Melodic death metal or for shorter melodeath, with its rather oxymoronic-sounding name, is one of the friendlier subgenres for people looking to find out more about extreme metal. Having its roots in classic 80s death metal combined with melodic passages somewhat styled after the NWOBHM scene, melodeath kept the brutality of death metal while making it more appealing to a lot of people who shied from it before. One of the earliest bands to pull this off would be Sweden’s DARK TRANQUILLITY as well the other two giants of the Göteborg scene – AT THE GATES and IN FLAMES. The genre has then further developed and it’s now not uncommon to include cleans vocals, orchestrations and folkier elements as well. Today, however, I want to take a look at the hidden gems of the genre, the bands on the fringe who indubitably deserve more attention.
The first band that I want to talk about is AETERNAM. The Canadian quartet was founded in 2007 and has since released three full-length albums. What makes them extremely interesting is the vocalist and guitarist of Morrocan descent, Achraf Loudiy, who brings a lot of Arabic influences into their sound. AETERNAM goes from folky acoustic songs to fast-paced melodeath intertwined with symphonic elements. Thematically, they deal a lot with Arabic mythology and anti-religiosity. They are currently working on their fourth album called “Al Qassam”, which is planned to be released in 2020.
Songs to hear: “Invading Jerusalem”, “Damascus Gate”, “Colossus”, “Praetor of Mercury”
CRESCENT is one of the more extreme bands on the list. They are Egyptian and their lyricism heavily revolves around Egyptian mythology. Their sound could be described as blackened death metal as well – making heavy use of blast beats – but they also utilize symphonic elements and a choir, which gives a feeling of nothing short than a ritual, which is somehow fitting when singing about the ancient gods of Egypt and invoking them to mutilate Apophis as they do on their latest album’s (The Order of Amenti) opening song.
Songs to hear: “Reciting Spells To Mutilate Apophis”, “In the Name of Osiris”, “Sons of Monthu”
We’re not moving too far, only across the Mediterranean sea to the Turkish town of Istanbul where this fantastic quartet is from. You might have realized by now I really have a thing for Arabic-influenced rhythms. KHEPRA is another band that makes use of some folky elements to sprinkle into their more symphonically-inclined melodeath, while also seeming to have an affinity for drama as their sound is made to be mighty and mysterious.
Songs to hear: “We Are Descending”, “Atra Hasis”, “Obsessions of the Mad”
GENUS ORDINIS DEI
GENUS ORDINIS DEI – Latin for the origin of the divine order – is an Italian four-piece from Crema. If there’s a band on this list that I’d say is going to make it big-ish it has to be them. And not just because they always watch my story on Instagram! Their two albums and EP are all based on an overall story, essentially making their entire discography one big concept album. The vocals differ slightly from the usual melodeath style and go slightly into metalcore-y, but not enough to be annoying. Their drummer, Richard Meiz also plays for the Italian giants of LACUNA COIL fronted by Cristina Scabbia who has had a guest performance on their latest album as well.
Songs to hear: “You Die in Roma”, “Salem”, “Hail and Kill”, “Cold Water”
And we are, unsurprisingly, back in Egypt and digging well through the depths of obscurity. ODIOUS are actually 21 years old, but only have two full-length releases and I’m going to ignore the first one which has more of a black metal feel and focus on their second release “Skin Age”, which is quite frankly, a masterpiece of symphonic melodeath. The orchestrations which fit the Egyptian feel so well were done by guitarist Christos Antoniou of the Greek band SEPTICFLESH, who have also taken them along on their European tour in 2018.
Songs to hear: “A Picture of Dead Art”, “Dungeon Keys”, “Crown of Centuries”
ETERNAL STORM is proof that following people on Instagram does sometimes work out as that’s exactly how I found them – or rather they found me. They are a Spanish four-piece from Madrid and they released their first album “Come the Tide” this year. They could also fall under progressive death metal as they have complex, longer songs in their repertoire that perhaps remind you slightly of older OPETH.
Songs to hear: “Detachment”, “Of Winter and Treason”, “Embracing Waves”
This American quintet is another band that’s released an album this year, that being their second full-length album “Heavenly Skies”. They represent a more classical speedy, brutal death metal without as many symphonic elements as some other bands on this list, but they do have lovely passages with lots of melody in the guitars. CREPUSCLE is the kind of band that you’ll have a lot of fun headbanging to in a live show. Your neck will have less fun, but that’s a problem for tomorrow.
Songs to hear: “Heavenly Skies”, “Draconian Winter”, “Limitless”
The last one from the Arabic world, I promise! NARJAHANAM is a Bahraini band, which is pretty kvlt in itself as I can’t imagine the authorities are too fond of metal. The name can be translated to the fire of hell, which seems fitting for the band’s sound. They play a very folky melodeath, that manages to be quite catchy even though the quality of the recording is quite frankly not great. One of the few bands that sing in Arabic, NARJAHANAM have not come out with a release since 2013, but I hope they continue and release another Arabic-folk-influenced album.
Songs to hear: “Kahf Alkhulood”, “Rimal Alzaman”, “Symphoniyat Almowt”
Another band with a folky touch, albeit a very different one as they come from Denmark. HEIDRA has recently been on a European tour and I can safely say they’ve been one of the best opening acts I’ve seen. With a classic Scandinavian feel of Vikings-going-into-battle, their sound is fast and playful very melodic melodeath, sprinkled with extremely catchy parts with clean vocals. The Danish quintet has released two albums, the last of which was last year’s “The Blackening Tide”.
Songs to hear: “Awaiting Dawn”, “The Price in Blood”, “The Eyes of Giants”
Finishing this list with a reasonably young Swiss band, formed only in 2014. Their sound goes well with their youth, being a modern kind of metal with even a dash of nu-metal influence perhaps, but also interesting orchestrations. Their two full-length releases are both recent, being released in 2017 and 2019. They are another band I’ve caught live and their performance was quite energetic as they opened the evening. The band is officially made up of only two members and joined by a guest drummer and a rhythm guitarist in live shows.
Songs to hear: “Zarathustra”, “Solipsis”, “Eros”