Review by James Neill [01.30.14]


First of all I would like to say that this is not a Top Five albums list, this list is simply five awesome Melodic Death Metal albums that any fan of the genre, new or old, can appreciate. That being said we are going to start with the 2000 release of Dark Tranquility's Haven. This album is a melodic journey, the combination of the first two tracks lure you into the album, especially if this is your first listen.  Not Built to Last is probably my favorite song on the disc, one that is full of hits. A friend once told me that this would be their "Desert Island" cd – the one they would take if they could only listen to one album for the rest of their life and that is when I took a closer listen. This is a bit of a different take on melodic death metal,with slightly more of an electronic feel. It is still a fantastic album and a must have for any melodic death metal fan.


Next up, hailing from Holland, we have God Dethroned with their classic 1999 album Bloody Blasphemy, a very extreme take on Melodic death metal. The vicious vocals, the hypnotic guitars and the commanding drums drew me into this album upon first hearing. I had to listen to the whole album over and over again, and after all these years I still find myself listening to this album on a regular basis. I think that is a mark of a great album, and this album has it all. Serpent King starts this album off with a bang, literally, a fast and heavy track that reeks of sheer intensity. The album takes off from there featuring some fantastic that go from angelic sounding guitars, to pounding melodic death and one of the best voices in the business. With so many classic songs like Bloody Blasphemy, Soul Capture 1562, Firebreath, and of course Serpent King  I am hard pressed to pick a favorite. Listen to this album… over and over again.


The third album we will be taking a look at could be considered a perfect album. At the Gates released Slaughter of the Soul in 1995. It is a brilliant album - I don't really know what else to say – and it’s a shame if you have not heard it. In my opinion Blinded by Fear is one of the best metal songs ever, it sets a tone for the album that doesn’t let up, followed by Slaughter of the Soul, Cold, Under a Serpent Sun. The next song is a short acoustic piece, and it gives you a little breather before the album kicks back into high gear.. Every song on this album is awesome, every single song. Nausea is one of the heaviest and most intense songs ever, if you need music to pump you up, listen to that tune and you will be ready to fight a battle! Like I said before, it is a shame if you have not heard this album. I hear At The Gates will be releasing a new studio album in the near future – it may be unfair to compare it to an album that has had fifteen plus years to grow on you, but you can be sure those comparisons will be made… At the Gates has set the bar pretty high, let’s see what they can do from here.


In 2002 Insomnium released their first full length album In The Halls of Awaiting and from that point forward I was hooked. This album is solid front to back with a brand of melodic death metal that sounds as happy and upbeat, as it does depressive and brutal. Insomnium has a prefect mix of aggression and grace, the songs are unbelievably well written and the lead guitar on this album sounds magical. When I first heard the disc I didn't know that music this aggressive and this brutal could sound so elegant. Insomnium is one of those bands that doesn't release bad albums, I could have picked any one of their releases, but this one sticks out to me on a personal level. My favorite song would have to be Song of the Storm, or maybe Medeia it is hard to decide when every song on the album is a five out of five. Another thing about this album is the emotion and feeling you can hear in the vocals, you feel for the vocalist, and it also helps that he has a growl that is semi-understandable to the untrained ear. Insomnium does melodic death metal right and this album sounds just as fresh today as it did the day it was released, over a decade ago.


The final album on my Five Essential Melodic Death Metal albums list is the third full length release from Sweden's In Flames, Whoracle. This is one of the albums that got me into the genre, the fusion between death metal and classical music blew me away. When I was in high school this album was it -  skipping class to drive up some back road and smoke pot while spacing out to it. Jotun, Gyroscope and Episode 666 are all classic In Flames songs from this album. The instrumental track entitled Dialogue with the Stars is a great piece of music -  the song sounds like a soundtrack to an epic adventure. Whoracle’s release came at the time when In Flames was making the shift from being a phenomenal band releasing groundbreaking albums, to a phenomenally talented band that doesn't release good albums. I am not saying that In Flames were the shitz after this album; I am just saying that there is a noticeable difference in their sound before and after this. Colony and Clayman were superb albums, but In Flames has not released a good disc since. I am all for a band trying new things, and can totally see someone wanting to play something different after performing the same thing for so long. Apparently it was a great move for the band as they became incredibly popular releasing garbage albums. I, however, prefer to remember their roots, when In Flames was a great band.


I know people will argue saying what about this album? What about that album…? Here are more great discs that you should check out:


Quo Vadis - Day into Night

Chastisment - But Lost We Are

Amorphis - Tales from 1000 Lakes

Gates of Ishtar - Dawn of Flames

Ebony Tears - Tortura Insomniae

Amon Amarth - Once Sent from the Golden Hall

Godgory - Resurrection

Immortal Souls - Once Upon a Time in the North

Kataklysm - The Prophecy

Kalmah - Swamplord



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