kind of mid-paced black metal riffing but ultimately I get tired of their keyboard/synth work and lack of riffs. This style of extreme metal is so dependent on atmosphere and rhythm that Miasthenia would deliver better later in their discography.


Artist Psilocybe Larvae
Title [Type/Year] Stigmata [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The debut from this Russian black metal band is one of the better guitar performances yet in melodic black metal circa 2000. It resembles the thoughtful leads of Windir including the folk metal bits and gallant lead guitars. The band would become better known on later albums but this one remains my personal favorite for it’s rougher sound and focus on the lead guitar melodies. Those extra influences from melodic death/doom, viking/folk, and some death metal make ‘Stigmata’ an entirely worthwhile experience that transcends a small amount more than most of the crap on this list. The only thing is that you won’t find a ton of black metal here and that’ll likely be disappointing, for that reason this should not be considered primarily meloblack, just an interesting adjunct release.


Artist Magister Dixit
Title [Type/Year] Andar and the Curse of Azagath [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Quebecois black metal that throttled itself between melodic black metal and symphonic black metal. I feel like this leans way too much towards symphonic black metal, but it still manages some really interesting ideas that go far beyond ‘pretty’ synths of the era. The whole thing feels very DIY and cheap, but what really drives me away is the Dimmu Borgir nods in the riffing that are just so cliche I lose interest.


Artist Forlorn
Title [Type/Year] Opus III: Ad Caelestis Res [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

An overly polished and strangely forward-thinking second album from Melodic Black/Viking Metal band Forlorn. Gone are the folksy parts and instead they rely on Emperor style riffs entirely for effect while clean vocals create some interest. It seems like the band either weren’t sure where to go next after their debut or they were steamrolled by a producer who wanted them to sound like the popular black metal of the time. ‘Opus III…’ is claustrophobic, though it sounds better on CD than on YouTube, and generally mediocre. Not terrible and between the clean viking metal vocal choruses and lead guitars it isn’t half bad, just not worth tracking down unless you’re a crazy completionist or Forlorn fan. The album after this would be even more sterile and strange.


Artist Flauros
Title [Type/Year] Monuments of Total Holocaust [EP/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The second EP from this Finnish black metal band that used symphonic elements and jig-dancing black metal riffs to decent effect. The style here is interesting enough though I think the riffs are pretty bland. The drums are loud and Slayer-ish in the mix, which doesn’t really work for this type of atmospheric black metal.


Artist Diaokhi
Title [Type/Year] To Raise the Iron Throne [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The first extreme metal album ever released in the country of Georgia also happened to be pagan black metal with influences from symphonic/melodic black metal of the day. Thankfully the album is largely devoid of Borgir-isms and instead pulls influence from native melody as well as the popular pagan black metal bands of the day. The vocals are unfortunately overly processed and each track has a different filter, it becomes disorienting and strange because of the loud keyboard mix despite the music’s general focus on the guitar work. ‘To Raise the Iron Throne’ has just enough strong riffing moments in it’s first half to recommend, though the symphonic elements drown out my interest fairly quickly.


Artist Astray
Title [Type/Year] Alone [EP/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Hmm, well it looked very gothic but this is pretty ripping stuff that barely gives keyboard shit a moment to breathe before loud screeching vocals and guitars shred over them. Unusual in style for a Finnish band, Astray closely resembled Old Man’s Child‘s melodic paganism with circus-tent ready keyboard grinds and fast riffing. It is pure cheese but if you like OMC, this is well worth hearing.


Artist Liar of Golgotha
Title [Type/Year] Ancient Wars [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Melodic/symphonic black metal from the Netherlands that shared early DNA with Funeral Winds but this style is just pure blasting noise and riffing. Far more extreme than most melodic bands were willing to be at the time ‘Ancient Wars’ is a weirdly satisfying listen because of it’s extremity and insistent use of keyboards and strange viking metal vocal sloppiness. At the very least you can say this band finally found a mix where they’d incorporated their symphonic elements at a nearly standard level, despite how awfully loud they can be.


Artist Thundra
Title [Type/Year] Blood of Your Soul [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A decent album from the loud rising era of viking/black metal hybrids that focused on clever lead guitar/keyboard melodic interactions above all else. Was a huge hassle to try and get Spotify links to work for this, so I settled for a YouTube track. Mediocre record that isn’t entirely worth the trouble, and I feel like the band hadn’t yet found balance within their production yet. Only recommended if you’re looking for a pompous Children of Bodom-like experience.


