This is a compilation album from Century Media that I got along with an album by Rotting Christ. The compilation is meant to look at bands that are melodic and dark but still playing heavy metal, the so-called "dark metal" genre, which is really a mix-up of styles like black metal, death metal, doom metal, and gothic metal.
The album starts off with a darkly melodic opening. Sentenced has been straddling a fine line between melodic death and gothic metal for years. The singer possesses a distinctive voice. It's mostly clean vocals, although he comes close to death growls at the bridge. The song stays fairly melodic throughout, never venturing too far into extreme metal. It's a pretty decent track. I own one album by Sentenced, although I believe their earlier material may be better than the one I own.
Old Man's Child: "The Millenium King"
This song from Dimmu Borgir guitarist Galder's own project sounds an awful lot like the man's other band. The symphonic elements are not quite as extreme as on some of DB's stuff, but add color to the riffing. The vocals are delivered in a mix between black metal rasp and death metal growl, except for one point when they are delivered in an epic-sounding clean voice, followed by an impressive guitar solo. I own the latest album from Old Man's Child.
Moonspell: "Ruin & Misery"
Moonspell has always been a very dark band. Sounding like the soundtrack to some werewolf movie, the band uses majestic eerie atmosphere and the singer's deep calming voice to bring unease to the listener. This track focuses more on melody than some of the band's other songs, but is extremely effective nonetheless. I own four Moonspell albums.
Sacramentum sounds like a blend between two Swedish styles: Stockholm death and Gothenburg melodeath. The track is much faster than the previous three tracks and has death metal-style vocals, with some occasional clean vocals thrown in. I like this track a lot. Unfortunately, I do not own any albums by Sacramentum, but that will probably change.
Alastis: "In Darkness"
I had never heard of Alastis prior to this compilation. This song features elements of black/death metal and gothic metal. It sounds a lot like Tiamat in the early days of the band's existence. It's extremely atmospheric and dark, but retaining metal riffing. I don't own any Alastis albums, but I would consider this band.
I had not heard of Sundown either. This band did not last long after apparently being formed by a member of Tiamat. That Tiamat influence is extremely clear, and it's not the atmospheric death metal Tiamat either. The vocals are a little more immediate than the lull-inducing gothic rock of middle-era Tiamat. I don't own any Sundown albums, and probably will not.
Samael have had an interesting career arc, beginning as black metal then gradually adding industrial elements to their music until they completely consumed the band's sound. Then almost completely ditching those elements. This album finds the band at a point where the industrial elements were strong, but not yet overpowering. There's still some black metal in there. I own two Samael albums.
This one starts out really slow. I had not heard of this band before either. It remains mostly a gothic/doom metal track and bears a strong resemblance to Moonspell's more atmospheric stuff. I doubt I would check this band out much further.
Rotting Christ: "A Sorrowful Farewell"
I own the album this song comes from. It's a great song, on a great album, by a great band. Seriously, Rotting Christ is amazing. I won't discuss this track further. I own eight album by Rotting Christ and enjoy them all despite the varying degrees of black metal, death metal, and gothic metal in each album's sound.
Orphaned Land: "Of Temptation Born"
This is an earlier Orphaned Land track. It sounds very little like the band that Orphaned Land is now. The band is experimenting with Middle Eastern instruments and music with their music, but they are still largely a death metal band. This song is a little uneven. The band has perfected this sound now, but at this time, it was still a work in progress. It's still a decent track. I own two Orphaned Land albums.
Borknagar: "The Quest"
Borknagar on this track has pretty much ditched their earlier black metal influences and gone completely melodic. It's a decent enough track but doesn't really do it for me, plus it's an instrumental and thus not the best representation of the band's sound. I have one Borknagar album. Next.
Tiamat: "Atlantis as a Lover"
I've mentioned this band earlier in this post and even had a blog post about the album this came from. I don't care for this sound of the band at all. I rather liked the atmospheric death of their early material and the gothic rock on display here is so completely different as to be utterly disappointing. I own two Tiamat albums, including this one unfortunately.
Lacuna Coil: "Shallow End"
This is one of the band's earlier tracks, prior to becoming popular. It also has more metal influences present and less vocals from Cristina Scabbia, the main source of the band's popularity. It's also simply a better song. Seriously, Lacuna Coil was a pretty good band when they weren't so busy trying to exploit Scabbia's looks for fame and fortune. Too bad. I own two albums by Lacuna Coil. Yes, I'm just as guilty as others of being drawn to a pretty face.
Ulver: "Wolf & Passion"
Ulver was a second-wave Norwegian black metal band that slowly ditched their black metal sound. This track still possesses some black metal elements, such as the bad production, overly trebly guitar riffs and buried vocals. I'm not a big fan of this. I do not own any Ulver albums.
Unleashed is a Stockholm-style Swedish death metal band. They also based much of their lyrical themes around Vikings and Viking mythology, paving the way for Amon Amarth. This song is a bit slower than most of the band's music, but is not any less interesting. I prefer their faster stuff, but this is not bad. I own one Unleashed album.
The Gathering: "Nighttime Birds"
The Gathering is one of the bands from England that helped usher in gothic/doom metal along with Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride. This is a sweetly melodic track featuring Anneke van Giersbergen's beautiful soulful vocals. There is not much metal here, so I probably won't be seeking this out, but it's a nice track nonetheless. I do not own any albums from The Gathering.