It's kind of amazing how different the debut albums from the big three melodeath bands are from their most well-known material. We are talking about completely different styles, to the point that it is sometimes unrecognizable. At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames have each changed their sound a great deal since their debuts. It is kind of shocking just how much.
AT THE GATES: THE RED IN THE SKY IS OURS
At The Gates is most often associated with their Slaughter of the Soul album, frequently considered the landmark melodeath album. That album was simple and straightforward death metal with melodies that was all about speed and brutality. The At The Gates on this album is a different animal. Some of the elements that would later bring them notoriety are present here, but the sound is much more raw. Several tracks feature melodic interludes performed by a violin, which adds a nice touch. Vocalist Tomas Lindberg's style is much more unrestrained, resembling more of a shriek than his later style. The songs are alos longer and have more of a progressive structure.
DARK TRANQUILLITY: SKYDANCER
For some weird coincidence, In Flames's longtime vocalist Anders Friden serves as the vocalist on this release. Stanne is there, but he is simply playing the guitars this time around. He took over on the next EP. The atmosphere is significantly different than the band's later material and there are no electronic effects and keyboard parts. This is simply tremolo riff-based melodic death metal. The music has a much more chilling atmosphere than their later works. The band also experiments more with female vocals and more progressive song structures. This is one of my favorite Dark Tranquillity albums and the first one I ever heard.
IN FLAMES: LUNAR STRAIN
Let us begin with the obvious: Mikael Stanne is the singer. That's right, the longtime Dark Tranquillity growler is handling vocal duties for In Flames on this release. So the vocals are a little bit more extreme this time around and a little less melodic. Stanne only really has two volumes on his roar: loud and louder. But more than that, the music features frequent melodic interludes which are occasionally acoustic. There are string sections that border on folk metal here that are completely absent from their later material. It is a major change from their later stuff, but this is a terrific album.