Thursday, December 3, 2009

Swedish Death Metal

Swedish Death Metal. It is one of those series of words that can be uttered and automatically, a vision (or in this case the audio equivalent of a vision) is played in the minds of those fortunate enough to know just what the hell I'm talking about. Norwegian black metal is another one and German thrash metal is another one still and Milwaukee polka fusion (okay, that last one I may have made up). Swedish death metal had a style and sound all it's own. It was so popular that there was even a book written on the subject titled Swedish Death Metal (hint: Christmas idea for your favorite blogger) by Daniel Ekeroth.

The scene traces its origins to Stockholm. The sound is intense and aggressive: buzzsaw-sounding guitars attained through the use of down-tuning and distortion pedals, pounding drums, and deep growls and psychotic shrieks. The guitar sound came to be known as the Sunlight Studios guitar tone after the studio in which many of the bands often recorded.

So, what are the origins? Let's look at some bands:

First there was Nihilist and Carnage. I am unfortunately not terribly familiar with Carnage, so I can't say much about them. Nihilist recorded a bunch of demos, but never an actual full length album. The recordings were raw but that guitar tone was definitely present and the stage was set. Both Nihilist and Carnage soon split. Carnage members went on to form Dismember and Arch Enemy. Dismember will be discussed soon, Arch Enemy not so much in this post. Nihilist was finished when Johnny Hedlund left to form Unleashed. Which brings us to the next era in this sound and the time when it began taking on a life of its own.Dismember is one of the better groups from this wave, and my personal favorite. The band has quite simply not put out a bad album. They began as aggressive, take-no-prisoners death metal and they remained that way throughout their discography. They may have added some additional melodies occasionally, but their bloodlust still remains. The band is quite simply one of the best death metal bands, period.Unleashed is somewhat similar to Amon Amarth in that they often sing about Vikings and they play death metal. But where Amon Amarth has been accepted into the mainstream music scene somewhat (as much as any extreme metal band is capable I suppose), Unleashed has remained on the outside looking in. Why is that? One may never know.After Hedlund formed Unleashed, the remaining members of Nihilist formed the great Entombed. Entombed's first full length album was a re-recording of some of the Nihilist songs and set the gold standard for Swedish death metal. Left Hand Path is the album against which all other albums are measured. Unfortunately it was downhill from there. Not long after wards (their third album to be exact) the band started experimenting with other styles of metal. This style became known as death 'n roll. I will spare the descriptions, just imagine what the name would entail. This style wasn't bad, but it wasn't the same.While Entombed no longer plays this style, Dismember and Unleashed have remained true to their roots. Other bands that have played or do play Swedish death metal include Grave, Nominon, Hypocrisy, Chaosbreed (Finnish band, who knew?), Hail of Bullets (to a certain degree, definitely inspired by many of the bands), Aeon, Bloodbath (definitely a tribute band), Seance, Evocation, and many others.

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