While the very concept of melodic death metal is somewhat of a paradox, and one could argue what exactly it entails, I think most readers of this site at least have some general idea of what melodic death metal is, so rather than try to dissect the genre and possible entries, I’ve listed 10 melodic death metal albums that A) fit the genre in my eyes, and B) would be the 10 must have examples of the genre I would choose to take on this forsaken sand dump. Now, I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch, especially from the 1997-2004 range, so feel free to chip in and tell me how wrong my personal opinion is…

by Erik T

Dark TranquillitySkydancer (Spinefarm Records, 1993).

My first actual exposure to Dark Tranquillity was 1995s Of Chaos and Eternal Night EP, so I didn’t actually hear this until long after I had already heard Heartwork and The Jester Race. But when I did get to hear it, I fully recognized its importance and brilliance. Despite a wafer thin production, with Anders Fridden on vocals and the bands frilly, almost folky take on weaving melodies and riffs, the album shed an elegant, and well, ‘melodic’ light on the death metal being plied by their Stockholm peers at the time. “Nightfall By the Shore of Time”, “A Bolt of Blazing Gold” and “Alone” would arguably be the template for arguably every melodic death metal album to follow.


CarcassHeartwork (Earache, 1994).

Because of the bands prior discographies, I often see Carcass left off melodic death metal lists, but the fact remains, Heartwork was a truly visionary and brave album that saw the bands fan base vehemently divided.  Coming of a certifiable death metal classic which was a signal to Heartwork in 1991’s Necrotism, Heartwork was a curveball that alienated the death metal legions. However, it took about 10 years for the true influence and brilliance of Heartwork to be appreciated by carcass fans-the band just grew up 10 years before their fans did. Full of smooooth rocking riffs and (gasp) real world lyrics, Heartwork, with tracks like “No Love Lost” and “This Mortal Coil”, stands as a legendary album that was way ahead of its time, and many years later still stands as one of the genre’s watermark albums, not just in melodic death metal, but metal as a whole.


At the GatesSlaughter of the Soul (Earache, 1995).



In FlamesThe Jester Race (Nuclear Blast, 1996).

If Skydancer, Slaughter of the Soul and Heartwork introduced metal heads to melodic death metal, The Jester Race perfected the sound and opened the floodgates for its acceptance to the world and arguably its saturation.  With Anders Fridden jumping from Dark Tranquillity, and the band already having one album under their belt, The Jester Race was set up to be perfect in its execution, production and timing. When death metal was being plagued by Stockholm and Flordian clones, In Flames injected some truly breathtaking melodies that arguably helped coin the term melodic death metal and opened the door for a host of clones. I actually took a three hour detour on my honeymoon to go to Pit Records in Colorado Springs to go and buy this record when it came out.


Ebony TearsTortura Insomniae (Black Sun, 1997).

To this day, the opening track from this album “Moonlight”, stands as one of my very favorite songs, of any genre ever. While certainly on of the many In Flames clones that’s sprung up after 1996, Ebony Tears added a thrashy electric violin to the formula that At The Gates explored early and gave the album an edge along with the quirky themes (“Freak Jesus”, “Spoonbender”) and competent take on the genre. It’s a pity the band developed into a mindless thrash band after wards, but Tortura Insomniae still stands as underrated classic.


Edge of SanityInfernal (Black Mark, 1997).

With so many Edge of Sanity options to choose from, I went with the last that’s was a collaborative band effort. A huge departure from Crimson’s 45 minute, one song opus, Infernal instead went with catchy, anthemic choruses with slick clean vocals and a simple approach that was incredibly commercial. “Hell is Where the Heart Is” and “15:36”, were just damn good songs that even my non metal friends appreciated. Some thought Infernal was the “Black” album for Edge of Sanity, but hey-there are worse albums to be compared to.


SacrilegeLost in the Beauty You Slay/The Fifth Season (Black Sun, 1996/1997).

Yes -I’m cheating, these two albums were re-issued in 2005 by Blackened Records-so its counts as one. Arguably two of the most overlooked melodic death metal albums ever, Sacrilege took melodic death metal and made it complex, artfully intrinsic and still intricately melodic.  A far stray from the verse chorus structure of their peers, Sacrilege made melodic death metal a more technical tapestry but retained the genre deft melodies. Unfortunately, the band never really broke into the same level as In Flames and Dark Tranquillity and split up (with drummer Daniel Svensson eventually going in to join In Flames), but the legacy of these two albums should be as appreciated as any other landmark album in the genre.


