overground scene

The10 best albums of swedish death metal

One of the reasons I started this blog was to substitute for the discussions I would have with my friends on music. One of the most enjoyable types of discussion was “what are your 10 best death metal albums of all time”. I must have made the same discussion for at least 100 times yet it never got boring! Of course the fun part was not only coming up with the albums, which was practically impossible, but the argumentation process. Here I will propose the “10 best swedish death metal albums”. The only rule is, only one album per band. With no further ado, here’s my list with some justifications:

1. Dismember -Indecent and Obscene (1993)

First of all, it is the definition of swedish death metal. It has “that” sound, “that” production with the best possible BEAT ever, these vocals that make sweden so distinct! Furthermore, from the first second till the last everything is perfect. It starts perfectly and ends perfectly. The band plays with great zest and there is not one boring moment. It has perfect balance between slow and fast parts. The lyrics are hard to understand and definitely not so accessible (and probably good) as in massive killing capacity, but sound really good and are impressive. Highlights lyric-wise are Skinfather, Sorrowfilled, case # obscene, dreaming in red. It has one of the best choruses ever (Skinfather), one of the best and most original riffs ever (case # obscene when the singing starts), the perfect orchestration of reborn in blasphemy and dreaming in red, and so on. I could talk forever…

2. Entombed -Clandestine (1991)

In reality there is no winner between the first two. The only reason this comes second is the song Stranger Aeons, whose main riff reminds me of one riff from ‘symphonies of sickness’ (ruptured in purulence). Clandestine is the album I love equally to indecent… and I think constitutes the cornerstone of death metal. It has the best drumming I have ever heard in a death metal album. It is technical but chaotic as well and that makes it unique. It is overflowing with feelings, which is what demarcates swedish from other kinds of death metal. Lyrics around religion in songs like living dead and Blessed be are the best ever written. Kenny Hakansons’ lyrics are impressive and sounding so good, even though they deal with mysticistic themes about which I know little. The samples that accompany the songs could not be more perfect, especially the wicked laugh in ‘sinners bleed’. Highlights of the album, if possible, are the main riff from ‘sinners bleed’, ‘Blessed be’ as a whole (is it possible for music to be more intense and angry than that?!), ‘Crawl’, Chaos Breed, the chorus of ‘Living Dead’ and the way he says “…the symbol of spiritual lobotomy…” and last but not least the VOCALS!

3. At The Gates- With Fear I kiss the Burning Darkness (1993)

The first album that made me think about how rich music death metal is. I remember being really young and trying to listen to both guitars while they were cooperating in way that I have not experienced again since. I really doubt that the band itself has realised what a masterpiece it has released upon human kind. The interchange of melodies and the game the guitarists are playing are definitely the highlights of the record. One of the best things about that record is that ever time I listen to it I imagine the strangest things. The music, lyrics and the singing are extremely expressive and I can actually see and feel the things being sang. “…watch the sun setting at the horizon..” in the “break of autumn”, primal breath, “stardrowned”, the finishing touch in “blood of sunsets”! An album that set the creative standards of death metal so high that will never be surpassed. Plus, Karki is performing on “ever opening flower” and I am pretty sure he does on the discharge cover at the end.

4. Unleashed-Shadows in the Deep (1992)

An extremely raw, straight forward, inspired record of unique grandeur from a band that is very underrated. SITD sounds like it has been recorded in an icy cave and I always thought the CD had a better sound than the LP, but after all I think that the swampy sound of the vinyl is more honest to the content of the songs. For me it is an extremely atmospheric and one of the most emotionless records ever. Even though songs like ‘shadows in the deep’ and ‘land of ice’ bring out a certain melancholy, grief and pride they still sound like they are performed by emotionless living-dead beings. ‘Shadows in the deep‘ is the song I think everyone should have listened to, before they die. And if you are a religious person, it might tell you a lot about life and the afterlife…

5. Edge of Sanity- The Spectral Sorrows (1993)

Dan Swano is undoubtedly one of the swedish scene’s masterminds. Axelsson I think is a genius as well and I think that the album they released after Swano’s departure (Cryptic) is brilliant. However, Spectral Sorrows has everything one can ask for. Extremely brutal and fast songs, more melodic ones, punk-influenced songs, rock-influenced and gothic-influenced songs! “The Masque” might easily have the most clever and innovative/imaginative riff ever. “Feeding the charlatan” is one of the most pissed of songs ever, “lost” and “across the fields…” have a unique atmosphere, “Jesus Cries” is an obvious hit meant to become classic! Variety in extreme music.

