An Exhaustive Study: Melodic Black Metal [1991-Present] Part VII – Rebirth in the Shadow of Annihilation (’04-’05)

Here I present Part VII 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 450th through ~570th releases commonly labeled Melodic Black Metal from 2004 through 2005.

“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’ listening 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 at all… but they are labeled as such because the difference can be difficult to distinguish. 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 earlier parts because I was linked to another site’s database and they blocked the traffic; I will likely not re-host all 280+ images until I have finished entries up to 2018-ish. On top of that, my original source for artwork has made all of their images .WEBP format instead of .JPG/.PNG so these features will take longer because I have use conversion software (easier now thanks to XnConvert!). Consider the 600-800 actions (clicks) I normally take in formatting the ~120 albums for each entry then add 3 actions for each task. So, expect entries to continue every two months but once I finish Melodic Black Metal and shift to NWOBHM the format and aesthetics of the list will change. More importantly the size of lists I attempt will focus on smaller better defined underground movements, and small/historic labels. I’ve also reformatted this ongoing list to fit on mobile devices easier and in turn include more items, this means small album artwork will persist for all entries of this list.


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Artist Twilight is Mine
Title [Type/Year] When the Twilight Covers the World [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on Bandcamp! [Wreaking Overrun, 2004]

Of course, what a horribly obscure place to start with. Twilight is Mine was/is a Russian black metal duo that featured a vicious female vocalist named Stellarghost who now plays in Abstract Spirit. Some of their material is available online but this debut is impossible to find without being able to navigate Russian piracy websites. As such, I’ve linked their third album from 2004, which is on Bandcamp. It is a raw and ripping second wave black metal album with little attention paid to melody and much in common with the teenaged Emperor years. They even cover Musorgsky towards the end. I won’t bother tracking down their debut as I do not believe this band was correctly labeled as melodic black metal; There are hints in the guitar work but nothing beyond average.


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Artist Eden weint im Grab
Title [Type/Year] Traumtrophäen toter Trauertänzer [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A German gothic black metal band that owed a lot to stuff like Old Man’s Child for it’s overt melody. Most all of their discography has bee entirely performed by Alexander Paul Blake (Sascha Blach) but after this album he’d introduce other guitarists and a drummer. The bad drum machine and silly keyboards don’t bother me but I do wish the guitar work wasn’t so terrible. Growly goth music that couldn’t possibly be more embarrassing now, but was typical for German black metal at the time.


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Artist Evermörk
Title [Type/Year] Astral Forest Winds [EP/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Since small New England label Oak Knoll Productions only ever really did CD-R releases at the time of this mediocre Swedish melodic black/death metal band’s debut it is now both out of print and fairly difficult to find. This sort of band was so easy to find on the internet in 2004-2006 but few artists seemed to care about preserving their output because it was so poorly received and didn’t have any real representation. As such, I’ll probably never hear ‘Astral Forest Winds’, at least not streaming on the internet.


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Artist Empyrean Plague
Title [Type/Year] Conquering The Elements [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

One of the first black metal projects to form in the North Bay, Ontario area as a noisy combination of second wave black metal from the same scene as bands like Woods of Ypres and Wolven Ancestry. Consider this a mix of ideas not yet fully formed that borrow from black/doom, melodic black metal, and more typical Norwegian influences. If you’re not ultimately put off by it’s highly questionable recording quality there is some great love for Bathory and Agalloch combining in their sound across this full hour of music. I like the hints of melodic black metal that seep into each song as well as the infrequent dips into death metal growls. Grating and strained but packed with good ideas.


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Artist Sigtyr
Title [Type/Year] Sjelefred [Demo/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Here is a curious Windir styled demo from 2004 that was actually the fourth demo from multi-instrumentalist Onde (later Mistur‘s harsh vocalist). He proves himself as a talented songwriter quickly but ‘Kulde’ (2005) is probably the most impressive. As a runner-up ‘Sjelefred’ is a quick 17 minutes of sognametal combining symphonic black metal, viking metal, and some elements of folk metal. This is of course a highly melodic and epic combination so most sognametal bands end up classified as melodic black metal. I think it is a happy medium between viking metal and melodic black metal. I’ve linked a ‘complete discography’ video on YouTube but there are actually three demos previous dating back to 2000-2003 that are (as of writing this) unavailable.


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Artist Rossomahaar
Title [Type/Year] A Divinity for the Worthless [Compilation/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Consider that the current line-up of folk/pagan black metal band Аркона (ex-Hyperborea) all also currently play in Rossomahaar and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. Highly influenced by the melodic/symphonic Norwegian scene but uniquely Russian in their exploration of melody this is an interesting but inappropriate addition to a melodic black metal list. Why? it is folk/pagan metal to it’s core and this compilation collects the best moments from their first few albums.


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Artist Sühnopfer
Title [Type/Year] Laments [Demo/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Here we have an interesting third demo from the earliest solo project from French musician Ardraos, best known for drumming with Peste Noire and Aorlhac. This is not simply a cheap demo with a couple of bad songs and instead offers a full 45 minute album of elaborately composed melodic black metal songs. This is truly a treasure that comes from a remote part of France’s Auvergne region both for it’s obscure and lo-fi sound that only suffers from some mild sonic aberrations. The vocals aren’t perfect but the music is frantic, proud, and often mournful. The first album/demo from this session that really grabbed me personally. He would eventually release two full-lengths in 2010 and 2014 while more recently performing on Aorlhac‘s immensely beautiful ‘L’Espirit des Vents’ (2018).


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Artist Black Dementia
Title [Type/Year] Hyperborean Call [EP/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A somewhat strange grouping of French musicians including the guitarist who played on Loudblast‘s two most recent albums along with members of Woebegon Obscured and Horned Almighty. A decent avant-garde melodic black metal EP with a small amount of awkward experimentation. It just kind of ‘sounds’ like a side-project between friends and should be a small but interesting diversion for melodic black metal purists.


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Artist Forest of Fog
Title [Type/Year] Untergang [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

After a beautiful demo the year previous this solo project featuring Ivo Henzi of Eluvietie was still quite raw in terms of production but picked up a gentle abrasion because of it’s obvious bedroom project status. Henzi is an expressive guitarist who is not only precise but seems to always seemed to have a knack for understanding the feeling communicated by his compositions. The programmed drums are a nuisance but they really don’t get in the way of the crackling streams of melodic guitar work. The sound on his Bandcamp page is far superior compared to anywhere else, so I’ve included that link for the most honest appraisal of the album’s sound. I would very highly recommend this to fans of stuff like Sacramentum and Thy Primoridial. The next few years will see annual releases from the project followed by ten years of silence before his fourth album in 2016 after leaving Eluvietie.


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Artist Goathemy
Title [Type/Year] Year 666 [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Goathemy were a Finnish melodic black metal band that sounded a lot like Cradle of Filth and I really couldn’t stand listening to any of their music past or present. There are some clear influences from melodic black and Gothic metal in their music and all of it can be summed up with their ‘Frostland’ album from 2006. Because this EP is rare and I hate the music, ‘Frostland’ will have to do for preview.


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Artist Saxorior
Title [Type/Year] Never Ending Battles [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Saxorior is a German black metal band active since 1994 that was started by members after the demise of Titan. This is one of many, many great underground German extreme metal bands that don’t seem to have ever made a huge mark outside of Europe and it is a shame in this case because ‘Never Ending Battles’ is a savage and heavy pagan black metal album [Click/Tap HERE to listen to samples] with roots in thrash. I really think this band’s whole discography is good enough to reissue as is, with no remasters. Between ‘Portent of Eternity’ and ‘Never Ending Battles’ this band is quite underrated. This album developed some of the Viking metal feeling found on later releases, and should appeal to a crossover of pagan black/viking metal fans. I have to mention that the band were more recently targeted (in 2015-2016) by ‘journalists’ claiming they were racist etc. for no other reason than they sing about the history of Saxony (where they live), the Saxons and their name means ‘Saxon Warrior’. I can only shrug at the crazed crusades of ‘politically correct’ ignorance people run against musicians without doing any research, or knowledge of human history, and it only harms real journalists. A notion is nothing but idiocy without research and fact.