Dimension ZeroSilent Night Fever (Regain, 2002).

You may notice a huge time rift from 1997 to 2002, and that’s because melodic death seem to have been shunned due to over saturation and the genre greats seemingly falling into their own creative ruts. However, in 2002 a group of Swedish metal icons, namely Jocke Göthberg of Marduk and Jesper Stromblad of In Flames got together and recorded a scorching debut of highly energized melodic death metal, and it seemed to invigorate the genre again. The album also hits home for me as it was the first CD I ever saw with a quote on the CD’s cover.


DisillusionBack to Times of Splendor (Metal Blade Records, 2004).

Where Dimension Zero added some serious balls to melodic death metal, Germany’s Disillusion gave the genre a level of progressive ambition, creativity and truly unique, envelope pushing sense of grandiosity, I would argue it actually one of the top 20 death metal albums ever-regardless of sub classification. Part Dark Tranquillity, part Opeth, and part Rush, five years later Back to Times Of Splendor still stands head and shoulders above anything released in the genre after 1997. If you have not heard this album yet, do your self a favor and find it.


AxamentaEver-Arch-I-Tech-Ture (Shiver Records, 2006).

Arguably the last melodic death metal album that made me stand back and go “Wow”, Axamenta’s transformation from a flakey folk black metal band to truly breathtaking, complex melodic death metal, Belgium’s Axamenta are the real dark horse on this list. They are a band that has the potential to take the genre into un-chartered, complex realms while others seem content to ape their genre forefathers or simply add breakdowns.  I only hope Ever-Arch-I-Tech-Ture wasn’t a wad blowing peak in the bands career.


Honorable mentions go to Embracing (I Bear the Burden of Time), The Black Dahlia Murder (Unhallowed), Eucharist (Mirrorworlds), Golem (Dreamweaver), Underthreat (Deathmosphere) and Arch Enemy (Black Earth).



  1. Commented by: SerenityInFire

    Damn good list, although I would’ve picked Terminal Spirit Disease over Slaughter of the Soul :p

  2. Commented by: Overcow

    Wait what? Out of all the great Edge of Sanity albums you took the worst one. Not only that but the one without Dan Swanö. Yes I too consider it to be a black album but come and, that’s just heresy. The rest of the list was pretty good though. Even if I miss Insomnium and MPE.

  3. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    I know, I know-however, Swano WAS on the album but left before it was finsihed and other guy finsihed vocals on two songs

    I also toyed with Insomnium as well as Detonation, MPE, Kalmah and many others

  4. Commented by: Staylow

    Nice list there Erik – a couple surprises. The Disillusion caught me off guard, as I never really thought of them to be a full on melodeath band. It is as you said though, a great fucking album.

    There’s a couple there though I’m not so familiar with, so I’ll have to do some investigating.

    My list, in no order:

    Edge of Sanity – Purgatory Afterglow
    In Flames – Whoracle
    Dark Tranquillity – The Gallery
    At the Gates – Slaughter of the Soul
    Carcass – Heartwork
    Mors Principium Est – Liberation = Termination
    Scar Symmetry – Holographic Universe
    The Absence – Riders of the Plague
    Detonation – Portals to Uphobia
    Unmoored – Indefinite Soul-Extention

  5. Commented by: Overcow

    Ah, that feels good to know. Now I can sleep tonight.

  6. Commented by: gabaghoul

    solid list, I’ll have to go back to those Sacrilege discs, I sold ’em off years ago.

    my list would include Arsis’ debut as well, I think they really breathed new life and complexity into the genre.

  7. Commented by: vugelnox

    a fairly solid list! I’m not a big fan of the style but the one band I’d add to the list is Epoch of Unlight. They always get brushed under the rug but Caught in the Unlight and The Continuum Hypothesis are both excellent albums.

