Melodic black metal is a style of black metal. It is classified according to several key aspects; typical black metal characteristics, such as growled or shrieked vocals, blast beats, and heavily distorted guitars. The music, however, differs from traditional black metal in several ways. Heavy guitar riffs are used throughout the songs even though clean guitar sections are generally incorporated, and the appearance of guitar solos is not uncommon. Commonly, structure of songs are a little more conventional, and also incorporate strings and synths during various portions.
The genre reputably draws its roots from black metal and melodic death metal. Melodic black metal is sometimes confused with gothic metal, doom metal, and symphonic black metal due to similarities in the styles (slow tempos, occasional death screams, clean guitars, defined structures), which results in the erroneous genre classification and overlapping for many bands and albums (in particular, with symphonic black metal).
A song typically consists of harmonic minor scales, often modulating violently between minor chords by thirds (e.g., F♯m-Am-Cm, etc.) Many of the songs incorporate heavy guitar power chords, but unlike traditional black metal, the songs have at least some control on the volume, allowing the music to blend instead of sounding too "noisy". The songs usually begin with a melodic introduction, be it clean guitar or keyboards and usually move on to a more aggressive and distorted sound as the piece advances. Unlike typical black metal songs, melodic black metal compositions have, on the most part, very clearly defined bridges. Songs generally go from introduction to verse to a prechorus to chorus to verse to prechorus to chorus and then to a bridge. In a bridge the music can turn quite mellow, unlike black metal. The bridge, however, turns back into the verse or the black metal sound with a very swift and unexpected turn (usually a loud death grunt).
Unlike traditional black metal, melodic black metal usually revolves around deep structure and accessibility. The lyrical themes and main attributes, however, still come from black metal, with melodic black metal's lyrical subjects usually remaining the same (although many melodic black metal bands are not as aggressively anti-Christian). Like most black metal bands, the lyrics are usually quite aggressive, whether added intentionally or bearing the aggression of the lyricist. Heavy drumming and highly structured guitar riffs (usually played with what some call reverse, or inverted, power chords and tremolo picking) are the most prominent feature of the genre, entailing melodic structure deep within the composition and sound.
Melodic black metal has remained, on the most part, uniquely an underground phenomena. The genre's most popular bands are relatively obscure, one notable exceptions being Dimmu Borgir.
The physical appearance of melodic black metal musicians has remained very close to that of traditional black metal bands. Band members use corpse paint for live performances, spikes, and black clothing. They generally use pseudonyms or stage names and choose to remain unknown in mainstream circles.
Wintersun is not anything close to what this genre is. It is melodic, it is blackened, but it is NOT black metal, nor truly melodic in the sense of the word the genre would dictate. Therefore, it is up to debate, it is a genre of their own much like how children of bodom is terribly difficult to put down as a single genre. Consider it an oddball (though a good one)
List of notable melodic black metal bands
- ...And Oceans
- Borknagar (early works)
- Cradle of Filth (early albums, later ones are debated)
- Dark Fortress
- Dimmu Borgir (early albums, later ones are debated)
- Hecate Enthroned
- Lord Belial
- Mörk Gryning
- Nokturnal Mortum
- Old Man's Child
- Opera IX
- Rotting Christ
- Sad Legend
- Shade Empire