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Artist Atra Mustum
Title [Type/Year] Black Autumn [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

‘Black Autumn’ is the debut album from Moscow, Russia based symphonic black/death metal band Atra Mustum and they pretty much sucked ass. Consider the weird gothic/death metal of early Crematory (Germany) and add in some Dimmu Borgir sounding folk metal keyboards. Yes, it’s even worse than that. Unless you are curious to hear a mixture of symphonic black metal production with some strange approximation of death metal sound circa 2004, I’d skip this garbage.


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Artist Frosthardr
Title [Type/Year] Maktesløs [EP/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A glorious union of melody an… Ugh, alright well this is a Christian black metal band from Norway. Where was I? Ah, this Norwegian black metal project began on a whim in 1997 and developed into something actually quite impressive by 2004 where Frosthardr released ‘Maktesløs’ an immaculate marriage of Antestor, Covenant, and Rotting Christ that would often slow down into odd tangents usually involving symphonic metal elements. It is precise and very Norwegian in it’s roar but oddly romantic in it’s flourishes and refrains. This was at the height of the weird ‘white metal’/’unblack metal’ nonsense and features some of the technical prowess from their influences, but has some melodic value all the same.


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Artist Nocticula
Title [Type/Year] Венчание со Смертью [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Horrible shite from Ukraine. Bad symphonic metal with a terrible female vocalist and an album that barely qualifies as a full-length with a third of it’s length devoted to re-recordings. The sort of derivative crap a teenager makes before they give up on music and becomes a SoundCloud rapper.


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Artist Molot Vedim
Title [Type/Year] Asylum [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Yet another Russian black metal band approximating the Norwegian sound that had fully hit their underground in 2004. This one is named “hammer of the witches” and comes from a group of very silly looking teenagers. Their sound wasn’t terrible and performances are technically sound if not melodramatic and bland. If you ever tried to start a band and put out an ad for musicians, then kept running into that one kind of guy who’d just heard Slipknot and decided he could be an extreme metal musician, I think groups like this were just formed by those sort of idiots. The album is dressed up nicely to the standards of symphonic black metal in the late 90’s but a closer listen should reveals horrendous amateur bullshit.


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Artist Potentiam
Title [Type/Year] Orka i myrkri [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on Spotify!

Hailing from Iceland and kicking a small amount of ass comes Potentiam in the form of a speed and death metal informed progressive black metal style not unlike that of Enslaved. Though they are still active most of these guys have been busy with their other project as Season of Mist post-black/prog metal artists Kontinuum. So, is this album good? No, it is messy and sounds like a bad melodeath/thrash album with a black metal vocalist who is halfway drunk. If you’re familiar with Enslaved‘s ‘Blodhemn’ it has some of that flavor to it, but is clearly conscious of ‘Isa’ and the tail end of Emperor‘s career. I would not consider this a melodic black metal album.


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Artist Fairytale Abuse
Title [Type/Year] Catharsis [EP/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Another terrible symphonic metal demo from these Gothic black metallers out of Denmark. They would clean up their sound a great deal by their 2004 full-length and eventually sign with Massacre Records, but this is completely rote symphonic black metal. I know I said I would goal keep and avoid symphonic black metal trash but consider that I previewed and clipped out over 80 symphonic black metal records for this list. The only funny thing was that Norway’s underground had largely given up on the trend quickly as the world made turds of sympho-black’s influence.


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Artist The Funeral Pyre
Title [Type/Year] Immersed by the Flames of Mankind [Full-length/2004]
Listen on YouTube!

This La Habra, California band were just one of many US bands quickly figuring out how to jump on the symphonic black metal bandwagon and they almost did thanks to a heavy reliance on riffs pulled from Swedish melodic death metal. It is an entire album consisting of pieced together tropes from a couple of years previous thanks to The Black Dahlia Murder and similar groups co-opting Swedish ideas and tossing in metalcore whenever they ran out of ideas to ape. Although I doubt they were opportunist twats, and their sound did get better, this album is amateur crapola.


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Artist Atrium Noctis
Title [Type/Year] Blackwards [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Well, it seems I can’t catch a break writing up this list so… Here’s a cartoon fucking symphonic black metal album that is a total circus of corny shit. Hailing from Germany this Cologne based project has long been active and honestly ‘Blackwards’ is a lot of fun. In terms of symphonic epic black metal Atrium Noctis resemble the corniest, bopping fun of early 00’s Viking metal in all of it’s glory and they borrow and steal so liberally from the Century Media/Nuclear Blast hierarchy of the era it is hilarious how much they fuck up. It sounds like a melodic metalcore band decided to make a Summoning album.


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Artist Diabolism
Title [Type/Year] Concealed Craft [EP/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

We heard from Diabolism before back in 1997 and this EP is actually a small compilation of dregs and nonsense from their career up until 2003. A unique and fairly mediocre Bulgarian black/death metal band that owed some debt to both Scandinavian melodic black metal and the melodies of their heritage, this EP acts as their tombstone. I’d much rather recommend ‘Endless Darkened Saga’ (1997) as an introduction and final statement in their discography, so only come to this if you really needed more after that album.


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Artist Knowhere
Title [Type/Year] The Mascot [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

The first lyric I could make out on this EP was “The flowers you bought / They are for yourself!” and outside of a good laugh it is a decent tape. They’ve put up an 2014 issue of the album on Bandcamp and it sounds pretty amazing. I didn’t really know what to think of it’s ‘clean’ atmosphere and personal lyrics but ‘The Mascot’ ended up being a very solid listen from a band I’d never heard of. Their 1997 demo has a production perhaps more appropriate for the style but I enjoy the almost pop-punk clarity of ‘The Mascot’ and the thrash influenced riffs benefit from the clarity and ‘small room’ presence. Highly recommended as I found myself listening to the entire thing a couple of times.


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Artist Ocularis Infernum
Title [Type/Year] In Saecula Saeculorum [Demo/2004]
No Link Available

Another awkward and cheap symphonic black metal demo. It is a shame that bands like this never release their demos or put anything like that online. They are Latvian and I actually think their ‘Expired Utopia’ album is mostly a joke, but fans of gothic death/doom and melodic black metal combinations will surely like it.


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Artist Artefact
Title [Type/Year] Son of Solstice [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Another very interesting melodic black metal band from the French Alps with history, naturalism, and fantasy themes. This is an essential release in my opinion as rough as some of the production tricks can be, as it features Aldébaran (Darkenhöld, Geisterfels) and shows that his talent for riffs of this nature has been evident for nearly 20 years now. The guitar work is the star here and though it has an odd digital effect at times you’ll be swept away by his fantastic riff craft to notice. If you are not in the know about Artefact‘s discography let this be the first clue in how great their three full-lengths are. The stream is great quality thanks to the band uploading it to celebrate the tenth anniversary for the album.


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Artist The Heretic
Title [Type/Year] Chemistry for the Soul [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

This Spanish band was a truly interesting oddity as their sound was essentially semi-technical melodic black/thrash metal… Let’s just say this was a progressive black metal band that were remarkably forward-thinking in their approach as they used electronic elements and progressive structures to achieve what most would call ‘modern’ melodic death metal today. Though it was released in 2002, I know this album as an Xtreem Music release from the larger reissue in 2004. The band was hardly active beyond 2005 in terms of recording and in 2010 the drummer curiously died in an (undisclosed) accident in his home. I think this album is generally worthy of a listen for it’s Sigh-like approach to black metal, which is to say that it is almost entirely -not- black metal but manages just enough of the aesthetic to stay within the genre’s confines.


