Combining the sheer brutality and ferocity associated with the original death metal stylings of Florida and Swedish acts with the traditional folk instrumentation, melodicism and harmonic structure of Scandinavian folk music, these bands carved out a unique blend of sonic elements to birth a style that’s influence is still felt to the current day.
1. At the Gates – Slaughter of The Soul (November 14th, 1995)
No melodic death metal collection would be complete without this quintessential record! Swedish melodeath giants, At the Gates unleashed this album upon the 90’s extreme metal underground to significant critical acclaim and despite breaking up in 1996 (later to revive the project in the late 2000’s), this album is still cited by a plethora of modern metal greats as a seminal record in laying the groundwork and setting the benchmark for extreme bands the world over to follow. Marked by the hellish, nihilistic vocalisations of Tomas Lindberg, breakneck drumming of Adrian Eraldsson and unyielding pedal-point harmonic riffing and solo work of axemen Anders Bjorler and Alf Svenssonm, this album will continue as an absolute masterclass in the art of crafting memorable melodies, existential lyricisms and technical endurance for years to come.
Stand out tracks: Blinded by Fear, Slaughter of The Soul, Under a Serpent Sun.
2. In Flames – The Jester Race (February 20th, 1996)
Perhaps the most recognisable appearance on this list, The Jester Race by Swedish masterminds, In Flames is not only one of the most well-written records within the realms of Melodeath but also one of the most influential metal albums ever released. Featuring ten tracks of sheer progressive brilliance, this album combined the melodic guitar work of early-era Iron Maiden with the detuned, hard-hitting riffage of Swedish death metal acts such as Dismember and Grave. Despite its 40-minute runtime, this release takes the listener on a musical voyage unlike any other album. Incorporating melodic folk guitar passages, captivating guitar solos, dual lead harmonies, blinding blast beats and earth-shattering riff work, this album has truly earnt its place as one of the greatest extreme metal releases of all time!
Stand out tracks: Artefacts of the Black Rain, Dead Eternity, The Jester Race
3. Dark Tranquillity – The Gallery (November 27, 1995)
Although this may be Dark Tranquillity’s sophomore release it is by no means a slump. Featuring many of the sonic qualities associated with the other releases featured on this list, this masterpiece helped shape much of the song writing and production approaches associated with the European metal underground in the mid-late 90’s. Driven by the intense vocalisations of front man Mikael Stanne, this album contains track after track of blistering drum fills, tasteful dual harmonies, tremolo picked rhythm sections and Swedish folk music influenced melodic sensibilities. Despite Dark Tranquillity’s shift in the early-mid 2000’s from Melodic Death Metal towards a more alternative metal influenced direction, this album permanently defined Dark Tranquillity as one of the most influential bands within the Gothenburg scene and beyond.
Stand out tracks: Punish My Heaven, The Gallery, Midway Through Infinity