Melodic death metal (melodic death, gothenburg death, melodeath or melodic death metal) is a musical subgenre of death metal, having emerged in Sweden in the early 1990s, with bands such as At the Gates, In Flames or Dark Tranquillity as precursors. The genre mixes the brutality of death metal with the melodies of heavy metal. Melodic death metal bands being mainly from Scandinavia, especially Gothenburg, the genre is also called "death of Gothenburg" or "NWOSDM" (New Wave of Swedish Death Metal, in reference to the New wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM). Although the three groups mentioned above are officially the first melodic death groups, the Carcass group already incorporated some elements of this style. Moreover, after their separation, guitarist Michael Amott created Arch Enemy, one of the most important bands in the current melodic death scene.
In France, there are many melodic death metal bands. Among the most famous, Loudblast, in 1993, is one of the pioneers of French melodic death metal with their album Sublime Dementia. French melodic death metal was also marked by the arrival of Carcariass in 1997. Many French bands flirt with a mix of genres, between brutal death metal, thrash and melodic like Massacra and Agressor.
The origin of melodic death dates back to Edge of Sanity (1989), one of Dan Swano's first groups. This formation, strongly influenced by American death metal bands (Death, Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation or Morbid Angel) and mainly by the NWOBHM (Venom, Black Sabbath...) lays the foundations of melodic death. Later on, other musicians were inspired by Edge of Sanity and groups such as At the Gates, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity and Hypocrisy helped to launch the Gothenburg metal scene in the early 1990s. The British band Carcass, which was initially inspired by grindcore (influenced by Napalm Death), later moved into a melodic death metal style, helping to develop and popularize the genre with their album Heartwork, released in 1993. At the same time, less death metal-oriented groups such as Opeth or Katatonia are finally laying the foundations for this subgenre of death metal.
From the very beginning, melodic death stands out from death metal, by giving, as its name suggests, a very great importance to melodies. However, brutality is not neglected and also becomes one of the main characteristics of the genre, creating a counterpoint with the refinement and technicality of the melodies. This dynamic of brutality and finesse will complete and affirm the identity of the genre. Although originally sung exclusively in "death growls" (death metal characteristic) and "high pitched screams" (black metal characteristic), the appearance of clear voices in the late 1990s marked a softening of the genre. The album Projector by the group Dark Tranquillity, sung mostly in clear voice, is a perfect example. Then, in the 2000s, electronics made its appearance, particularly with the greater use, or even unprecedented for some groups, of keyboards. Children of Bodom, with the release of their first album Something Wild in 1997, bring a new evolution to the genre. If melodic death has always been influenced by heavy metal[desired ref.], the group led by Alexi Laiho brings many elements from power metal and melodic speed. Other melodic death metal bands will evolve in this logic, one of the most famous of which is Kalmah.
More recently[When?], some pioneering groups of the genre such as In Flames, Soilwork or Darkane, are tending towards a melodic and naked death metal mix by abandoning guitar solos, complex structures and loud songs and incorporating samples and other electronic arrangements into their music. Others will mix melodic death metal with various and varied themes and genres. Thus, one of the most famous groups of its kind, Amon Amarth, is characterized by his lyrics with Viking themes, giving pride of place to northern mythology. Some bands like Eluveitie or Ithilien mix folk metal and melodic death metal.