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It’s an age old question among metal-heads. When someone claims to like black metal, there is always someone there to ask the ever important question, “Norway or Sweden?”. Those two Scandinavian countries have made drastically different impacts on extreme metal. Both were equally important to the metal scene.

While Norway held steadfast to a dubious ideology and a less is more attitude when it came to recording, Sweden resisted this by putting musicianship and good production on the forefront. While the Norwegian attitude was to hate death metal, Sweden embraced the genres’ good qualities, adding a melodic undertone to their sound that had been seldom heard before. Sweden changed the face of death metal forever with their intoxicating melodies and blackened sounds.

Today when someone mentions having a fondness for Swedish death or black metal everyone knows exactly what they’re talking about, but there were a few bands that helped launch the scene with their stellar releases and masterful musicianship. Here are the top six most important Swedish black and death metal albums…..

6.Vinterland- Welcome My Last Chapter
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It is very rare that a band releases the perfect album. Most metal-heads agree that Vinterland’s 1996 release “Welcome to My Last Chapter” qualifies as the perfect album. For many, who otherwise despised black metal, the release of Welcome to My Last Chapter was the first time they opened their ears to the controversial sub-genre.

Welcome to My Last Chapter is a spellbinding example of haunting melody, shrieked with a fervor few can muster. The fact that Vinterland disbanded shortly after the release of their masterpiece, only added to the elusiveness of this artist. Here is a band that knew how to quit while they were ahead.

If you haven’t heard this album, I strongly recommend you listen. It is easily one of the best metal releases of all time.

 

 

 

5.Necrophobic- The Nocturnal Silence
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As formative members of the black/death scene, Necrophobic truly helped hone Sweden’s characteristic sound.  The band’s debut, The Nocturnal Silence is virtually the textbook definition of Swedish death metal.  With the aggression of early death metal and the melodiousness of blackened thrash, Necrophobic’s debut is an utter symphony of evil and celebration of musical virtuosity.

Necrophobic gleaned from the ashes of an unpolished scene and refined its sound into true perfection and to this day that sound is what comes to mind when someone mentions Swedish death metal.  The Nocturnal Silence is a truly stellar release, an alluring example of blackened/death perfection from beginning to end.

 

4.Nihilist- Drowned
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What can one really say about this little known band that single-handedly launched the Swedish scene with the release of a ten minute demo? Sweden didn’t have much an extreme metal scene before this group of teenagers assaulted the frost tipped forests of the Viking land with the sounds of hell and sickening depravity.

Nihilist started out as a sort of run of the mill blackened thrash band, but it wasn’t until the release of “Drowned” in 1989 that the youngsters honed their sound as death metal. Violent, murky and utterly revolting are three words that describe this demo. This band would later go on to form influential Swedish death giants, Entombed and Unleashed.  Their sound paved the way for countless other bands. This my friends is where Sweden was born.

3.At The Gates- The Red in the Sky is Ours
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For the most part the budding Swedish death metal movement remained politely and respectfully in the underground. It was until At The Gates attacked listeners with their 1992 masterpiece, “The Red in the Sky is Ours”, that Swedish death metal began to get any acclaim in the world of metal.

It’s no surprise that this album catapulted Swedish death metal to the mainstream. It is an utterly malevolent and face ripping assault on unsuspected listeners. Masterfully placed progressive changes, harmony, melody and ugly yet catchy riffs are the meat of the 1992 release. Beginning to end the album is a warlike euphony. It is a shame At The Gates abandoned their brutal beginnings in favor of mainstream success. Their earlier works were pure magnificence.

 

 


2.Dissection- The Somberlain

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To this day when someone infers an interest in melodic metal, Dissection is the first band that comes to mind. As an Norway obsessed kvlt elitist myself, Dissection was the first band to open my ears to the melodic sounds of Sweden. This was due to the release of “The Somberlain” in 1993.

The bands debut paved the way for countless others, including some of the bands mentioned here, with its intoxicating melodies, haunting black shrieks and merciless riffs. Dissection’s history is shrouded in the romantic saga of the vocalist and guitarist Jon Nödtveidt. Jon Nödtveidt served prison time back in 1997 as an accomplice to murder and then shot and killed himself in 2006, only two years after he was released from prison. Danger is certainly an underlying theme in the band’s sound.

The Somberlain is an album any metal-head worth their weight in salt has in their collection. The album is the magnum opus of Swedish black/death metal.


1. Bathory- Blood, Fire, Death

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It would be unfair to do a post like this and not pay homage to the ones who started it all. Hailing from Sweden, black metal pioneers Bathory were innovators of a sound that would grow into something unimaginable at the time. Bathory beginnings were humble as they were the forerunners of a new sound of thrashy avant garde metal, along with the likes of Celtic Frost, Hellhammer and Venom. Their first three full-length albums were largely thrash with a grittier edge. It wasn’t until the release of “Blood Fire Death” in 1988, that the band experimented with a whole new sound, that would soon become black metal as we know it today.

Adding hints of Nordic folklore, melody and atmosphere to their sound, Bathory embarked on something huge. Every black metal band to this day, gleans influence from Bathory. Blood Fire Death was truly groundbreaking. It was the beginning of many great things to come.

Notable mentions:
Sacramentum- Far Away From the Sun
Dawn- Nær Sólen Gar Niþer For Evogher
Grave- Into the Grave
Unleashed- Where No Life Dwells
Marduk- Those of the Unlight

Happy Listening! Hails!

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