To the average Joe, Sweden is known for its syndromes, meatballs, furniture, ABBA and Ace Of Base. To metalheads, however, it is also one of the nation’s leading exporters of badass heavy music. Whether it’s melodic, brutal, progressive, or whatever Meshuggah is, the Land of the Midnight Sun is home to a vast array of incredible metal bands.
In celebration of Sweden’s rich heavy metal heritage, Century Media Records is currently running a special sale devoted solely to the Swedes who call its roster home. This spotlight spans various subgenres to highlight a few of the greatest and most influential records from the disgustingly talent-rich death metal scene that revolutionized the genre twice!
The Buzzsaw of Sunlight
Entombed – Left Hand Path
Though death metal as a genre was birthed in 1985 America with the release of Possessed’s Seven Churches, the subgenre didn’t truly kickoff in Sweden until late 1989. It was then that the newly formed Entombed entered Sunlight Studios in Stockholm to record their debut album, Left Hand Path. Thanks to the creativity of guitarist Uffe Cederlund and producer Tomas Skogsberg, Entombed created the first death metal album to feature the now-signature “buzzsaw” guitar tone, courtesy of the Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal pedal.
Carnage – Dark Recollections
Just a few months after the completion of Left Hand Path, Sunlight Studios created another massive slab of death metal history. With a lineup consisting of future scene legends—like Carcass and Arch Enemy guitarist Michael Amott, as well as Dismember drummer Fred Estby—Carnage began working on their first full-length album, Dark Recollections. The album also features the revolutionary Boss HM-2 buzzsaw guitar tone, this time employed in Carnage’s raw, straightforward brand of death metal. Carnage broke up shortly after Dark Recollections came out, making their sole full-length release that much more singular.
Dismember – Like An Everflowing Stream
1991 is regarded as the year that death metal officially exploded, becoming popular outside of the tape-trading scene. One of the most iconic records of this iconic year Dismember’s slab of absolute perfection, Like An Everflowing Stream. Like Carnage and Entombed, Dismember made full use of the HM-2 pedal at Sunlight Studios. They didn’t invent that buzzsaw sound, but they perfected it on this album, specifically on its opening track “Override Of The Overture,” the quintessential Sunlight anthem.
Grave – Into The Grave
Also recorded by Tomas Skogsberg at Sunlight Studios in 1991, Grave’s classic debut Into The Grave isn’t as flashy as other Swededeath albums, but it is flesh-ripping monster. Moving away from the “Sunlight band” obsession with the HM-2 pedal, Grave opted to beat listeners over the head with jaw-dropping drumming and riffs that felt more like Obituary than Entombed. Grave is one of the few surviving bands from the early Swedish scene, and they are heavier and stronger than ever.
Dark Tranquility – The Gallery
Gothenburg sits roughly 500 km southwest of Stockholm, and is home to Studio Fredman, run by producer Fredrick Nordström. It was here that an entirely new style of death metal was created and dubbed, simply, “Gothenburg Style.” It was in April 1995 that Dark Tranquillity began work on their ridiculous magnum opus The Gallery, introducing the world to the burgeoning Gothenburg scene. With its mix of death and thrash heaviness, incredibly catchy melodies, and otherworldly shredding, The Gallery is a classic album, not just in Sweden, but anywhere.
At The Gates – Slaughter Of The Soul
A few months after the world got its first taste Gothenburg’s extreme metal chops, shit got real. By 1995, At The Gates had already been hustling for five years, only to get dropped by Peaceville Records. Earache Records picked up the band, and despite label issues and internal turmoil, recorded their fourth album Slaughter Of The Soul. The band’s experimental addition of melody to their bruising riffs was 100 percent musical perfection. The album eventually went on to be a critical and commercial success, but the band broke up shortly after. Like a phoenix, a perfect blueprint for how to make metal sound equal parts brutal and catchy as hell rose from their ashes, a blueprint that all heavy metal bands follow to this day. All of them.
In Flames – The Jester Race
After Slaughter Of The Soul, the metal world finally had its eye on the now infamous Gothenburg scene. Then, November 1995 spawned the already successful In Flames’ The Jester Race, completing the holy trinity of Gothenburg metal. Say what you will about In Flames’ later incarnation, but the tone on this record is unfuckwithable, especially on “Dead Eternity” and “The Jesters’ Dance.” These three albums have complicated the world of metal by spawning numerous garbage imitators, but I wouldn’t want to live in a world without them.
Dan Swanö: Underrated Genius
Opeth – Orchid
Discussions about Swedish death metal rarely shift past the Gothenburg and Sunlight Studios bands (understandably). However, oft overlooked musician and producer Dan Swanö is equally important to the early scene and damn near essential to current heavy metal. At his Unisound Studios in Örebro, he has produced, engineered, and recorded a zillion and a half incredible records. Opeth’s legendary debut Orchid was one of the first. The production isn’t over the top, but the album has a very particular sound and feel that is just magical.
Edge Of Sanity – Crimson
Swanö is more renowned as a producer these days, but his musicianship is absolutely ridiculous. As the main songwriter in Edge Of Sanity, he concocted a 40 minute single-track album called Crimson that tells the story of a world in which humans can no longer reproduce. Though there were previous attempts to mix death metal with prog, nobody pulled it off at the same magnitude as Edge Of Sanity.
Bloodbath – Resurrection Through Carnage
Bloodbath’s debut incarnation was basically the Swedish equivalent of the “Dream Team.” Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth was their Michael Jordan, Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström of Katatonia were their Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and Dan Swanö was their Charles Barkley. This supergroup of Swedish All Stars crafted the perfect Swedish death metal record. With its gut-wrenchingly sick buzzsaw tone, disgusting lyrics, and Mikael Åkerfeldt’s roar, the album is one-stop shopping for all your Scandinavian filth needs.