Shadowdoom9 (Andi)'s rediscovery of death metal subgenres

First Post May 13, 2022 12:11 AM

I was quite fascinated with Sonny's quest to rediscover death metal from that genre's first decade. I was actually thinking of doing the same with the death metal subgenres I used to enjoy, an idea that I thought of coincidentally before Sonny started his voyage, because there are a few albums I like recently that are close to death metal and it might be a sign for me to end my year-long hiatus from death metal. So what do I plan to do? I'm gonna time-travel my way to the early to mid-90s where death metal was splitting into different subgenres and discover what I've missed when I was listening to those subgenres, journaling my progress in this thread. It would be interesting tackling the releases I somehow missed out on or didn't dare to go and finding out what appeals to me. It might take a long time, but I'm up for that challenge while maintaining other plans. Any of you Horde members may suggest releases if you'd like, though I'm focusing on the more essential releases for a more authentic experience. And while I'm at it, I might dive deep into the history of other metal genres as well.

The first death metal subgenre I'll explore is... melodic death metal! This has been the least problematic part of death metal for me, and it started in the year when some of my favorite metal genres were on the rise, 1993. Albums from bands like At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity, Edge of Sanity, and Sentenced were major pioneering releases of melodeath. Sadly, I've already written reviews for those albums that were all deleted when I moved away from death metal, and I don't intend to check on the bands I already knew. However, one band I've missed is Carcass, whose 1993 album Heartwork is known to reign supreme as a foundational landmark for melodeath but I've never really gotten around to listening to that band, mainly because of their earlier gore/deathgrind material that was, and still is, a big no-no for me. So I'm gonna check out that album Heartwork for this early offering of melodeath and see what I think of it. I might also try a few other albums from different bands at that time that aren't melodeath but have made an influential impact to the subgenre. Onward!

May 13, 2022 07:38 AM

Indeed probably the one album melodic death metal wouldn't have existed without, though not reaching the style of melodeath I'm used to while still enjoyable. My thoughts:

Heartwork is probably the album where Carcass was the most dedicated. They began demoing this album as early as during their tour for the less melodic Necroticism, even playing their new songs on tour. Much of the recording time was wasted finding the right guitar tone and the right ideas from their producer Colin Richardson. Things were going down to Hell for the people working on the album. With all that trouble going on, Carcass was still determined to get things right in order to reach higher lengths. In the end, they've made an offering that the world would recognize as a game-changing classic to this day! I would never disagree with this album's melodic death metal legend status, but to be honest, it's not the most melodic melodeath album I've heard. The Maiden-like melodic harmonies that really make the genre, but that's a small step Carcass was missing here. The melodic harmonies in this album are mostly in just passages and solos, the latter not sounding as perfect as in Gothenburg bands. Mike Amott performed them slightly better in Arch Enemy that would've crystallized Bill Steer's standard riffing and groove here. Still there's often a great amount of harmonies that would give later death metal bands the idea to add more melody than brutality, and it's quite an impressive achievement of a lifetime for this band. Where there any other bands before Carcass and the Gothenburg crew that started adding melody to an extreme genre with extreme lyrics? I think not! However, At the Gates who would make an album two years later that would inspire melodic metalcore bands to rise. In the meantime, enjoy the original melodeath work!

4.5/5

May 13, 2022 08:45 AM

I'm interested to know where did you heard of the Death connection Andi? It doesn't sound right to me. It's far more likely that Death inspired Carcass to go in a more melodic direction than the other way around. The Carcass boys absolutely worshipped Death in their early years & Chuck's trajectory was already well & truly moving in a more melodic & progressive direction on 1991's "Human" & 1993's "Individual Thought Patterns", both of which were released before "Heartwork". "Symbolic" was pretty much a further expansion on "Individual Thought Patterns" too. I know Chuck really liked Carcass but I'm pretty sure that his inspiration to go in a more melodic direction came from his passion for heavy/power/progressive metal bands like Sortilege, Helstar, Warlord, Agent Steel, etc. The melodeath sound was well-defined & very popular before "Symbolic" & "The Sound of Perseverance" came out so I've never felt the urge to link those records to the subgenre.

For the record, I've never felt comfortable with any of Death's albums being referred to as "technical death metal". "Progressive death metal" is a far more accurate description as they're not consciously technical in my opinion. Expansive & adventurous? Sure!