6. Comecon- Megatrends in Brutallity (1992)

The most sophisticated death metal band ever. While others wrote about killings, the religion, death, suffering and pain, they were expressing their discontent with the delusions of prosperity that the world leaders and international organisations like the European Union (European Community at that time) were promising the world. Highly critical towards free market promises, Comecon had a punk attitude inside the death metal context. I am not sure if I like their second album even more. I will stick to this one because it is the first one I bought from them and it destroyed me. Megatrends is Punk and Grindcore inspired death metal, with classic swedish death orchestrations. LG Petrov offers great performances and the lyrics are of the kind you need to learn by heart. Some melodies remind of morbid angel (Ulcer) other of terrorizer (Slope). Best chorus ever, is on “Conductor of Ashes”. Other highlights are “Wash away the filth“, “future belongs to us”, “Slope”, …all.

7. Tiamat- Clouds (1992)

Tiamat’s third album is one of the few albums ever that when I first bought (actually Nikos bought it first on cassette from rock city), I listened to 5 times a day for a month. In contrast to the other bands, Tiamat are slow, have keyboards and are mainly atmospheric and satanic. Each song is better than the other, the vocals are unique and bond perfectly with the music, the lyrics are perfect and bond perfectly with the music as well. Gothic and rock influences are ubiquitous. The melody in the chorus of “the scapegoat” reminds me a lot of the melody from New Model Army’s “Vagabonds”. Songs everyone should have listened to are “A Caress of Stars”, “the scapegoat”, “Undressed“, “The sleeping Beauty”. Pure inspiration.

8. Grave- You ‘ll Never See… (1992)

One of the most brutal most massive albums ever. Classic swedish sound but more raw and primitive than the other big bands of their time. “You’ll never see“, “Grief” and “christi(ns)anity” have always been my favorites. An emotionless record as well, dealing with brutal death, religious deceit and hopelessness. Also the album ends drifting away in a way that has been proven famous to swedish bands, like it will go on forever (I really like it when they do that, see Dismember- indecent and obscene, Dismember- dismember, dismember- massive killing capacity, Dismember -death metal, Grave- back from the grave, …). There is really nothing specific about this record that I love. It just uses a recipe that is known to most swedish death metalers, elements put together in a simple way but with a lot of inspiration.

9. Desultory- Bitterness (1994)

The title says it all. The singer sounds like the most jaded person ever. Melancholic death metal about death and loneliness. A highly accessible album that focuses on and emphasises the few elements that make swedish death metal special. It has the buzzsaw guitar sound, the “screaming with desperation” vocals, the “minimal recurring melodies beneath the brutal rhythm guitar” sound and the doleful solos. Every song is a gem with personal favorites: “A closing eye“, “Life shatters”, “left behind”, “winter”.


10. Hypocrisy- The Final Chapter (1997)

I remember myself listening to the promo CD of the final chapter with the owner of a record store (Metal Era) in Athens back in ’97 . The first thing that came in mind was that it was probably the best hypocrisy album ever! After many years of hypocrisy listening I think that it might not be Hypocrisy’s best album, but it is one of the best in the swedish death metal scene. Fourth dimension is magnificent, but on the second side there are a couple of boring songs. The same goes for Abducted. The first two albums are perfect, but far from the typical swedish sound. Especially the second one is like American death metal. The final chapter, is one of those albums which has everything! The slow songs of the album are the best and impossible for any other band to copy. “A coming race” is monumental and “the shamateur” is crawling with sadness (my personal favorite). The faster songs like “through the window of time” and “adjusting the sun”, and the thrashy “last vanguard” are also perfect and contribute to an outstanding album in a period when swedish death metal was going through serious changes and few decent albums were coming out.


