Top Ten Melancholic (Gothic) Death-Doom Metal Albums

Melancholic Death-Doom Metal is a style of playing Death-Doom that mostly infuses Gothic Metal elements to add gloominess to the atmosphere; other typical characteristics include the incorporation of sorrowful melodies and frequent guitar interplay, while lyrical subjects mainly deal with personal struggles. Although initially, I'm listing out ten items, over time, I'll be expanding the list to include albums from various other bands and also other essential releases from the bands already mentioned - it's a style of music that speaks a lot to me. Please feel free to add your favourite ones that strictly fit the descriptor 'melancholy.'
The Top Ten
1 Brave Murder Day - Katatonia

Marking the end of a revolutionary phase of Katatonia, Brave Murder Day is a thematic album with minimalistic musicianship characterised by its mood-intensive arrangements and immersive repetition. The music is cold, depressive, and somewhat sychedelic, with traces of shoegaze, post-rock, and ambient coated on top of rhythmic guitar melodies, all providing a rainy wall of sound texture. The songs also feature interesting tempo changes and guitar interplays. At the same time, the drumming is simplistic to blend into the bass-heavy production and allow room for the guitar melodies to seize the limelight. Lastly, one of the album's main highlights is Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth. With his grief-stricken haunting screams and morbid growling, he creates a stunning contrast.

Highlights: Brave, 12, Endtime, and Murder

2 Dreams d'Azur - Novembre

Dreams D'Azur, a re-record of the band's debut album, is an anomaly on the list, primarily ridden with aesthetic values of black metal and progressive structures. The album demonstrates the band's eclectic approach, delicately dabbling with several metal styles, namely Gothic, Death, Doom, Black, and Progressive. The song structures are complex, frequently oscillating from one extreme to another while retaining coherence—the puzzle piecing of melancholic acoustic passages and sprinkles of piano melodies with ferocious blast beats, haunting tremolo-picking, and bass-heavy wall of sound powerfully illustrates a 'beauty and the beast' dynamic, while the torturous black metal screams and overlay of clean echoey vocals provide an extra edge and finalises the perfect blend.

Highlights: The Dream of the Old Boats, The White Eyed, Sirens In Filth, and Marea (Pt. I, II & III)

3 The Dreadful Hours - My Dying Bride

The Dreadful Hours follows a more focused approach to their previous album, The Light At the End of the World. The album's production has an air of oppressive turbulence, emphasising a great deal of atmosphere over expression and emotion. The Dreadful Hours is essentially a guitar-based album incorporating parts of their older sound to forge a piece of dynamic and refreshing music with controlled heaviness and significant variation between slow, mournful, and mid-paced energetic riffs, adding extra layers to their darkly melancholic atmospheres and bass work, taking the front stage. Although the album lacks violin usage, it gets compensated by the ambient, synth, and keyboard-driven passages that manage to retain interest by keeping variety in tempo and mood.

Highlights: The Raven and the Rose, The Deepest of All Hearts, and My Hope, the Destroyer

4 Arcane Rain Fell - Draconian

Arcane Rain Fell, the band's fourth album, is an hour-long theatrical gothic doom featuring limited yet beautiful utilisation of the vocals of Lisa Johansson, chiming in sporadically with her sombre and operatic flourishes with Anders Jacobsson, powering the music with his diverse growls and recitations. The album draws influences from the early works of "The Peaceville Three" - Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Anathema, but even more so, exploring new territory. The touches of nature sounds, synthesisers, and rhythmic keyboard create a lovely orchestral backdrop with upfront wailing mild-tempo guitar leads and thunderous riffs to enhance the foggy and brooding soundscape of the album. The music construction is dense overall, with lyrics dealing with the fallen angel concept.

Highlights: Daylight Misery, A Scenery of Loss, and Death, Come Near Me

5 The Morning Never Came - Swallow the Sun

Swallow The Sun burst onto the scene with The Morning Never Came, an intricate interweave of Doom Metal with Melodic Death Metal glittered with goth-horror aesthetics. It came as a breakthrough in the early years of the 21st century in the Scandinavian Death-Doom Metal circles. The melodic flairs and moodiness diversify the album without losing Doom Metal's essence. The tracks are structured on progression and contrasting sounds with dark tonality, matching its coldness through weaving multi-layered rhythmic guitar leads and titanic riffs against the delicacy of symphonic keyboards, with bass and drums buried under the wall of guitars. Mikko Kotamäki's back-and-forth switch from impassioned growling and clean vocals adds significantly to the mid-paced nature of the music.