May 13, 2022 09:05 AM

You are right about Death inspiring Carcass, Daniel, but upon listening to both Heartwork and Symbolic, I hear a bit of a connective exchange in the melodic aspect between those two albums while the latter shows Death expanding the progressiveness of their previous two albums and the melody of those heavy/power metal bands. Melodeath did not start with Symbolic of course, but there are bands influenced from there. Meanwhile in the Track of the Day thread, this track is another example of a stylistic exchange between bands' influences: https://metal.academy/forum/10/thread/188?page=6#topic_10653

May 13, 2022 09:59 AM

I'm not denying that there will be some similarities Andi as Carcass were big fans of Death & Chuck's later material still held some level of resemblance to his early 90's work. I've just never heard anything about "Heartwork" being the influence for Chuck to go in the direction he already seemed to be going. I'm happy to be proven wrong there though if you've got some evidence to the contrary. Other than the vocals, I actually don't think "The Sound of Perseverance" is a death metal record at all to tell you the truth. Chuck was clearly trying to transform Death into a more traditional progressive metal band at that point & the Control Denied record proves it beyond any doubt.

May 13, 2022 02:01 PM

Well, Daniel, I gave The Sound of Perseverance a listen and review, and what you said is about Death's switching to a more traditional progressive sound is quite accurate. I sense a judgement submission coming on! Anyway, both Death albums I've reviewed show the band's progressive death metal/deathly progressive metal side they had in their last years of activity while influential in expanding the prominence of melodeath and tech-death for newer rising legions to appear. I think after I listen to one more album from a different band that isn't melodeath but planted a seed for other bands in the same country to popularize the genre, it would be time to start the tech-death history leg of my journey....

May 13, 2022 11:00 PM


Indeed probably the one album melodic death metal wouldn't have existed without, though not reaching the style of melodeath I'm used to while still enjoyable. My thoughts:

Heartwork is probably the album where Carcass was the most dedicated. They began demoing this album as early as during their tour for the less melodic Necroticism, even playing their new songs on tour. Much of the recording time was wasted finding the right guitar tone and the right ideas from their producer Colin Richardson. Things were going down to Hell for the people working on the album. With all that trouble going on, Carcass was still determined to get things right in order to reach higher lengths. In the end, they've made an offering that the world would recognize as a game-changing classic to this day! I would never disagree with this album's melodic death metal legend status, but to be honest, it's not the most melodic melodeath album I've heard. The Maiden-like melodic harmonies that really make the genre, but that's a small step Carcass was missing here. The melodic harmonies in this album are mostly in just passages and solos, the latter not sounding as perfect as in Gothenburg bands. Mike Amott performed them slightly better in Arch Enemy that would've crystallized Bill Steer's standard riffing and groove here. Still there's often a great amount of harmonies that would give later death metal bands the idea to add more melody than brutality, and it's quite an impressive achievement of a lifetime for this band. Where there any other bands before Carcass and the Gothenburg crew that started adding melody to an extreme genre with extreme lyrics? I think not! However, At the Gates who would make an album two years later that would inspire melodic metalcore bands to rise. In the meantime, enjoy the original melodeath work!

4.5/5

Quoted Shadowdoom9 (Andi)

Here's my review of "Heartwork" from eons ago:

A really well-defined sound. I must admit that I was initially hesitant when I bought this back in 1993 as I was a huge fan of their previous material & this was clearly heading in another direction altogether. Ultimately I couldn't deny that the catchy song-writing & cleaner production had a brand new appeal all of their own though. I still definitely prefer the previous two albums but find "Heartwork" to be a really enjoyable & professional experience. Jeff's vocals are superb throughout. As are the guitar solos. I think it's probably a little restrained to get a higher mark out of me & it does tend to flatten out a little bit in the back end in my opinion. I saw them play live on the "Heartwork" tour & this material worked brilliantly in a live environment. 4/5

I agree with you that it's not in line with the modern understanding of the melodic death metal subgenre which is built more around accessible Iron Maiden style lead guitar harmonies. Perhaps that's why I regard it as highly as I do despite struggling with a lot of melodeath. Interestingly Andi, "Heartwork" wasn't instantly accepted by the death/grind community. It took a little time to come to terms with. It did however open up a new fan base for Carcass outside of the extreme metal scene through the newly found accessibility & song-writing sensibilities. Interestingly, my band Neuropath were a bee's dick away from scoring the support slot for Carcass' Sydney leg of the "Heartwork" tour. Despite the fact that "Heartwork" was a big success for the band though, I still saw them in a half empty pub in the middle of the day on that tour which puts extreme metal success into perspective. It's also worth noting that there were other European bands experimenting with a more melodic death metal sound a little earlier than "Heartwork" (see At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, Sentenced, Eucharist, Unanimated, Horrified, Loudblast, etc.) so I do think the subgenre would have existed without Carcass. It may just have taken a little more time to gain traction.