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Artist Ninnuam
Title [Type/Year] Process of Life Separation [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on Spotify!

A competent but extremely obvious Dimmu Borgir clone from Sweden. Pure shit if you ask me.


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Artist Pagan Reign
Title [Type/Year] Уделы былой веры [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

I really didn’t have to include any more albums from this Tver, Russia based folk/pagan black metal band because they’re not particularly relevant in terms of melodic black metal. I’ve included this here only because I like the album and most folks suggest it is still primarily melodic black metal, of course I disagree but it is melodic and… it is black metal of a sort. Russian bands tend to only get compared to other Russian and Ukranian artists but there is some similarity to early Moonsorrow and Thyrfing on some of their records.


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Artist Will of the Ancients
Title [Type/Year] Cold Grim Times [Demo/2004]
No Link Available

Uninteresting viking/folkish melodic black metal that came from the same scene as Woods of Ypres and even featured David Gold on drums at one point. The band members alternate between two projects with this being chuggy, dull black/death metal with keyboards and their brutal death metal project Blastomycosis. Because a few members have come and gone their sound differs between albums but this first demo is most similar to their first album from 2006. You won’t be able to find their demo material online because they don’t want to have to pay an ex-member for his songwriting contributions.


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Artist Naumachia
Title [Type/Year] Wrathorn [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

I was never a fan of this Polish symphonic black metal band’s campy take on melodic black/death metal which actually sounds like any typical Finnish melodic black metal from the era. There are some heartfelt melodies and funny ‘rock opera’ dramatics to pump your fist to but the songs function like bad progressive power metal in that they all string together into one long and dull event. I’d file this under black metal for prog-power folks, or bad show tunes black metal a la early Carach Arngren.


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Artist Winterhorde
Title [Type/Year] In Traditions of Winter [EP/2004]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

The first studio recorded demo for this Israeli melodic black metal band taking heavy inspiration from Norwegian symphonic black metal and Cradle of Filth but not going fully symphonic. I will say that this band have put out some amazing songs over the years but they are largely shit. Consider this their weird first attempt to follow the cheap career of Cradle of Filth towards ‘extreme gothic metal’.


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Artist Interfector
Title [Type/Year] The Force Within [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A strange progressive black metal album from this Serbian band who called it quits soon after this, their sole release. You might want to consider this a Bosnia and Hersegovina band, but the lyrics are quite clear about their Serbian pride and fealty to Republika Srpska. Complex politics aside this is a bad progressive metal album with symphonic black metal elements. It doesn’t even come close to qualifying as black metal, let alone melodic black metal.


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Artist Thurisaz
Title [Type/Year] Scent of a Dream [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A decent symphonic black metal album with progressive intentions. My interest falls away quickly due to their almost note-for-note Insomnium riffs and bad clean vocals a la mid-career Opeth. Fine as a symphonic metal album but meaningless when categorized as a melodic black metal album.


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Artist Hidden in the Fog
Title [Type/Year] Abstract Maelstrom Paragon [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A mediocre progressive black metal band from Germany with heavy influence from later Old Man’s Child and Emperor. Dull music made by followers.


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Artist Torchbearer
Title [Type/Year] Yersinia Pestis [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Torchbearer basically started up once Christian Älvestam (ex-Scar Symmetry, Miseration, etc.) largely abandoned his wildly underrated Unmoored project in favor of a melodic death/thrash style. That isn’t to say it is wildly different from Unmoored but perhaps eases up on brutality for the sake of a Witchery and The Crown type of sound. The black metal vocals have found many fans labeling this as melodic black metal (seen as a black metal counterpart for Miseration) and I don’t entirely disagree. It is a stupid album that makes a lot of pointless noise in favor of meaningful melody, but there are some truly impressive nods to Dissection and the first era of melodic black metal that are actually pretty decent throughout. Folks like to shit on this album but I’d suggest it just takes a couple of listens to reveal it’s moderate worthiness. If you’re not familiar check out Unmoored as well.


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Artist Lerman
Title [Type/Year] Killuminance [Full-album/2004]
Listen on YouTube!

Lerman was a melodic black/death metal solo project from the formative years of Thai musician Lerman aka Thanit Thepsitrakorn who later changed his name to Narusha Dithabenjakul. He’d essentially dissolved this project and brutal death metal band Deathguy by the end of 2004 in favor of gothic metal band Breathless. I’ll save you the time in looking up all of those bands and suggest they all really, really suck. This is the sort of bedroom metal everyone was making in 2004 as computers that could handle recording and simple drum programming became more reasonably affordable. It sucks but he wasn’t a terrible guitarist, the vocals barely get out and the guitar work is derivative but pretty much on par with a lot of the bad teenager melodeath coming out at the time. Several friends of mine made bad albums like this and while I don’t have a problem with looking back and laughing, they aren’t historically important beyond that.


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Artist Autumnal Winds
Title [Type/Year] Venerari Sacra Mysteria [Demo/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

This will look like an unassuming piece of crap unless you are familiar with Minneapolis, Minnesota medieval melodic black metal artists Obsequiae. Starting in their mid-teens in 1998 Autumnal Winds would release four demos before landing upon the full-length ‘Venerari Sacra Mysteria’ demo in 2004. Consider the composition and style found on this the direct precursor to Obsequiae‘s style though the compositions wander a bit longer and revel in their atmospherics even more. You must hear this as if you are a fan of ShamblessObsequiae and Nechochwen. The dual guitar harmonies and unique atmosphere redeem a demo that is somewhat amateurish at face value. I love the death metal growls and chaos in the second half of “Isle of Mist” most of all, reminds me of early Evoken.


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Artist Myrkgrav
Title [Type/Year] Fra fjellheimen kaller… [Demo/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

If you have some greater love for Windir and Falkenbach there is some similar force driving the music of Myrkgrav, a Norwegian (later relocated to Finland) folk/viking metal band. His first demo is often labeled melodic black metal for it’s semblance of groups like Windir, Kampfar and Forefather but I would just call it pagan black metal honestly. I know there is a fine distinction there but either way it isn’t pure melodic black metal. Is it good? Yes, this demo is incredible especially if you’re into the Sognametal sound.


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Artist Dark Fortress
Title [Type/Year] Stab Wounds [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Mid-career Necrophobic fans should probably check out ‘Stab Wounds’ as they took a slightly more aggressive turn on this album that fits in better with stuff like Setherial, and Naglfar. Yes, I am suggesting that the norsecore might start here, but not really. At a full hour long I feel like Dark Fortress had never been so long winded, but looking back they’d always packed on filler and bad atmospheric sections. There are plenty of good melodic black metal riffs all over ‘Stab Wounds’ but they are cluttered in between bad black n’ roll skips and some cringe-worthy Cradle of Filth moments. I ducked out of their material on this album personally, but it really isn’t so offensive looking back.


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Artist Sanguis
Title [Type/Year] Infernum Infinitum [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Sanguis is quite good and they’d only gotten more brutal in the two years since ‘Chaosgate Guardians’ but there is a catch! This Austrian band began to take notes from Dark Funeral on this album and the result was faceless and uninspired. It is a mix between the tautness of their debut and the sound of a band giving into trends a bit more than expected. It still resembles classic melodic black metal in many respects and hits hard when it can.


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Artist Forefather
Title [Type/Year] Ours Is the Kingdom [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

On their third album the black/viking metal *ahem* sorry the Anglo-saxon metal band Forefather hooked me in yet again with their regal, blasting style of melodic extreme metal. The clean vocals were quite good but Wulfstan‘s harsh vocals weren’t quite up to snuff yet. The way I see this band’s early development is as a melodic black metal band experimenting with folkish NWOBHM style vocals. Though the drum machine is inoffensive it gives the whole album a weird, brutal vibe that also plagues some Suidakra records. I can’t recommend Forefather enough in general, though, they offer something unique and inspiring which is even easier to appreciate surrounded by so many garbage symphonic follower bands.


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Artist Apokrypha
Title [Type/Year] To the Seven [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on the Website!

A decent melodic black metal record from Bavaria. Poorly mixed and amateurish around the edges but the band capture the spirit of melodic black metal nicely with ferocious performances and dense, high-speed riffs with grand melodies. There is some small influence from melodic death metal but as you can hear on songs like “Crowd” they absolutely hit the right groove for melodic black metal. They really need a Bandcamp page, as their 2013 ‘Procession’ EP is quite good as well, but hard to find. If you are able to track down a copy it’ll be worth it.


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Artist Mahlstrøm
Title [Type/Year] Nordlys [Demo/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Mahlstrøm were a band from Belgium who put out one forgettable, average melodic death metal inspired black metal demo in 2004. The recording quality is sharp, and one song even features Dan Swanö on guest vocals but the programmed drums and bland vocalist left only subtle, dry melodies to focus on and the guitar work was nothing inventive or special. The song I’ve linked so, so obviously rips off several riffs from Dissection that I had to laugh. Too obvious, buddy.


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Artist Sethery
Title [Type/Year] Kholera [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on Youtube!

The sole album from this Finnish symphonic black metal band is actually very good despite being made by dorky Scandinavian teenagers. This is the sort of release nobody cared about before or after it came out and it only exists as an afterthought for folks who needed more Old Man’s Child after that project died. It has the thrashy guitar work, the funny keyboard fiddling, and honestly it is entirely listenable stuff. Yes, it is incredibly derivative poser garbage made by douche kids but I’ll be damned if several great bands didn’t get their sea legs doing stuff like this (Aeba, for example). It is mercilessly brutal but can only really work within the parameters of bands like Dark Funeral and Dimmu Borgir, thus it’s entirety is a forgettable but instantly catching racket.


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Artist Sear Bliss
Title [Type/Year] Glory and Perdition [Full-length/2004]
Listen on YouTube!

Sear Bliss were visionaries and András Nagy more or less swerved between many styles of black/viking/avant-garde metal throughout their ongoing career as different band members brought new ideas to the table. ‘Glory and Perdition’ is an epic atmospheric black metal album that smarly avoided the cheap tropes of symphonic black metal (a genre these Hungarians had long perfected years before) and this would be the first album with Nagy taking over the keyboard duties, this meant more synth experiments and an increasingly ethereal (almost sci-fi ambient at times) lilt to their style. Of course their trombone arrangements are incredibly unique in metal and in general, giving Sear Bliss a mystique separate from trends of the time. Fans of Summoning and Emperor might want to introduce themselves to Sear Bliss with this record. I know it is still a product of it’s time in many respects but I still feel Sear Bliss always set themselves apart, in some small way at least. Not a perfect album, or a classic, but a good listen.


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Artist Ancient
Title [Type/Year] Night Visit [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The odd history of Norwegian black metal band Ancient isn’t all that interesting beyond their great early discography and by 2004 their output was completely boring shit. Consider this a bad Cradle of Filth version of Ancient and be done with it. I cannot stand to listen to this album. I would prefer guzzling a kilo of shit than read those horrible lyrics ever again.


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Artist Apostasy
Title [Type/Year] Cell 666 [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

When I was searching for a copy of the Chilean thrash metal band named Apostasy in 2004 the only result I could ever find for physical copies were this terrible ‘five years too late’ riffless Dimmu Borgir clone from Sweden. The keyboardist can barely flip out a melody and resorts to cheesy horror soundtrack embellishment that doesn’t hold a candle to bands like Covenant. Completely generic garbage, as if the ‘Cell 666’ title wasn’t obvious enough. There are some small melodic death metal influenced parts but they are so anemic it will barely register. Follower trash.


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Artist Woods of Ypres
Title [Type/Year] Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

During the recording of this debut the entire line-up of Woods of Ypres beyond David Gold chose to leave the band before completing it. Leaving Gold in control of his own destiny was perhaps the biggest gift anyone gave him, though as his career would take off quite quickly afterwards. Yes, there is a strong hint of gothic doom running through all of this band’s discography but this is still a viable and truly unique bit of melodic black metal. Gold’s vocals are brilliant and emotive whether he is singing or growling. The underpinned elements of melodic black/death aren’t more than dressing for what is ultimately a form of progressive post-Scandinavian metal somewhere between Agalloch, the Peaceville three, and Ulver. I don’t know if I can do the record much justice in a blurb, but I would suggest at least giving this first album a listen and deciding what you think of it after a full listen. It is just kind of ‘off’ in the best way possible.


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Artist Garwall
Title [Type/Year] Black Beast [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

You’ll have noticed by now that almost any French melodic black metal band from this era (that wasn’t symphonic) was pretty high quality. Garwall do something incredible on this sole full-length in combining traditional heavy/thrash metal tone and leads with black metal. Consider Arghoslent‘s approach to classic heavy metal rhythms and trade the death metal tonality for Dissection‘s clarity and precision on ‘Storm of the Light’s Bane’. I know, high praise for an album with a dumb werewolf on the cover but trust that this album is furious, technical, and absolutely representative of what modern melodic black metal should have sounded like back in 2004. An essential listen for this year of black metal and a nice obscurity with a booming heavy metal sound.


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Artist Ethelyn
Title [Type/Year] Traces Into Eternity [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Recorded and self-released on CD-r in 2004 but officially released with new cover art in 2008 this first album from Polish melodic death/black metal band Ethelyn was recorded in relative demo quality but all instruments are fully audible and clear. So what? Is it good? Yes, for 2004 this is quite a good record that reaches back towards the old ways of melodic black metal while also showing some love for melodic death metal of the late 90’s. It is kind of soft compared to their 1999 ‘Soulerosion’ demo you can tell it is the same band carrying the same intentions. I can safely recommend any and all of their discography as a standard example of Scandinavian melodic black/death metal style.


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Artist Wolfchant
Title [Type/Year] The Herjan Trilogy [Demo/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A horrendous demo from a young (at the time) German pagan/folk metal band that used some terrible vocal effects to mask their talentless shitty demo. The low quality should be immediately obvious even beyond the bad recording as the instrumentation cannot sustain itself through really long extended songs with TERRIBLE pitch-shifted vocals. They are a decent folk/viking metal band now (I’d recommend ‘A Pagan Storm’) but holy shit is this demo a complete shit show. There is no wonder they haven’t posted a demo compilation for sale, nobody would ever buy it!


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Artist Espiritualia
Title [Type/Year] Psicofonia [Full-length/2004]
No Link Available

A black metal band from Zacatecas, Mexico that self-released one album and them disappeared. They look like teenager dorks in their photo, so I’m not too worried about missing out on this one. If you own this please upload this to YouTube and send me a link so that others can hear it.