13 Comments so far
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Indecent and Obscene is fantastic, as is Clandestine. The glaring omission in my eyes is Carnage’s Dark Recollections…. love it! I’ve never heard Comecon or Tiamat, but I am looking into them now….

Comment by transientwriting

Hi there,
Thanx for commenting. Yes, I agree that Carnage were GODS and should be included. It is just that there are so many great swedish albums, and I wanted to include all my favourite bands if possible. All other bands have released 3 or more albums (and I like them all)and it didn’t feel fair to put Carnage with only one album. Further, it would be like putting dismember twice! After all 3/5 of carnage was dismember.
As for Tiamat and Comecon I hope you’ll like them! I love them. However, from your blog I got the feeling that you are familiar with drumming and pay attention to the rhythm section in general, so I should warn you that Comecon have a drum machine but it sounds great! Let me know what you think!

Comment by lentil81

Hello, I saw yout top 10 of Swedish DM. It is not relevant. In my opinion you did’nt know the classic albums like debutalbums of Dismember – Carnage – Edge Of Sanity – Entombed – Grave and many others. Maybe your taste but real old school deathmetal maniacs will ignore your wrong choice!

Comment by henk

Hey ya!

Thanx for the comment, but did you really think that I was unaware of the debut albums of these bands?! Of course I
know them and love them! It is just that, I love their latter albums more! Left hand path for example is obviously a
unique masterpiece, as is Like an ever flowing…, Into the grave etc. However, I always found Clandestine to be a more challenging album, requiring real dedication to grasp its brilliance… As for Edge of Sanity’s debut, sorry but I think it is mediocre. Brutal allright, but mediocre. Unorthodox, of course! I would easily replace ‘spectral’ with unorthodox. Further, I like variety! Yes, I think Tiamat, or Desultory, or Comecon deserve to be in here, instead of other amazing bands, which however stick to rather similar ‘recipes’ like Carbonised (for the security), Therion, Afflicted etc.

Also, I was not listening to death metal in 1990. I understand that if you have lived the release of these albums, they would instantly assume a special place in your heart. I listened to all them out of that context, around 1995, so I judged them using different criteria. And in any case, it is music and it is personal… There is no wrong or right. ‘Real old school deathmetal maniacs’, may disagree with me. Fair enough… I am not trying to sell anything here, so that I would have to consider what most people would want and act accordingly.

Comment by lentil81

Wow… As big of a metalhead as I am, I’ve never heard any of these bands. Dude, I feel reaaaally dumb right about now.

Comment by lessonsthatrock

Well there are awfully many amazing metal bands and this is just a sub-genre so no need to feel dumb 🙂 Hope you heard something that you liked!

Comment by lentil81

all i know is i love them all

Comment by Ro Dmac Lae

[…] years and a half ago I published a post in which I presented my 10 all-time favorite Swedish death metal albums. This post turned out to be the most popular one I have written so far. There have only been a few […]

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Edge of Sanity -Crimson (Spectral comes close)
Tiamat -Wildhoney
Entombed -Left Hand Path
Opeth -My Arms, Your Hearse
At The Gates -Gardens of Grief
In Flames -The Jester Race
Dismember -Like AN Everflowing Stream
Dissection -The Somberlain

Comment by Lewis

Sweet! For me too is really difficult to choose between albums from bands like Edge of Sanity, Entombed, Dismember. If it wasn’t spectral then it should be either “Crimson” or “Unorthodox” (but I also love “Cryptic”). Anyway, in case you don’t know, Axelsson, one of the guitarists, has this new band called Tormented and it’s amazing. Check it out! When it comes to Dissection I always loved “Storm of the light’s bane”. But them, along with Sacramentum, I always considered them blackened-death bands. Sacramentum’s “the coming of chaos” is another all-time favorite…

Comment by lentil81

Clandestine is one of the best albums ever written

Comment by Martin

That’s right mate. No matter how many years go by I still cannot get used to the sheer perfection of that album.

Comment by lentil81

I like to drive when listening to it, it takes me to another world 🙂

Comment by Martin

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