  8. Commented by: Dan

    I’m really drunk so I’ll make this brief in no order or even with album names:
    Callenish Circle
    Dark Tranquillity- Damage Done- every album after that has kinds sucked ass.
    Arsis- Celebration of GuiltITCOUNTSANDYOUKNOWIT
    Nightrage- Sweet Vengence- totally tried and true formula but hot damn it kicks ass toobadtheysucknow.
    Quo Vadis- Like three songs off of Day Into Night. The ones that Bart wrote +Absolution which ARi Itman wrote. The rest are really lame bouncy happy melodeathwith shit vcals.
    One Soilwork song: Millionflame.
    there i’m done gonna go throwup

  9. Commented by: Dan

    ALSO! Which Mors Principium Est album is a good starter? I’ve heard their name thrown around alotalot

  10. Commented by: Jason

    Mors Principum Est – The Unborn (2005)

  11. Commented by: gordeth

    Interesting list but I think Eucharist deserves more than an honorable mention. I’ve never been big on melodeath but I love Mirrorworlds. The same goes for Golem’s Dreamweaver but I don’t consider that melodeath anyway.

  12. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    I definitely could have had Arsis’ debut on there-i’ll admit i just overlooked/forgot it

  13. Commented by: SerenityInFire

    Yeah, Cryptic is the only EoS album without Dan Swano. My list would be:

    In Flames – The Jester Race
    Edge of Sanity – Purgatory Afterglow
    Nightrage – Sweet Vengeance (yeah, they do suck now. Descent into Chaos was their last good album)
    Satariel – Phobos and Deimos
    Dark Tranquillity – The Gallery (All their albums are good BTW)
    At the Gates – Terminal Spirit Disease
    Eucharist – A Velvet Creation
    Dimension Zero – Silent Night Fever
    Soilwork – A Predator’s Portrait

  14. Commented by: vegard

    still waiting for the ultimate nü-metal list!

  15. Commented by: Vance


    I am way too lazy to post my own list, I mean I guess if I had to it would look something like this:

    In Flames – Colony
    Dark Tranquility – Projector
    Soilwork – A Predator’s Portrait
    Eucharist – Mirrorworlds
    At the Gates – Slaughter of the Soul
    Edge of Sanity – Purgatory Afterglow
    Hypocrisy – The Fourth Dimension

    Damn this is too hard…

  16. Commented by: Juan Pinto

    I would add Fragments Of Unbecoming to the list, if only for being innovative in that they added the grindcore snare blast to their melodic death recipe, something I haven’t heard done by anyone else

  17. Commented by: Joe

    Hell yeah, fucking Nightrage. What was the one with “Hero” on it? Go listen to that intro right now and tell me it doesn’t blow your head off even today. Lindberg could have made these bastards legendary.

  18. Commented by: Kong Bore

    This got to be my ultimate list
    of Swedish death/black metal:

    1994 – In Flames – Subterranean EP
    1995 – Naglfar – Vittra
    1995 – Mörk Gryning – Tusen år har gått
    1995 – Unanimated -Ancient god of evil
    1995 – Lord Belial – Kiss the goat
    1995 – Dark Tranquillity – The gallery
    1995 – At The Gates – Slaughter of the soul
    1996 – Amon Amarth – Sorrow throughout the nine worlds
    1996 – Vinterland – Welcome my last chapter
    1996 – Dissection – Storm of the light’s bane
    1996 – Hypocrisy – Abducted
    1996 – Sacrilege – Lost in the beauty you slay
    1996 – Sacramentum – Far away from the sun
    1996 – A Canorous Quintet – Silence of the world beyond
    1997 – Armageddon – Crossing the Rubicon
    1997 – Dark Funeral – The secrets of the black arts
    1997 – Noctes – Pandemonic Requiem
    1997 – Ebony Tears – Tortura Insomniae
    1997 – Without Grief – Deflower
    1998 – Dawn – Slaughtersun
    1998 – Embraced – Amorous anathema

    Pagan greetings !

Leave a Reply

Privacy notice: When you submit a comment, your creditentials, message and IP address will be logged. A cookie will also be created on your browser with your chosen name and email, so that you do not need to type them again to post a new comment. All post and details will also go through an automatic spam check via Akismet's servers and need to be manually approved (so don't wonder about the delay). We purge our logs from your meta-data at frequent intervals.