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Artist Rotting Christ
Title [Type/Year] Sanctus Diavolos [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

When this came out I would say that Rotting Christ were one of my favorite bands but I was a hundred percent questioning why when I heard ‘Sanctus Diavolos’. I followed the band through an odd Gothic phase of theirs and they came out of it with this trendy nod towards the symphonic black metal sound with a blown-out production sound and a lot of really stupid vocal experiments that just sound like amateur garbage metal. I know this album means a lot to folks but despite being a big fan, I consider this the lowest point of their discography and I think if you look past nostalgia you’ll see a complete throwaway record full of trendy blandness. There was surely a reason ‘Theogonia’ was seen as a comeback three years later and I will suggest it was because ‘Sanctus Diavolos’ was a pandering, insincere pile of crap.


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Artist Parakletos
Title [Type/Year] Offerlammets makt [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Unblack metal wasn’t all completely stupid garbage but most of it was a weird response to the hyper Satanic posturing of groups like Dimmu Borgir and Dark Funeral. The problem is that all of those terrible ‘white metal’ bands sounded like clones of the bands they were ‘protesting’. A christian cannot help but follow, even if they think they are defiant in their crusade they existed as a small part of a movement devoted to Satan. All of that is meaningless, but Parakletos‘ Finnish take on Norwegian symphonic black metal (clearly inspired by Antestor) was underdeveloped amateur dogshit.


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Artist Black Horizons
Title [Type/Year] Suicide Symphonies [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Of course you’ll start to see a trend here as French and German black metal scenes begin to rise to power with several fantastic underground releases while the rest of the world still focuses on trying to cash in on terrible symphonic black metal trends. Black Horizons is just one of many brilliant melodic black metal albums that largely avoids melodic death metal tropes and stuck with the Stockholm black metal ideals in making ‘Suicide Symphonies’. It sounds quite a bit like the third Sacramentum album but you could tell they were likewise obsessed with Emperor‘s guitar work. Another highly recommended album, it doesn’t do anything new or surprising but I think if you love ‘guitar albums’ where the riffs are really the ultimate focus there is a lot to dig into. The album is just thick with good black metal riffs.


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Artist Ajattara
Title [Type/Year] Tyhjyys [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

You know Finnish black metal project Ajattara was meant as a black/doom project but it comes across like a bad symphonic black metal album complete with pointless groove metal guitar riffs and bland rock pacing. It just sounds like they wanted to sound like the weird, shitty alternative metal that was common in the early 2000’s. I do not consider this melodic black metal, at all.


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Artist Vreid
Title [Type/Year] Kraft [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Leaving behind the viking metal of their time with Valfar in his band Windir, the boys from Ulcus (aka Ulcus Molle) spontaneously generated the spirited birth of Vreid as a thrashing, aggressive form of forward thinking (but backward looking) semi-melodic black metal. Right on the cusp of the black n’ roll trend and doing their best to distance themselves from becoming an extension of Windir‘s shadow, ‘Kraft’ is actually a pretty solid album. The concept is strange as it goes from esoteric subjects to the underwater power generators used by Norway (a country that pioneered sustainable energy for almost a century). I would suggest listening to this if you are a big fan of Taake as well.


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Artist Absenta
Title [Type/Year] The Thing at the Doorstep [EP/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A Spanish band that mixed uh… Brutal death metal vocals with bad symphonic black metal. Between the Lovecraft themes and terrible drum machine I’m not sure if I should laugh or go on a rant about how bad it is. It isn’t worth the time. The band now plays bland post-black metal.


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Artist Dissection
Title [Type/Year] Maha Kali [EP/2004]
LISTEN on Spotify!

Trust that I am one of those idiots who actually loves ‘Reinkaos’ and has no problem singing it’s praises to this day but I for sure wanted to throw my shitty Windows XP computer across the room when I first heard this EP back in 2004. Slow, goofy melodeath as it was the final version of “Maha Kali” is far superior than this demo version released shortly after Nödtveidt had been released from prison. It is a really exciting moment to remember even if it was kind of funny to see the intense backlash to the return of Dissection after ten years of waiting for new material. In truth this single was a huge surprise to most people and a moment that is perhaps more worth remembering than this bad demo song and wimpy version of “Unhallowed”.


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Artist Requiem Aeternam
Title [Type/Year] Philosopher [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A progressive black metal band originally formed in Montevideo, Uruguay that could be considered a black metal take on what Opeth were toying with early in their career, but with quite a bit more edge. There are moments of Negura Bunget style dizziness but most of it is in service to experiments of loud/quiet/loud and the harsh/clean vocal dynamic. If any of that sounds like melodic black metal, you’re right. It isn’t.


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Artist Varathron
Title [Type/Year] Crowsreign [Full-length/2004]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

The return of Varathron after about five years of silence was crap. I know, I have tried many times to get into ‘Crowsreign’ but it is an unquestionably bad record. Not because it doesn’t sound like Varathron (it actually sort of does…) but because it is a group of very young, untested musicians entering a well-established project and fumbling through some half-assed mildly symphonic garbage for over an hour. It is pure amateur hour. I feel the same way about ‘Sanctus Diavolus’ as I do about ‘Crowsreign’, in that anytime I return to it I am repulsed no matter how open my mind is. Both bands would redeem themselves quickly, but Varathron wouldn’t reappear until 2009, releasing one of their best records to date.


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Artist Episode 13
Title [Type/Year] Tabula Rasa [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

At face value this Turkish band’s sound almost appears like a cheap take on the (by then) well established formula of bands like Cradle of Filth but digging beneath the bad keyboards and dark metal riffs there is a decent mildly symphonic melodic black metal album with some influence from Scandinavian melodic death metal and even some nods to Rotting Christ. It is no classic or anything vital but a full listen is less than painful compared to many symphonic/melodic black metal hybrids.


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Artist Far Beyond
Title [Type/Year] An Angel’s Requiem [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

If you came here for a few gems from symphonic black metal, well I can’t gatekeep them all as Far Beyond will be of interest to seekers of symphonic/melodic hybrids. Bavarian musician Eugen Dodenhoeft plays off of innovations from both Finnish symphonic black metal and Old Man’s Child for a highly atmospheric and successfully ‘epic’ melodic adventure through typical Scandinavian extreme metal. His semi-gothic touches are dated but not completely tasteless and the riffs occasionally reach an interesting climax, though weird melodeath and power metal guitar work serves to lighten an otherwise strained and dark mood. It clashes but not in the worst of ways.


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Artist Hyperborean
Title [Type/Year] Prey [Demo/2005]
No Links Available

A tight and technical black metal band from this point, Hyperborean got their start back in 2000 playing typical Swedish melodic death metal. This third demo in 2005 gives the best glimpse of what their sound would become on their first full-length in 2011, thrashing riffs well developed melody and I’d highly recommend ‘The Spirit of Warfare’ (2011). You’ll have a hell of a time finding any of their demos but it isn’t a huge tragedy to miss out, their first full-length does it all better.


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Artist Doomsday Ceremony
Title [Type/Year] Apocaliptic Celebration [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Commercial sounding semi-symphonic black metal from Brazil with an emphasis on melodic lead guitar work. They made several grammatical and spelling errors on the original independent release of the album but if you find amateur, independent music charming this isn’t a throwaway release. It seems to have some influence from both classic heavy metal, Samael, and Rotting Christ in terms of guitar work and overall sound. There are some pretty good ‘Dad metal’ riffs here and there with shredding guitars that kinda go nowhere. Worth a quick listen, and it has some of that later Amen Corner kinda vibes at times with doom-like riffs.


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Artist Sunoi
Title [Type/Year] Within the Depths of a Dream… A Moment’s Respite [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A long running but rarely active Korean melodic black metal band that put out this thoughtful, average album back in 2005. Without being reductive of the Korean black metal scene this is actually above average stuff for the Seoul scene that popped up post-CoF/Dimmu Borgir. The melodic death metal riffs and black metal rasp of the album are just almost professional grade with guitar work that I’d compare to Dark Tranquillity‘s less aggressive late 90’s style. Would highly suggest this as a quality footnote for fans of Oathean, as some ex-members were involved in this project as well.


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Artist Endless Horizon
Title [Type/Year] Ruins From the Netherworld [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Québecois melodic black metal band Endless Horizon‘s first demo came about a year after formation and their whole concept hadn’t yet reached anything near the blackened progressive metal of their final album ‘Cycle Funèbre’ (2015). They’ve got a few melodic grooves to work with but at the time it couldn’t have been more bland and rudimentary in terms of sound and performance. “Le Châtiment de l’Ombre” does give a hint of their ‘jammed’ kind of prog-metal feeling that’d pop up soon after, but the band still had a lot of work to do. As a melodic black metal demo it is serviceable and listenable but not essential.


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Artist Wrathage
Title [Type/Year] Annihil(n)ation [Demo/2004]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Finnish avant-black metal band Wrathage is just one of many bands who pivoted off of their Emperor influence towards progressive extreme metal once the trend wore off. If you’re a fan of ‘Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk’ the general approach of this second demo from the band should be no surprise. The guitar riffs are quite good but entirely derivative, granted it was no big deal amongst the glut of symphonic black metal’s downturn to be mildly plagiarist on a simple demo. It is a solid, listenable demo and hints of thrash riffs and clear sound help it find some value for curio collectors. Apologies for the wrong year initially, the band officially released/finished this demo in August 2004 and not 2005.


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Artist Serpenterium
Title [Type/Year] The Withered Spirit of a Shattered Reality [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

You know how so many Bandcamp bands today make terrible, unlistenable and untalented shit while passing it off as professional work… despite the clear bedroom recording, no understanding of drumming as structure for rock music, and literally just using samples of screams instead of vocals/lyrics? Well, it isn’t such a far cry from the mid 2000’s era of symphonic bedroom black metal. It is the same sort of abominable, trendy untalented garbage. Not to be too harsh on Serpenterium as I know it is not at all easy to make a metal record in Puerto Rico much less get anyone to listen to it but after many demos their first and only full length is savagely unlistenable both for it’s fidelity and weak approximation of popular Scandinavian symphonic black metal of the late 90’s. The complete lack of skill in arrangement makes for a weirdly clashing listen that doesn’t hit their mark of Emperor like time changes and discordant chaos. I don’t hate it but it really is not well made music.


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Artist Grimness
Title [Type/Year] Increase Humanity Disgust [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on Spotify!

At their peak activity between 2005-2008 Italian black/death metal band Grimness had a relatively unique sound that combined death metal tonality with black metal patterns. It was modern but not too glossy as the focus was primarily on riffs. Think of a band like Infestdead but 2000’s black metal in sound. It isn’t amazing stuff, but I did enjoy the reissue of this debut, included in the listening link, with extras and I think a slightly polished sound. I appreciate at least some focus on riffs even if it really doesn’t qualify as any sort of real melodic black metal most of the time.


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Artist Framferd
Title [Type/Year] Promo [Demo/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Post-2005 was a turning point for Norwegian melodic black metal band Framferd as their final post-Morbid Symphony demo saw big changes to their sound away from mildly symphonic meloblack towards a mix of Viking metal and melodic black metal. I like their ‘Landgang’ (2009) album quite a bit but found this demo underwhelming by comparison. I know it is just a rough demo with cheesy keyboard parts thrown in all willy-nilly. A band worth checking out but not for this demo.


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Artist Zion
Title [Type/Year] Drakula [EP/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Zion is actually the name of a key member of the unfortunately named Greek symphonic black metal band Crossover, and this experimental side-project only released one EP back in 2005. If you can imagine classic Greek black metal sound fused with an almost progressive use of modern instrumentation and a Dracula/Vlad Tepes theme ‘Drakula’ is actually a surprisingly good listen as weird as it is. If you like 2000’s Rotting Christ but want something a bit weirder and more varied, this is a good stop along the way.


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Artist Morcrof
Title [Type/Year] Machshevet Habriá (Myths and Conjectures of Creation) [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The sole full-length from this Brazilian symphonic black/doom metal band after years of demos and releases starting after 1992. I would call this operatic symphonic pagan black metal just judging on it’s sound and ambitions. Probably more interesting for fans of folk and symphonic black metal oddities and less for melodic black metal enthusiasts. There is some admirable amount of care taken in it’s production and conception and a large cast performs on the album, so maybe not right for this list but a weird, bombastic symphonic metal album from Brazil’s underground.


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Artist Shaded Enmity
Title [Type/Year] Thought & Remembrance [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

‘Thought & Remembrance’ is the first full-length from Seattle, Washington melodic death/black metal band Shaded Enmity who are better known for their modern melodic death metal style that’d come post-2009. This first album was absolutely rote in terms of it’s alternate picking obsessed In Flames worshiping style and bland guitar work. As a pompous, self-released US metal album from the era it was nothing special, but at least somewhat more interesting than what most of the members had been doing in their symphonic black metal project Inquinok up to that point. The band didn’t perform or acknowledge the album after a certain point and considered their 2009 album a new beginning. I wouldn’t write it off that completely, but if you are interested in Pacific northwest independent/forgotten metal releases you could do much worse.


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Artist Apotheosys
Title [Type/Year] The Fall and the Triumph [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Inspired equally between groups like Hate Eternal, Absu, and Keep of Kalessian this North Carolina based project offered a mix of technical death metal and melodic black metal that wasn’t perfection but still absolutely carried it’s weight in gold. Why did the band split up? Main guitarist and songwriter Ethan Lane joined Lecherous Nocturne in 2009, and honestly his talents have lead to some of that band’s finest albums so I don’t feel terrible about the death of Apotheosys, though I wish they would preserve the legacy in full online. ‘The Fall and the Triumph’ is only available through piracy unfortunately, but I have linked a stream of their 2008 full-length.


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Artist Fallen
Title [Type/Year] Insanity’s Memoirs [EP/2005]
No Link Available

Irish black metal band Fallen would serve as the heavier, less tamed precursor to mildly gothic black metal band Sorrowfall. The guitar work is the most important and memorable thread here but none of it really works outside the established ‘box’ of gothic tinged black metal and all recordings from this band are terribly done as far as I’ve encountered. File this one under bad Cradle of Filth-alike and move on quickly unless you’re collecting underground stuff from Ireland.


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Artist Ethereal Blue
Title [Type/Year] Black Heart Process [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

I was actually surprised to see so many people label Ethereal Blue as a melodic black metal band when they’re actually more relevant to the atmospheric death metal traditions from Greek bands like Septic Flesh, Horrified, and the Elysian Fields. The style here has some relevance to the Rotting Christ of the era but really fits in better in the symphonic/atmo-death crowd that leans into a form of melodic death/doom more often than not. There is some grey area there but only out of context. A bit of a lost album in my opinion and deserves some attention despite how melodramatic it can be at times.


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Artist Klabautamann
Title [Type/Year] Der Ort [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Folkish black metal from members of Valborg and Skarab. Drums sound a bit programmed but the guitar work has transformed into something driven by solid melody. It lands somewhere in the realm of stuff like October Falls and early Ulver but takes it’s own route getting there. ‘Der Ort’ is where I felt the duo first identified themselves and then on future albums they would improve in different amounts of inspiration. Most any release on Zeitgeister has some extra substance, and they rarely feel like simple ‘genre’ entries; Here the piano, acoustic guitar, and keyboard work are more the star of the show than the nice melodic black metal riffs that rip in once in a while. It is a nice balance if not for the shoddy programmed drums.