Highlights: Through Her Silvery Body, The Morning Never Came, and Deadly Nightshade

6 Futile - Rapture

The band's debut album, Futile, embraces the 4/4 minimalism and nocturnal soundscape of Brave Murder Day with a comparatively faster tempo and trademark Finnish Melodic Death Metal touches while borrowing influences from the Gothenburg scene in Sweden. The music, at its core, is rooted in down-tempo Doom Metal, laced with the melancholy essence driven through the momentum created by harmonising guitar riffs and caresses of acoustic sounds. The drums are quiet and repeat one-dimensional patterns to assist the track's restless rhythm and blend in with the bass. All in all, the instruments keep balance and don't overpower one another. The music production and growls are clear by Death-Doom standards and feature the sparing usage of airy, clean vocals.

Highlights: This Is Where I Am, To Forget, and About (Leaving)

7 Rain Without End - October Tide

Rain Without End is the product of a side project of Katatonia members, October Tide, serving as the successor to Dance of December Souls, and is the last full-length album to feature Jonas Renske performing harsh vocals. The band delivers introspective Death-Doom with inspired song structures heightened by extended ambient passages, folk influences, and moderate use of acoustic guitars, adding a softer melodic edge and subduing the heaviness of the riffs and drums. The polished mixing allows the bass to weave smoothly between the melodic guitars and acoustic sections. Despite frequent shifts between slow and mid-paced tempos, the music conveys solitary emotional content well for the entire duration, greatly aided by guitarist Fredrik Norrman. He churns out an array of emotion-charged riffs and solos.

Highlights: Ephemeral, Sightless, and 12 Days of Rain

8 The Sullen Sulcus - Mourning Beloveth

The Sullen Sulcus, a foundational Death-Doom album, follows the template of Funeral Doom, with a slow, dirge-like tempo and an intensive riff procession to set a soundscape of gloom and depression. The vocal interplay of Darren Moore's gutturals and Frank Brennan's melodic vocals and spoken lines add a new dimension to the uniformity of the sound, placing their unique stamp on the Doom metal genre. Unlike other listed albums, there is a minimal inclination to create diversified compositions with the complete absence of acoustic interludes, keyboards, and guitar solos; much of the record derives its meaning from the relentless onslaught of down-tuned heaviness carried by the plodding drums with lead guitars meandering from melodic to dense and distorted riffing.

Highlights: Narcissistic Funeral and The Words That Crawled

9 Martyre - Saturnus

Saturnus' sophomore record, Martyre, builds on the originality of their debut by exploring romanticism with an increased tempo and a twist of gothic metal in the vein of early Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride. The expansive nature of the composition relies heavily on keyboards and maintains good dynamics by allowing more scope for improvisation and incorporating varied elements and effects. The pacing of the tracks is primarily slow and moody by Death-Doom standards, with many break-ups and low-frequency reverbs to create a dark and floating atmosphere, with vocals varying between deep growling and poetic reciting. At the same time, the sorrowful guitar solos and acoustic hold memorable melodies contrasted by the heavy riffs fringing on guitar effects.

Highlights: Drown My Sorrow, Softly on the Path You Fade, and Thus My Heart Weepeth For Thee

10 Draining the Waterheart - Mar de Grises

The South American entrant, Draining The Waterheart, is an adventurous album with a free-form structure of Progressive metal and a mix of sounds of Post-Metal and melodies of Doom metal. It is one drawn-out multi-layered composition accurately described as pieces of one collective whole. The music alternate between slow and mid-tempo and create a sense of freshness with constant changes of ideas reprised with variations and exploratory drumming, keeping the listeners on the edge of their seat. The guitars are more or less heavy and dynamic than on the previous release, as they switch from clean to contorted periodically, as well as fade out occasionally. The hazy production obscures some detailing in favor of the atmosphere and goes from tight fits of speed and rage to spacey moments of intrigue and wonder.

Highlights: Sleep Just One Dawn and One Possessed

The Contenders
11 Fallout - Slumber
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