Artist Old Man’s Child
Title [Type/Year] Revelation 666 [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

At once the most dance-able and least interesting Old Man’s Child release, Galder had exhausted his ideas within Dimmu Borgir’s ‘Spiritual Black Dimensions’ and only his leftovers made it onto the laziness that is Revelation 666. Easily my least favorite release by this band and a record I’ll happily skip through most of. The awkward EBM feeling of the opening track is enough for me to switch it off. I do like “Unholy Vivid Innocence” if only for it’s hook.


Artist Fall of the Leafe
Title [Type/Year] August Wernicke [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

I always think of this band as the gothic metal band they became but this first album is melodic black/death metal with a heavy handed goth metal approach. Though you’re really not getting gothic metal here, just hints and influences. The bulk of the music is rushed, frenzied and blasting black/death metal with what sounds a bit like a drum machine. I enjoy the chaos of the recording and the unexpected style that goes from Sentenced death metal and off into Paradise Lost-ish melody and back again. The double bass drumming is a bit much for the style but fairly standard for this sort of lazy melodeath of the era. A strange collision of styles that works well enough, but it is hard to figure out where it belongs. It is equal parts melodic death/doom and gothic melodic black.


Artist Estuary of Calamity
Title [Type/Year] The Sentencing [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Estuary of Calamity began with a death/doom demo that was just stunning in it’s heaviness, a great demo from the Ohio death metal scene. Almost a decade later it seemed this project had been resurrected after Thorns of the Carrion had fallen through, and it focused on melodic black/death metal with symphonic elements. It is amateurish and sloppy in many respects but that wasn’t a huge deal in the sub-genre. Parts of this album are brilliant, others just sound like pop-punk guitar fiddling with black metal keyboards humming along. The band would soon change their name to Estuary and refine their style a bit.


Artist Underoath
Title [Type/Year] Cries of the Past [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Uh, ok. Well, this horrendous unsustainable metalcore band made a melodic black/death album on their second full-length. Yes, it really is. The style borrows from melodic metalcore and post-hardcore a ton but it ends up sounding a bit like Ablaze my Sorrow and Darkest Hour a bit. The keyboards are terrible on this and the spoken gothic parts are just cringe-as-hell, but the album as a whole isn’t unbearable. Outsider art if nothing else. They would never return to this style, and don’t bother with the album before it because it doesn’t emulate this style at all.


Artist Mystic Circle
Title [Type/Year] Kriegsgötter II [EP/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

I really liked the change in style on this EP from Mystic Circle, they’d moved slightly beyond the typical cluttered symphonic black metal sound and seem to have taken some core inspiration from Bathory‘s viking metal days. With far less chaos and noisome keyboards ‘Kriegsgötter II’ is a minor notable in this mid-paced style of viking-ish black metal. One of the only things from this band’s discography that I’d highly recommend.


Artist The Darksend
Title [Type/Year] Antichrist in Exelcis [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

I really enjoyed The Darksend’s debut ‘Unsunned’ even if it wasn’t highly original it had a distinctly melodic black metal sound and ‘Antichrist in Exelcis’ fits in similarly well on this list. They’ve taken more inspiration from melodic death metal in terms of guitars here, perhaps sounding more like Eucharist than Dissection, but ultimately close to the second Sacramentum album. The melodies and riffs might seem predictable or even slightly plagiarized at times but you could tell the band was doing well to differentiate themselves in 2000 as they also borrowed ideas from symphonic black metal here and there. I think it is a shame that this band is somewhat overlooked, especially if you liked the first Dawn album as much as I did. I only wish the awkwardly placed female vocals just didn’t weird things up so often, it is otherwise a fantastic example of melodic black metal.


Artist Astriaal
Title [Type/Year] Summoning the Essence of Ancient Wisdom [EP/2000]
Listen on YouTube!

For as noisy as it is, Astriaal’s debut EP after their demo is an achievement in melodic black metal. The cacophony of spiraling guitars and howled vocals is equally beautiful as it is menacing. As degrading and retarded as Australian black metal can be, a glut of transcendent woke-as-fuck bands existed alongside them. A vinyl issue of this album was promised but the band were ripped off by a label when trying to license it and eventually moved on to new music. I’m such a fan of this EP I’ve kept tabs on the band for a decade hoping to pick up a reissue or remaster. If all of the symphonic stuff from 1998-2001 has been depressing, bands like this should perk you up.