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Artist Natan
Title [Type/Year] Nevel [Demo/2005]
Link Not Available

An early demo from Belgium based pagan black metal band Natan. Nothing to do with melodic black metal but this band is often labeled as meloblack. This might be confused with other styles because the pagan pride messaging and whatnot wasn’t as pronounced on this self-released, simple CD-r. A band that would be more interesting for someone exploring European pagan black metal obscurities.


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Artist Malsain
Title [Type/Year] They Never Die [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

This Norwegian black metal project used Lovecraftian horror and a mid-paced scowling gothic/depressive sound to appear even more mediocre than they actually were on this debut full-length. Fans of DSBM will like this sound and it’s semi-melodic mid-paced direction. The bad vocal effects with tactless female rasping and riffless songs make for a boring, intentionally claustrophobic black metal album.


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Artist Istapp
Title [Type/Year] Må det aldrig töa [Demo/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Istapp are a pretty easy recommendation for an old school take on Swedish melodic black metal through the eyes of Windir‘s icy tones and semi-prominent lead guitar work. This demo is cold and cave-like, appropriate considering they’re all about coldness and icy themes. Not the most exciting work from the band but if you’re already a big fan of their full-lengths this will be a nice diversion. Any material from this band will be a good representation of melodic black metal.


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Artist Admonish
Title [Type/Year] Den yttersta tiden [EP/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The earliest but seemingly least active of the Christian ‘unblack’ metal from Sweden and despite the 11 year lead up to this first of two EPs, it is uninspired and bland work. Sleepy, bland, kind of like Antestor without balls and a very weak example of melodic black metal guitar work. .


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Artist Catamenia
Title [Type/Year] Winternight Tragedies [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Though I swore off Catamenia a few entries ago this is the last remotely listenable thing from the band before they became pure garbage melodic goth metal. They seem tired with the formula at this point and although the symphonic elements are pretty much gone their high speed riff work and typical Finnish sort of sound is in tact. Probably only for the Children of Bodom crowd, at really not at all to my taste personally. The album does contain plenty of melodic black metal guitar work, though.


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Artist Mustan Kuun Lapset
Title [Type/Year] Talvenranta [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

The third album from this Finnish sung melodic black metal band is one of their best as it comes in the middle of their ‘classic’ span of four full length’s in the 2000’s. The guitar work is even better than previous releases as they pick up the pace slightly and toy with some death metal ideas more than typical. Although their music is hard to find and the language barrier is some small issue, seeking out Mustan Kuun Lapset should provide one of the best examples of ‘real’ melodic black metal from Finland. One of my higher recommendations from the 2005 part of this list.


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Artist Geïst
Title [Type/Year] Patina [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on Spotify!

Geïst was formed back in 2005 and immediately released their semi-melodic, mid-paced debut ‘Patina’ immediately. This band would soon become Eïs due to legal troubles with their name. Their sound was very close to Dark Forest for most releases but perhaps most for this one and this is one of it’s strengths, but also it’s biggest detraction. It simply sounds generic and is largely riffless outside of a few bursts of ingenuity. I’ve linked the ‘re-recorded’ 2010 version simply because it really makes no huge difference which version you fire up, both are just as effective as you’ll hear on the bonus tracks that preserve the original mixes from 2005.


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Artist Andras
Title [Type/Year] …of Old Wisdom [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

This fourth Andras album smoothes over their olden black metal ways with a lot of symphonic ‘epic’ black metal influences and marks a shift in style closer to pagan metal and a sort of viking metal sound. I really like this album but only a few melodic black metal moments really stand out as much as it’s pagan/viking elements. Highly recommended band overall.


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Artist In Tormentata Quiete
Title [Type/Year] In Tormentata Quiete [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A progressive metal band a la Solefald and Devil Doll that really sucked at symphonic black metal when they started. Complete garbage.


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Artist Naglfar
Title [Type/Year] Pariah [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

With co-founding member Jens Rydén exiting the band to sing for Thyrfing bassist Kristoffer Olivius takes over creative control here and steps in as vocalist. The result is akin to Old Man’s Child‘s second album ‘Ill-natured Spiritual Invasion’ in the sense that it is an aggressive, thrashing album with some symphonic/keyboard elements driving the show. ‘Pariah’ isn’t a terrible album but it sounds like a Norwegian symphonic black metal band covering Dissection circa 1998. Not a bad album but one that never stuck with me in a good way despite the nice Throne of Ahaz cover that closes the record.


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Artist Perpetual Dusk
Title [Type/Year] Supreme Black Victory [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Bad symphonic melodic black metal from Belo Horizonte, Brazil from some very young kids emulating the most popular bands of that era. The only interesting thing about this band is that the guitarist now plays bass with groove/post-thrash band Overdose since their reformation back in 2016. Complete ‘poser’ garbage symphonic turd of an album.


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Artist Sworn
Title [Type/Year] Night Supremacy [Demo/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

One of many Norwegian bands influenced by the fall of Windir in creating lead-guitar driven melodic black metal. Sworn’s first demo showcased a band ready to record an album with tight performances and fully formed songs but in a completely derivative style. Sworn sounds so much like Windir it is almost ridiculous they pulled it off without any good guitar ideas thrown in. This demo in particular relies on rehashed melodies. That said, the band have put out several quality records since and offer a less symphonic take on what Cor Scorpii does with production slightly more bold/ambitious compared to Istapp‘s sound. A great place to start if you’re interested in Sworn as their full-length debut is a leap ahead in terms of quality.


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Artist Malnàtt
Title [Type/Year] Carmina Pagana [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Italian artsy-fartsy melodic black metal band Malnàtt go their start playing a symphonic folk metal style and ‘Carmina Pagana’ was a sort of first step towards the very different style that would develop with each release afterwards. Although artist Porz does most everything in the band I think he was still using their original accordionist up to this point as he can be heard on a few tracks. I would suggest that this band is interesting but I’d put melodic black metal as their secondary genre influence although you can really hear it on tracks like “Misantronoia” that melodic guitar work doesn’t carry through the whole record.


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Artist Oblomov
Title [Type/Year] Mighty Cosmic Dances [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Average and relatively riffless first album from this thoughtful melodic black/death metal project from Czech Republic. The sci-fi themes and fitting keyboard work are a nice touch along with some competent but bland melodic death metal riffing. The vocalist’s rasp comes close to A Canorous Quintet‘s vocalist at times and these are the parts I like best. It isn’t a terrible record but kind of incompetent and dull for 2005. I can’t tell if they’re too slow to keep up with their own ideas, or they’re going for a sort of off-time feeling.


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Artist A Gruesome Find
Title [Type/Year] Minions Engage [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

This Toledo, Ohio melodic black/death metal band were absolutely deadly in their attack and this record was unfortunately lost in the apeiron of melodic black/death stuff of the era. They occasionally kick into gear a la Absu and really rip through a solid string of tremolo based riffing. Depending how familiar you are with midwest metal you’ll recognize the ‘true metal’ roots of A Gruesome Find and appreciate their combination of heavy metal and melodic ideas seen through extreme metal. Probably obscure for no other reason than their weird band name, but really this is a worthy gem. Try out the epic title track if you’re unsure what to expect.


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Artist Asguard
Title [Type/Year] Dreamslave [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Belarus symphonic melodic black metal band that had uh, become industrial/black gothic/dark metal by the time ‘Dreamslave’ came out. So if you are a fan of symphonic metal, jump on this one fast. The keyboard/synth work is full, thick and really essential for this band’s sound. It is like a really, really exaggerated form of early 2000’s viking metal seen through bad dark metal’s eyes. I hate this shit but it is undoubtedly energetic.


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Artist Melancolia
Title [Type/Year] The Dark Reflection of Your Soul [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Sole solo album from this Montreal based project that is heavily symphonic but has quite strong guitar work. Consider it progressive and symphonic more than purely melodic black metal in nature, something closer to Scholomance. Not essential but has a big, floaty keyboard sound.


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Artist Dawn of Relic
Title [Type/Year] Night on Earth [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on Spotify!

A bad Season of Mist signing from Finland with much in common with Catamenia‘s gothic metal days. The style leans towards modern chuggy melodic death metal with groove metal elements and a rasp that cues people into it’s black metal credibility. I like some of the thrash beats and all that but it really is just a bit heavier take on Insomnium and that brief post-‘Whoracle’ era of In Flames. Might have been pretty solid as a pure death metal band without all of the silly trendcore going on around it.


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Artist Profundis
Title [Type/Year] Nokturn [Demo/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A very good obscure Polish black/death metal demo with heavy influence from Morbid Angel and Emperor. Brutal but thoughtful, this is the sort of band I wish would make it to record more often than the tired symphonic shit that was so prevalent at the time. Maybe the influences were too obvious but it’s a shame that a band with so much personality wouldn’t be picked up, or at least didn’t make it to that next step.


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Artist Apostasy
Title [Type/Year] Devilution [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on Spotify!

See my review for ‘Cell 666’. Trash. It was featured on the video game Brutal Legend and was such a weird choice considering they’re a lo-fi Swedish Dimmor Borgir wannabe that barely made a stinking fart before exiting. The guitar work is better this time around, at least.


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Artist Illidiance
Title [Type/Year] Insane Mytheries to Demise [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Cheap trendy symphonic trash from this Russian band that would transition towards electro-industrial metal later on. Not recommended, and not melodic black metal at all.


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Artist In Disgrace
Title [Type/Year] Define Death [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Second full-length from this German melodic black/death metal band. Like most German bands that played this style around this time they found interesting things to do with the sound but did not really make anything truly special or memorable from it. The keyboards are cheap and pointless sounding, doing nothing but detracting from the guitar work (which is only moderately good). In Disgrace were a missed opportunity considering how some of the their compositions were very strong but dulled by the symphonic metal trend. The fourth song “Impervious” is quite strong despite it’s chuggy pit riffs in the middle, especially that opening riff… But my excitement came few and far between for this record.


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Artist Darkmoon
Title [Type/Year] …Of Bitterness and Hate [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Although this first album from Swiss melodic black/death metal band Darkmoon was up to standard in terms of mid-paced melodic guitar work and some nice resonant moments ‘…Of Bitterness and Hate’ falls a bit flat by the time it finishes. I would recommend this to mid-paced melodic death metal fans instead of melodic black metal seekers.


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Artist Old Man’s Child
Title [Type/Year] Vermin [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A very bland album by Old Man’s Child standards but still quite far above the thousands of imitators that were making a quick living off of his innovative style. Criticized as comic relief by the rising vocal minority on the internet you could tell ‘Vermin’ was almost reserved and unwilling to go fully over the top as on previous records and this is where the project lost it’s ‘fun’ for me personally. It was only a minor letdown because of the higher impact singles from ‘In Defiance of Existence’ (2003) but not a terrible record in hindsight. Although early Old Man’s Child is teenager Scandi metal nostalgia for me, his last two albums were good enough reason to focus on other projects.


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Artist Gaurithoth
Title [Type/Year] Perverse [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Even though this Finnish black metal band with a nonsense name appears non-serious their style of melodic black metal on this first full-length is a pretty solid listen. ‘Perverse’ is melodic in a less typical way but still with some lineage back to techniques used in early Swedish black metal guitar work. The lyrics are really stupid but the melodic black riffs are overall pretty solid, if not somewhat standard fare.


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Artist Thyrane
Title [Type/Year] Travesty of Heavenly Essence [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Folks called this blackened industrial metal at the time but I feel like it is just kind of predominantly lead by symphonic tangents. I actually like Thyrane‘s sound regardless of how vapid it seems at face value and this is almost entirely due to their similarity to the middle part of Old Man’s Child‘s discography. Not essential but a weird Finnish version of symphonic melodic black metal with some nice keyboard scale runs and big, spacious production sound.


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Artist Dornenreich
Title [Type/Year] Hexenwind [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Whatever you think of their avant-garde ways you can’t deny that Dornenreich were uniquely inspired in this age of pretenders and the sessions for ‘Hexenwind’ actually gave birth to two full album’s worth of material (the next being ‘Durch den Traum’ (2006). Underappreciated for their strange ways and quickly changing moods Dornenreich have a huge discography worthy checking out and ‘Hexenwind’ is a good entry point for it’s listenable production and extended 10+ minute compositions. The whispering vocals might get old for you, and in that case I’d zip back to their earliest albums for something more harsh. One of the more interesting careers/discographies from the German black metal scene.


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Artist Lord Belial
Title [Type/Year] Nocturnal Beast [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

I don’t personally like Lord Belial or find any of their music interesting beyond their second album. At this point they had been pumping out very similar records since ‘Angelgrinder’ and this was a weirdly unprofessional composition with bad solos all over the place. I will say that I love that album artwork and consider it one of their best. Bland album though.


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Artist Amenophis
Title [Type/Year] Chapter II – The Element of Torture [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

Ripping but amateurish underground symphonic/melodic black metal from Québec with a notably shrill vocalist who couldn’t really handle melodies quite well. The guitar work is quite good and reminds me a lot of the French style of melodic black metal at the time. Amenophis wouldn’t record another album for a full decade after this which is a shame because if they’d improved upon this sound early on I think they’d have been interesting. The symphonic stuff is bland and average but the vocalist was shrill and unique along with the thrashing guitar work. Long lost potential.


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Artist Uhrilehto
Title [Type/Year] Ihmisvihan Eliitti [Full-length/2005]
LISTEN on YouTube!

A corny and silly sounding extreme metal album from these Finnish folks on their third album. Seems exactly the type of shit that was aiming for a major label but they weren’t writing interesting songs. I didn’t enjoy listening to it. It isn’t what I’d consider any sort of black metal.


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Artist Cor Scorpii
Title [Type/Year] Attergangar [Demo/2005]
LISTEN on Spotify!

With Windir completely over and Vreid on fire already Cor Scorpii was seemingly Gaute Refsnes‘ chance to recreate Windir’s epic guitar lead sound and carry a professional torch for sognametal. I personally love this band’s debut ‘Monument’ (2008) for tossing aside all Viking metal elements and just going for the guitar driven black metal sound. This demo (tacked onto the reissue of ‘Monument’) is a great precursor several years previous to the album showing well defined ideas. Cor Scorpii really take their time with compositions and recordings, with a full decade’s gap between previous records (because Vreid was more important, and profitable)… but this pays off well for the band as their two albums have been memorable thus far.


Part VIII will see the true and worthy murder of of symphonic black metal genre and it’s cheesy shit-licking hybridization with melodic black metal. The trend was fully dead at that point. I want to reiterate that I don’t hate symphonic black metal but I think it is VERY important to separate true melodic black metal from symphonic black metal, the two are certainly related (and mixed often) but there is a distinct difference and predominance in every case. 2004-2006 generally saw a small boost in popularity for melodic black metal releases while the return of Dissection further energized a few small pockets of the world with nostalgia and world tours but perhaps even more importantly the death of Valfar (Windir) lead to a legion of copycats discovering his guitar work. The core of melodic black metal will be a stately few close adherents to it’s orthodoxy until other trends (atmospheric black metal) begin to explore greater melody, BUT there are some awesome throwbacks and long-standing artists coming up with strong album. I will largely refuse to include anything that is primarily Symphonic Black metal, and this likewise meant for about 60 Dimmu Borgir/Cradle of Filth/Children of Bodom clones being clipped from Part VII.

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