Melodic black metal is a style of black metal. Much of the characteristics of "traditional" black metal are retained (shrieked vocals, fast tempos, high pitched electric guitars often played with tremolo picking) but it differs in several key elements. Generally it is less abrasive, more melodic. Electric guitars are often played with much less distortion and guitar solos are more common. Songs are often written in conventional structures and there is more usage of keyboards and other instruments.
Melodic black metal is sometimes confused with gothic metal, doom metal, and symphonic black metal due to similarities in the styles.
Unlike traditional black metal, melodic black metal usually revolves around deep structure and accessibility. A song typically consists of harmonic minor scales, often modulating violently between minor chords by thirds (e.g., F♯m-Am-Cm, etc.) Many of the songs incorporate heavy guitar power chords, but unlike traditional black metal, the songs have at least some control on the volume, allowing the music to blend instead of sounding too "noisy". The songs usually begin with a melodic introduction, be it clean guitar or keyboards and usually move on to a more aggressive and distorted sound as the piece advances. Unlike typical black metal songs, melodic black metal compositions have, on the most part, very clearly defined bridges. Songs generally go from introduction to verse to a prechorus to chorus to verse to prechorus to chorus and then to a bridge. In a bridge the music can turn quite mellow, unlike black metal. The bridge, however, turns back into the verse or the black metal sound with a very swift and unexpected turn (usually a loud death grunt).
Heavy drumming and highly structured guitar riffs (usually played with what some call reverse, or inverted, power chords and tremolo picking) are the most prominent feature of the genre, entailing melodic structure deep within the composition and sound.
The lyrical themes and main attributes, however, still come from black metal, with melodic black metal's lyrical subjects usually remaining the same (although many melodic black metal bands are not as aggressively anti-Christian). Like most black metal bands, the lyrics are usually quite aggressive, whether added intentionally or bearing the aggression of the lyricist.
The physical appearance of melodic black metal musicians has remained very close to that of traditional black metal bands. Band members use corpse paint for live performances, spikes, and black clothing. They generally use pseudonyms or stage names and choose to remain unknown in mainstream circles. .