Artist The Dead Beginners
Title [Type/Year] Sinners Rebellion [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The song I’ve linked is particularly influenced by Dissection in certain parts but most of this album is mid-paced, gothy dark metal from a band that was previous known as Autumn Verses. I’d actually totally forgotten about Autumn Verses’ album and nothing about The Dead Beginners resembles that record despite only three years between releases. If you’re really into the gothic metal of this era then I’d recommend it. I feel like out of 9 tracks only 2 are actually black metal.


Artist Catamenia
Title [Type/Year] Eternal Winter’s Prophecy [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on Spotify!

Absolutely do not go to YouTube to hear this album, the full-album streams outside of Spotify are muddy and not representative of what it actually sounds like. Just a heads up! Melodic death/black metal from Finland around this time was severely different from what Sweden and the rest of Europe was doing, they keyboards became more poppy as bands like Children of Bodom took off and a lean towards power metal and viking metal became mandatory. The trouble was that Catamenia had already doubled down on the weird Dimmu Borgir thing for a while and this shift in style felt a bit trend-hopping. When I’m looking for melodic black metal I’m never really looking for this style, but it was definitely the moment Catamenia began to polish their sound to halfway decent standards. I find it altogether rote but I know there is a lot of love for this era of the band’s discography.


Artist Rotting Christ
Title [Type/Year] Khronos [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Rotting Christ’s six album represents a middle ground between the more accessible gothic metal influenced sound of the previous two records and the brief left turn they’d take on ‘Genesis’. It isn’t as good as the albums before it and it just seems to drag on forever. I’ve never bought a copy of this album despite being a longtime fan of this band because I felt like ‘Khronos’ represented an awkward identity crisis for the project and instead of figuring out what to do next, they just put out a rough take on ‘Sleep of the Angels’ with a muddy guitar sound.


Artist Forefather
Title [Type/Year] The Fighting Man [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Surrey based melodic black/folk metal band Forefather’s second album just never thrilled me as much as his debut ‘Deep Into Time’. It is still brilliant stuff if you’re a fan of folk metal elements within black metal but the drum machine sound is just so rough at times that even the 2015 reissue didn’t full address. Forefather doesn’t really strike me as an exceptional project until ‘Ours is the Kingdom’ and beyond. Definitely check it out if you’re a fan of folk metal, though the black metal is fairly limited to drum machine drumming.


Artist Korozy
Title [Type/Year] From the Cradle to the Grave [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Bulgarian symphonic/melodic black metal that was jumping in on the Dimmu/Old Man’s Child circus metal trend of the day. They do a terrible job of it but if you’re a fan of bouncy keyboard black metal you could do worse. Well done but incredibly derivative, often borrowing directly from ‘The Pagan Prosperity’.


Artist Embraced
Title [Type/Year] Within [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Of course Embraced made a leap in concept and quality here but they were still relying on a predictable form of symphonic black metal here that relies more on corny keyboards and bad lead guitars and not riffs. It is a slog to get through this hour long album unless you love this type of thing. There are a few moments where the keyboards kick in with gothic metal drumming and it sort of comes together with an era-appropriate hook, but the piano runs are so uninspired and bland that most of those highs are ruined. Though they aren’t to my taste, I don’t think symphonic black metal heads will take issue with ‘Within’.


Artist Thyrane
Title [Type/Year] The Spirit of Rebellion [Full-length/2000]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Another Finnish melodic/symphonic band, who’d actually go on to do a split with trashbag band The Dead Beginners, but Thyrane’s style had evolved into something really unique at this point. The production on this record is big thanks to producer Ahti Kortelainen, best known for Eternal Tears of Sorrow, Impaled Nazarene, Demigod, Sentenced… I mean he recorded every Finnish metal band you’d ever heard of at the time. This album is extreme and incredibly crisp sounding, up to and above par with a lot of what was going on at the time. It’s style is bombastic, cheesy and demonstratively heavy. What the band lack in terms of sheer riff they make up for with dynamic ingenuity that creates infectious music that honestly outdoes anything Galder had done up to this point. If you are a big fan of ‘Black Seeds of Vengeance’ I would highly recommend this as accompaniment.


Artist Sear Bliss
Title [Type/Year] Grand Destiny [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

This is a strange off-kilter heavy metal record that would signal the more avant-garde ambitions of Sear Bliss. They’d lost their interest in atmospheric black metal and had little interest in Norwegian style symphonic nonsense so, they created a raucous black metal album that is unpredictable and ultimately very unique. Things would only get more adventurous for this band over time and largely for the better as they strayed from expectations.


Artist Mystic Circle
Title [Type/Year] The Great Beast[Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

After their EP that paid tribute to Bathory, Mystic Circle shifted right back to the Norwegian style symphonic black metal that they were previously known for on ‘Infernal Satanic Verses’. The loud keyboards and chaotic production are back and the music is noisome and vapid as you’d expect. For all of it’s Satanic glory it just bores me.


Artist Moonshine
Title [Type/Year] Wake Up the Moon [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on AppleMusic!

A very obscure Korean melodic black metal album that largely takes inspiration from Dimmu Borgir and similar groups. If you’ve had that same epiphany that some melodic black metal has pop-punk riffs in it, well this album will shake your turds up a bit more. There are some great slow doomy riffs here amidst the goofy keyboard black metal and that sort of saves it from being a mess. An interesting rarity at the very least, but more relevant to symphonic black metal fans.


Artist Govanon
Title [Type/Year] Ancient Order Of Cuthulu Serpent [Full-length/2001]
Listen on YouTube!

This Brazilian black metal band had been around for almost a decade before releasing their debut and the sound is incredibly rough. The vocals sound compressed and digitally warped in the process and the guitars take a while to warm up to as quiet as they are in the mix. There are plenty of good riffs here though this was the era of riffs that weren’t actually good and most of ‘Ancient Order…’ reflects that for the first 2-3 songs. Suddenly the recording quality changes, the first of several times on this patched together album, and their style is closer to something like Murder Rape or black/thrash. I don’t mean to come across ultra harsh here, it isn’t complete shit, but this one was pretty damn rough to get through.


Artist Pagan Reign
Title [Type/Year] Ancient Warriors [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

aka ‘Древние воины’ if you’re Cyrillic inclined. This is the debut album from pagan/folk metal group Pagan Reign, a still active Russian group. It definitely leans hard into folk metal and barely qualifies for this list because it goes so far beyond melodic black metal style into folk metal. This style of folk metal really relies too heavily on flute for it’s lead melody and it is hard to even focus on the melodic black metal riffing underneath those noises, but it is there.


Artist Dark Fortress
Title [Type/Year] Tales of Eternal Dusk [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

I am admittedly not an expert on this German melodic black metal band’s discography but I really enjoy their mix of Swedish melodic black metal with some orthodox Norwegian stuff here and there. Their use of keyboards are atmospheric and never get in the way of the guitar work, which is front and center the reason to listen to most Dark Fortress albums. ‘Tales of Eternal Dusk’ isn’t very polished or original for 2001 but they do an amazing job of it. If you’re like me and you tend to gravitate towards slightly roughed-up early releases in band discographies then this should be worthwhile. One of the better melodic black metal albums from 2001.


Artist Oblomov
Title [Type/Year] The Final Destination [Demo/2001]
Not Available

A rare melodic death/black demo from a Czech band that would release two albums in the late 00’s. If you have this demo or links to it, please contact me.


Artist Maleficentia
Title [Type/Year] Born of Fire and Steel [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A unique and incredibly rare album of melodic black metal and guttural death metal from this French band. Maleficentia use the chaos of black metal to transition between heavy death metal riffing to great effect, though it is a bit of a mess at first listen. The guttural, almost pitch-shifted sounding vocals (think Vomiturition or Demilich) are just as extreme and tasteless as the shrieked and gargled black metal vocals and that’ll be enough to drive people off. I am fascinated by the mix of melodic black metal riffs and death metal to no end. An interesting, if not misguided, rarity to check out.


Artist Besaga
Title [Type/Year] W mroku… …ukryci [Demo/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

This demo from Polish black metal band Besaga represents a band interested in many styles of black metal though each song ultimately rests upon melodic black metal. The keyboards do soak up some of the atmosphere in the wrong way, as they’ll often use bad percussive samples in unsuccessful ways but all in all it is an interesting demo. Much of the guitar work leans into generic orthodox second wave black metal stuff, and it helps the band wrestle out of their symphonic weirdness to great effect.


Artist Himinbjørg
Title [Type/Year] Haunted Shores[Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The third album from this French viking/black metal band went as far as it could to be as epic and melodic as possible, sometimes resembling power metal hysterics rather than black metal. The rock solos and all that are a bit much if you’re looking for orthodoxy in your melodic black metal music, but it makes for a unique listen. A lot of the riffing is rooted more in melodic death metal of the time depending which song you’re listening to, so I wouldn’t really pimp this as a meloblack classic but maybe a sub-genre adjacent title worthy of a listen. Himinbjorg are worth checking out in general, despite some amateurish production jobs along the way.


Artist Count De Nocte
Title [Type/Year] Carpe Noctem [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A decent full-length from this melodic black metal band with some melodic death metal leanings. The bulk of the riffs on this album lean hard into melodeath but the overall vision is black metal. I’ve linked what I consider the best track “Woeshaded”. The music is perhaps far more aggressive than most Finnish melodic black of the era, as it doesn’t often let the keyboardist get in the way of the black metal attack. Hard to find but still recommended.


Artist Sad Legend
Title [Type/Year] Searching For The Hope In Utter Darkness… [Demo/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A somber EP from a Korean symphonic black metal band with some Rotting Christ influences tossed in. The compositions are nearly progressive metal in some sections and the songs are pretty long. I would argue this is just symphonic metal that largely avoids melodic aspects of black metal in favor of atmospheric keyboards and operatic vocals. The operatic vocals are so strange, I’d almost recommend listening just for that.


Artist Crystal Abyss
Title [Type/Year] Sageness Fallen [Demo/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

This pretty listenable melodic black metal demo from Russian band Crystal Abyss would sit unloved until the band would re-record most of these songs for their 2007 album ‘Word of the Darkest Ages’ and the funny thing is that the demo and the full-length have comparable recording quality. I really enjoy this bands screamy, blasting sound on this demo and the guitar work is just as good as their full-length if not slightly obscured by a cheap distortion pedal. Worth checking out if you can find it, but the full-length is just as good if you can’t track this down.


Artist Soul of Darkness
Title [Type/Year] Cry of the Inner Pain [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Canadian melodic black metal screeching and furious drumming all drowned out by horrendous keyboards. The whole thing is barely audible but the style is distinctly melodic black metal with some overbearing symphonic elements. Tin can drum sound doesn’t help either. Not recommended listening.


Artist Illnath
Title [Type/Year] Angelic Voices Calling [EP/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The debut from Danish melodic/symphonic black metal band Illnath is a 20 minute EP of straightforward melodic black metal. The drumming here is precise and somehow more interesting than the keyboard work, which I’m become numb to over the course of making this list. I love that this isn’t just another damn Dimmu-clone or whatever, but it does often venture too far into Cradle of Filth territory, which isn’t such a big deal. It honestly just sounds like everything that was on Century Media back in the day, or at least like it was trying to fit into that crowd too much. Still, notable for it’s professional sound and extreme drumming.


Artist Twin Obscenity
Title [Type/Year] Bloodstone [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Twin Obscenity were a fine viking/melodic black metal band and this album is one of their better releases as a whole. The melodic black metal riffs pop up mostly in transitional or intense moments on the album and ultimately make it a more exciting listen. Few bands have ridden that wave of melo-black/death as close while still remaining non-symphonic or full on viking flute-tooters, and I appreciate that the band stick with Bathory-isms and melodic black metal for their style. This isn’t half as intense as their debut album, and even less “black metal” in terms of vocals but it doesn’t stray from their original concept. I think I prefer Forlorn for this style, but their debut comes close to ousting it.


Artist Siebenbürgen
Title [Type/Year] Plagued be Thy Angel [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Having mostly recovered from their stint with symphonic black metal elements, this vampiric Swedish black metal band moved even further towards melodic death and gothic metal elements. Much of the album is shrouded with haunting female vocals, double bass blasting and melodic death metal guitar riffs. It doesn’t convey the sinister feeling the band was perhaps known for before and instead feels like a poppy, viking-ish happy extreme metal album. I’d already lost interest in this band around 1997 so this is just an awkward oddity that doesn’t nail it’s tone at all.


Artist Enslavement of Beauty
Title [Type/Year] Megalomania [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

An ultimate example of Cradle of Filth wannabe posturing across a melodramatic and hilarious bad Norwegian symphonic melodic black metal album. I’d refuse to even mention this album if it wouldn’t seem too immature. Lyrics that suggest they “need to get more pills” to die or whatever, just too hilarious for me to sit through. Feigned darkness from the most insincere place possible. Think I’m exaggerating? Ok, listen to the second track. Between the Beavis gargles, the sex moans, and the keyboard solo, are you not entertained?


Artist Ancient
Title [Type/Year] God Loves the Dead [EP/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Not much to this EP, I just wanted to include it for the new version of “Trolltar” and the black metal cover of Iron Maiden‘s “Powerslave”, which is cool.


Artist Dornenreich
Title [Type/Year] Her von welken Nächten [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

I’ve become a bigger Dornenreich fan the more I explore their albums through making this list. This one is avant-garde and just “out there…” as possible for a black metal record. They create a circus of blasting black metal, thrash riffing, and occasionally rest upon their more expected pagan black metal style. A truly strange and harrowing black metal album that qualifies as melodic black metal but sounds like literally nothing else of the era.


Artist Arthemesia
Title [Type/Year] Devs – Iratvs [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A more typical ripping melodic black album from Finland. Some light symphonic elements that aren’t quite confident enough to lead the experience for the bulk of the album. I hear more Emperor in the more intense moments of ‘Devs – Iratvs’ than I do Finnish influence, but that could just be ignorance. The guitars have a nice sharp sound and generally attack at a high speed, it would have held interest if they’d avoided the keyboard/synth elements entirely.


Artist Ajattara
Title [Type/Year] Itse [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Finnish black metal collective Ajattara are maybe better known for their folk metal contributions than their melodic black metal. It is a shame because their discography has some really incredible melodic black metal entries, particularly this melodic death/doom influenced album. Their use of melody was so unique for Finland and for extreme metal at the time as they didn’t rely on bland symphonic black metal trends for inspiration. If you like early Samael and that sort of thing, this fits in to that black/doom style in some respects, or even Tiamat‘s ‘Clouds’ album. An oddity on this list but it doesn’t fit anywhere else.


Artist Epoch of Unlight
Title [Type/Year] Caught in the Unlight [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The second album from this Memphis, TN based melodic black/death metal band is even more hurried and vicious than their Swedish-styled first album. It has the urgency and fury of Absu while still incorporating the aggression and heaviness of death/thrash. I always felt like this band got a bad rap along with many other USBM bands from the era that were overlooked because of silliness surrounding their location and ‘atmospheric’ issues. The guitar work here should impress the hell out of any melodic death or melodic black metal fan and deserves more praise than it gets. All of this band’s stuff deserves more credit than it got especially as I dig through so many sub-par wannabe European bands that had absolutely no skill beyond a drum machine and an Oslo or Uppsala address.


Artist Stormlord
Title [Type/Year] At the Gates of Utopia [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The second album from this Dimmu-alike and honestly this album isn’t half bad. These Italians began to lean towards power metal riffing heavily and created a cool mix of 00’s era power metal and melodic black metal that occasionally works despite the bad keyboard work. Of course the symphonic Dimmu-isms are irritating at times but I think the power metal stuff overloads a lot of those moments. The spectacle of Stormlord was always more interesting than the actual melody and riffing, so it isn’t amazing stuff. Just a flashy, very 2001 metal album.


Artist Windir
Title [Type/Year] 1184 [Full-length/2001]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Windir’s sound had evolved slightly on his fourth album. The complete line-up of the band Ulcus/Ulcus Molle (later Vreid)had now joined the band full time and layered on the keyboards a bit heavier. The result is an even more sharply performed Windir album with lush synth and blasting drums. It strayed slightly from the Viking metal vision of his previous album (and my personal favorite) ‘Arntor’. There are few artists so capable of writing memorable guitar melodies as Valfar and his work in Windir had set a new, impossibly high standard for viking, melodic and pagan black metal scenes on ‘1184’. All Windir is essential listening for melodic black metal fans.

Part VI will see an fewer symphonic black/melodic black hybrids, thankfully as many bands began completely losing melodic black metal elements in favor of symphonic metal. 2000-2003 generally saw increasing popularity for melodic black metal releases while Cradle of Filth, Children of Bodom 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 thin around 2004, BUT there are some awesome things in between. I’ll be limiting the silly me-too symphonic records from this point out.

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