May 13, 2022 11:48 PM


Well, Daniel, I gave The Sound of Perseverance a listen and review, and what you said is about Death's switching to a more traditional progressive sound is quite accurate. I sense a judgement submission coming on! Anyway, both Death albums I've reviewed show the band's progressive death metal/deathly progressive metal side they had in their last years of activity while influential in expanding the prominence of melodeath and tech-death for newer rising legions to appear. I think after I listen to one more album from a different band that isn't melodeath but planted a seed for other bands in the same country to popularize the genre, it would be time to start the tech-death history leg of my journey....

Quoted Shadowdoom9 (Andi)

Andi, I noticed in your "The Sound Of Perseverance" review that you commented on how a large percentage of Death's audience hated the album due to the increased progressive component. I think it's worth clarifying that Chuck had been going that way for a good four albums by that point so we all knew what to expect & those that had a problem with it had already gotten off-board the train by 1998. The musical direction of "The Sound Of Perseverance" was generally well received in my experience (even if it wasn't exactly death metal any more) but there was certainly a portion of Death's fanbase that had trouble with the change in vocal style (myself included) & that was the major stumbling block for most detractors along with the very ordinary cover version of "Painkiller" you mentioned. I think "Heartwork" was the more divisive record of the two for old school fans though as it represented a more sudden & drastic change in style. There are still a truckload of death metal fans that claim that Carcass split up after "Necroticism: Descanting The Insalubrious".

May 14, 2022 02:06 AM

I agree that the vocal style in The Sound of Perseverance was a major stumble, sounding more whiny than growling in a few of the more melodic songs especially that Judas Priest cover. Heartwork was very divisive among the Carcass fanbase. While the earlier fans were stunned by the sudden switch to a more melodic sound and try to deny its existence, the album made history with the spawning of melodic death metal. At the same time, another subgenre arrived with a different band...

Definitely not melodeath, but would plant a seed for other bands in Sweden to popularize it, while pioneering a different subgenre, death 'n' roll. Here are my thoughts:

After making two timeless additions to traditional Swedish death metal, Entombed was ready to try a new approach while keeping their roots. Their 3rd album marked the beginning of a new inspiring era, an era that would later be unappealing when two more albums take the band farther away from their death metal roots. Wolverine Blues, together with Carcass' Heartwork, marked a big historical turn for their label Earache in 1993, attracting new fans with a somewhat more melodic sound. While Carcass invented the melodic death metal genre with barely any prior experimentation, Entombed added pieces of hard rock, hardcore, and Pantera-like groove metal for something more groovy with slight hints of melody, death 'n' roll. Desultory also experimented with that subgenre, but Entombed succeeded in making that potential new hybrid. With a title like Wolverine Blues, was there any relation with the wise invincible Wolverine from Marvel Comics? Yes there was! Even though the band were against anything to do with Wolverine, Earache went behind their backs to make a deal with Marvel for mainstream promotion. That's part of how this album became a successful leap for this band, label, and much of extreme metal. I can understand other aspects of their success. Lars Göran Petrov (RIP), who was absent for their second album Clandestine, returned and stayed with the band until their first breakup. The tone maintains their earlier dark atmosphere while slamming through rock-infused compositions. The 7 tracks from the beginning are prime early examples of the subgenre with searing groove, amazing riffing, and punk-thrashy rhythms, whereas the final 3 and bonus track were a low drop in quality. A slightly flawed ending to the album, but the rest is a better offering of death metal. It was time for the small influences the band hinted earlier to fully see the light of day and the core of their writing, one part of death metal refreshing into different subgenres in 1993. Entombed continue their innovation that would build up a higher following. Unfortunately, they would later fall into the deathless rock 'n' roll manhole....

4/5

Coming soon in my quest: a deeper look into the origins of technical death metal...

May 14, 2022 03:32 AM

"Wolverine Blues" is the very definition of divisive. "Clandestine" (5/5) was an absolutely huge record for me personally. In fact, I still regard it as the most perfect example of the Swedish death metal sound to this day so I was seriously looking forward to the follow-up. When I first heard "Wolverine Blues" I didn't really know what to make of it at first. A few repeat listens saw it opening up significantly though & showed it be something very consistent,  altogether new & surprisingly catchy. These days I not only still regard it as the best death 'n' roll record I've ever heard but I actually prefer it to Entombed's legendary debut album "Left Hand Path" (3.5/5) which I've always found to be a touch overrated. Would I have preferred "Clandestine Part 2"? Shit yeah I would but this is not a bad record by any stretch of the imagination. It's just not something that I find myself reaching for all that often which is simply a matter of taste more than anything else.

3.5/5

May 14, 2022 07:20 AM

1990 was another special early year for death metal when 3 bands expanded the boundaries of death metal to include more technical experimentation, sometimes reaching a progressive level, thus creating the subgenre technical death metal! Here's one of those bands: