Best Melodic Death Metal Bands
If you take the early 1980s British heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, but add growling/screaming, speed up the drums, and beef up the distortion you will end up with melodic death metal. It’s a sub-genre for metal fans who need the brutality of death metal but still crave melodic guitar riffs. This article is meant to provide an introduction to this type of music, with an overview of the best melodic death metal bands of all time.
Melodic death metal came about in the early 1990s, with a ton of bands in the city of Gothenburg, Sweden embracing genre. Therefore a lot of classic melodic death metal bands also fall under what is referred to as “Gothenburg metal”, so we will use those terms interchangeably throughout this top ten list. For instance, 3 of our top 4 best melodic death metal bands are from Gothenburg and paved the way for future melodic death metal acts.
All of the bands on the list are from Europe, but that does not mean melodic death metal is totally absent in the United States or other parts of the world. In America specifically, melodic death metal has obvious influences on tons of bands, specifically those in the metalcore and deathcore scenes. I know for a fact that anyone with an appreciation for metal cannot argue that the following ten groups are the best melodic death metal bands of all time. (This list has been created based on the opinions of a number of popular heavy metal websites, along with a slight bias of our own)
In Flames formed in 1990 in where else but Gothenburg, Sweden. When folks talk about Gothenburg metal, these are one of the first bands that really started the sub-genre. They were known for real melodic guitar riff harmonies, acoustic interludes, and using keyboards in their music. In Flames were one of the best melodic death metal bands in the 1990s, but their music in the 21st century hasn’t packed the same punch as it did during their first decade. Their last good album was “Clayman”, but the two best In Flames releases are “The Jester Race” and “Whoracle”.
Dark Tranquilllity is also from Gothenburg, Sweden, but formed one year prior to the birth of In Flames. Besides being from the same city, they both share a common vocalist; Anders Friden originally held the position of lead vocals for Dark Tranquillity before leaving in 1993 to join In Flames. These number 1 and 2 spots on our best melodic death metal bands list are more of a tie between In Flames and Dark Tranuillity though, at least in my eyes. Dark Tranquility have been more consistently great over the last twenty years, but In Flames released a few absolutely amazing albums in the nineties. Of the ten or so Dark Tranquility full-length releases, listen to “The Gallery”, “Projector”, “Haven”, “Damage Done”, and “Character”.
3.)Children of Bodom
And now for a non-Gothenburg group: Children of Bodom. Hailing from Finland and forming in 1993, these guys not only play melodic death metal, but seamlessly incorporate elements of black, progressive, speed, power, thrash, and new-classical metal. And it’s for this reason that Children of Bodom have such a massive fan following as they appeal to all sorts of heavy metal musical tastes. Their two greatest albums are without a doubt “Hatebreeder” and “Follow the Reaper”, released in 1999 and 2000 respectively.
4.)At the Gates
Another group that helped mold the Gothenburg metal culture into what it became were At the Gates. Formed in 1990, At the Gates possess what I personally believe is the greatest album to come from 1990s Gothenburg metal: “Slaughter of the Soul”. From start to finish, that album is an absolute masterpiece. Unfortunately At the Gates didn’t release much after “Slaughter of the Soul” and pretty much broke up. But since 2007, the guys have done a reunion tour and a number of special one-time appearances. If the previous top 3 in our best melodic death metal bands list can still play metal shows and regularly put out new material, I see no reason why At the Gates can’t do the same; hopefully they’ll record something new.
Half way through our list of the best melodic death metal bands brings us to Amon Amarth. Even though Amon Amarth are from Sweden, I’m hesitant to label them as Gothenburg metal, as a melodic death metal classification seems more appropriate. Amon Amarth are especially beloved in the metal community as a lot of their music and lyrics are inspired by Lord of the Rings, mythology, and Scandinavian history; the latter theme is why Amon Amarth are referred to as ‘Viking Metal‘. After 8 studio albums, Amon Amarth are still going strong. Check out their albums “With Oden on Our Side” and “Twilight of the Thunder God”.
Straight out of the U.K., Carcass started out as more of a grindcore band back in 1985. But in the early nineties as Gothenburg and Melodic Death Metal were in development, Carcass began to veer their sound more in that direction as well. Carcass broke up in 1996, but have since played a number of reunion shows as of 2007. For their best death metal release, check out “Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious”. For the best melodic death metal album by Carcass, listen to “Heartwork”.
After Children of Bodom, Kalmah are the next best melodic death metal band from Finland. These dudes are one of the more recent groups on our top melodic death metal acts list as Kalmah officially formed in 1998. There aren’t a whole lot of consistently good 21st century melodic death metal bands around right now, with the major exception being Kalmah. I would recommend everything by them, but most notably “Swamplord” and “Swampsong”.
Arch Enemy are another Swedish group, formed in 1996 by one of the members of Carcass. They also have one of my favorite metal vocalists ever: Angela Gossow. She didn’t join the group until 2000 and rocks way fucking harder than most of her metal male counterparts. Arch Enemy, like Kalmah, are still putting out fresh, new, and amazing melodic death metal. Angela Gossow’s debut with Arch Enemy was “Wages of Sin”, which is one of the best melodic death metal albums of the 21st century thus far.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Finland is the second best place to find the best melodic death metal bands. Formed in the late nineties but not releasing a studio album until 2002, Insomnium are another great Finnish melodic death metal group. “Above the Weeping World” is definitely their best work, and if you love that then pick up “Since the Day it All Came Down” and “Across the Dark” as well.
The final group to be featured on our best melodic death metal bands list is Scar Symmetry. These Swedish gentleman have the fine distinction of being the youngest group on this top 10 metal page. Formed in 2004, Scar Symmetry have been through some interesting vocal changes. Up until 2008 Christian Alvestam was the sole Scary Symmetry vocalist; he was also on their best album “Holographic Universe”. They ended up replacing him with Roberth Karlsson, who headed up the growling department, and Lars Palmqvist to provide the clean vocals. While the two albums they’ve put out since 2008 are good, Scar Symmetry’s first three are great.
So there you have it. Our top 10 best melodic death metal bands. If you think we’ve missed someone or sold someone else short, we’d love to hear about it. If we get enough comments or emails about it, another top 10 best melodic death metal bands list will be created featuring our readers and fans very own thoughts and opinions. Stay classy.